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Farmer to Farmer with Chris Blanchard

The organic and sustainable farming movement has its roots in sharing information about production techniques, marketing, and the rewards and challenges of the farming life. Join veteran farmer, consultant, and farm educator Chris Blanchard for down-to-earth conversations with experienced farmers - and the occasional non-farmer - about everything from soil fertility and record-keeping to getting your crops to market without making yourself crazy. Whether his guests are discussing employment philosophy or the best techniques for cultivating carrots, Chris draws on over 25 years of experience to get at the big ideas and practical details that make a difference on their farms and in their lives. If you've been farming for a lifetime, are just getting started, or are still dreaming about your farm of the future, the Farmer to Farmer podcast provides a fresh and honest look at what it takes to make your farm work.
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Sep 21, 2017

Shawn Kuhn of Vitruvian Farms raises about five acres of vegetables with his business partner, Tommy Stauffer, in McFarland, Wisconsin, just outside of Madison.

Vitruvian Farms raises a little bit of everything, and a lot of salad greens, so we dig into the ins and outs producing 1,200 pounds of salad greens a week, from bed shaping and weed control through harvest and delivery. Shawn shares the ways they have – and have not – mechanized their salad production, and how they make this intensive level of production work on a small scale. We also look at the key success factors for their other main crops, oyster mushrooms, tomatoes, and microgreens.

Most of Vitruvian Farms’ produce is sold through 45 restaurants in Madison, and Shawn shares how they got started in that marketplace and how they maintain those relationships. We dig into what quality really means when selling to restaurants, and how Vitruvian Farms gets top-notch produce to demanding chefs in a crowded marketplace.

Perennial support for the Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously provided by Vermont Compost Company and BCS America.

Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/kuhn.

Sep 14, 2017

Sam Hitchcock Tilton studies weed control at Michigan State University, where he went to study after two years of pushing a wheel through clay soil on his own farm, and more years of working for other farmers. His graduate-student work on in-row weed control in vegetable crops has led him to explore the various elements that go into setting up for weed control success.

Sam draws on his experience on farms, a visit to Europe to learn about and evaluate precision weed-control tools, and his work in his experimental plots to provide insight into more than just the cool tools that make weed control work. We look at the foundations of mechanical weed control, starting with soil preparation and seeding the crop through blind cultivation, flame weeding, tool carriers, and selecting the right tools for between-row and in-row weed control.

Perennial support for the Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously provided by Vermont Compost Company and BCS America.

Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/tilton.

Sep 7, 2017

Ruth Chantry raises a little under four acres of vegetables, plus eggs, pork, and beef, with her husband Evrett Lunquist at Common Good Farm, just a little way outside of Lincoln, Nebraska. With sales to their 65-member CSA, farmers markets, and wholesale accounts, Ruth and Evrett make a full-time living on twenty acres of ground.

Common Good Farm is certified organic and certified biodynamic. Ruth spells out the practical implications of biodynamic farming at Common Good Farm, how it fits into their marketing, and how she and Evrett make the biodynamic farming prescriptions work for them.

We also discuss the practical steps Common Good Farm has taken to integrate their livestock into their vegetable operation to help control weeds and insect pests, as well as the challenges of operating vegetables and livestock as significant parts of the farming operation. And we dig into the nuts and bolts of the egg operation, from feed supplies to washing and delivering the eggs.

Perennial support for the Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously provided by Vermont Compost Company and BCS America.

Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/chantry.

Aug 31, 2017

Barb and Dave Perkins raise 30 acres of vegetables at Vermont Valley Community Farm in Blue Mounds, Wisconsin, where they’ve farmed since 1994. Packing 850 CSA boxes each week, Barb and Dave work hard to keep their CSA community active in the farm with festivals, community days, and worker shares.

We take a deep dive into how their worker share program functions, and how it fits into their overall labor strategy – a strategy that includes two adult children in management positions on the farm. Barb and Dave dig into how they’ve structured their workdays to work for employees, and how they are starting the discussion about transitioning the farm to the next generation.

Dave takes us on a tour of the seed potato business, including how it fits into the labor, marketing, and business aspects of Vermont Valley Farm. We also discuss the basics of the business planning that led Barb and Dave to operate at a large scale in a short amount of time, how the mechanized the operation from day one, and how they manage mulching with their own hay and straw for fertility and weed suppression on a large acreage.

Perennial support for the Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously provided by Vermont Compost Company and BCS America.

Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/perkins.

