Jeremy’s Book Corner – Reviewing Traction by Gino Wickman

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Here at Red Hen, over the past 3 years, we’ve been reading and re-reading the book, “Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business” by Gino Wickman … and it turns out that this book has been responsible for firing quite a few employees.  I came to this realization as I was recently having lunch with a salesman from our industry when it hit me. I was talking about the book and how an employee realized that if we did what was in that book they would need to leave.

Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business by Gino Wickman (Click on the pic to order this book from Amazon)

Basically, Traction has a lot of great ideas to take your business to the next level, and the chapter that has helped us the most is about holding employees accountable.
Over the past 4 years there is no book that I have given out more copies of, and here at Red Hen, we tend to read a LOT of business books.

I do believe that because every business is run differently everyone will get something different out of this book. I like the way it is presented by having actionable summaries at the end of each chapter. After you read the first chapter I believe you will start to see what you can do next in your own business.

I do not believe that we would be in the great place we are in without some of the insights we’ve gained from Traction. From holding different styles of meetings from the top management down, exploring ways to increase “employee engagement”, and various new processes that have made a world of difference, just to name a few.

If you do not get something out of this book, you must be reading this from a beach and just getting a check in the mail from your company.

When I talk about employees being fired or quitting and this being influenced by Traction, I’m not just referring to our business. There are a handful of business owners that we work with on a level that goes beyond merely providing and selling a product.  Time and again, they tell me that they how much we have helped them GROW their business.

For instance, I helped another sod farm in Minnesota where the owner was having major problems with an employee … and that employee was his brother. After spending a few hours with him talking about his business, he ordered Traction to read on his Kindle while flying. After his plane landed in Minnesota, he ordered 10 copies to give to all of his employees, brother included. The end result was that the brother ended up quitting within a 2 week period. I talked to him again more recently this past December and asked, “How was the 2016 season?” He replied, “It was the best we have had in a long time.”

Another great example comes from a local landscaper business owner that also has learned from the book. This landscaper states, “We realized that everyone (is now) happier and attitudes have improved.”

I have a goal of reading 10 to 15 business books every year. Some are of course, better than others. No single book can make all business problems go away, but we strongly believe that Traction will get you started in having a better and more productive year.

Until Next Time,

Jeremy and the Red Hen Crew

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Was it worth it? Recharging Our Batteries at the iLandscape Show in Shaumburg, IL

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Was it worth it?  

In one word …

YES!
Lisa and I attended the 4th annual iLandscape show in Schaumburg last week. If you are in the landscape business I would suggest you keep this on your radar for next year. It is a great show for estimators, supervisors, managers and owners. With it being located in our region I don’t know how you can pass this up.
If you have gone to Indiana Green convention in Indianapolis, it has a different format. Indy seems to me to be more education driven. Schaumburg seemed to offer bigger picture ideas along the line of — What does landscaping look like from 30,000 feet? Just a few themes that were explored by the excellent speakers at iLandscape:

  • How are questions from potential customers being asked and answered?
  • How do you move landscaping stone?
  • Is there a better way so you can do it without hurting your back?
  • Can you get your work done in 4 days instead of 5?
  • What is your most import asset? (It’s your employees by the way)

According to their Facebook post, iLandscape was named one of the 50 fastest growing tradeshows in the country according to Tradeshow Executive Magazine, ranked #21 by net square feet and #22 by number of exhibitors.

Sign up now so you can get the info for next year … Here’s the LINK – http://www.ilandscapeshow.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/home.contact/index.htm
Here’s a link that introduces all of the speakers at iLandscape 2017: http://www.ilandscapeshow.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/home.showpage/pageID/32/index.htm

A few more links related to the speakers from some of the sessions Lisa and I attended:

AND LASTLY, looking ahead to the future …

Jeremy’s 6 Tips for a Better Convention Show Experience:

  1. Check out the speakers ahead of time, and spend some time Googling them to find articles and videos that will help you decide which sessions to attend. Make sure your employees do the same.
  2. Book early. The convention hotel will book out earlier than you might think.
  3. Reflect on the 3 largest vendor driven purchases you make? See who their competition is, and whether they will be setting up booths at the show.
  4. Download the apps for Uber and/or Lyft. We found out that for iLandscape, if you don’t stay at the convention hotel, especially during the winter it’s likely too far to walk to dinner or get back to the hotel if you did not pay attention to number 2.
  5. Take notes while you are there, and share them with your team.
  6. Give me a call and let me know you’re attending.  If we’re also planning on being there, perhaps you’d like to meet up for dinner and do some networking — one of my favorite things about attending these shows.

