Identifying Project Goals – Part 2 of Growing the First Third

Richard Freeman, Designed Ecosystems


My mission for this brief presentation is to describe the process of defining goals to guide your design and management of the production food garden. Defining goals for your production garden is a key step because it forces you to be clear about what you want to achieve. This clarity ensures that you will design and create a system that works well for you far into the future — with minimal adjustment. This clarity also ensures that your large investment of labor and money pays for a specific range of outcomes rather than being dibbled away to naught.

The frame of reference for these presentations is an urban or suburban plot. In this scenario, space is limited so horticulture and the growing season short is intensive.

The presentation will follow this sequence:

  1. I’ll begin by discussing some key principles.
  2. Then I’ll outline a sequence of steps for formulating goals.
  3. I’ll conclude by tying this presentation to the next one in the series,

Key Principles

Project Vision. The project vision is the rich idea that underlies your project. It’s the most general statement or thought that describes what you want to do.

In the context of this presentation, the vision could be, “I want to grow one-third of the annual vegetables and fruit that I consume.”

Project Mission. A project mission is a statement that says you will realize this vision by meeting several goals. For this project, the mission is to grow one-third of the plant produce that I consume annually.

Goals. Goals are general statements about what general tasks you will accomplish to see through the mission. They are specific to your tastes and preferences moderated by the limits of the site. For example, a goal might be “to grow all the fresh produce necessary to consume for one-third the year.” Another goal can be “to grow the produce necessary to make fermented foods for one-third year consumption.”

Some goals might require dividing into sub-goals. For example, a sub-goal of growing produce for fermented foods might be growing the produce necessary for making a four-month supply of kimchi or a four-month supply of saurkraut.

Subgoals for growing raw produce can, for example, include “growing root crops to pick and consume for four months out of the year” or “growing greens for personal consumption.”

Sequence of Activities for identifying your Project Vision and Goals

Step 1. Identify the major forms of food in your diet that contain plant produce – for example raw, fermented, sauced or relished and so forth.

Step 2. Write an explicit list of these food forms or translate them into goals that in sum encompass the mission. For example, if you consume plant produce in raw, relished and fermented form, your goals might appear as such:

a) “Grow all the raw produce necessary for personal consumption for one-third the year.”
b) “Grow all the produce necessary to create fermented food for personal consumption for one-third the year.”
c) “Grow all the produce necessary to create canned sauces, relishes, jellies and jams for personal consumption for one-third the year.”

If the planning situation requires dividing goals into subgoals, then write these subgoals so that in sum they meet the goal.


After identifying the project vision and the goals required to see through the vision, the subsequent step involves defining objectives – statements that explicitly designate how you are going to meet goals. Defining objectives first requires translating goals into specific production targets declared in quantitative terms – for example, specific weight or per item (like a head of cabbage) or per pound. Subsequently, the process involves translating these production targets into the garden area necessary to meet these production targets.

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