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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: 2016
Dec 29, 2016

Chris McGuire and his wife, Juli, own and operate Two Onion Farm in Belmont, Wisconsin. With four acres of vegetables and ¾ of an acre of apples – all certified organic – Two Onion Farm is packing 300 CSA shares each week for delivery in Madison, Wisconsin, Dubuque, Iowa, and Galena, Illinois.

Chris digs into the details of weed control without tractors on Two Onion Farm, with an emphasis on prevention and reducing the bank of weed seeds in the soil. We also explore details of the farm’s use of drip irrigation to make the most of a limited water supply.

We talk extensively about Two Onion Farm’s organic apple production, including how they manage that alongside of the vegetables and incorporate it into the marketing for their CSA shares.

Chris also gets into the ways that Two Onion Farm has managed their worker-share program, and how that has changed over the years as their employee management has gotten better. And given that they’ve improved their employee management, Chris talks about how he has improved their hiring process and employee engagement.

We also hear about Two Onion Farms’ new transplant-production greenhouse, and the energy savings and automation features they included when it was constructed last year.

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

Dec 22, 2016

Mike Nolan raises about five acres of vegetables at Mountain Roots Produce in Mancos, Colorado. With a focus on storage crops, Mike has patched together a market in his rural marketplace that includes restaurants, grocery stores, schools, and CSA members in the Four Corners area of Colorado. Farming in Mancos for the last seven years, Mike has recently brought Mountain Roots into profitability, and no longer has to work off the farm to make ends meet.

We dig into the details of Mike’s operation, including how he has structured his tractor-scale farming operation for growing crops that are planted a limited number of times every year, and why he decided to start farming with a business model based on these limited-succession crops. Mike shares his challenges with weed control, how he’s used local resources to store his root crops with limited capital investment, and the changes he is making to prepare for the new marketing realities he expects as the Food Safety Modernization Act begins to take effect.

Mike also gives us an overview of water rights in the West, and how that influences the structure of his farming operation. Plus, Mike and his girlfriend, Mindy Perkovich of Early Bird Gardens, recently joined forces in Mancos, and Mike shares the details and realities of making the transition from a solo operator to being part of a partnership.

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

Dec 15, 2016

Eva Rehak and Rebekah Frazer Chiasson are members of Coin Bio – that’s Organic Corner in English – a small marketing co-op at the Dieppe Farmers Market in Dieppe, New Brunswick. With a total of four farms, the Organic Corner co-op allows these farmers to show up at market with the greatest diversity of produce in southeastern New Brunswick.

Eva and Rebekah share the details of how they make the co-op work, including how they decide who sells what and how they structure the finances to keep the cooperative operating and vital. We also dig into how they resolve and avoid conflict within the venture, and the attitude and approach that make Organic Corner a positive experience for farmers and customers alike.

We also discuss the realities of raising families on the farm, and the political activism they’ve participated in around childcare subsidies in New Brunswick.

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

Dec 8, 2016

Diane Szukovathy raises about 4.5 acres of cut flowers at Jello Mold Farm in Mount Vernon, Washington. Now in their eleventh year of selling flowers, Diane and Dennis Westphall have become cornerstones of the local flower movement in the Pacific Northwest.

Diane cofounded the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market when she realized the need to expand her farm’s reach without putting more hours into marketing and distribution. We discuss the establishment of the cooperative and its journey to self-sufficiency, including details about how the cooperative has brought on staff and set standards for its growers.

Diane also digs into the details of producing cut flowers at Jello Mold Farm, where she and Dennis manage annual and perennial flower and foliage crops. She shares her techniques and perspective on weed management and pest control, and gets into the nitty gritty details of how they produce top quality cut flowers – including an excellent tutorial on cleaning buckets and totes. We also talk season extension in the high tunnel, and forcing woody crops to flower in order to have products to sell in January.