Aug 24, 2017

Jeff and Elise Higley of Oshala Farm in southwest Oregon’s Applegate Valley raise 37 acres of medicinal and culinary herbs for the wholesale herb market, as well as for direct- and value-added production.

Jeff and Elise provide insights into their business model for working with medicinal herbs, and how they went about getting the business established. We discuss how they balance labor needs, infrastructure utilization, and production cycle for over 70 annual, perennial, and biennial crops, and how they have developed processes that provide their products with stand-out quality and a significant “wow factor” – something that’s surprisingly important even in the wholesale market that forms the economic backbone of their business.

We also discuss property selection for medicinal herb production, how they’ve used regulatory changes as an opportunity to grow their business, and employee management in a business that is even scratchier, sweatier, and dustier than vegetable production. We also dig into the impacts of the “green rush” prompted by Oregon’s legalization of marijuana, how that’s affected their farm economics, and how they’ve adapted to those changes.

Perennial support for the Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously provided by Vermont Compost Company and BCS America.

Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/higley.

Aug 17, 2017

Laura Davis farms about two-and-a-quarter acres of vegetables at Long Life Farm in suburban Hopkinton, Massachusetts, with her husband, Donald Sutherland. Laura started farming after she was laid off from her 30-year career in the medical device business, and she and Donald farm full time, selling their produce to a CSA and two farmers markets.

Laura was attracted for farming through a passion for soil science, and has put a lot of effort into re-mineralizing her soils. We discuss her approach to improving the soil in order to improve her crops, and the reduced insect and disease pressure she’s seen on her farm as a result. Laura also shares her experience with a recent foray into no-till production.

Laura is also an organic certification inspector, and we discuss the ways that being a certified organic farm from very early on fit into Long Life Farm’s business strategy. Laura shares her tips for record-keeping and staying in your certification agency’s – and your inspector’s – good graces.

Perennial support for the Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously provided by Vermont Compost Company and BCS America.

Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/davis.

Aug 10, 2017

Anne Cure has farmed at Cure Organic Farm with her husband, Paul, since 2005. Six miles east of Boulder, Colorado, Cure Organic Farm’s 15 acres of vegetables, 85 pigs, and eggs from 300 laying hens are sold through a CSA, restaurants, farmers markets, and an on-farm store.

Anne tells the story of how she and Paul started as full-time farmers with four acres of vegetables, and how they gained expertise and built infrastructure as they expanded their vegetable production and the diversity of their enterprises. We talk about how she and Paul financed their startup operation, and the keys that helped them convince a lender to believe in them, as well as how they found a land-tenure situation that allowed them to start farming on the outskirts of booming Boulder.

We also dig into how Anne trains and manages the interns, crew leaders, and additional employees on her farm to take responsibility, and the realities of delegating to interns and crew. And Anne reflects how having kids has changed how Anne relates to the farm, the changes she’s made to bring more balance between farm and family, and the ways the farm’s demands have changed since its early days.

Perennial support for the Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously provided by Vermont Compost Company and BCS America.

Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/cure.

Aug 3, 2017

Chad Wasserman owns and operates Chad’s Organics in Hilo, Hawaii, on the west side of Hawaii’s Big Island. After farming up to an acre outdoors, Chad recently moved his entire farm indoors, focusing on 5,000 square feet of production under plastic to provide himself with a living from the herbs and vegetables that he markets to stores, restaurants, and a very small CSA.

With over eighty inches of rain each year and no frost – or even cool weather! – to kill off or slow down pests and diseases, Hawaii can be a challenging place to grow vegetable crops. Add to that the cost of bringing fertility inputs over 2,500 miles from the mainland, and you’ve created a situation that could try the best of farmers. Chad discusses what he’s done to ensure that his farming operation succeeds in the face of these challenges.

We discuss how Chad has developed a market for his products since he started his farm in 2010, how he’s changed his production in response to business growth, market development, and weather; and how he’s developed a worm-based composting system that brings him fifty to sixty pounds of compost each week with a minimum of effort and off-farm inputs.

Perennial support for the Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously provided by Vermont Compost Company and BCS America.

Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/wasserman.

Jul 27, 2017

Chris Jagger is the owner and operator of Blue Fox Farm, an organic vegetable farm in the Applegate Valley of southern Oregon. He is also the owner and head consultant for Blue Fox Agricultural Services, a full-service agricultural supply and consultation company focusing on ecological solutions for the modern farmer. Both his farm and his agricultural services use living soils as a foundation to scale farming operations efficiently and profitably.

