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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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Now displaying: 2015
Dec 31, 2015

Don Zasada and Bridget Spann own and operate Caretaker Farm in western Massachusetts, where they raise vegetables for 275 CSA families. Caretaker Farm got its start in 1969 when Sam and Elizabeth Smith purchased the land. They started the CSA in 1991, and Don and Bridget came to the farm in 2004, eventually transferring ownership through a land trust and lease arrangement. We dig into Caretaker Farm’s relationship to its members, and how Don and Bridget arrange things so that members do more than just picking up their vegetables, as well as how Don and Bridget have structured their own relationship to the farm and the apprentices to enhance the farm’s sustainability, profitability, and quality of life.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Dec 24, 2015

When today’s guest Leslie Cooperband, and her husband, Wes Jarrell, started Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery in 2005, they didn’t expect the goat dairy and creamery to become the primary driver of the farm. Located just outside of Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery has over seventy milking does providing the basis for their goat cheese and gelato business, which they run in addition to a vigorous on- farm dinner enterprise. We discuss the history of the farm and its various production and marketing enterprises, including market development, how Leslie and Wes navigated the regulatory landscape in a state that lacked farmstead creameries, and how the farm has grown and changed to meet the realities of the farm economy while staying true to its principles - and we dig into the nuts and bolts of the record-keeping Prairie Fruits uses to keep on top of the profitability of various enterprises and market outlets, including on-farm sales, farmers markets, CSA, and wholesale sales.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Dec 17, 2015

Elizabeth Henderson was a founder of Peacework Organic CSA, one of the oldest CSAs in the United States, where she farmed for over thirty years. She is also the author of the definitive work on CSA farming, Sharing the Harvest . And she has been involved in any number of other initiatives in the food movement, from shaping the National Organic Foods Production Act,  to her work with the Agricultural Justice Project. In this movement, especially in the Northeastern United States, it can be hard to turn anywhere without seeing Elizabeth’s handprints – and indeed, this is true around the country and even internationally.. When we recorded this interview, she had just returned from the sixth gathering of Urgenci, the International Network for Community Supported Agriculture, which took place in Beijing, China, this year. Elizabeth reflects on the shape and texture of the international CSA movement and the resurgence of small-scale organic farming in China, and we dig into the mechanics of how her CSA farm accommodated having members and children as part of the harvest activities, the farm’s transition to new partners, and the farm’s relationship to the Genesee Land Trust.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Dec 10, 2015

Sophia Kruszewski leads the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s work on food safety, and has put a ton of time and effort into the FDA’s new rules under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The final version of the produce rule was just rolled out by the FDA, so we take the time to dig into who and what is covered under the rule, how the exemptions work, and the highlights of the major provisions of the rules – including some of the important victories we achieved in the proposal and revision process, and where work remains to be done.

Sophia does a great job of putting the Food Safety Modernization Act Produce Rule in context, especially where we’re at and what happens between now and the point when non-exempt farms have to come into compliance.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Dec 3, 2015

Dru and Adam Montri raise vegetables in 6 large high tunnels and on 3 acres outdoors at Ten Hens Farm in Bath, Michigan, just outside of Lansing. They also both work off farm in jobs related to farming – Dru as the Executive Director of the Michigan Farmers Market Association, and Adam as the Hoophouse Outreach Specialist at Michigan State University’s Center for Regional Farm Systems. In this wide-ranging discussion, Dru, Adam, and I talk about how they balance their off-farm jobs with a farming operation that could easily keep them employed full time, including their strategies for managing employees and their relationship with each other. We also dig into the nuts and bolts of selling to restaurants and how they grew with, and helped to grow that market in their area; dig into winter production and the high tunnel they use for a packing shed; and Dru’s experiences as a woman farmer and agricultural activist.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Nov 26, 2015