Recharging your batteries during these winter months can go far in making the coming Year YOUR BEST SEASON YET!

If you want more in-depth info, you know where to find us … just give Red Hen Turf Farm a call at 574-232-6811.

Until next time! … Jeremy and the Red Hen Crew

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Introducing Red Hen’s NEWEST Team Member

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Image Source: Flickr User Waywardshinobi

Image Source: Flickr User Waywardshinobi

We are excited to spread the word that, as of December 1st, we have a new team member, Jennifer Quirk.

Jennifer’s primary role is as a Customer Service Specialist.

We joke that, “At some point, Jennifer will be our Jeremy when Jeremy’s not available.”

She has some BIG SHOES to fill, and it will certainly take some time for her to learn, but we’re confident we’ve made an excellent selection.

We asked Jennifer to share some information about her background, and to reflect on her first week at Red Hen … She’s actually in her 3rd week with us, but with all of the year-end flurry of activity going on here at the farm, we’ve been a bit behind on sharing, but HERE GOES…

JENNIFER’s BIO

I have spent the majority of my career building strong customer service skills and learning how to manage positive customer experiences both in a position at a small family owned granite product manufacturing shop, where I managed granite production jobs along side customers from order placement to final installation, and with the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, where I held a variety of positions helping customers with unemployment insurance and finding new job placements after the loss of a job.

 

In my free time I enjoy reading, cooking and movies, especially horror flicks. I enjoy a challenging work environment and am looking forward to tackling a new role using my current skills in a new environment on the farm and getting to know all of my new Red Hen team members and customers.

JENNIFER’s REFLECTIONS ON HER FIRST WEEK AT RED HEN

My first week here at Red Hen Turf Farm has been great.  All of my new coworkers here have been doing a fantastic job of providing a solid foundation for what I need to know and do to be the best representative to all of our customers.  I have had a chance to get to know some of our customers, work on some special projects and have started learning a lot about how things run here at the sod farm.

 

One of the first things to have struck me is how appreciative Red Hen is for its customers.  They are committed to forming solid and meaningful business relationships and try to provide enjoyable and personalized interactions with each one. It is obvious already that so many of the customers I have spoken to over the last week enjoy working with Red Hen and I have even received some light-hearted hazing by a few!

 

I have also gotten a general overview of all of facets of the sod industry and I still have so much to learn, but am looking forward to the challenge of tackling it and becoming proficient so I am ready to hit the ground running as soon as we start back up in the spring.  Luckily I have some great teachers here to show me the ropes and they are working hard to make sure I have all the tools I need to provide everyone with the same standard of customer service they are used to receiving each time they place an order with us.

And last but not least, FROM EVERYONE HERE AT RED HEN —- WELCOME ABOARD JEN!!!

Have a great rest of the week!

– Lisa and the Red Hen Turf Farm Crew

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Jeremy’s Wintertime Reflection: It’s the Memories that Mean so MUCH!

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seuss memory quote

One of my favorite days of the week this time of year is Wednesday. Well it’s really Wednesday night. My youngest son and I have a deal made during every school week.  If his grades are up and he is well-behaved, we go bowling. We have a great bowling alley down the street from our house. Ed, the owner, knows us by name and what we like to drink. Last Wednesday it felt like we were part of Ed’s family. Fourteen lanes and we were the only one there. We ate dinner there, bowled both of our best games to date and had a great time. What Ed’s business does for us really, is it creates great memories.

Jeremy’s son’s FIRST STRIKE of the Night

Our goal at Red Hen is to provide great customer service. Maybe for some, that could mean that we will help your yard look better for a backyard wedding, party or to be put up for sale. But what REALLY is great customer service? I believe a large part of it is to create great memories. We are lucky to be able to do what we do. We get to be involved in so many different lives each year. Some our customers become great friends and mentors. Even when we are the customers to other companies, many become great friends and mentors.

