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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: 2018
Aug 9, 2018

Jean-Martin Fortier is most famous for his book, “The Market Gardener,” based on the high-output systems he developed at Quebec’s Les Jardens de la Grelinette, where his wife, Maude Helen, currently produces over $150,000 of produce on an acre and a half of production ground. He currently farms at La Ferme de Quatre Temps, an enlarged version of the same model on six acres of production ground.

We dig into the foundations of JM’s production model, from high fertility to an emphasis on weed prevention, and how that model has translated to more acres on his new project. JM reflects on the changed constraints with his new farm, and we discuss the lessons that JM has learned about personnel with a much larger crew and a different role for himself.

Perennial support for the Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously provided by Vermont Compost Company.

Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/jmf.

Aug 2, 2018

Allan Gandelman raises 45 acres of crops at Main Street Farms in central New York state with his partner, BobCat. With twenty employees in its eighth year in business, Main Street Farms sells through a CSA, farmers market, and wholesale accounts.

Main Street Farms got its start in 2011 with an acre of production and an aquaponics set up, so they’ve grown a lot in the last eight years and Allan and I talk a lot about the process of scaling up their operation and finding their way with different mixes of enterprises and marketing outlets, and how that has meshed with meeting the needs of people on the farm.

We dig into Main Street Farms’ 42-week CSA, their acre of greenhouse production, and their new hemp enterprise and how it all fits together into a coherent whole.

Perennial support for the Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously provided by Vermont Compost Company.

Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/gandelman.

Jul 26, 2018

Caroline Pam and Tim Wilcox farm 50 acres of vegetables at Kitchen Garden Farm in Western Massachusetts. Starting with an acre of produce in 2006, Caroline and Tim have steadily expanded the farm’s scale and added fire-roasted salsa and a naturally fermented sriracha to their farm’s production.

We discuss the value-added products and how those fit into the work and overall business of Kitchen Garden Farm, since they account for a significant portion of the farm’s revenue. Tim and Caroline dig into the process of scaling up their operation, including how they manage a multitude of different locations for production. And Caroline and Tim share how they’ve developed a wholesale-only marketing strategy, and the nuts and bolts of how that works on their farm.

Perennial support for the Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously provided by Vermont Compost Company.

Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/kitchengarden.

Jul 19, 2018

Rebecca Graff and Tom Ruggieri raise vegetables for a hundred-member CSA, manage a small laying flock, and operate a cottage-scale fermented food business at Fair Share Farm, 45 minutes north of Kansas City, Missouri. They’ve been farming together on family land since 2004 after meeting in the fields at Peacework Organic Farm in upstate New York.

We dig into the nitty gritty of their member-oriented CSA program, and the changes its undergone in the last couple of years as Rebecca and Tom have looked to change the farm’s economic basis and their quality of life. Tom and Rebecca share how they’ve changed their sign-up process and work requirement as their CSA goes through transitions.

We also take a hard look at their fermented foods production and how that fits in with their vision for the farm and the CSA model, as well as the efforts they’ve made to reduce the overall ecological footprint of the farm with a solar greenhouse, an electric tractor, and a vigorous cover crop and soil building effort.

Perennial support for the Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously provided by Vermont Compost Company.

Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/fairshare.

Jul 12, 2018

Nate Fingerle has been farming with his family at River Ridge Farm in north-central Indiana for ten years. With one-and-a-half acres of production and ten thousand square feet of high tunnels, River Ridge provides vegetables to its customers year-round.

River Ridge has found success in a rural agricultural community with a combination of farmers markets, an on-farm retail store, and restaurant sales. We dig into how Nate and his family make this all work, and some of the details of how a lot of hustle has helped to cobble together a successful business in an unlikely marketplace.

Nate also shares his straightforward production techniques, including field work, fertility planning, transplant production, irrigation, weed control, and how he make season extension really pay in the high tunnels and out.

Perennial support for the Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously provided by Vermont Compost Company.

Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/fingerle.