Valley Flora’s Zoe Bradbury grew up on the family homestead in southern Oregon, just a few miles from the Pacific Ocean. She left at sixteen and came back many years later to a farm where her mother and sister had started growing and selling vegetables. Many years later, Valley Flora feeds over 100 CSA members and provides produce to dozens of restaurants and stores in the 50-mile radius around their farming collective, as well as a farmstand and u-pick operation on the farm. We discuss how she, her sister, and her mother have integrated the troublemaker of the family into the existing farming ventures, including the nuts and bolts of how the three separate farming operations cooperate to market together and share resources. Zoe shares her experience about the joys and challenges of farming with children, integrating horses into the operation, marketing in a rural environment, and living off the farm.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Nov 19, 2015

Andrea Hazzard grows and mills 30 acres of ancient and heirloom grains, from black beans and red corn to emmer, spelt, einkorn, and oats. Returning to her family farm, she originally began growing vegetables, but gravitated back to grains – with a twist on what her family and her neighbors are doing. We get into the nitty gritty of growing and handling specialty grains, and the differences between planning and marketing a shelf-stable product and planning and marketing vegetables. Along the way, we get into the challenges of working with a distributor, the joys of working with family, and the special demands of farming as a woman.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Nov 12, 2015

Jess and Brian Powers own and operate Working Hands Farm, with 4 acres of vegetables and a bunch of livestock just outside of Portland Oregon. In this episode, we talk about how the farm got started in 2009, the ways they’ve worked to evolve their CSA into something more sustainable for themselves and the farm, and the relationship they’ve developed and nurtured between themselves as the farm has grown. There’s a lot of great information in here about land access, working together as a couple, and the creation of a farm-centric, rather than a customer-centric, CSA operation, and Jess and Brian are two thoughtful, inspiring farmers who brought everything they’ve got to the show. Plus, how they met is a pretty darned cute love story.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Nov 5, 2015

Paul Dietmann is the Emerging Markets Specialist with Badgerland Financial, a member-owned rural lending cooperative and Farm Credit System institution serving southern Wisconsin. Paul has worked with farmers and farm financial issues for over twenty-five years, first as an extension agent, then as director of the Wisconsin Farm Center and Deputy Secretary of Agriculture for Wisconsin, and most recently in his role as a lender. He has woked with hundreds of farmers, helping them assess their farm financial situation. Paul is the co-author (with Chris!) of the book, Fearless Farm Finances: Farm Financial Management Demystified. We talk about common pitfalls of beginning farmers, strategies for getting on the land, profitability and cash flow, how to set up early-warning systems for your farm finances, and the guilt and shame that hamper our ability to deal with farm financial issues in a timely manner.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Oct 29, 2015

Ben Flanner raises over two acres of vegetables on two rooftop farms in New York. His Brooklyn Grange provides over 50,000 pounds of produce every year to restaurants, stores, farmers markets, and a 70-member CSA. We talk about the nuts and bolts of establishing a rooftop farming operation, the unique challenges of farming above the eleventh story, tools, distribution strategies, and how Brooklyn Grange has incorporated events hosting and outreach into its operation.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Oct 22, 2015

Steve Tomlinson manages Great Road Farm just four miles from downtown Princeton, New Jersey. Making its home on 112  acres, Great Road Farm has over seven acres in vegetable production in close partnership with Agricola restaurant in Princeton. A graduate of Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute, Steve worked for artists Christo and Jeane Claude to build an expansive installation titled “The Gates” in Central Park, and managed a warehouse before starting over working on farms after the 2008 financial crash. We talk about how Steve leveraged his background outside of agriculture into managing Great Road Farm, the joys and challenges of working for a farm that is owned by a restaurateur, and the nuts and bolts of working with the chefs and restaurant to meet their needs and the farm’s.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Oct 15, 2015