While I was bowling I knew then what I needed to write about next. It is time for me to thank all the customers, family, friends and other small business that gave me great memories this year. For all the years I have been working I don’t think I have had more great memories than this year. It’s hard to count how many times I laughed this year. So it’s that time of year when we need to be thankful for all the Ed’s in our lives that work to create great memories.

alcott memories

 

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In the news … Red Hen-Red Gold Partnership Highlighted by Turfgrass Producers International

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As our regular readers might recall, our Summer 2015 Marketing Intern, Leslie, was very busy with all sorts of projects (CLICK TO READ MORE).

One of the articles that Leslie wrote was submitted to the Turfgrass Producers International (TPI) magazine and we are very happy to announce that it has made it to PRINT!  

The article is about Red Hen’s partnership with Red Gold tomatoes and our diversification into producing a range of commodity crops in addition to the 100% Kentucky bluegrass sod that we are known for in the Michiana region.

You can READ about it by CLICKING HERE (pdf download).

Red Hen-Red Gold Partnership - Turfgrass Producers International SeptOct 2015

CLICK on this Snapshot to access the full-sized PDF of this Article

Red Hen Turf Farm is a proud member of several industry and professional organizations, including TPI.  The TPI website is a great resource for anyone seeking more information on the sod industry, and includes a directory of TPI members for customers in search of sod growers in their area.

Turfgrass Producers International is the only international trade association dedicated to promoting the benefits of turfgrass sod worldwide.  Their mission is: “To represent and advance the turfgrass sod industry worldwide through the promotion of improved practices and the professional development of members and the enhancement of the environment.”

Thank you, TPI, for your ongoing support of Red Hen Turf Farm!  For anyone interested in following TPI via various social media outlets:

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Red Hen is featured as Builders Association of Elkhart County’s Business of the Month

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Red Hen Group Photo 002We are proud to say we are highlighted in this month’s Builders Association of Elkhart County (BAEC) newsletter as their business of the month.  Here is the article that was featured:

For over 50 years, on over 1,000 acres, we have been producing exceptional Kentucky bluegrass sod, cultivated from 4 varieties. This special blend is especially suited for the Upper Midwest climate. We utilize cutting edge technology and agronomic practices in our operation.

An element that sets Red Hen Turf Farm apart from the competition is our ability to offer 200sq ft. sod rolls to our customers. Ourbig rolls are ideal in that they are easier to lay down in comparison to little rolls, using Brouwer equipment. There will be less seams and the job can be done faster, more efficiently and with less physical strain on your crew. This ultimately saves you money. If you do not have Brouwer equipment to utilize, ours can be rented out at $0.02/sq. ft. of purchased sod. We typically deliver as far as 150 miles from base camp here in NewCarlisle, Indiana. To give an idea, wecan go as east as Ft. Wayne, southas West Lafayette, north as Grand Rapids and west as St. John.

Sod 018

Sod is the granite countertop of lawns. Laying sod is the best bet for new homeowners because it delivers several instantaneous benefits. They will experience a beautiful lawn their kids and/or pets can enjoy right away, whereas, in laying seed they will have to wait a year for the kind of lush texture seeding may produce that sod is guaranteed to bring instantly. Sod is a mature plant that will not require much time and attention after taking root in a few weeks, whereas seeding is going to need attention for a year, granted it doesn’t get washed out by a big rain. When investing in an outdoor product such as sod, indoor investments such as carpet are protected. Mud can become quite the hassle in a new home, especially with pets and children in the mix. Laying sod ensures thatmud stays where it belongs; under the opulent grass. Laying sod can also prevent wash-outs. Have you ever seen the turquoise ribbons of chemicals left in the street by a hydroseeded lawn as it was washed away by a rainstorm? These trails of washouts make a lawn surface bumpy and inhospitable to future grass seed. Sodding helps to control erosion from the minute it is laid.

Sunrise on Turf 087

 

Sod can grow well in poor soil. Grass seed is going to need quality soil as well as fertilizer and constant water management to grow to the propensity of sod. We are the experts; we know how to grow grass beautifully and with minimal impact on the environment. We take the hassle out of the process for you. Laying sod saves you time, money and frustration.

