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After we have identified the current state of the business and the property, it is time to plan what we want to achieve.

Table of Contents

Our Design Philosophy

The business must be Clean, Efficient, and Profitable.  Consider the following Permaculture guideline:

  1. Any need for an element that your system cannot provide results in work
  2. Any yield of a function that cannot be used by your system results in pollution
  3. Work and pollution create drudgery which is the punishment for poor design

Tacota Coen – Mixed Farmer Canada

This is addressed by using Lean systems. Kaizen manages processes while Kanban addresses workflow and inventory.

Set Your Goals

Goals guide and provide direction. When a policy question arises, ask “is this in line with my chosen direction?”. Define your goals, break your goals into projects, and your projects into tasks. You now have a plan, which you can follow to achieve your goals.

Planning the Farm​

The business is only one half of any rural enterprise. There is the land to manage as well.

A management plan will inform us what micro-enterprises are worth while, what will fit on the land and how much yield you can expect from each.

Farm Capacity Analysis

In order to manage production properly, we need to know the capacity of the property. How many acres can we farm, how many animals will the farm run, what is the expected yield for each crop etc.

Farm Layout Plan

Once we know what micro-enterprises are suitable, we need to determine what improvements and modifications are needed to achieve the desired yield. How much these will cost and to schedule the improvements. What do we need by way of infrastructure, access, water etc. How do we optimise the lay of the land, what areas do we crop?

Create a plan to define what is needed, how and when it is to be used. Some things to be considered are:

  • Yeomans’ Scale of Permanence
  • Zone Analysis
  • Sector Analysis
  • Topography

Problems with the Land

Most properties have features that are less than optimum.

Some of these are amenable to change – a dam here, a road there, a shelter belt down that fence, some erosion in that creek etc. That rocky knob is less changeable, but with thought a great use can be discovered for it – maybe a tank to gravity feed water to the lower parts of the property.

List these to find solutions when doing the farm design.

Yeomans’ Scale of Permanence

Percival Alfred Yeomans (1904 – 1984) was an Australian who developed the Keyline System for managing farm water and fertility.
He was a controversial figure in his time. In his day (and now) water was considered by the authorities as a waste to be drained off the property usually with so-called contour drains which were not on contour. This came because the authoritative body of the time was the American Corps of Engineers.

In Australia as in the US, the government employees considered the simplest and most direct method the best. They did not think past tomorrow. Little has changed and “expedience before common sense” is still the mantra of most Government.

They did and still have a fairly direct approach. If you must cross water, remove it as simply and quickly as you can. Retaining water for later in the season for when it was needed was irrelevant to the military who were unconcerned with rural production. Their task was to move troops not to farm the land.

Zone Analysis

It makes sense to place the planned elements of your farm closer to the centre of operations if they need more attention and farther out for those that require less attention.

I break these into 5 zones. Zones are not necessarily contiguous and it is feasible to have multiples of some zones and none of others, they are after all only a description of the land use for the purposes of design.

For the sake of example, let us consider a market garden.

The concept here is to keep the high attention areas close to the centre. You would not place your packaging shed at one end of the farm and your tool shed at the other with your garden on the steep slope between. Way too much travel for every task. What is the slope? We can use gravity to assist our processes rather than create extra work carrying produce up a steep slope.

  • Zone 0 – Inside the main shed – preparation and packaging
  • Zone 1 – Nearest to Zone 0. This is the area requiring the most attention on a daily basis. It would be the compost piles and the nursery hothouses.
  • Zone 2 – This is still close to the centre. It could be the market garden beds organised into blocks and the plastic tunnels.
  • Zone 3 – The main crop or perennial garden that requires attention maybe one or two times a week – potatoes, pumpkins, watermelons etc
  • Zone 4 – This area is semi-managed, woodlots etc that require very little care
  • Zone 5 – The unmanaged or wilderness area. It requires attention only once or twice a year when you wish to wild forage or picnic.

Once your Zones are defined, then consider each element as its own zone 0. What is the slope? What tools do you need? Where? Where is your watering system? All need to be placed in close proximity to save time and effort. It will be economical to keep a set of hand tools close to each block of beds. If it takes 15 minutes to get to the tool shed then the cost is 3/4 hour to get a new tool – that quickly adds to the wage bill and produces nothing – mega muda.

Sector Analysis

Sector Analysis is used to define the properties of a site. These must be considered in the design. It considers things like:

  1. Seasonal sun angles
  2. Fire direction
  3. Prevailing wind directions
  4. Flood area
  5. Good view
  6. Bad View
  7. Access
  8. Noise
  9. Privacy issues
  10. Storm direction
  11. Slope
  12. Power Lines


Is your block level or hilly? How can you use the slope to best advantage?
Gravity can be a great friend and will assist you in many operations. Get it wrong and you are carrying a heavy load up a steep hill many times a day as the punishment for poor design

Consider water distribution. A tank on a high place will provide free natural pressure on the lower country.

Farm Layout Map

Now you have considered the pros and cons of the farm site, you have determined what you wish to produce and where, it is time to draw it all on a map. Google Maps is a handy tool to provide the base layer.
This step will provide you with ideas and will take some iterations to get it as you want.

Build an Event Ready Farm

Thorough risk analysis will identify potential or existing farm and business events.

Business Events

The business of farming is variable to say the least. Prices fluctuate, availability of raw materials is undependable, market demand is fickle and those are only a few of the factors.

Farm Events

Using your Sector Analysis, create a risk list.

The primary risks you need to prepare for are erosion, bad weather, flood, fire, strong wind etc.

Mitigation Strategy

Create a list of Risks and Issues covering all possible events. Look at the risk or issue and determine the likelihood and severity then prepare a mitigation strategy. Include any infrastructure in your map and cover the expenditure in the business plan.

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