J.M. Fortier is the author of the award-winning book, The Market Gardener. At his farm in Quebec, J.M. and his wife raise 1 ½ acres of produce in permanent raised beds, grossing over $100,000 per acre. His biologically intensive farming practices have inspired readers around the world to imagine human-scale food systems, with a focus on intelligent farm design, appropriate technologies, and harnessing the power of soil biolog. We talk about how J.M. and his wife came to their farm in Quebec, how they developed their approach to farming, and get into the nitty gritty of farming practices at Les Jardin de la Grelinette, including the proper use of the broadfork, J.M.’s approach to record-keeping, minimum tillage, and where to find the best waves for surfing in Montreal.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Oct 8, 2015

Karl Hammer is the founder and president of Vermont Compost Company. Vermont Compost collects food waste and manure in central Vermont, and adds it to grass, tree bark, and chickens on the farm to create a compost that serves as the basis for potting soils that have created raving fans all over the United States. Karl is a font of knowledge about all things soil, plant, and long-eared equine, and we tap into just a corner of that here with the history of Vermont Compost Company from Karl’s start as a young boy shoveling manure in Vershire, Vermont to its modern-day national distribution, with plenty of detours into soil, society, and the potential for great compost to catalyze the recapture of carbon on farmland.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Oct 1, 2015

Clay Bottom Farm’s Ben Hartman is the author of The Lean Farm, a book on minimizing waste and increasing efficiency on the vegetable farm. He has farmed full time for the past ten years with his wife, Rachel, in Goshen, Indiana, where they’re both making a living on less than an acre of production, selling 90 percent of their produce within ten miles of the farm. Of course, we talk about applying the lean methodology on the modern market farm, including the basics of creating value, establishing pull with customers, and the 5S pillars of the lean cycle: sort, set in order, shine, standardize, and sustain the cycle. Plus, we get into some cool details about how Clay Bottom Farm keeps produce cold at CSA drop sites, how they design a CSA share, marketing and pricing strategies at farmer’s markets, and how a stupid little sticky note makes them thousands of dollars each year.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Sep 24, 2015

Eatwell Farm, in California’s Sacramento Valley just over an hour from San Francisco, is 105 acres of deep, flat, fertile ground. There, Nigel Walker conducts a symphony of employees, cover crops, lavender chickens, vegetables, fruits, and herbs, to provide for a CSA of 550 shares a week as well as the Ferry Plaza farmer’s market. Nigel describes his systems for training and delegating to employees to create pride in their work and profits for the business, and we dig deep on the cover crop and chicken management system on his farm that allows him to grow vegetables year-round without fertilizer or pesticides.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Sep 17, 2015

Rebecca Thistlethwaite, author of The New Livestock Farmer, currently lives and raises livestock near Hood River, Oregon. She and her husband ran TLC Ranch near Watsonville, California, where they raised ten thousand broiler chickens, five thousand laying hens, and 300 hogs each year on twenty acres of irrigated pasture for many years. We discuss ways farmers who are focused on livestock and farmers who have livestock as a secondary enterprise can make the most of their critter-based efforts. Along the way we get into the importance of matching the scale of your livestock enterprise to the equipment and infrastructure you have on hand, the considerations of selling meat through different outlets and in different ways, and how to make the most of your water, feed, and fencing.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Sep 10, 2015

Collin Thompson manages Michigan State University’s North Farm near the village of Chatham in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The North Farm hosts a two-year residential incubator program in the extremely short season of the Northwoods, with their last frost in the first week of June, and the first frost right about now, in the second week of September. We talk about the ins and outs of running a market farm as part of the University, practical successes for overwintering crops in high and low tunnels for early spring production, and ways Collin has worked with and around the 190 inches of annual snowfall in Chatham. We also had a chance to get into the culture of root cellaring in the north, and I had a chance to take a nice rant about food safety and barrel washers.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Sep 3, 2015

For more than twenty years, Mushroom Mountain’s Tradd Cotter has been working to think like a mushroom as he worked to build a business based on his mycological adventures. Since 1996, South Carolina’s Mushroom Mountain has produced edible mushrooms and served as a laboratory for Tradd’s explorations into the use of mushrooms for everything from mycoremediation to personalized antibiotics. Tradd and Chris explore Tradd’s low-tech and no-tech strategies for growing mushrooms, including the fundamentals of mushroom production and strategies for fitting mushrooms into a vegetable operation, getting into the psychology and physiology of the fungal kingdom.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Aug 27, 2015

