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Economy of Motion (or, another apprentice lesson learned)

by Susan Cook, Ecosystem Farm Apprentice

(from this week’s edition of Field Notes.)

photo credit: Anjela Barnes

I have been learning many, many things since I’ve begun here at the farm. I’ve written previously of learning to adjust my personal hygiene standards to life on the farm. I now wake up with stiff hands, achy knees and sore ankles. In fact, I’m sitting on my lovely sofa at the end of a long, hot day and my phone just rang. My immediate thought was that the person calling had better be worth my effort to get up. In fact, it was my mother, and I couldn’t resist telling her that I was turning into her, with all my moaning and groaning about my knees.

But this time, I actually wanted to write about something that Becky mentioned to Sky and myself our first week. She said a big consideration in farming is the “economy of motion.” It makes perfect sense, but probably few of us practice it. It’s about increasing the efficiency in our movement. So when we are out digging up a field, lying out irrigation or harvesting some produce, don’t expend your energy spinning wheels. Think about what you need to have in order to complete your task, and try to devise a way to do it at maximum efficiency. Actually, growing up, my mother was already a practitioner, if I was getting up to go to the kitchen, she’d stop me with a “oh, while you’re up…” She was maximizing my energy!

On the farm, this economy of motion is about conserving our energy. Often times when we transplant our seedlings into the ground, we break our tasks up to maximize our efficiency and effectiveness. One will dig the holes, another drops the plants into the holes, and then the third person comes and brings the soil around the plant. It makes our transplanting go, relatively, quickly. Again, it’s pretty simple and probably for most of us a “duh” moment. There’s so much to do out there that we could easily exhaust ourselves if have to continually go back over something that we’ve already done.

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