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

Dec 1, 2016

Michael Ableman splits his time between his family’s Foxglove Farm on British Columbia’s Salt Spring Island and SOLEfood, an urban farm on the downtown east side of Vancouver, British Columbia. Michael has been farming full-time since 1976, starting as an orchardist and evolving into a wide range of vegetables, fruits, grains, dry beans, and livestock. An early pioneer in the urban agriculture movement, Michael has long focused on the creation of good jobs and production quantities of food.

We dig into the production systems that Michael developed at SOLEfood to allow that 4.5 acre urban farm to meet the challenges of growing in an urban environment, including how they farm on top of pavement and how they mitigate the risks of uncertain land tenure. In addition to producing $350,000 in food each year, SOLEfood provides employment to individuals who struggle with poverty and addiction, and Michael shares his perspective on managing labor under challenges circumstances.

Michael’s 120-acre farm on Salt Spring Island includes 30 acres of hay and grain and six acres of fruits and vegetables, marketed on the island and via the ferry into Vancouver. Michael shares details about marketing in the two very different marketplaces, and we get a good look at his white asparagus production as well.

We also get to hear about Michael’s experience with global agriculture in the 1980s, and how that’s influenced his approach to farming in North America.

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

Nov 24, 2016

Heather Lekx has managed Ignatius Farm since 2001, when she arrived to start a new CSA program at the Ignatius Jesuit Centre in Guelph, Ontario. She currently oversees the vegetable farm, an extensive community garden, and land management for a multitude of independent enterprises at the Centre’s farm, which has served as the well of sustenance for the Jesuit community in the region since 1913.

Heather provides insights into the dynamics of farming with an institution, including how the CSA program and the farm developed in a vacuum left by previous programming and how the farm became a focal point of the Ignatius Centre’s identity. We discuss how her role has changed through the years from the initiation of the CSA program to its current ten acres of production alongside of 250 acres of additional farm production as part of the Ignatius Jesuit Centre’s larger mission.

We also dig deep into Ignatius Farm’s process for hiring great employees and interns, from advertising and interviewing through the onboarding process and beyond. Heather helped to start the CRAFT program for Southwest Ontario, and she shares the ways that her farm provides a mission-driven internship program that also provides for the needs of the farm.

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

Nov 17, 2016

John Middleton farms with his wife Lidia Dungue at Fazenda Boa Terra in Spring Green, Wisconsin. After years of working on other farms, and starting on an incubator program in Minnesota, John and Lidia started a vegetable farm on the farmland at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin estate. Three years into their tenure at Taliesin, they’re growing a little under ten acres of vegetables and grossing about ten thousand dollars per acre.

John shares some of the details of getting started at Taliesin, where an architectural apprenticeship program was already in place when he and Lidia started the vegetable farm – an arrangement that has been rewarding but has also come with some challenges. We discuss Fazenda Boa Terra’s strategy for investing in equipment and infrastructure, how they’ve grown their operation rapidly and what the future is expected to bring, and how they are dealing with the very full marketplace for local vegetables in southern Wisconsin.

We also dig into John’s weed control tools and techniques for both wide rows and solid-seeded beds, their year-on, year-off cover crop rotation, and the challenges of becoming a boss after many years of working on farms.

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

Nov 10, 2016

John Hendrickson raises two acres of vegetables and cover crops at Stone Circle Farm in Reeseville, Wisconsin. He also works for the University of Wisconsin’s Center for Integrated Agricultural Studies, where he has lead any number of interesting projects and where he organizes the Wisconsin School for Beginning Market Growers.

This is not a story about how John makes hundreds of thousands of dollars on two acres. It is a about how John set out to grow a farm, and how and why he decided to remain a part-time farmer. John shares the way he’s organized his production and marketing to provide a financially and emotionally rewarding supplement to his day job.

We dig into John’s narrow crop focus and why that works for him and for his farming business, how he rotates his crops with cover crops for soil building and weed control, the tools he uses to manage sales to his and his wife’s co-workers, and his discovery of the paper pot transplanter system while in Japan and the subsequent founding of his company, Small Farm Works.

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

Nov 3, 2016

Brooke Salvaggio and Daniel Heryer own Urbavore, one of the nation’s largest urban farmsteads. With thirteen acres in the urban core of Kansas City, Missouri, Urbavore produces vegetables, berries, tree fruits, and laying hens on an energy-independent piece of land with a meth house just down the street.

