Wheat Bucket Brigade


     A "bucket brigade" is an excellent way of transferring bulk wheat into our wheat storage area here at Windward. It is also a great example of how team work can get a big job done faster, more efficiently and with less calories used than if one person was working on it alone. Here at Windward we needed to bulk up on wheat to insure that the members and animals that stay here through the winter have enough food.

the truck pulled up close to the container

     The whole process started by purchasing and transferring wheat from town in two 300 gallon Intermediate Bulk Containers (IBC). Once this was bought and carted back to the land, it was taken over to a shipping container where wheat and barley is stored. Within these shipping containers is a row of IBCs for wheat and barley. This is where the bucket brigade started. We worked with 6 people, two lines of 3 people. Two people filling 3 gallon buckets, two people receiving buckets from the fillers, and two people receiving buckets from the latter and pouring them into the IBCs within the shipping containers. The buckets were handed back to the fillers in reverse.

Ryan filling buckets with wheat

     One may ask "wouldn't you get it done faster if you all filled up and poured buckets individually" and though one may think that this would get the job done faster, the loses are more than the gains. If six people work in two lines of three (or any other effective number variation of group workers) in a bucket brigade fashion, then less calories are used by the individuals and the group over all. Calories (energy) are very precious especially from a sustainability perspective. I have noticed that the perspective of "if you are not doing more work then you are inefficient and/or lazy" is pervasive in mainstream American culture. When really the truth is if one can make less work for oneself while getting a task done faster and more efficiently then it is a gain.

handing off a bucket of wheat to Lindsay

     One thing that I am learning here at Windward is that cutting my loses and boosting my gains is optimal. A bucket brigade is one of those paradoxical activities that is more efficient while everyone involved is actually doing less work. While waiting for a bucket to be filled or waiting for a bucket to fill I found myself amazed to look at the IBC and see it was almost empty! The wheat bucket brigade was like using leverage on a crowbar to pull out a nail, less effort with a better result.

Lindsay hands off the bucket to Andrew while Mike returns an empty bucket to Ryan

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 71