Sign up to stay in touch: Click here to sign up for Ben's mailing list to receive special offers and lean growing tips

The Lean Farm

  Farm smaller and smarter

In agriculture, for more than 300 years, Black and Brown bodies in this country have been exploited for the ignoble cause of cheap food.

Even now, people of color do the lion's share of front line farmworker and food service work, for too little pay. Farm subsidies--more than $16 billion per year--are funneled mostly to rich, white farmers, and very little to black and brown farmers. Pursuing a more equitable system is a moral duty of our time. We need a food system that distributes ownership (including land) fairly, repairs historic wrongs through reparations, and pays essential workers a whole lot more. Silence is not an option. White supremacy is not an accident. It is a reality that was designed by our forebearers and that is perpetuated by us. While we can not change the past, we are responsible to make changes that will correct those injustices. No one can single-handedly dismantle the structures that perpetuate white superiority, but each person and organization will play a unique part. We feel that ours is to financially support black-owned farms and black farmer educational initiatives, and to press our for fair farm policies. We hope you will find ways to support black farmers and businesses.

Teen Growers Initiative

Seed to Feed Teen Growers Initiative offers education and meaningful paid jobs for teens living in Elkhart, IN. A goal of the program is to bring about a more localized and equitable food system. There's a long ways to go to make that happen, but we're glad to back groups on the front line doing the hard work. We've worked with Teen Growers and highly recommend you check them out.

Learn lean farming

Lean Market Farming Masterclass

 A lifetime-access, fully comprehensive online course in using the lean system to set up a farm for high-profits with less work. For market growers. Our most popular course. FIND OUT MORE.

Lean CBD Hemp Production

A one-of-a-kind course teaching lean production of high-CBD hemp for beginners. Includes lessons on hemp economics as well as production. FIND OUT MORE.

Lean Farm Events

ALL EVENTS POSTPONED. FOR NOW. Our popular Lean Farm Start-up workshop will take place later in 2020 at Clay Bottom Farm, Goshen, IN. Ben also offers trainings and speaks across the country, in Canada, and in the UK. FIND OUT MORE.

Traditional farm vs. the lean farm

The traditional farmer chooses what to grow based on hunches as to what might sell. The lean farmer lines up customers first, and then grows exactly what the customer wants, in the right amount, at the right time. No effort is wasted.

Rather than keep every tool, the lean farmer is selective: just a few tools get the work accomplished.

The traditional farm adds capacity through constant expansion. The lean farm grows by cutting out waste.

Farming is a career plagued by low wages. But the lean farmer earns a high hourly wage through smart management: efficient production and a focus on value.

About Ben Hartman

Ben is a full-time farmer and author of The Lean Farm, winner of the prestigious Shingo Prize. In 2017 he wrote a field guide companion called The Lean Farm Guide to Growing Vegetables, and was named one of 50 green leaders in the US by Grist. Clay Bottom Farm offers on-farm workshops and online courses teaching small farmers how to farm smaller and smarter.


Black farmers, efficiency pioneers

While Japanese manufacturers are credited with developing the lean system, Tuskegee University, a private historically black Alabama university, has been the home of lean farm thinking for decades. Booker T. Whatley told farmers "smaller and smarter" is the road to profits. According to George Washington Carver (pictured), "Take care of the waste on the farm and turn it into useful channels" should be the slogan of every farmer. 

Lean and sustainability

Lean is not opposed to growth, but a blind emphasis on growth leaves out a powerful tool, which is getting rid of waste to increase productivity, happiness, living standards, and to farm more in line with nature. The sustainable food movement needs to take efficiency more seriously. Read Ben's interview in Wicked Leeks here.

"Farming is not JUST a business, but it’s still a business, and Hartman’s application of Toyota’s efficiency principles to the farm is nothing short of profound."

Joel Salatin
farmer, author, entrepreneur

"Everyone strives for efficiency in vegetable farming, but Ben Hartman has actually achieved it."

Lynn Byzynski
editor, Growing for Market Magazine

"We give every new employee a copy of Ben's writing to study. Adopting lean principles has been critical for bringing organization, focus, and harmony to our vegetable farm."

Pete Johnson
organic farmer and owner of Pete's Greens, Craftsbury, Vermont

"Ben Hartman is that rare person who could describe the lean farming revolution and then provide proven practices from his own farm."

Jim Womack
founder, Lean Enterprise Institute

Follow Clay Bottom Farm on Instagram...

Instagram is the only social media Ben regularly uses. Follow for lots of photos, tips, and lists of things he has put kickstands on recently.


Sign up for Ben's mailing list to receive special offers and lean growing tips.


Thank you for signing up for Ben's mailing list.