I always appreciate it when people in an organization are dedicated to growing the people inside that organization. And I really feel for people when they want to do that, but feel constrained by budgetary or other resource issues. I hear from a lot of H.R. folks who find themselves in that situation. They want to expand the capacity of people, but they don't have the money to invest in training and development activities. Well, I think that you're limiting yourself if you feel that way, because you don't have to hire an outside trainer.
I know that shocking coming from a trainer, and you don't have to rely on external coaches. You can build internally, and you should. You should have a culture that embraces learning and development so that it's a continuous process, not something that happens every once in a while when budget gets thrown at an initiative.
One of the very best things you can do to expand the capacity of your team, is to implement cross mentoring, and that could be formal or informal. But what I like about cross mentoring is that it corrects the misperception that only the people who have attained this level, can mentor the people at this level, that's not true. Everybody, at every level has something to offer everybody else. We all have specialties and perspectives and experience that we bring to the table that's unlike anybody else's.
So whatever it is that every single person in your organization could be teaching others, that's an opportunity for them to be a mentor. And mentoring doesn't have to be long and involved. It can be a single 30 minute sit down, where somebody is is explaining how to or why to do something different. See, this is different from coaching, often those get confused. Coaching is an entirely different skill set, as is managing, but we're just talking about mentoring, a fantastic way to expand the capacity, using only the resources that you already have.
What's best about cross mentoring is that both the mentor and the mentee are going to grow as a result of it.
The photo on the left, shows a little less than half of my 2020 straw bale Garden, the rest of it wraps around the other side of the outbuilding and is in containers. There are straw bales on that side, as well as containers for the plants that needed something different than straw to do their very best. We have 60 straw bales this year, as well as 16 containers. I'm growing 57 different crops, significantly more than I grew in 2019 when I had only 48 straw bales and a lot more than I grew in 2018 with just 24 bales straw.
And each year, as I've added on, I've done that because I've learned a few things along the way, including what to do with all that excess when I'm expanding. The reason I'm expanding is it because we need more. The reason I'm expanding is because I love straw bale gardening. I'm having a great time and I've found some interesting ways to trade and give and barter all the things that I grow.
As we're expanding, as you can see over here on the right hand side, I have to get smarter, unless I want to work a lot harder. I have to be smart about what I'm doing. So we position soaker hoses in certain ways early in the season because once the plants grow, you can't reposition them very easily without potentially damaging the plants. I got bigger soaker hoses, higher quality ones this year, because I wanted to be able to rely on them instead of having to rely on myself to get the work of watering done.
And as we have expanded, we've gotten creative with the ways that we are giving out the products that we have and that we are using for others. We give products away, we invite people to come over whenever they want to and harvest in the garden. I get out there and pick early, so whatever's left a little later in the day is intended for some of our friends, family and neighbors to take advantage of. It's a good reason for people to come out and visit us, too.
I also share recipes and I certainly share the canned goods and the vacuum sealed products and the frozen products that I have available. We've been creative and what we've been able to do. When we had a lot of yellow tomatoes in twenty nineteen (I'll never plant that many cherry tomato plants again), but when we had an abundance, I had found a pickled cherry tomato recipe that's actually pretty good for a quick snack. And I made sunset salsa with half yellow tomatoes and half red tomatoes... and it's been incredibly popular! It's very tasty and it's pretty in the jar.
People, of course, like plain old tomatoes, too, so I can give those away all day long. Everyone's asking me, are you going to go into business
you have so much here you could sell this and make a good living. But, you know, for me, it's all about the fun, not about potential profit in this endeavor. Something else that was very bountiful last year and by design should be even more bountiful this year, where all these little ornamental gourds that I grow and the mini pumpkins. This year I added, I'm growing lunch lady gourds and gizmo gourds and some butternut squashes to go on top of all the regular squashes and gourds that I that I've grown in years past.These are really fun to give away.
And it was fun to go see all my friends and family and see how they chose to decorate with all the gourds that we grew and gave away. As you're thinking about ways to expand the capacity that you have or that your team has or that your customers have, you too can be very thoughtful about what it looks like to give something away if you have excess, because when you give something away or when you barter or trade, that expansion gives you a lot more to work with.
It's also like putting money in the bank. I was blown away come the holiday season last year with all the different interesting things that people wanted to give us because of how well we've taken care of them during the harvest season. I didn't expect it, but that's just the way things work. It's the law of reciprocity. When you give something, when you pay it forward, people want to give you something in return. Go ahead and think about expanding, but don't do it just for the sake of expanding.
Do it because it's the right thing to do, especially when it comes to your own and others capacity.