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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: May, 2016
May 26, 2016

Matt Herbruck has lived two farming lives: one in down east Maine, and another in northeast Ohio. After 21 years of farming, he currently owns and operates Birdsong Farm in Hiram Township, Ohio, with twelve acres of vegetables and cut flowers sold through four farmers markets and a small CSA.

Matt shares the story of moving his farm from Maine to Ohio, and we talk about the sometimes radical differences in the two markets, climates, and soils, and how Matt managed the transition from the coast to the middle of the country – as well as personal transitions that coincided with the move. Matt tells the story of breaking into markets in both locations, including how he has engaged with start-up farmers markets to create a winning situation for both the market and for his farm.

We dig into Matt’s tricks for setting up a great farmers market stand and produce display, managing greens and root crops through the hot Ohio summers, juggling the expectations of family and farming, and the ephemeral nature of seemingly permanent decisions and situations.

When Matt’s employee, Dave, recommended Matt for the show, I didn’t remember that Matt and I had known each other when we were both farming on the coast of Maine. But once I made the connection, I remembered his flat-bed truck and his infectious smile. And while the flat-bed truck is history, I enjoyed hearing his smile and the joy he has retained through all of the years and all of the challenges. I hope you’ll enjoy it, too.

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

May 19, 2016

Peter Seeley and his wife, Bernadette, began farming at Springdale Farm in 1988, at the dawn of the CSA movement in the Upper Midwest. Over 25 years, the farm has expanded to twenty acres and 800 CSA shares, plus thirteen greenhouses and five children, not far from Lake Michigan in Plymouth, Wisconsin.

Peter tells the story of Springdale Farm’s founding and growth, and how he and Bernadette navigated the challenges of the new CSA market, including the reasoning behind their decisions about core groups and distribution models that were different from most CSAs operating in 1988. We learn how Peter has met the challenges of farming in extremely rocky soils head on, including the strategies he’s developed for machinery and fertility to succeed in a challenging environment. And, Peter shares the farm’s strategies for managing four season production and storage, including the very low-tech way they got started.

Springdale Farm has worked hard from the start to provide an alternative to fossil fuels for powering the farm, and Peter shares what they’ve learned about outdoor wood boilers and electric tractors and carts.

Along the way, Peter consistently shares the passion he brings to his farm and his life. And he even brings Marx, Hegel, and Plato into the conversation.

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

May 12, 2016

Shawn Jadrnicek manages the Clemson Student Organic Farm at Clemson University. Six acres of produce serves a one hundred-share CSA, wholesale markets, and a farmers market, in addition to providing a home for graduate student research.

Shawn is also the author of the new book, The Bio-Integrated Farm, a twenty-first century manual for enhancing farms with practical, permaculture-based design elements. Shawn shares his experience with and insights into the creating optimum farm layouts, including road placement and bed structure, creating drainage patterns that enhance the farm’s biological functioning, and using ponds to increase light and heat in the greenhouse. We also dig into the Clemson Student Organic Farm’s other strategies for temperature management in the greenhouse, including supplementing greenhouse heat with external compost piles.

We also explore the Clemson Student Organic Farm’s strategies for weed control and soil health, including the use of crimped cover crop no-till and additional mulch materials to create season-long weed control, and cover cropping on raised beds. And Shawn shares how he has structured the CSA to function in a campus environment, managing customer needs as well as adapting to a high-turnover, low-work-hours student labor force. Plus, we get a great tutorial on gopher control.

I learned a lot from this interview, and enjoyed the ways that Shawn talks about big ideas and practical details. I hope you enjoy it, too!

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

May 5, 2016

Jeremy Mueller and his wife, Ashli, operate Excelsior Farm, just outside of Eugene, Oregon. Together they raise produce for restaurant sales, retail grocers, and a small CSA to make a modest living on less than two acres. Jeremy and Ashli are starting their fourth year at Excelsior with the recent birth of their daughter.

Jeremy shares the story of how he got started with Excelsior Farm, which is owned by the owner of Eugene’s Excelsior Restaurant. We get into how he has worked with the scale that’s available to him, using a small tractor to keep up with bed preparation and weed control. Jeremy and Ashli have a reputation for achieving excellent weed control and working efficiently, and Jeremy tells us about some of his favorite tools and adaptations for minimizing labor while maximizing production.

We also delve into the challenges of getting started in the already crowded local foods scene of Eugene, including evolving choices about markets and product configuration that have helped them to grow their business.

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

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