We dig into their mulch-based no-till production system (which doesn’t require much digging!), including the nuts and bolts of how they handle different crops, source appropriate materials, and manage fertility. Because their production system also relies on the incorporation of a 200-hen laying flock, we also dig into the challenges of managing egg production alongside of the vegetables. And a goose comes into the story, too.

Brooke and Daniel share how they developed their off-the-grid infrastructure, including an engineered filtration system to draw potable water from a pond on their farm. We also discuss the impacts of bringing a second child into the family and onto the farm, and the challenges of building a farm from the ground up with a minimal debt load.

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

Oct 27, 2016

Lucila de Alejandro owns and operates Suzie’s Farm with her husband, Robin Taylor. Located three miles from the Pacific Ocean and three miles from the Mexican border, Suzie’s Farm got its start in 2004, and has provided fresh, organic produce to the San Diego area through a CSA, farmers markets, and sales to restaurants and grocers.

As a 70-acre urban farm, Suzie’s Farm provides a rare blend of tractor-scale farming just minutes from the urban core, and Lucila and Robin leveraged their geography and scale to grow rapidly as the local food scene in San Diego took off – but when that local food scene leveled off, they were faced with making hard decisions to save the farm and their relationship.

Lucila shares the process they used for making those hard decisions, including a technique with the acronym POEM. We also dig into how she and Robin have created a loyal workforce that carries Lucila’s energy and enthusiasm out into the community, how they use farm tours to engage the community and build their customer base, and how vegetable farming works in the Mediterranean climate of San Diego.

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

Oct 20, 2016

David Hambleton manages Sisters Hill Farm in Standfordville, New York. David says he has five acres in production, but it’s worth noting that with what seems like typical attention to the details, that’s five acres of ground actually growing vegetables – he figures he’s got another four acres in field roads and other grass areas around the farm. All of Sisters Hill’s produce is sold through a market-style CSA.

Sister Hills’ CSA program has maintained an 80% retention rate by selling the farm experience as well as the vegetables, and we dig into the details of how he’s created a farm that provides a peaceful, relaxing, and community-oriented experience for its members, as well as for David and his apprentices.

David shares how he’s designed the farm so that it serves him rather than him serving the farm. We dig in to his apprenticeship program, how David has created his own tools to solve little bottlenecks, his design for weed control from soil prep through mechanical cultivation, and more – including how the management and teaching structures he has put in place helped the farm survive David’s two surgeries in the past year.

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

Oct 13, 2016

Lily Schneider and Matt Mccue raise fifteen acres of vegetables at Shooting Star CSA in Fairfield, California, just 35 miles from Berkeley on the edge of the Central Valley. Along with four employees, they provide vegetables for a 250-member CSA plus three farmers markets.

Matt and Lily have a couple of unique twists on their CSA operation, making the unusual choice in their area to not operate year-round, as well as to focus on guiding members towards purchasing a full-season, rather than monthly, CSA share.

We dig into these choices, as well as their  histories before starting their own farm, how they found land and why they’ve chosen to stick with leasing, how they’ve worked to distinguish their CSA program from box-schemes, and how they use field preparation, bed layout, and a couple of cool tools to stay on top of the weeds.

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

Oct 6, 2016

Simon Huntley is the founder and developer at Small Farm Central, a technology company focused on farming business success with a website builder designed for small farms, a CSA member management and sales solution, and more. Simon is also the author of the new book, Cultivating Customers.

Small Farm Central grew out of Simon’s work with an expanding CSA program in western Colorado. Simon got into online marketing before e-commerce was cool, and definitely before its use was widespread in the farming community. And serving over a thousand direct-marketing farmers, Small Farm Central and Simon have a lot of direct contact with what’s working and what isn’t in the direct-to-consumer marketplace.

We dig into the world of marketing and relationship-building for small farms, including how to apply the marketing funnel concept in your farm marketing, how to build trust and create a sense of authenticity with your customers, what to do with your website to get customers engaged with your farm, how to get your customers to open your email newsletters, and much, much more.

