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Protecting Baby Fruit and Planning for Efficiency

By Trish Olson, Director of Programs — Extension Center for Family Development

The past few weekends, my husband Steve and I have been installing a 7-foot fence around fruit trees we planted two springs ago on our farm in Winona County. We planted pear, cherry, apple, plum, and peach trees. Doesn’t just reading that variety make your mouth water?

white flowers on a fruit tree
C'mon, fruit!

We had great expectations about our fruit harvest. Last fall, on one weekend, the fruit was just about ready. So we anxiously waited for the next weekend to harvest — and found that our mouths weren’t the only ones watering. Our neighborhood deer got there first and had a fruit buffet! That’s when we committed to get a high fence around the trees.
man dressed in orange standing behind a pine tree
Using pine trees for fence posts.

A recent weekend, with the fence up three-fourths of the way around (notice, not all of the way around), we arrived at our farm to find not only the baby fruit gone, but also major tree limbs broken. We realized that now raccoons were also enjoying our fruit.

small field with fruit trees
Our orchard. One side is adjacent to an open field.

My father-in-law thought that the open field adjacent to the orchard was a “welcome gate” for raccoons. So he put up an electric fence along that side of the field. As of this weekend, our 7-foot fence is up all of the way around the orchard. And we will see if that fence deters the raccoons as well as the deer before investing time and money to put up an electric fence on all sides, too.

So what did I learn from this experience and what is its application to our work?

Listing and executing tasks in the proper order of completion makes for efficiency in time, money, and communication. In our exuberance to have an orchard, we did not take the necessary first step of securing the area from deer and raccoon. Because we skipped this step, we had to work backwards after damage had already been done. This created inefficiencies in both finances and time.

In our Family Development leadership team, we have taken on the task of utilizing the LEAN process to make our collective work more efficient. (For more information about the LEAN process, see What is LEAN?) The sticky note photo below shows the process for curriculum development.

large sheet of white paper with sticky notes that have writing on them
The current state of curriculum development in Family Development.

Without annotation, you can see the complexity of our current process! Often, in our exuberance to get good information to our audiences, we do steps out of order and have to repeat some steps more than once. It was informative to take a step back and reflect on the number and interconnectedness of steps and how could it be improved.

And we’re not the only ones in Extension striving for efficiency. In the elevator last week, I spoke with Brad Rugg, program director of fairs and animal science in youth development. He shared that Extension Center for Youth Development had streamlined the documents that county staff and 4-H families needed to complete for state fair exhibitors. The number of documents dropped from 67 documents to 4!

Brad commented that while the task was not programming, it was a significant accomplishment. “Oh, no,” I said, “Now with the efficiencies in the process, there’s more time for programming and quality time with youth and their families.”

Efficiencies are not in and of themselves a management process. They allow us more time and resources to conduct our important work in the community — and save baby fruit from wildlife.

As you reflect on your work, what processes could be improved? One process I have improved is getting action items out of emails and onto a to-do list. When I have an email I must act on, I click on the “More” tab above the email and then select “Add to Tasks.” Then I assign a date to the task. This process helps me to remember to do tasks others have requested from me.

What are your ideas? Feel free to share in the comment sections ideas you have already implemented or ideas the rest of us could use to be more efficient.

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