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