We discuss the changes Chris has seen in the organic and local marketplace and labor environment, and how Blue Fox Farm has worked to downsize in response to those changes. Chris shares how he has worked to determine what makes money with a sensible approach to crop budget analysis.

We also dig into how Blue Fox Farm is getting better crops on a smaller piece of land, the economics of scaling up and scaling down, salad mix production, and mechanization and the choices Blue Fox Farm has made around that.

It’s worth noting here that Chris rounds out his involvement with the agricultural community by hosting the Living Soils Symposium each March. The symposium is an interactive conference for farmers, interested in regenerative farming techniques, to exchange knowledge and gain insight in a peer-to-peer environment.

Perennial support for the Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously provided by Vermont Compost Company and BCS America.

Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/jagger.

Jul 20, 2017

John Stoddard and Lindsay Allen work together at Higher Ground Farm, a rooftop farming operation with two locations in Boston. John is the founder of the business and operator of the site at the Boston Design Center, and Lindsay runs the new site at the Boston Medical Center. Higher Ground sells to restaurants and direct to consumers, and provides produce the Boston Medical Center cafeteria, patient food service, and a preventative food pantry.

We dig into the fundamentals of rooftop farming, including options for different production systems and why Higher Ground has opted for their system. John and Lindsay provide insights into the surprising of ecology of rooftop farming – including weeds and seagulls! – and discuss soil fertility management and irrigation systems.

John and Lindsay also ruminate on how to find a roof to farm on, what it takes for an urban farm to survive, and how they’ve leveraged the rooftops to create relationships with customers and clients. And we examine the two different business models that Higher Ground uses to make their operation work – growing food for sale, as well as operating a rooftop farm for a management fee.

Perennial support for the Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously provided by Vermont Compost Company and BCS America.

Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/higherground

Jul 13, 2017

Brendan Grant raises six acres of vegetables plus laying hens, Highland cattle, and a hundred acres of hay with his wife, Marcelle Paulin, at Sleepy G Farm, just east of Thunder Bay, Ontario, on the north shore of Lake Superior. The only certified organic farm for 500 miles around in Canada, Sleepy G’s produce is marketed through a 150-member CSA, grocery stores, a farmers market, and a small on-farm store.

Brendan shares his techniques for bringing new land into production, and delves into the ins and outs of tillage and mechanical weed control on raised beds. We also dig into marketing in Thunder Bay, an isolated city eight hours from other metropolitan areas with no history of market farming, as well as the impact of their isolation and extreme climate on production and input choices.

We also discuss how the farm survived a serious accident two years ago, the impact that accident had on the farm and on Brendan, and how they managed their way through the crisis. We also discuss the pieces that Brendan and Marcelle had in place that helped the farm survive.

Perennial support for the Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously provided by Vermont Compost Company and BCS America.

Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/grant.

Jul 13, 2017

Brendan Grant raises six acres of vegetables plus laying hens, Highland cattle, and a hundred acres of hay with his wife, Marcelle Paulin, at Sleepy G Farm, just east of Thunder Bay, Ontario, on the north shore of Lake Superior. The only certified organic farm for 500 miles around in Canada, Sleepy G’s produce is marketed through a 150-member CSA, grocery stores, a farmers market, and a small on-farm store.

Brendan shares his techniques for bringing new land into production, and delves into the ins and outs of tillage and mechanical weed control on raised beds. We also dig into marketing in Thunder Bay, an isolated city eight hours from other metropolitan areas with no history of market farming, as well as the impact of their isolation and extreme climate on production and input choices.

We also discuss how the farm survived a serious accident two years ago, the impact that accident had on the farm and on Brendan, and how they managed their way through the crisis. We also discuss the pieces that Brendan and Marcelle had in place that helped the farm survive.

Perennial support for the Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously provided by Vermont Compost Company and BCS America.

Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/grant.

Jul 6, 2017

Ray Tyler raises about an acre of salad greens at Rose Creek Farms in Selmer, Tennessee, about two hours east of Memphis and three hours west of Nashville. He farms with his wife, Ashley, and his five children, as well as employees. Produce is sold at farmers market, through a CSA, and to grocery stores in Memphis.

Ray tells the story of his farm from its start as a mixed vegetable and livestock operation in 2010 to its current focus on specialty salad greens, baby root vegetables, and tomatoes on a small scale. We discuss the never-ending vicious cycle of failures Ray encountered in the beginning years of the farm, and how the life-threatening illness of a young child resulted in Rose Creek Farm’s transition from a failing operation into a thriving, joyful, vegetable production machine.

