If you’ve started running a small scale farming business, you may already have elements in place that will ensure your success. Quality control for produce, intimate knowledge of the land, and a good network of relationships within your local market are all essential to reaping the full rewards of your efforts.
As your business thrives, a time will come when scaling up your operations would bring new opportunities. Diversifying your produce, ramping up production, or changing your distribution method to reach more distant markets, all bring new dimensions to your farming business.
Still, in business, exciting new possibilities also entail careful consideration. And when you plan to expand, efficiency becomes important. Your time and the timetable of your business is now more valuable than ever. The simple task of loading produce is an example of an area that might now require more attention and efficiency. Here are a few key points.
Many smallholders would have started out loading produce onto small trucks directly in the fields. If you are expanding to increase your harvest or diversify your crops, this method becomes inefficient. Moreover, heavy vehicles compact soil, making it unsuitable for farming.
Consider building a shed specifically for loading and unloading – or expanding an existing structure, if you’ve already got one. This creates a central hub for loading produce, which can be brought in from the fields using lighter vehicles.
Within your shed, make sure to clear out all obstructions and make sure that surfaces aren’t slippery. If you anticipate doing much work during nighttime, ensure that the area is brightly lit at all times. These measures will prevent accidents, damage to products, and especially injuries to workers.
Know your load
Make sure that all workers involved are aware of the loads they are carrying. Pallet bins have optimal loads to carry, both to avoid damage and to maximise space and stacking. Bin tippers and loading ramps also have weight limits to ensure safety and prevent damage to the equipment.
Ensuring that you’re working with optimal loads is the definition of efficiency, both in the short term and in the long term when minimising on maintenance.
Working on a farm can get really busy and dirty – neither of which is conducive to proper maintenance. See to it that a schedule for maintenance of equipment, machinery, and structures is adhered to – and supervised by those with the corresponding operational knowledge.
On the typical smallholding, communications are informal – many of the workers come from the same family or know each other well. But as you scale up your operations and hire more people, the dynamic can change, and communication tends to become less open, which can lead to mistakes and accidents.
Larger operations need good, open communications. Even though you’re running a farm, borrowing some lessons from corporate culture can be really helpful in efficient operations as you start employing and working with greater numbers of people, some of whom may be only part-time workers or contractors. Take time to meet and discuss with your workers, and be receptive to feedback from all levels.
When it comes to efficiency, numbers, machinery, and infrastructure are only part of the story. Careful preparation and awareness, frequent maintenance, and clear communication are all signs of a great organisation – which is ultimately what you’re building as you expand your business.