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Clay Bottom Farm Turns Lean Principles into Profit

It’s a frigid March day in northern Indiana, but inside Clay Bottom Farm’s hoop house, Ben Hartman is planting onion sets. The work is done quickly with a Japanese paper pot transplanter — a wheeled cart with a slanted chute.

Ben Hartman waters plants in his hoop house with his young son.

Ben Hartman and his son Arlo work in the hoop house at Clay Bottom Farm.

A tray holds a honeycombed square of paper pots that unspool as a linked chain of seedlings slides down the red chute as Hartman wheels it down the bed.

“Origami designers developed this tool,” he explains, as each paper pot slips into the soft furrow at evenly spaced intervals, to be tucked in by the transplanter’s slanted rear wheels.

At the end of the row Hartman tears the damp paper linking the pots and turns the implement for another pass. The first seedling in a row gets planted by hand, but the rest are hands-off. “You’re supposed to use a used chopstick,” he says, staking the first paper pot with tongs to keep the line in place, “but we didn’t have any on hand.” Continue Reading →

Tractor Time Episode 9: Ben Hartman and How to Make a Living on One Acre

In this week’s podcast, we’re going all the way back to last year’s Acres USA Eco-Ag Conference in Omaha, Nebraska. There, an author-farmer named Ben Hartman spoke for more than an hour about a little miracle he and his wife, Rachel Hershberger, created in southern Michigan.

Ben Hartman, courtesy of claybottomfarm.com.

In The Lean Farm, the title of his book, Ben shows how he and his family connected with local restaurants in Chicago and the southern Michigan area to create a sustainable, profitable farming venture on less than one acre of land.

His talk last year at our conference was educational, inspiring, and one worth sharing. For those who want to attend our conference in Columbus, Ohio, from Dec. 5-8 this year and talk with hundreds of farmers and experts, including last week’s guest Andre Leu, you can learn more at www.acresusa.com, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and of course, subscribe to our monthly magazine.

Learn more about Ben Hartman at http://claybottomfarm.com, or by buying his book at www.acresusa.com/the-lean-farm.

Check out all of our Tractor Time podcasts here.