At Red Hen Turf Farms, we take a unique approach to what we do. Not only do we take strategic and progressive care in how we grow, harvest and deliver our sod but we also try to think and work avant-garde. One example of our innovative approach to doing business is sodding the Jefferson Boulevard bridge in downtown South Bend, Indiana for the SB150 birthday celebration. When asked by the planning committee if we would be willing to donate 13,600 feet/ 68 big rolls as well as our time and labor to the event, we were game. We know that it is in these service efforts that we can reach out to new customers and gain exposure while also using our product and services to build a stronger local community. We didn’t bat an eye at the labor involved because we love what we do here. In the end, it was a wild success and we were honored to be part of it. Delivering quality turf and building strong customer relationships and networks are the epicenter of what we do and why we love this business.

To read other editions of BAEC’s newsletter, here’s the LINK.  Their membership director can be reached HERE, and if your company is interested in joining the BAEC, here’s that LINK.

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Jeremy Reflects on the Small Business Mentality – and it’s National Small Business Week

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It’s National Small Business Week – May 4-8, 2015

Do you know what I miss when I shop, especially at the box stores?  It’s a small business mentality.

When I was young my parents started a video store in Elkhart, Indiana. I learned early on what customer service meant to my parents and their customers. I highly enjoyed working at the South Bend location. In fact, I did not start getting paid untiI was 14, so it must of been the free movies that kept me working there – RIGHT?

But now, looking back, it was the customers that kept me coming back. I know this might sound cheesy but it’s true.

I had one customer who took me on my first plane ride. I even got to fly the plane for a while.

I had customers bring me food, desserts and even invite me to dinner. At one of the dinners I went to they showed me a board game that I have since taught to my sons.

At that time, our customers could have gone to at least 3 different video stores — but they choose us. They wanted to rent a movie – sure – but more importantly they wanted a recommendation they could trust.

So sitting here at home on my iPad reading about how it is National Small Business Week, I thought about where I shopped tonight. Let’s just say that when we all walk in a big chain store, we are no more than a number.

But, as customers and small business owners and employees, we often can make a different choice and that choice can make a difference in our lives that goes beyond buying a product or a service.

Thank you for supporting small business.

Jeremy and the Crew from Red Hen Turf Farm

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Red Hen Training Day a Success!

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lean101collage3

Have you ever heard the phrase “LEAN Manufacturing”?

If you read our previous blog written by our owner, Gordon, about what he does during our off-season months, you might have caught that we were planning for a full-day of training on LEAN Manufacturing 101.

In addition to having our own employees attend this training, we also invited a handful of our landscaping / contractor customers.

The workshop was led by Jim Walsh and his assistant Harold.  For the general public, Jim holds LEAN 101 Workshops on a regular basis through the Michiana LEAN Network, typically at the Elkhart Chamber of Commerce facilities.  Gordon and our office manager, Lisa, had attended one of these workshops this January, and felt there was a great value in introducing the concept to our team.

LEAN 101 was initially developed at the national level by NIST (National Institute of Standards & Technology) and locally by North Central Indiana Business Assistance Center (NCI) in partnership with local area Chambers of Commerce.

In a nutshell, “LEAN” is a way of describing elimination of waste in your operation.

Each company ultimately gets to decide how LEAN you want to be, but to make this decision you need some basic tools and an understanding of the 8 basic wastes. This knowledge and these tools, along with an all-day manufacturing simulation, is what you get when you attend a LEAN 101 Workshop.

Google “LEAN Manufacturing” or “LEAN 101” and there’s no shortage of results. CLICK HERE to view some videos about LEAN 101 if you’re curious.  The LEAN Enterprise Institute website is another great resource for more information, including some history on how the concept of LEAN evolved.

For one thing, LEAN gives you a way of labeling wastes, which might not sound like a huge deal, but unless you can recognize waste, you can’t effectively address it, and you probably don’t realize it even exists.

