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Importing the LEAN philosophy to your farm

Money Management: At first, it seemed ‘Lean’ might only work on small farms. Now it’s showing how to drive out waste and pump up profit on large farms too

Lean” is a management and organizational system originally developed by car manufacturer Toyota. There wasn’t a farm in sight. But now, after boosting balance sheets for so many other businesses worldwide, some think it’s about time mainstream agriculture got onboard.

We will meet Indiana farmer Ben Hartman who has been applying Lean principles to his own farm for the past 10 years. Talking to Hartman is the expected thing to do in a story like this. After all, he is author of The Lean Farm and is acknowledged as the authority in the United States on applying Lean principles to farming. As you’ll see, he is passionate about teaching small-scale and new farmers how to get into Lean.

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Young farmer standing in wheat field with hands on hips and looking forward at sunset

But we also talk to Nelson Leong, who learned about Lean in a 25-year manufacturing career in industries from electronics to the Royal Canadian Mint. Today, he applies Lean to help business clients expand and grow.

The two agree on Lean, and they agree it is has huge potential on farms and in agri-business. “Waste is universal,” Hartman tells us. “It can be eliminated with some very simple techniques.”

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Angela Lovell

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