Frank Morton of Wild Garden Seeds in Philomath, Oregon, supplies seed companies, farmers, and gardeners with seeds that are selected and grown in a real organic environment. With his wife and business partner, Karen, and five employees, Frank grows certified organic seeds on about eight acres. Wild Garden Seeds is unusual in the seed business because they grow everything that they sell right there in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
Frank shares his story of getting started on his market garden in 1980, and how he developed a gourmet salad greens business that shipped salads to top restaurants nation-wide. This high-end salad greens business allowed and encouraged him to start selecting the best plants for organic salad production, as well as to begin to develop new, custom varieties for his farm.
We also dig into his on-the-job education in seed breeding, how he and Karen made the transition from salad growers to seed company, and how Wild Garden Seeds has worked with partner farms to grow their seed business.
Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/morton.
Dylan Strike has been the owner of Strike Farms in Bozeman, Montana, since 2014. In 2017, he increased production from four acres to fourteen in order to edge out national produce players in his local grocery stores. Strike Farms also markets through a CSA throughout the greater Bozeman region.
We dig into the nuts and bolts behind the dramatic expansion at Strike Farms, including how Dylan financed the expansion and associated land purchase. Dylan gets real as he discusses the challenges of putting together the financial package, managing staff and systems through the expansion, and the impact of what Dylan says was the “worst weather year imaginable.” We also dig into the changes in equipment and production approaches, and the administrative systems that allowed Strike Farms to grow, as well as crop rotations, distribution strategies, and breaking into new grocery accounts.
Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/strike.
Corinna and Kurt Bench raise a little under ten acres of certified organic vegetables at Shared Legacy Farms in Elmore, Ohio. With 400 CSA shares and a 78% retention rate, Corrina and Kurt have created a values-based business on family land that is supporting them in their tenth year of business.
We take a deep dive into how Corinna and Kurt create a connection with and market to their CSA members – a system that has resulted in them being 94% sold out seven months before their CSA program starts. We get some great insights into their focus on just five delivery sites, the customer research they’ve done to identify the mindset and practices of their long-term CSA membership, and how they’ve used that information to create a marketing system that attracts dedicated and highly qualified prospects to their CSA program. Then, we learn how they’ve created a system to provide new and renewing members with a roadmap to CSA success.
We also discuss the transition to full-time farming after years of splitting Kurt’s attention with an off-farm job, and how they’ve created – and continue to create – more downtime during the season to rest and rejuvenate.
Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/bench.
Marja Smets and Bo Varsano raise an intensive three-quarters of an acre of vegetables at Farragut Farm, located across a lot of water from Petersburg, Alaska. Selling vegetables for eight years in what may be the most remote and difficult-to-access vegetable farm in the country, Marja and Bo make a living moving their vegetables to market on a boat when the tide is high.
We dig into the details of farm management when local amendments are the only real option, and when you get 120 inches of rain a year because you farm in a temperate rainforest. Bo and Marja provide details of the mobile high tunnel system in their high-wind environment, dealing with Alaskan wildlife, and farming off of the electrical grid.
Marja and Bo also share how they maximize produce sales with visits to town on an irregular schedule, and how they are working to address food insecurity in Petersburg.
Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/farragut.
Wendy and Asher Burkhart-Spiegel raise about twelve acres of vegetables at Common Thread CSA in Madison, New York, in the central part of the state. With twenty years of experience doing CSA, Wendy and Asher have continued to emphasize CSA in their current operation, with additional sales at farmers markets and to wholesale accounts.
At Common Thread, Wendy and Asher maintain a community-focused vision for the farm. Prior to Common Thread, Wendy and Asher managed a non-profit CSA farm in Poughkeepsie, and we talk about how moving to their own farm had an impact on the experience of engaging with the community, as well as other aspects of their farming experience. We dig into their programs for subsidizing shares, their education-focused apprenticeship program, and the realities of an increasing minimum wage in New York.
Out in the field, Wendy and Asher share their development of a tractor-scale permanent raised bed system, and how they’ve sourced and modified tools to support that system. We also talk about the solutions they’ve found for successfully cultivating in their raised bed system, season extension in the field and the cooler, and the planning they do for CSA program that includes boxed deliveries and free-choice on-farm pickup.
Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/commonthread.