When LEAN is being described, depending on how the concept is being framed, there are 7 to 8 different kinds of Wastes (and you can remember them by using the acronym TIM WOODS):

T – Transport – Moving people, products & information
I – Inventory – Storing parts, pieces, documentation ahead of requirements
M – Motion – Bending, turning, reaching, lifting

W – Waiting – For parts, information, instructions, equipment
O – Over production – Making more than is IMMEDIATELY required
O – Over processing – Tighter tolerances or higher grade materials than are necessary
D – Defects – Rework, scrap, incorrect documentation
S – Skills – Under utilizing capabilities, delegating tasks with inadequate training

The LEAN 101 Workshop includes a presentation with several hands-on activities that illustrate key points.  By the end of the day, it becomes pretty clear that there are ways that any business can identify Wastes that will make

The core idea is to maximize customer value while minimizing waste. In a sense, LEAN means creating more value for customers with fewer resources.  Implementing LEAN is an ongoing process that includes getting ideas from every single person on your team, no matter what their job title might be.  With LEAN, your biggest asset is your Employees.

LEAN Principles | Image Source: leanmanufacturingtools.org

LEAN Principles | Image Source: leanmanufacturingtools.org

This was the first time that Jim had presented LEAN specifically to a group in the agriculture and landscaping industries.  Even so, between our Red Hen team members and our invited guests, there was quite a bit of discussion about how we all can begin thinking differently about our day-to-day operations in order to identify waste that adds little to no value for our customers.

Once more, we’d like to give a BIG THANK YOU to Jim and Harold for facilitating this workshop, and all of our Red Hen employees who attended, along with our guests who represented the following companies whose leadership is dedicated to continual improvement:

Thank You Note

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What Gordon does in the Winter: A week in the life of an Indiana farm owner

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So, about a month and a half ago, Jeremy, our Turf Operations Manager, shared a behind-the-scenes look at the types of things he works on during our off-season months. If you missed his post, check it out by CLICKING HERE.

We got a lot of positive feedback about Jeremy’s post and thought you might enjoy a peek at what Red Hen Turf Farm’s Owner, Gordon Millar, accomplished during one week of our winter season.

Here goes … Take it from here, Gordon …

MONDAY, MARCH 2, 2015
My morning started off at the office at 6:30. I took a quick glance at emails, and do some compiling and filing some of last week’s work. At 7, I spent some time talking with our 4 team members working this winter in the shop. This is the same team of people who plant, tend to, and harvest our crops of Turf Grass Sod, Tomatoes, Seed Corn. Corn and Soybeans.

Last winter, we built a new 10,000 sq ft repair facility and office, so this is our first year adjusting to the new facilities. I say “adjusting” because our old building was 1/4 the size with low ceilings. We stayed busy in winters past, but this year offers new opportunity to work on many pieces of our larger equipment. Rather than hurry to get machines ready outdoors on a windy, rainy and cold day in March or April, we spend these snowy days evaluating, inspecting, and fully servicing our machinery, big and small.  As you can see in the photos below, we still fill it up. The tomato planter is receiving a new set of wheel bearings, and we’re working on repairing some pinched electrical cabling, and getting variable rate fertilizer technology added.

Red Hen's New Shop

At 9 am, I received a call from Jim Walsh who heads up the North Central Indiana Business Assistance Center. We scheduled a time in a few weeks for our staff to experience a day-long training class – LEAN Manufacturing 101. I feel this is a great program to get everyone on our team thinking about conservation efforts and sustainability.

At 10 am, I headed south to Plymouth Indiana to the annual Monsanto Seed Corn Growers Meeting. This isn’t just a corn growers meeting. It is for farms who specifically contract with Monsanto to raise Seed Corn, which is the hybrid that commercial corn farmers purchase to plant their crops. This year we received information on contract changes and were presented information on Monsanto’s new initiative on sustainability, which is driven by end-users like General Mills or Kellogg.

Gordon's view at the Spring 2015 Monsanto Seed Corn Growers Meeting

Gordon’s view at the Spring 2015 Monsanto Seed Corn Growers Meeting

Some interesting water facts:

  • Only 3% of the worlds water supply is considered fresh water, but only 0.5% is readily accessible.
  • The largest irrigated crop in the United States is Turf Grass, which is installed on residential lawns, sports complexes, commercial property, and municipal property.
  • On the US agriculture side, it’s estimated that farms use 28 trillion gallons of water each year. Of that, 4 trillion is used on corn.
  • Monsanto is looking to reduce water usage by 25%.

