Category: Idea

03 Jun 2024

Engaging and Empowering Staff

Engaging and Empowering Staff

Greenacres Foundation's Innovative Approach

Ever wonder how to meaningfully engage and empower staff at all levels of your organization? How to leverage your staff’s passion and their deep understanding of the operational facts to lead to innovative solutions and advance your mission? At Greenacres Foundation, we are driven by our values to achieve the mission left by our founders. One of our core values is being generative, which not only applies to our agricultural practices but also to generating new ideas, enhancing the way we work, and fulfilling our mission. People are our greatest asset, and without a team of dreamers, believers, and doers, Greenacres could not make the impact we have on our community. Several years ago, we started actively seeking the voices of all our employees, using new and innovative methods that have been beyond fruitful in making Greenacres the place to be.

1. A Process to Propose Ideas

The people at Greenacres have the greatest ideas. However, there was no process for those ideas to be shared and reach the leadership team. Several years ago, we implemented the Idea Submission Process. Any employee, in any role and at any level, can fill out a form with a description of their idea, how the idea relates to the mission, limitations/constraints, and metrics to determine the success of the idea. This form is then submitted to the leadership team. Bi-weekly, the leadership team reviews these submissions, discusses them, and either approves or provides feedback.

From employee-submitted ideas, we’ve developed a world-class agriculture apprentice program, offered a Totality Solar Eclipse Viewing Party for employees, built new community partnerships, created wellness rooms accessible for all staff and visitors, enhanced our benefits to offer Paid Family Medical Leave, and tried electric-smart lawnmowers to cut down (pun intended) on interruptions of our daytime programs by loud gas-powered mowers! Our employees know they have a direct path to offer ideas to the leadership team, and our leadership team knows we get the best ideas from all our people.

There have been instances where we have actively sought specific idea submissions as well. In 2022, we were looking at various barns on the property and determining their best use. We reached out to all staff and asked them to provide idea submissions for how we could utilize the barns – the only constraint was the idea had to tie into our mission. We received a dozen or so ideas from people across all departments. The winning idea was not something anyone on the leadership team had ever considered. We are transforming our founders’ barn into a world-class agricultural education facility where learners of all ages can experience a true farm-to-table program. A long-time member of our team stated, “This is the most excited I’ve ever been about a project at Greenacres.” We can’t wait to see you at the grand opening of the Nippert Barn in late 2024 or early 2025 to celebrate bringing this big idea to life!

2. Survey Your Staff

The leadership team actively seeks feedback from all staff on how they view the leadership team, how the leadership team is supporting them, and how the leadership team can improve. Questions included:

  • What is the purpose of Lead Team?
  • What is Lead Team doing well?
  • What can Lead Team improve on?
  • Do current Lead Team communication strategies keep you informed on what’s happening?
  • Is there anything you’d like to see from Lead Team over the next 12 months?


The answers to these questions informed the leadership team about areas of weakness, strengths, and helped form action items for the coming year to best serve and support our team.

3. Share your SWOT Process

Historically, we have conducted an annual or bi-annual SWOT analysis with our leadership team to review the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats perceived across the organization. New this year, every single employee will be included in our SWOT. Yes, you read that correctly. We are going to set up a SWOT in one of our buildings for three days. Employees will be able to stop by and add strengths, opportunities, weaknesses, and threats as their schedules allow. The leadership team will then take their feedback, review it, and put together action items.

Providing clear and simple opportunities to solicit employee ideas and feedback has made our foundation stronger. Every team member knows they have a voice, and we have done amazing things we may never have thought of in our leadership team echo chamber.

24 Aug 2023

A Small Producer’s How-to Guide to Animal Processing

A Small Producer's How-To Guide to Animal Processing

As a small scale farmer, you may want to incorporate animals into your operation to positively impact your soil health, and to provide additional revenue streams for your operation. But how do you go from having animals on your pasture to meat in your freezer? There are many points to consider, and with a little planning you can make the most of the benefits your animals can bring to your operation.

What kind of processing do you need?

One of the most important questions is: how are you planning to sell your finished meat? If you are planning to sell it in a retail setting, you will need to select a State or Federal (USDA) inspected processing facility. Federal inspection is required if you are selling the finished product across state lines (common if you are shipping meat to customers). If you are processing animals only for your own consumption, or plan to sell only to customers who will work with the butcher directly, you may instead choose a custom exempt processor.

If you are processing animals for your own consumption only, on-farm slaughter could be an option for you. Consider buying a copy of Adam Danforth’s book Butchering, which provides very thorough step-by-step information. There may also be butchers in your area who will harvest animals on-site for you on a contract basis. Ask around at your local 4-H, extension office, butcher shops, or ask other local farmers to see if anyone nearby is offering this service.

