Author and Farmer

Ben Hartman grew up on a corn and soybean farm in Indiana and graduated college with degrees in English and philosophy. Ben and his wife, Rachel Hershberger, own and operate Clay Bottom Farm in Goshen, Indiana, where they make their living growing and selling specialty crops on less than one acre. Their food is sold locally to restaurants and cafeterias, at a farmers’ market, and through a community-supported-agriculture (CSA) program. The farm has twice won Edible Michiana’s Reader’s Choice award. “The Lean Farm,” Ben’s first book, won the Shingo Institute’s prestigious Research and Professional Publication Award. In 2017, Ben was named one of 50 emerging green leaders in the United States by Grist, and he published a companion guide titled, “The Lean Farm Guide to Growing Vegetables.” Clay Bottom Farm has developed an online course in lean farming, which can be found at

Using the Lean System to Earn a Comfortable Living on a Farm, Friday, March 8

 In this full-day masterclass, Ben Hartman, author of The Lean Farm and The Lean Farm Guide to Growing Vegetables, will explain powerful concepts from the Japanese lean system that increase profits with less waste and work. Lean principles are universal, and the masterclass will cover practical techniques that farmers of any size and type can take home and immediately employ. Ben will provide examples of lean at work on his Indiana vegetable farm, Clay Bottom Farm, as well as on other farms.

Session 1: Introduction to Lean Principles for Farmers, 10:30 – 12:00 noon

This session will provide an introduction to lean thinking on the farm. In this workshop, Ben Hartman will describe lean’s weapon for organizing, called 5S. Learn how to sort your tools, store them where they add the most value, organize supplies and materials to maximize flow on your farm, and create systems to ensure that the clutter never returns. You will go home with a specific plan for organizing your farm.

This session will also cover the lean system approach to understanding customers and then creating – and delivering – products of high value. The session will cover a range of topics, including value “distortions” common on farms, pricing your food with the lean system, lean records management, and more.

Session 2: Seven Types of Farm Waste, 1:00 – 2:30 pm

At the heart of lean is eliminating Muda, or waste, from your production system. This session will unpack seven types of Muda common on farms and show examples of how you can get rid of Muda to increase efficiency and grow your profits. You will leave with a plan to banishMudaa from your own farm as a way to become more economically viable.

Session 3: Lean Market Gardening, 3:00 – 4:30 pm

This practical session is geared toward small-scale market growers. Ben will explain the innovative techniques inspired by lean thinking that he and his wife Rachel use at Clay Bottom Farm to eliminate weeds and pests, manage soil, and cut out waste in the production of tomatoes, greens, and many other crops. You will go home with concrete, lean ideas to apply next season on your own vegetable operation.