Ray also provides insights into the challenges and opportunities of farming in the south – including a fantastic tutorial on summer lettuce production in that challenging climate. We also dig into how Ray leveraged an intensive education to make his farming transition, and the large and small practical changes that make it possible for Rose Creek Farms to gross big dollars on a small acreage.

Perennial support for the Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously provided by Vermont Compost Company and BCS America.

Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/tyler.

Jul 6, 2017

Ray Tyler raises about an acre of salad greens at Rose Creek Farms in Selmer, Tennessee, about two hours east of Memphis and three hours west of Nashville. He farms with his wife, Ashley, and his five children, as well as employees. Produce is sold at farmers market, through a CSA, and to grocery stores in Memphis.

Ray tells the story of his farm from its start as a mixed vegetable and livestock operation in 2010 to its current focus on specialty salad greens, baby root vegetables, and tomatoes on a small scale. We discuss the never-ending vicious cycle of failures Ray encountered in the beginning years of the farm, and how the life-threatening illness of a young child resulted in Rose Creek Farm’s transition from a failing operation into a thriving, joyful, vegetable production machine.

Ray also provides insights into the challenges and opportunities of farming in the south – including a fantastic tutorial on summer lettuce production in that challenging climate. We also dig into how Ray leveraged an intensive education to make his farming transition, and the large and small practical changes that make it possible for Rose Creek Farms to gross big dollars on a small acreage.

Perennial support for the Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously provided by Vermont Compost Company and BCS America.

Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/tyler.

Jun 29, 2017

Less than one percent of the people farming in Minnesota are Latino, and Eduardo Rivera is one of them. His operation, Sin Fronteras Farm & Food, specializes in producing fresh, healthy, Latino food for restaurants, grocery stores, and a 40-member CSA marketed to the Latino community in Minnesota’s Twin Cities.

Eduardo started farming with his infant daughter on his back on a quarter acre of rented ground near Stillwater. The farm has grown to three acres of production, still on rented ground. We discuss Eduardo’s rigorous business planning process and the progress he has made towards his goals as he has financed his farm’s growth and development. Eduardo shares the challenges of piecing together infrastructure like greenhouses and cold storage in multiple locations due to Sin Frontera’s land tenure situation.

We also dig into the challenges and opportunities that Eduardo has found in marketing his produce, especially with regard to making it available through Latino markets in the Twin Cities. And Eduardo provides lots of great details about his cilantro and pepper production, his irrigation system, paying employees, and more.

Perennial support for the Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously provided by Vermont Compost Company and BCS America.

Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/rivera.

Jun 22, 2017

Chris Field farms fourteen acres of ground with his partner, Jessi Okamoto, at Campo Rosso Farm in Gilbertsville, Pennsylvania. Camp Rosso Farm is what happens when two New York foodies decide to start a farm. Chis and Jessi grow a wide variety of very high quality Italian chicories – radicchios, endives, and more – as the cornerstone of their operation, and market through New York City’s Union Square Green Market and wholesale to restaurants in New York City.

We dig into how Chris and Jessi learned how to grow this challenging crop, and how they get compensated for the high labor inputs chicories require. And while we didn’t get into proprietary details of the more specialty varieties, Chris provides a primer on producing quality chicories for fall production, as well as insights on how they produce other high-end crops bursting with flavor.

Chris also provides insights into their marketing strategy, how he and Jessi jumped from city jobs into farming, and how he and Jessi are working to solve the challenges they’ve had sourcing labor for their young operation.

Perennial support for the Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously provided by Vermont Compost Company and BCS America.

Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/field.

Jun 15, 2017

In this episode, we revisit Jess and Brian Powers at Working Hands Farm, eighteen months after they were first on the show on Episode 040. Since the fall of 2015, Working Hands Farm has gone through some significant changes and phenomenal growth on their property in Hillsboro, Oregon, just outside of Portland on the north end of the Willamette Valley.

Jess and Brian have gone from raising four acres of vegetables in 2015 to eight acres now, and have expanded their on-farm CSA to cover 48 weeks of the year – all with just the two of them, plus the recent addition of a part-time employee. In the past year, they’ve gotten out of the livestock business to focus on their produce business, standardized their farming operations, and made significant investments in machinery and infrastructure on their farm. We dig into all of these changes and the rationale behind them, as well as how the changes are helping them to face the extreme wet-weather challenges they’ve faced this year.

When I interviewed Jess and Brian the first time, it was clear that although they were working insane hours, they found ways to emphasize and build their personal relationship, so we also come back to how they’ve continued to nurture their love for each other alongside of their professional and business development.