How to find processors in your area:

Be sure you start your search early. While each processor has their own timeline, some slaughter appointments are commonly made a year in advance.

Start with a Google search in your area. Another good resource is the FSIS Meat, Poultry and Egg Product Inspection Directory. You can use their search tools to locate butchers in your state/region that accept the species you are planning to harvest. Be sure to ask other producers in your area who is processing their animals – personal recommendations from other farmers can be the best place to start.

How to choose a processor:

Once you have identified some processing options, it’s time to follow up with each one to make sure you make informed decisions. Some things to consider:

  • Call and talk with someone at the facility. Building a personal relationship with your butcher is important.
  • Understand their fees, minimum requirements, and any other particulars.
  • Make sure they can provide the services you need – organic processing availability, label claims, retail labels with weights, etc. are different at each facility. Most processors will offer vacuum sealing, which will offer the longest shelf life while frozen (at least 1 year). Paper wrapping may also be available at a lower cost, but the product will need to be consumed more quickly to avoid freezer burn.
  • Value-added products, like ham, bacon, and sausages may help boost your total carcass value. You may want to purchase and sample some value-added products from the processor, in order to select what best suits the taste of your customers. Be sure to review ingredient lists to make sure they meet your expectations.
  • Make a facility visit ahead of time, and make sure their facility and dropoff site suits your needs and meets your standards. This is also a good time to meet their staff in person.
  • Consider travel time to their location and its related stress on your animals, and wear and tear on your equipment.
  • The processor may not accept appointments for all species at all times of year. Make sure to confirm that the harvest dates you have in mind align with their schedule.

Deciding what cuts and products to order

Before your drop-off date, the processor will have you fill out a form (known as a cut sheet or cutting instructions) to make sure your animals are cut to your preferences. The most important factor when filling out the cut sheet is: what do you/your customers want to eat? Are there seasonal or regional variables you should keep in mind? Are there less popular cuts you could have fabricated into more valuable items (like having chicken drumsticks made into sausages)? Make sure to work with your butcher when filling out the cut sheet, to make sure your requests are within their capability and to understand if any of your choices will incur additional fees.

What equipment is needed to transport animals to a processor?

It is very important to ensure the safety of yourself and your animals during transport. Transportation can be stressful on animals, so ensuring your equipment is properly selected and in good working order can help mitigate additional stress. Stressed animals can have a greater tendency to be injured during transport, which could lead to bruising or broken bones that can reduce carcass quality or could lead to an animal being condemned at the processor.

Small animals like chickens and rabbits may be transported in crates made for that purpose. Large animals like sheep, hogs and cattle should be transported in a livestock trailer towed by a truck. Make sure your vehicle is capable of towing the total weight of your trailer with the animals inside.

Picking up your finished product

Work with your processor to schedule a pickup date and time. Keep in mind that value-added products might take longer to produce than your standard cuts. Ask how many/what size boxes to expect, and plan cargo space in your vehicle accordingly. If you are traveling a long distance, make a plan to keep the meat cold (insulated blankets, coolers, refrigerated truck or van, etc.).

Storage post-harvest

If you are selling directly to a customer in bulk, your customer may pick up the finished product from the butcher directly and you will not need to store the meat yourself. If you are planning to sell the product in bulk at a later date, or as individual retail cuts, you will pick up the meat from the butcher and then maintain it in your own cold storage.

Acquire adequate frozen storage sized to meet your needs, such as chest/upright freezer(s), or a walk-in freezer with shelving. Consider a battery powered temperature alarm to make sure you don’t lose product in the event of an unexpected freezer failure or power outage – these alarms are often equipped with bluetooth alerts, which can be useful if your storage is in a less frequently visited location. Have a backup power plan (such as a generator) in the event of a power outage.

Find a storage organization method that works for you. Keep an inventory list to make sure you know what you have available to sell, and the date the product entered your inventory. In general, it is best to sell vacuum sealed meats within a year of packaging.

If you are selling meat to others, you may be subject to Health Department standards for inspection, safe storage and handling. Be sure to check with your local jurisdiction for accurate information in your area. In general, refrigerated meats must be kept below 40ºF and frozen meats must be kept frozen at or below 0ºF at all times. Raw poultry must be cooked or frozen within 9 days of slaughter (slaughter day is day 1). In general, other meats should be frozen with 10-14 days of packaging in order to maintain quality.

