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Planning for the future

Planning for the future

March 7, 2008  By Marg Land

My mother is a list maker. If you
visit the family farmhouse, you will notice the many scraps of paper –
usually neatly written on the backs of previously utilized envelopes

My mother is a list maker. If you visit the family farmhouse, you will notice the many scraps of paper – usually neatly written on the backs of previously utilized envelopes – lying on the dining room table, her office desk or by the telephone, most covered in the teeny-tiny loops and swirls of her handwriting. There are grocery lists, seed variety lists, things-for-her-to-do lists, things-for-Dad-to-do lists, even elaborate and to-scale maps of the vegetable fields, highlighting which crops are grown where, what varieties and what planting dates. It’s a sea of information, mapping out where she’s going, what she’s doing and what still needs to be done.

I used to be a list maker. I would plan out each day, months in advance. I had notebooks full of lists – what assignments were due when, which was the most important to do, lists of movies I’d been to see and books I was interested in reading. I once spent weeks constructing and designing an elaborate (and handwritten!) cross-referenced chart showing what books I had read – organized by genre and author – just so I wouldn’t sign out a repeat book from the library. I didn’t want to waste my time.

Please note that I “used” to be a list maker. I was one until I had children. And then I discovered, the lists lost their magic. They just didn’t work. The to-do lists went unread, the grocery list was never adhered to, and the “books to read” list was obsolete since there was no time left to read books. I also discovered that babies like to chew on lists and children think any piece of paper in the house – even if it already has writing on it – is really just a blank canvas in need of embellishments, usually created using crayons and unwashable markers.

My world became chaos. Nothing seemed to get done and never on time. Much-needed items were always missed on trips to the grocery store. Even so, we always seemed to have five jars of mustard, all unsealed and in use at the same time. Appointments were never made or were ultimately forgotten. I sent my daughter to school on the wrong day – the ultimate parental embarrassment. We never seemed to be prepared.

It was amazing what power those little slips of paper had.

In farming, as in life, it’s also possible to get off track, to find your operation unorganized and scrambling.  When was the oil changed last in the tractor? What was the planting date and variety used in that 20-acre block of sweet corn? Where did you place those fertilizer receipts? What field is the crew working in today?

As fruit and vegetable production in Canada enters the less hectic point of its yearly cycle, it provides a perfect opportunity for growers to reflect – and plan. Make some lists, draw some maps, attend some conferences and annual meetings, do some brainstorming with family members and fellow growers, organize, delegate. And plan.

One can never be prepared for every issue that may occur in a season but “It is far better to foresee even without certainty than not to foresee at all.” – Henri Poincaré, French philosopher, mathema-tician and physicist

P.S. I’m trying my hardest to work my way back into the list-making habit. I’ll be doing my fair share of planning this winter too.¶

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