Efficiency is intelligent laziness.”
David Dunham

Here’s my simple goal for this column: To save you a $1 per day. Let’s see… Saving one dollar each day would be about equivalent to paring off six minutes of inefficient work each day. That can’t be too hard to do! I hope this list of efficiency tips helps you save BIG (or at least helps to pare off a few inefficient minutes).

• Use a guillotine instead of pruners to chop your bouquets.
• Make your favorite reference books and your crop list required reading for your crew so they know the names of the flowers you are growing, at what stages to harvest flowers, and where and how to reference flower harvest stage and postharvest details when it begins blooming.  
• Put everything on wheels. Processing tables, design tables, carts within your cooler—everything is more efficient if you can adjust it to your needs at a given time, and keep from carrying flowers bucket by bucket.
• Recognize who is faster at what. Unless you have told your workers that they will get to experience every aspect of every job on the farm, choose the faster pickers to pick, the faster strippers to strip, and the faster bouqueters to bouquet.
• Pick aggressively on the crops that end up getting away from you with deadheading or disease issues. Zinnias are a good example. We have a problem with being reluctant to harvest aggressively when they first start blooming, and yet, shortly after, we are trying to keep up with them and get the most out of them before disease gets the best of them. Ultimately, it would be better if we just went for those first gorgeous blooms.
• Give helpers only the buckets of flowers they need to work with for bouqueting. A lot of time can be spent roaming around to various buckets when a limited selection can streamline the process and still yield fantastic results.
• Plan tomorrow before today ends.
• Make sure you don’t have hired paid workers doing low-pay work. Bucket washing, cleaning, and labeling are examples that are easily hired out to a young neighbor for many fewer dollars an hour!
• Fill buckets with only a few inches of water.
• Plant high-yielding fillers and foliage close to your design area for easy refills.
• Have a helper mimic your bouqueting, making the exact bouquet at the exact time as you are, or a smaller version of the same one you are making. This is a fantastic way for her to learn your style and how to handle the flowers, as well as increasing quality bouquets and color combos you know will sell.
• Have a running list of 10 Minute Projects for turnaround times where one person may be waiting on another to fill buckets or sharpen pruners.
• Don’t underestimate the resources around you. The ASCFG Forum, National Conference, Regional Meetings, Growers’ Schools, farm tours, etc. • One little observation that you bring back for your operation can easily pay for your efforts to go to the Conference, and then some!
• Cultivate often and aggressively. Weedless beds make for much faster picking.
• Cut stems consistent lengths, so bunching doesn’t require recutting.
• Direct sowing is much cheaper than starting from seed in the greenhouse and transplanting plugs. Of course, there are some crops for which plants are more successful, but get to know the crops that you can direct sow successfully and plant many successions so you can harvest aggressively and move on to the next vibrant succession.
• Plan on winter not coming, and plan on spring happening really early. Besides the fact that it strangely has been happening this way lately, you can get some easy harvests from ‘By Chance’ Sowings of sunflowers, zinnias, cosmos and other direct sows. And these fringe times tend not to have the same weed pressures.

Best of luck for a strong, profitable and happy finish to your 2012 season!

Earn by your efficiency and your enthusiasm.”   
Sri Sathya Sai Baba

Missy Bahret

Old Friends Farm

Missy Bahret Old Friends Farm Amherst, Massachusetts
[email protected]