Perennial support for the Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously provided by Vermont Compost Company and BCS America.

Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/workinghands.

Jun 8, 2017

Danny Percich raises vegetables at Full Plate Farm in Ridgefield, Washington, for a ninety-member winter-only CSA. With three acres of mostly-outdoors production, Danny has decided to focus on an underserved niche in the marketplace, enabling him to make a living on a small acreage.

We get muddy discussing the challenges of winter production in a climate where it rains all winter. Danny gives us the low-down on how they manage deer predation and vole populations, as well as how he dresses to stay warm and dry no matter the weather.

Danny also provides insights into how he has minimized capital and labor inputs on his farm, and how that influences his farming schedule, as well as his cropping and production strategies.

Perennial support for the Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously provided by Vermont Compost Company and BCS America.

Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/percich.

Jun 1, 2017

Melanie and Kevin Cunningham own and operate Shakefork Community Farm in Humboldt County, California, where they raise five acres of vegetables and a diversity of livestock, including broilers, egg-layers, pigs, and sheep.. And they do it with oxen – as well as with four-wheeled and two-wheeled tractors. Since their start in 2008, the farm has evolved from an emphasis on small grains to a focus on vegetables and livestock, which they sell through their 120-member CSA and three farmers markets.

We take a deep dive into how they’ve integrated the oxen into their operation, including the why behind it and how they use draft power in ways and places where they feel tractor power and human power aren’t the best choices.

Kevin and Melanie dig into how they manage the complexity of their operation, including their introduction to Holistic Management and how they’ve used that to support their decision-making and to get on the same page from a relationship standpoint, as well as to help them do the caliber of work that they want to be doing. We discuss how they schedule multiple labor-intensive enterprises, and how they’ve divided responsibilities and how they coordinate between the different parts of the operation.

Perennial support for the Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously provided by Vermont Compost Company and BCS America.

Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/cunningham.

May 25, 2017

Polly Shyka and Prentice Grassi raise five acres of vegetables and five acres of cover crops, plus broiler chickens, egg layers, and beef cattle, at Villageside Farm in Freedom, Maine. Polly and Prentice have been involved in farming for twenty years, and have been farming their land since 2001. Making a living for both of them on $200,000 in sales, they have worked hard to build a farm business that is an asset to their community.

We talk about the challenges of farming at the five-acre scale, and dig into the nuts and bolts of how they manage their vegetables in a three-years-on, three-years-off rotation with perennial cover crops. Polly and Prentice dish out plenty of details about how they manage the livestock and vegetable production together, and about the equipment and tools they use to manage their five acres of produce.

Polly and Prentice also dig into the numbers that drive their farm, and the hard work they’ve put in to balancing life and business. They share their strategies and philosophy for making the most of their interactions with customers, children, employees, and each other, and how they have worked to develop the human skills that support their farm and their family.

Perennial support for the Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously provided by Vermont Compost Company and BCS America.

Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/villageside.

May 18, 2017

Father and son team Jeff and Zach Hawkins raise two acres of vegetables, 20 acres of grain, and a variety of livestock on 60 additional acres of pasture at the J.L. Hawkins Family Farm outside of North Manchester, Indiana. About half of their sales go through a CSA, with the remained going through farmers markets and local restaurants, as well as an on-farm pizza night.

Jeff shares the story of how the farm was started by his grandparents in the mid-1950s, and how he came back and then changed the farm from a hobby farm to farming in earnest in 2003. We also dig into Zach’s return to the farm in 2013, and the accompanying expansion in markets and management that was made to accommodate an additional person on the farm. Jeff and Zach also share how they’ve made the relationships on this small family farm work, including the ways that their respective spouses are and are not involved in the operation.

Zach shares some of the details about how they have integrated the vegetable and livestock operations, including the use of pasture patches to grow some of the vegetable crops. Zach and Jeff share how they plan their way through the diversity of operations, and the decision-making processes they use to do it. We also discuss some of the challenges they’ve faced, including how they overcame regulatory and legislative hurdles to processing their chickens on farm, and how they approach food safety with livestock and vegetables on the same farm.

Perennial support for the Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously provided by Vermont Compost Company and BCS America.

Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/hawkins.

May 11, 2017

Danya Tietelbaum is the co-founder and co-owner of Queen’s Greens, 35 acres of fields and greenhouses in the heart of the Pioneer Valley in Massachusetts. Queen’s Greens’ specialty is what they call “boutique wholesale”, supplying restaurants, retailers, local universities, and regional distributors, with certified organic greens, herbs, and a small selection of other vegetables.