Jul 5, 2018

Karen Washington owns and operates Rise and Root Farm with Lorrie Clevenger, Jane Hodge, and Michaela Hayes. Located in Chester, New York, just a little over an hour from New York City, Karen and her partners raise an acre of produce to serve two New York City Farmers Markets.

Karen shares the story of finding land for farming in rural New York state, and how she and her fellow growers have made the transition from backyard urban gardening to commercial production. Karen digs into the nuts and bolts of how they address the social justice issues that are so important them while still tending to the needs of their for-profit farming operation.

We also discuss the challenges of and some strategies for communication and managing farm relationships with love and healing – and how that’s not always the easiest thing to do.

Perennial support for the Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously provided by Vermont Compost Company.

Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/washington.

Jun 28, 2018

Genesis McKiernan-Allen and Eli Robb raise vegetables year-round at Full Hand Farm, 45 minutes northeast of Indianapolis. Going into year seven of their operation, Genesis and Eli have between four and five acres of produce production, with half of their sales going to farmers market and half going to restaurants in Indianapolis.

Eli and Genesis dig into how they’ve managed a black rot infestation in their brassica crops, as well as how they weathered an herbicide drift incident by marketing with honesty and integrity. We take a look at the details of winter production in their operation, including the highs and lows of mobile high tunnels, their design for caterpillar tunnels and how those fit into their rotation, and how four-season production fits into their business and marketing plans.

We also make an honest evaluation of starting a farm where the food scene was not fully developed, and how that worked for them; and take a similarly honest look at starting a family on the farm, and how they’ve made that work.

Perennial support for the Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously provided by Vermont Compost Company.

Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/fullhand.

Apr 12, 2018

Mike Yolo raises 14 acres of organic olives, cut flowers, a variety of tree fruits, and the occasional vegetable crop at Yolo Press, near Davis, California. With his wife, Diane, Yolo Press creates olive oil and a variety of value-added products that are sold with the cut flowers through independent grocers and farmers markets in Davis. Yolo Press has provided a living for Mike and Diane since 1986.

We dig into the development of Yolo Press’ crop mix and markets, and how they developed to accommodate farmer labor and to provide a good living for Mike and Diane. Mike provides all of the production labor on the farm, so we discuss the hows and the whys of making that work, as well as the economics of the farm business and value-added products.

Mike is also the author of the recently published Fruitful Labor: The Ecology, Economy and Practice of a Family Farm.

Perennial support for the Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously provided by Vermont Compost Company.

Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/madison.

Apr 11, 2018

Mike Yolo raises 14 acres of organic olives, cut flowers, a variety of tree fruits, and the occasional vegetable crop at Yolo Press, near Davis, California. With his wife, Diane, Yolo Press creates olive oil and a variety of value-added products that are sold with the cut flowers through independent grocers and farmers markets in Davis. Yolo Press has provided a living for Mike and Diane since 1986.

We dig into the development of Yolo Press’ crop mix and markets, and how they developed to accommodate farmer labor and to provide a good living for Mike and Diane. Mike provides all of the production labor on the farm, so we discuss the hows and the whys of making that work, as well as the economics of the farm business and value-added products.

Mike is also the author of the recently published Fruitful Labor: The Ecology, Economy and Practice of a Family Farm.

Perennial support for the Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously provided by Vermont Compost Company.

Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/madison.

Apr 5, 2018

Olivia Hubert farms with her husband, Greg Willerer, at Brother Nature Produce in Detroit Michigan, as well as at a farm an hour north of the city. Specializing in salad mix and fresh herbs sold to farmers markets, grocers, and restaurants, Brother Nature provides a living for both Greg and Olivia.

Olivia grew up in Detroit, where she fell in love with agriculture as a high school student. After studying at the Royal Horticulture Society of London, Olivia returned to Detroit, where she met Greg and joined him on his upstart urban farm.

Olivia shares her experience farming with both sides of Detroit’s environment, where gunshots and extreme poverty are never far from health nuts and concentrated wealth. She digs into what she learned about urban farming from the World-War-II gardening ethos in England, how they’ve learned to manage flea beetles, and how she and Greg grow fresh salad greens in the city without active refrigeration.