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

Sep 29, 2016

Brian Bates is a first-generation farmer at Bear Creek Organic Farm in Petoskey, Michigan. He and his wife, Anne Morningstar, started farming in 2014, and have rapidly grown their business to anticipated 2016 sales of $180,000.

With just an acre and a half of cultivated ground, Bear Creek makes most of its money from greenhouse and high tunnel crops, and Brian breaks this down for us. We get an in-depth look at the tools Brian uses to track wholesale and retail sales, and to track those back to the enterprise they’re a part of – something that gives him insights into where he’s earning most of his returns, which in turn drives his business decision-making.

Bear Creek sells half of his produce wholesale, mostly to grocery stores, and Brian shares how his work in the back end of his local natural foods store informed the ways he has structured his production and marketing efforts.

We also explore how Brian and Anne financed the startup of their operation, and how they’ve used debt as a lever to both enable and drive the rapid growth of their operation.

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

Sep 22, 2016

Eric McClam and his dad, Robbie, own City Roots in Columbia, South Carolina. With eight acres of vegetables, mushrooms, u-pick berries, flowers, bees, agritourism, vermicomposting, and several high tunnels, City Roots is seven years into its operation and grosses about $650,000 annually.

We dig deeply into their operation and the relationship between Eric and Robbie, including how their different personalities have influenced the growth of the operation and the directions it has gone, as well as how they structure their communications and their relationship. We also explore how City Roots has leveraged marketing partners to extend their reach, how they manage so much diversity and three distinct production parcels, and their experience with no-till vegetables, organic certification, and GAPs audits.

City Roots has received numerous awards and recognitions, including the 2012 Green America’s People and Planet Award for Best Green Business, 2010 International Downtown Association Pinnacle Award, the 2010 Columbia Choice Award, the 2010-2013 Free Times Best of Columbia – Best New Green Business and the 2010 Farm City Award – Richland County, and 2015 Green Business of the Year award from the Environmental Education Association of South Carolina. After spending a couple of hours with them, I know why!

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

Sep 15, 2016

Lydia Ryall raises fifteen acres of vegetables at Cropthorne Farm, located on a small farming island where the Frasier river meets the Pacific ocean, just twelve miles outside of Vancouver, British Columbia. $600,000 of produce is marketed through three farmers markets and a CSA, as well as through wholesale accounts and a farmstand on the property.

A third-generation farmer (and maybe more), Lydia farms on a fifty-acre property owned by her family. In addition to her operation, family members raise flowers, grains, and eggs in two additional businesses operating on the same piece of land. Lydia also hires family members as part of her operation. We discuss the nitty-gritty of how they’ve made this work, including their experience bringing in outside help to work on the details of their business agreements and how they can better work together.

Named the British Columbia and Yukon Outstanding Young Farmer for 2014 http://www.oyfbc.com/recipients.html, Lydia has operated her farm since 2009. Her depth of experience and business and horticultural acumen are apparent as we discuss the ways she has mitigated the heavy clay soils in her wet climate, the challenges and opportunities of the recent addition of migrant workers to her farm crew, the changes a new baby has brought to the farm and how she prepared to accommodate those changes, winter roots storage and ongoing harvest, the tools she uses to track harvest, packing, and sales, and more.

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

Sep 8, 2016

Jim Gerritsen of Wood Prairie Family Farm in Aroostook County, Maine, is not just a potato farmer; he’s a potato artist. Wood Prairie Farm provides certified organic seed potatoes and other products to customers around the country through their mail order catalog. Certified organic since 1982, Wood Prairie Family Farm has 40 acres in production, with ten or twelve of those acres in seed potatoes each year.

After an orientation to the history of Wood Prairie Farm and the potato culture of Aroostook County, we dig into the whys and the how’s of growing a great crop of from seed warming and green sprouting through weed control to harvest. We also discuss the ins and outs of producing Maine-certified potato seed. Jim is an observant and specific farmer and marketer, and really brings out the details of what goes into bumper yields and high quality spuds.