One thing is clear — all customers of agriculture are asking for more sustainable measures. After the Growers Meeting I returned to the office and thought about what we are doing to be sustainable.  I came up with this as a short list:

  • GPS on all Semi’s to monitor idle times / determine the best travel routes
  • LEAN training our staff
  • GPS Soil testing, variable rate applying fertilizer, utilizing automated control of product application
  • Integrating Cover Crops
  • Converting outdated Diesel engines to electric as the source for power for our irrigation systems
  • Investing in new irrigation systems to better apply water accurately and efficiently
  • Utilizing technology and crop rotations to improve productivity of all of our crops

At then end of the day, I spoke with our Pik Rite dealer (the company that sells and services our tomato harvester) as they stopped by to pick up our Odenberg Optical Tomato Sorter. Every year, this item gets full service by the company reps to ensure proper operation during the season. Check out this Youtube video of how our tomato sorter works.

 

TUESDAY, MARCH 3, 2015

Gordon and Son

Gordon and Son

 

Tuesday started at 7:30. With a newborn at home, I’ll always take a few extra minutes of sleep anytime I can!

I spent a few minutes talking with the guys about the an issue we discovered with the sprayer. It required a call to the dealer for technical support — $45 for a new hub seal, and we are back in business.

At 8:30, I stopped at our local Greenmark John Deere to attend a corn planter clinic and technical training on some new technology they offer. I couldn’t stay for the whole session but was impressed to learn about how John Deere has remote monitoring and is integrating their systems to be more seamless in data management.

At 1:00 pm, I conducted a phone interview with a candidate for our farm operator job position. We are looking for another person to add to our team to help in the agronomy portion of our farm. After that, I received a call from Red Gold, whom we contract with for our tomato production. Red Gold was reaching to us after having been contacted by Congresswoman Jackie Walorski, who currently sits on the House Committee on Agriculture. Representative Walorski is planning an agriculture tour in March to talk to different sectors of agribusinesses in Indiana to hear our concerns in the ag sector. We at Red Hen, along with representatives from Red Gold and several of our close business partners will meet with her on Wednesday, March 11th.

I finished the day reviewing our costs associated with Trucking. We own 5 semis and a strait truck used for hauling sod, tomatoes, and grain. We rack up over 100,000 miles a year on deliveries, and the added expense of plates, insurance, fuel, repairs, and drivers’ labor represent a substantial portion of our cost of production. I spent some time focusing on when to replace equipment, and how to better manage these costs that affect the bottom line.

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 4, 2015
I spent several hours in the morning on creating projections for a business opportunity. It would involve adding a new specialty crop and specialized equipment, so I researched specialty equipment, contacted a few people in the industry, and put together some cash flow projections. While I had my financial hat on, I took the opportunity to evaluate our cost of production for each enterprise at Red Hen. We find the best way to evaluate is by looking at each step in the business as an independent enterprise. Here’s a short list of our enterprises:

  • trucking
  • turf and fertilizer sales and support
  • sod harvesting
  • tillage
  • seed corn
  • tomato harvest
  • irrigation
  • grain handling (drying, storage)

In the afternoon, I attended a monthly TAB board meeting (The Alternative Board). I have been a TAB member for over two years now, and for me it’s a chance to sit down with other businesses in non-competing industries to discuss ideas and present what our business is doing to get better. I always gain a great deal of motivation and ideas from these meetings. This month, I explained to the group our process for working through the machinery over the winter. We own over 125 pieces of equipment. Some of these are simple and require little maintenance, while more complex machines like planters and harvesters require days or even weeks of time to tear down, inspect, order parts and rebuild. While we now have the space to do all of this work, developing a system and a unit of measuring our progress is important. The peer group gave me some great ideas on a way to measure and benchmark this portion of our business.

THURSDAY, MARCH 5, 2015
Thursday started off well. I reached out to one of our suppliers regarding an issue with an irrigation well, which occurred last fall.  We had set a plan to fix the issue before spring starts.  At 9 am, I reviewed our year end tax information with the accountant in order to finish our 2014 books.  At 10 am, I contacted several of our land partners regarding the new Farm Service Agency / NRCS / USDA Farm Bill. There were some key decisions to be made by February 27th and I wanted to make sure everyone had returned their paperwork to our local USDA office.