Danya digs into why they’ve limited their crop mix and marketing outlets, and the implications that’s had for their business. We take a deep dive into the Queen’s Greens model for putting out a reliable crop of salad mix week after week, including weed control on solid-seeded beds and how they manage massive quantities of row cover to control flea beetles.

As a wholesale-only operation, Queen’s Greens fills over a hundred orders each week during the growing season. Danya explains the systems they use to track and fulfill those orders, and the administrative structure they’ve developed to get everything delivered, even though Queen’s Greens doesn’t own a delivery truck.

We also discuss their conversion of a tobacco barn into a GAPs-audited packing shed, as well as their winter spinach production.

Just as a point of reference, since it’s spring and we do get into some timing-related topics, this episode was recorded on April 19.

Perennial support for the Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously provided by Vermont Compost Company and BCS America.

Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/teitelbaum.

May 4, 2017

Jason Weston is a co-owner of Joe’s Gardens in Bellingham, Washington, a five-acre urban farm started in the 1890s. One of the last of the original truck farms in the Bellingham area, Joe’s Gardens sells almost all of its produce retail on site.

Jason has become well-known for his innovations with the Planet Junior two-wheeled cultivating tractors that he uses for weed control on his farm, and he provides an introductory tutorial into their features and uses, and how they changed everything for Joe’s Gardens. We dig into how the two-wheeled tractors support his intensive, no-bed production, and into the modern weed-control tools that he has used to almost eliminate hand weeding on his farm.

We discuss how Joe’s Garden is laid out to maximize space utilization, and the tillage and production practices that support that layout. Jason also shares how he and his forbears have maintained fertility in a continuous vegetable rotation for 120 years, and the long-term approach he takes to managing soil health.

We also discuss the changes in Joe’s Gardens’ marketing over the years as the wholesale and retail marketplaces have shifted in product demand and consumer attitudes. Joe talks about the challenges they faced in shifting to a retail operation, and the family dynamics that helped make that shift successful.

Perennial support for the Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously provided by Vermont Compost Company and BCS America.

Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/weston.

Apr 27, 2017

Dan Guenthner of Common Harvest Farm, along with his wife Margaret Pennings, has been a CSA farmer since before CSA was even really a thing – 1990, to be exact. With twelve acres of vegetables and a 200-member CSA in Osceola, Wisconsin, just outside of Minnesota’s Twin Cities, Dan and Margaret take a thoughtful approach to how they engage with their CSA membership, the farming community, and their farm’s land and production systems.

Dan reflects on the CSA movement, and how it has grown and changed since its inception, and the challenges that even CSA farms with a deep focus on community have faced as local and organic produce has become more widely available. We discuss some of the ways that Dan and Margaret have built their CSA on community organizing and shared values in an effort to break out of the marketing paradigm, and how they are working to get even deeper into this heart of the CSA movement now.

Dan also digs into how he has built the production system at Common Harvest Farm, including a foray into draft animal production, and the investment strategy that has supported the development of a highly efficient farm, in terms of both labor and energy use.

Perennial support for the Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously provided by Vermont Compost Company and BCS America.

Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/guenthner.

Apr 20, 2017

Susan and Harley Soltes of Bow Hill Blueberries raise five acres of high-bush blueberries on the northern edge of the Skagit River Valley in western Washington. Susan and Harley bought the oldest blueberry farm in Skagit County in 2011, transitioned the farm to organic, and launched a new line of value-added products along with their fresh and frozen berries.

Harley shares the details of organic blueberry production, from weed control and management of mummy berry and spotted wing drosophila through the GAP-certified harvest that provides access to institutional markets. Bow Hill’s blueberry bushes were mostly planted in the 1940s, which provides a great marketing opportunity – heirlooms! – but also presents challenges when it comes to keeping the harvest crew happy, and Harley and Susan dig deep into how they work with their labor crew to maximize the harvest and keep worker satisfaction high

Susan walks us through how they market their fresh and frozen berries to institutions including Microsoft’s food service and the Seattle Seahawks, as well how they created their unique line of value-added products, and how they have established a differentiated presence in the marketplace, even though Washington State is the United States’ largest producer of organic blueberries.

We also discuss how Bow Hill has developed and enhanced their u-pick market and on-farm sales, as well as how they’ve turned purslane to their advantage.

Perennial support for the Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously provided by Vermont Compost Company and BCS America.

Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/soltes.

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