Data collection post-harvest

You may find it beneficial to track some data post-harvest, to better inform your management decisions in the future. Data you may consider tracking in a simple spreadsheet may include:

  • Animal weights pre-harvest (if available).
  • Animal hanging weights post-harvest.
  • Weights of the product received back from the butcher from each harvest. You can use this to calculate your total carcass yield. You can also decide what your profit margin needs to be, and work backward to determine your retail pricing per pound/cut/animal.
  • Your sales over time, in total and per cut. You may find it useful to track this information at different intervals for comparison, for instance each month, quarter and year. This data may help inform the way you fill out your cut sheets for future harvests, as you compare your sales vs. your inventory.

There are many considerations to keep in mind when deciding how to harvest animals, which can be overwhelming at first. If you have questions that we haven’t addressed here, please reach out to and we will do our best to help.

04 May 2023

Paid Family Medical Leave

Paid Family Medical Leave at Greenacres

Have you ever found yourself in a difficult situation where you had to choose between taking care of a loved one or going to work? Or worse, have you had to sacrifice your own health because you couldn’t afford to take time off? What about taking time off for the birth of a baby? Many companies now offer a Parental Leave, but we don’t think that is inclusive enough. What if you’re done having kids, or don’t plan to have any, so that really isn’t a benefit to you? However, maybe your spouse is diagnosed with cancer or your aging parent has a serious illness.

This is called life. While we don’t like to think about these circumstances, it happens to so many of us, and then we are left scrambling to figure out how to balance the stress of time off, work, and pay. Sure, there is FMLA coverage for many of us, but that is not PAID time off. Some states have taken matters into their own hands and have implemented statewide Paid Family Medical Leave but that hasn’t happened in Ohio or Indiana yet.

At Greenacres, we’re committed to sustainability not just in our agriculture practices, but also in the way we treat our employees. We firmly believe that taking care of our employees is just as important as taking care of the land we farm on. We believe in putting our employees first, which is why we recently implemented a Paid Family Medical Leave benefit. This means that if you need to take time off to take care of a sick family member or if you’re dealing with your own medical issue, you can do so without worrying about losing your paycheck.

By implementing this benefit, we are showing our employees that we value their well-being and that we understand life happens. It’s important to note that this benefit doesn’t just benefit employees, but it also benefits Greenacres. By creating this safety net for our employees, we are creating a happier and more productive workforce. And who wouldn’t want that?

Cheers to a happier, healthier, and more GENERATIVE workforce!

14 Apr 2023
Young Tree of Heaven in Indian Hill woodlands

Invasive Spotted Lanternfly and Tree of Heaven

Young Tree of Heaven in Indian Hill woodlands
Tree of Heaven: an invasive in North America and the preferred host plant of spotted lanternflies

Invasive Spotted Lanternfly and Tree of Heaven:
A Double Threat to Local Ecosystems

Spotted lantern fly is once again making the news since this is the time of the year when their eggs are most visible. This invasive insect species has been spreading across the United States since its first sighting in Pennsylvania in 2014. Unfortunately, it reached Ohio last year, and the extent of this insect’s impact is not fully understood.

The spotted lanternfly is a type of planthopper, which means that it feeds on plant sap using its piercing mouthparts. They can cause significant damage to trees by feeding on their sap, which can weaken the tree, making it more susceptible to disease and other pests, and even killing it in severe cases. One tree to keep an especially close eye on is tree of heaven, a favorite of the lantern fly.

Spotted Lanternfly Nymphs
Tree of Heaven, marked by pink tags, in Indian Hill woods
Tree of Heaven (marked by pink tags): an invasive species to North America and the preferred host plant of Spotted Lanternfly

Tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima) is also an invasive species that has become problematic in many parts of the country, including Ohio. It is highly successful due to its ability to produce clones in addition to over 300,000 seeds per year. These trees are also allelopathic meaning they can secrete chemicals into the soil that inhibit the growth of surrounding native vegetation. Greenacres is currently in the process of developing in-house methods to control tree of heaven.

What can be done to address this double threat to local ecosystems? 

  • Report any sightings of spotted lanternflies or tree of heaven using the form or QR code found at Ohio Department of Agriculture.
  • Remove or treat any tree of heaven growing on your property. This can be done using methods such as herbicides, cutting and stump treatment, or girdling. However, care should be taken not to disturb or harm other plants in the area.
  • Encourage the growth of native plant species in your garden or landscaping. Native plants are adapted to the local environment and provide food and habitat for a variety of insects, birds, and other wildlife.

    By working together, we can help protect our local ecosystems from the negative impacts of invasive species like the spotted lanternfly and tree of heaven. If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out to Greenacres or other local organizations for advice and support. 

    The spotted lanternfly can congregate in large numbers.
    The lanternfly with its wings open.