Land Partners are very important to Red Hen. While we own a large percentage of the acreage we farm, crop rotation is paramount, so we work with neighboring farmers and landlords in order to use their property in crop rotation. Sometimes we cash rent a specific field, swap fields, or use flex rents that can be tied to the fields actual yield or commodity prices.

In the afternoon, I conducted another phone interview with a job candidate for our Farm Operator Position.

FRIDAY, MARCH 6, 2015
On Friday I spent some time focusing on Crop Rotations.  Each year we raise 5 crops over 1600 acres in 50 -70 management zones. After plans are finalized and we know the contracted acreage of each crop, fertility, planting, and harvest plans are laid out and information is uploaded into the tractor displays. This is an ongoing project but an important one.

In the afternoon, I spent time with our team cleaning up the shop.  Every Friday we clean the floors, put away tools, and organize. It makes for a Happy Monday.

UPDATE … THURSDAY, MARCH 12, 2015
Just a quick update about my entry for last Tuesday.  I had mentioned that Red Hen had been selected as a stop on Congresswoman Jackie Walorski’s ag tour. Yesterday, I, along with representatives of Red Hen and Red Gold, gave Representative Walorski  a tour of our new shop and had a nice conversation with her about some of the issues affecting Indiana farmers.  The photo below was taken during her tour of Red Hen.

Source:  Rep. Jackie Walorski's Flickr Photo Stream

Source: Rep. Jackie Walorski’s Flickr Photo Stream

For more photos taken throughout Rep. Jackie Walorski‘s two-day, district-wide, 11 Farm #WalorskiAgTour, check out her official Flickr feed at https://www.flickr.com/photos/126304652@N08/.

 

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Straight from Red Hen’s FAQ Vault … Doing Off-Seasons the RIGHT WAY at Red Hen Turf Farm

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PHOTO: One of Jeremy's To-Do Lists

One of Jeremy’s To-Do Lists

Here’s a question we hear A LOT once winter has taken hold of the Michiana area and we throw in the towel as far as harvesting sod is concerned …

“SO, WHAT DO YOU GUYS DO ALL WINTER?”

Here’s what JEREMY has to say about some of the ways that he spends his off-season time:

PHOTO: Jeremy Cooper, Turf Operations Manager, Red Hen Turf Farm

Jeremy, Turf Operations Manager, Red Hen Turf Farm

I’m actually amazed at how many times we are asked this question. But, it’s a common conundrum for “green industry” professionals … how to make the most out of any off-season downtime that you might have?

Some days, we wish the answer could be, “Well, we HIBERNATE, of course!” but in many ways, Red Hen’s off-season is just about as busy as our sod-production season

Yes, some of our seasonal employees are laid off until early March, but on a daily basis we still have 8 employees working full-time …

 Approximately 2880 OFF-SEASON Payroll Hours ... That's a lot of hours!


Approximately 2880 OFF-SEASON Payroll Hours … That’s a lot of hours!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

@ 1:15 p.m.

It’s a Sunday afternoon, and I am leaving my house to car pool with Rick Glassman, the Environmental Education Coordinator from the St. Joseph County Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD) and some of my fellow SWCD Supervisors.

Screenshot - About the St. Joseph County Soil & Water Conservation District


Learn more at www.stjosephswcd.org

The St. Joseph County SWCD is one of the community organizations that I volunteer for. Every January, a few Supervisors from the SWCD go down to Indianapolis to attend the Annual Meeting for the Indiana Association of Soil & Water Conservation Districts (IASWCD). We Supervisors also take advantage of being in Indy by paying a visit to the State House to speak to our District’s elected officials. We give them our annual legislative presentation materials that highlights all the work that the SWCD does for St. Joseph County, and how the SWCD’s funds (including tax dollars) are put to good use.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

@ 1:00 p.m.

I am heading for home after a whirlwind of meetings with our state legislators and attending a few sessions at the IASWCD Conference.  It’s been a real success.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

@ 8:00 a.m.

I am working from Red Hen’s office today.  I’m going through our website (www.redhenturf.com) ONE MORE TIME to catch everything that will need updated for the 2015 season.  I’ve got a meeting in 2 days with our web designer, and there’s plenty of editing that will need to be done.