Named by the editors of the Utne Reader to the magazine’s 2011 list of 25 “People Who Are Changing the World,” Jim is also one of those organic farmers who spends a large part of his time serving the community. Jim is the president of the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, and has served for more than twenty years on the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association certification committee, along with about a dozen other roles that he has played in the organic farming movement.

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

Sep 1, 2016

Paul Underhill is a partner in Terra Firma Farm, where he manages crop production on 220 acres in the southern Sacramento Valley. Terra Firma Farm raises certified organic vegetables year-round, as well as fruit and nuts, which they sell through a 1200-member CSA in Sacramento, Davis, and San Francisco, as well as through retailers, wholesalers, and restaurant accounts.

Paul gives us a look into operating at scale, including the logistics of a thousand-member CSA. We also get a peek at the equipment he’s found useful at this scale, including a relatively inexpensive GPS system, multiple-bed equipment, and low-tech harvest tools.

Terra Firma Farm has been around since the 1980s, and Paul tells us about the many changes to California’s food and agriculture scene, and the impact those have had on Terra Firma’s employment practices, equipment-acquisition opportunities, CSA program, and food safety practices. Paul also shares the story of how he became a partner at Terra Firma Farm, and how they make their partnership work.

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

Aug 25, 2016

Stephanie Spock raises two acres of vegetables and a whole lot of mushrooms at Rolling Hills Farm in Lambertville, New Jersey. She and her partner, John Squicciarino, gross about $165,000 with sales to a 200-member CSA, two farmers markets, and a smattering of wholesale accounts.

Stephanie digs into the inner workings of Rolling Hills’ mushroom operation, including the challenges and rewards of integrating that into a vegetable farm. We discuss some barriers to achieving profitability in the mushroom business, how they converted an old barn into a production facility, and the fickle business of mushroom grow kits.

We also discuss the ways they’ve modified the popular permanent-bed system to fit the needs of their operation and the heavy clay soil they farm on.

The Rolling Hills Farm CSA distributes vegetables through a market-style pickup and a points system, and Stephanie shares the nuts and bolts of how that works, from distribution through crop planning.

Stephanie also shares some details about their land rental situation, and how she and John work to keep the relationship with their landlords positive and mutually rewarding. And we learn about how Stephanie has managed Lyme Disease as a young farmer.

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

Aug 18, 2016

Don Lareau raises about four acres of certified organic flowers at Zephyros Farm and Garden in Paonia, Colorado (in addition to an acre of vegetables, plus fruit trees and pasture). He and his wife, Daphne Yannakakis, emphasize quality flowers and exquisite design to cater to florists and farmers markets in the resort communities of Telluride and Aspen.

Don digs into how Zephyros gets excellent visual quality and shelf-life without the preservatives that most flower growers use, as well as how they market their certified organic flowers. Don shares some tips and techniques for maximizing sales to florists, as well as the nuts and bolts of how they set up and run their farmers market stand to generate a buzz that really helps them move their blooms.

We get into the challenges and advantages of producing flowers in the desert western slope of the Colorado Rockies.

Don and Daphne have a strong emphasis on design, and Don describes the ways they have worked to maximize the results they get from their design work, from training employees in the art of flower design to the business structures and marketing processes they’ve implemented.

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

Aug 11, 2016

Daniel Allen raises fifteen acres of vegetables at Allenbrooke Farms, just outside of Nashville, Tennessee. He and his wife, Stephanie, market all of their produce to 367 families through their free-choice, market-style CSA.

While many farmers are intensely focused on maximized dollars per acre, Daniel has taken a perpendicular approach, grossing just $200,000 on Allenbrooke’s fifteen acres of vegetable production – but he does that with no season extension, and just one hired hand.

Daniel digs into the details of production and distribution at Allenbrooke Farms, and how the free-choice distribution system enables them to maximize efficiency and minimize complexity in the production side of the operation. We get into the details of their rapid harvest system, simple-but-effective production systems, weed management, and how Daniel keeps his mind and body in condition during the production- and off-seasons.

