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.
Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/perkins.
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.
Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/higley.
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.
Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/davis.
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.
Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/cure.
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.
Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/wasserman.