I also plan out another Indianapolis trip that Lisa (our Office Manager) and I will be taking next week. We’ll be attending the annual Indiana Green Expo, Indiana’s most comprehensive green industry educational conference and trade show. I am also contacting some of our landscaper customers who will be attending Indiana Green with Lisa and I.  Our goal at Indiana Green will be to get some valuable training, and to check out the trade show and the Landscape Challenge. Some of the sessions that Lisa and I are thinking about attending include:

  • The Future of Lawn Care in the Midwest
  • Are You Wasting Money by Wasting Pesticides?
  • Invasive Species and the Green Industry – A Panel Discussion
  • Show Off Your Professionalism: How Do Your Customers Perceive Your Business?
  • How to Implement a Social Media Strategy

@ 3:30 p.m.

I arrive at a meeting in downtown South Bend to discuss the 2015 season with the regional manager for sod distribution to Home Depot and Lowes.

@ 10:30 p.m.

I arrive home for the evening.  Yes, that was a LONG but PRODUCTIVE meeting.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

@ 7:00 a.m.

Bright and early, I arrive at my first-ever South Bend BNI meeting. I only recently learned that on almost every Thursday morning, this eclectic mix of business professionals meet for an hour or so at the Morris Park Country Club.   BNI (or Business Network International) is a global network with local chapters. BNI’s mission is to provide its 150,000 world-wide members with tools to “increase their business through a structured, positive, and professional “word-of-mouth” program that enables them to develop long-term, meaningful relationships with quality business professionals.”   The weekly meetings include a 10-minute presentation by a featured speaker, dates for upcoming training opportunities, and more.

I was given the chance to introduce Red Hen Turf Farm to 50+ great people and then learn about each of their companies.  I hope to attend a few more BNI sessions before our sod season kicks in, and have a feeling I won’t be able to make it too many times between March and November.  These are short meetings and not too far away, so who knows?

Maybe you’re curious if your business would benefit from BNI membership?  Check out the South Bend BNI e-Newsletter webpage for a better idea of what to expect.

@ 9:00 a.m.

I arrive at Red Hen Turf Farm’s WORLD HEADQUARTER (haha!).  As soon as I get inside the door, I’m sitting back down with our web designer to go over Red Hen’s website plans.   

@ 1:00 p.m.

After the past few months of working on the early stages of a customized software project, we are meeting with the project manager from the company we’ve hired to design our “Turf Tracker” / CRM database / communication hub.  This is one of those projects where I’m contributing as part of a team, but our office manager, Lisa, is leading the effort.  We’re really excited about a soft launch possibly as early as the start of our spring season.  Our goal is to be able to provide better service to our customers, and being able to access and communicate information more efficiently is the key.

Friday, January 16, 2015

@ 8:00 a.m.

I arrive at Red Hen’s office and the phone rings.  The caller is asking about shade-tolerant sod, and we discuss some options.   Afterwards, I spend some time doing a little “team building” by catching up with my co-workers who I haven’t seen much of this week.

PHOTO:  Jeremy, Joe, Ron, and Don chatting over lunch

Jeremy, Joe, Ron, and Don chatting over lunch

@ 10:30 a.m.

Lisa and I are visited by two representatives from South Bend’s WorkOne office.  They give us more information about Indiana’s Operation: Job Ready Veterans program.  We are beginning the process of possibly employing veterans for a few positions within the next few weeks.  I’ve got some work to do to make sure we are fully staffed by early March.

During this meeting with WorkOne, we have a surprise visitor — the newest Red Hen team member who was born this past Sunday – Baby Boy Rhett Millar!  Congratulations to our owner, Gordon, and his wife, Casey!

 

@ 12:00 p.m.

The remainder of my Friday is filled with more marketing-related preparations.  I even get to check a few things off of my To-Do list.

 

@ 2:30 p.m.

After a long, productive, week, I decide to leave work an hour and a half early.  Next week is looking to be a busy one, too!

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

And last but not least, I’ll throw the question back your way …

WHAT DO YOU DO DURING YOUR OFF-SEASON (or slow season)? 

We welcome you to answer by leaving a comment or by sending us an email at jcooper@redhenturf.com

Until next time,

Jeremy, Turf Operations Manager, Red Hen Turf Farm

 

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