He also shares the colorful history of his farming operation, where he and Stephanie jumped in with both feet and sold their car to pay for seeds in 2011, their first year in production. And we hear just a little about Daniel’s career as a high-fashion model in New York City before coming back to the family farm.

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

Aug 4, 2016

Conor Crickmore grosses a little over $350,000 on just over one-and-a-half acres in Claryville, New York, with his wife, Kate. Marketing through farmers markets and restaurant sales, Neversink Farm has developed a reputation for meticulous, thoughtful, and simple production.

Conor shares the history of Neversink Farm, including how he simplified production and marketing and increased his income at the same time. We discuss how he and Kate found the time to make decisions and improvements in the hectic and critical early years, and the whys behind the choices and investments they made.

We dig into the details of Neversink’s no-tractor production system, and why they’ve eschewed tillage, plastic, and more. Conor tells us the details about how they’ve made everything from weed control and irrigation to harvest and washing the produce easier, and how they relay that information to their employees.

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

Jul 28, 2016

Kristen Kordet farms seven acres of vegetables at Blue Moon Community Farm in Stoughton, Wisconsin. Located just outside of Madison, Blue Moon Community Farm markets through hyper-local CSA, as well as a farmers market in the city.

Kristen shares how she leveraged the organic certification process and the birth of her son to create systems that improved employee engagement to contribute to the farm’s success. And we discuss how her work schedule has evolved to support a sane and full life beyond the confines of the vegetable fields.

We also get into the history of the farm, including Kristen’s decision to take on debt and transition to full-time farming, and how Blue Moon’s market developed and matured with the farm. Kristen tells us about the market-style, on-farm pickup that has helped her increase customer loyalty and make her farm irreplaceable in the highly competitive CSA market in Madison. Plus, Kristen shares her experience with a challenging Canada thistle infestation on her farm.

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

Jul 21, 2016

Mark Cain owns Dripping Springs Garden with his partner, Michael Crane. Located in northwestern Arkansas, Dripping Springs has about four acres in production, with half of that in cut flowers. Most of the flowers are sold at the Fayetteville Farmers Market, while the vegetables are sold primarily to local retailers and through a small CSA program.

Mark shares the story of how Dripping Springs built the market for local, organic flowers, and how they continue to maintain a strong market presence in the face of increasing competition. We dig into the wedding market, practical farmers market strategies, pricing, and how to produce a high quality cut flower.

We also hear about Mark’s journey to starting Dripping Springs in 1984, including his encounters with some of the giant thinkers of sustainable agriculture in the early 1980s. And we dig into how Dripping Springs manages to farm on steep hillsides with a minimum of erosion and a maximum of water harvesting, as well as the well-respected internship program at the farm.

Mark also tells us about the work structures that they’ve put in place to maintain a vibrant quality of life more than thirty years into the farm.

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

Jul 14, 2016

Jack Hedin owns Featherstone Farm in Rushford, Minnesota. Farming 132 acres of certified organic vegetables (out of 250 total planted acres), Featherstone Farm provides around two million dollars of produce directly to stores, restaurants, and distributors in Minnesota’s Twin Cities, to a produce warehouse in Chicago, and 900-plus summer CSA shares – in addition to seasonal add-ons.

Featherstone Farm got its start twenty years ago on 5 acres in a narrow valley in the bluff country of southeast Minnesota, before devastating floods and continuing growth pushed the farm to relocate to flatter ground in the midst of an industrial park. Jack shares his lessons learned about land selection and farm location, from soil conditions and airflow to logistics and transportation. We delve into Featherstone Farm’s distribution system, which includes using hired semi-trailers to move produce one hundred miles from the farm to the Twin Cities, and a fleet of their own trucks and cross-docking arrangements to get the produce to the final customer.

Jack also shares how, after years of running the farm on intuition and duct-tape, they worked to create systems to run the farm. We get into the nuts and bolts of how Featherstone Farm has structured and documented standard operating procedures, policies, and goals to make the farm work, and the paper-based systems they use to manage day-to-day operations.

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

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