Anton Burkett started Early Morning Farm in 1999 with three acres, three friends, and a rototiller. Since that time, this farm in the Finger Lake region of upstate New York has grown to 100 acres and 1,500 CSA shares. Anton and Chris talk about how he has managed this rapid growth year over year. Anton has a thoughtful approach to issues of scale, and we talk about how he’s leveraged his CSA to solve the land-access problem, his approach to personnel management and hiring, and how he’s strategically managed machinery investments and reinvestments as his farm has grown.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Aug 20, 2015

Adam and Mel Millsap own Urban Roots Farm, a four season micro farm set in the West Central neighborhood of Springfield, Missouri. We talk about their family and neighborhood involvement as they grow about a third of an acre of intensive produce, including three mobile high tunnels. Adam and Mel share their experiences managing the extremely wet weather in southern Missouri this summer, and how they care for the natural landscape in their urban environment.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Aug 13, 2015

University of Vermont Extension Professor Vern Grubinger does not fit the conventional extension agent mode. For twenty-five years, Vern has worked to develop a co-learning community among the professional vegetable- and berry-growers of Vermont. In this episode, we talk about the challenges facing Vermont vegetable farmers, from soil fertility basics and phytophthora to human resources, food safety certification, and costs of production – and about how a healthy food system, from marketing to education, is all about relationships.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Aug 6, 2015

Dan Kaplan has managed Brookfield Farm in Amherst, Massachusetts, since 1994. Brookfield Farm was one of the first CSAs in the United States, and currently supports 525 shares of produce, plus an additional 200 winter shares. Our conversation reflected on the growth of CSA and local foods from Brookfield Farm’s founding in 1984 to now, including how Brookfield has embraced a contemporary way of looking at its CSA shares without losing the core of its CSA community. Dan reflects at length on shared risk – and shared loss – as the core value of the CSA concept, binding the producer and consumer in a way that no other marketing model does. We also discuss Dan’s popular crop-planning spreadsheets, and his aspiration to time travel.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Jul 30, 2015

Dave Paulk farms at Sassafras Farm on the western side of Chesapeake Bay, near Leonardtwon, Maryland. Sassafras Farm is based around its four acres of vegetables, although Dave has many more acres in cover crops and grains on his 46 total tillable acres. Dave and his wife, Jennifer, started the farm in 2011 after Dave retired from the Navy. Dave and I talk about how his career in the military – and just having a career before he started farming – has shaped the development of his farm and business, from hiring and training employees to planning and making use of a wide range of resources.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Jul 23, 2015

Jim Crawford raises thirty acres of vegetables at New Morning Farm in Hustontown, Pennsylvania. Jim started New Morning Farm in 1972, and has gained a reputation for an excellent operation with great employee engagement. In this episode, we talk about New Morning Farm’s marketing strategy (including the Tuscarora Organic Growers Cooperative, which Jim founded with neighboring organic farms), investment and debt, the H2A guest-worker program, irrigation, and controlling pests in sweet corn. The value Jim places on knowledge sharing and collaboration shines through in this episode.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Jul 16, 2015

Alex Hitt and his wife, Betsy, started Peregrine Farm in 1982 in Graham, North Carolina, near the booming “research triangle” of Chapel Hill, Durham, and Raleigh. Today, they use four acres of tilled ground to raise produce and flowers for farmers market, restaurants, and grocers. Alex and Chris talk about how and why the farm went through some radical changes early on, how the Hitts financed the farm by selling shares in the farm (not CSA shares, but actual investments in the farm), practical record keeping strategies, soil solarization, scale-appropriate equipment and tools, and Peregrine Farm’s strategy and practices for bringing a partner  into the operation as a succession plan for the farm. This episode is jam-packed with information and inspiration for making a living on a very small acreage.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

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