Perennial support for the Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously provided by Vermont Compost Company.

Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/hubert.

Mar 29, 2018

Tom Kumpf raises about four acres of vegetables at Double-T Farm in Garner, North Carolina, just south of Raleigh. Double-T Farm markets through a CSA, restaurants, and a small neighborhood farmers market.

Farming full time since 2008, and part time for many years before that, Tom and his wife, Theresa Ryan, have seen their share of transitions, from farmland transitions and suburban encroachment to changes in the local food and CSA marketplaces. Tom shares the story of how they’ve responded to these changes, and how rolling with the punches led him to think hard about how to right-size his farm and about his approach to his farm production systems.

Along the way, Tom digs in to how he got his first lessons in organic farming from PBS, the parallels between farming and teaching, and some thoughts about evaluating success on the farm.

Perennial support for the Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously provided by Vermont Compost Company.

Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/kumpf.

Mar 22, 2018

Chandler Briggs of Hayshaker Farm and his partner, Leila Schneider, make a living with about six acres of vegetables on the edge of Walla Walla, Washington. Now in their fourth season of production, Chandler and Leila do most of their farming with horses, and sell their produce through two farmers markets, restaurants, and a grocery store.

Chandler takes us deep into farming with horses, including how he uses them on the farm, and how he learned to work with his horses and how they learned to work with him. We also discuss the tools he uses, how they fit into Hayshaker Farm’s fertility plan, and how the farm is set up to work with the horses.

We also dig into marketing in Walla Walla, a relatively small market but one that is growing and changing as a wine industry develops in the valley, along with the accompanying tourist business and demographic changes. Chandler shares how they stand out at their farmers market, and how they’ve set up their market stand to maximize sales as they find their niche in this expanding marketplace.

Perennial support for the Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously provided by Vermont Compost Company.

Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/briggs.

Mar 15, 2018

Lorien Carsey and Shea Belahi of Blue Moon Farm in Urbana, Illinois, raise vegetables for farmers market, restaurants, stores, and a CSA. With twenty acres dedicated to vegetable production, and ten high tunnels totaling just under half an acre of year-round production, Blue Moon Farm was founded in 1977 by John Cherniss and Michelle Wander, and now Lorien and Shea are in the process of taking over the ownership and management of the farm.

We dig into how Lorien, Shea, John, and Michelle are managing the nuts and bolts of this ownership transition, including ownership structures, roles in the transition (and how they’ve figured those out), tackling farm-life balance, and the challenges of managing employees through this transition.

We also discuss their homemade customized CSA program, which includes meat and eggs from other farms; a complex crop rotation that keeps ten acres of the farm in a combination of long- and short-term cover crops, and the ins and outs of managing a diversity of high tunnel sizes, shapes, and technologies.

Perennial support for the Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously provided by Vermont Compost Company.

Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/bluemoon.

Mar 8, 2018

Elizabeth and Paul Kaiser raise a little under three acres of vegetables at Singing Frogs Farm in Sebastopol, California, where they have been farming since 2007. Their ecological farming model rests on a foundation of no-till production, but incorporates many more elements to build soil organic matter and soil biology to support an economically viable operation.

Elizabeth and Paul dig deep into the ecological and production principles that undergird their success, from soil management to transplant production and crop planning strategies. We take a look at their use of hedgerows for soil building, climate management, and insect management, including their tips for installing and maintaining these important ecological tools. And we discuss employee management within their complex, non-linear production system, as well as the economics of their production system.

Perhaps most importantly, Paul and Elizabeth emphasize the ways that observation and their responses to their observations provided the foundation for building what they consider to be an example, and not a model, of their ecological production system.

Perennial support for the Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously provided by Vermont Compost Company.

Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/kaiser.

Mar 1, 2018

Stacey Carlberg and Casey Gustawarow manage The Farm at Sunnyside, with twelve acres of vegetables and eight of tree fruits in Rappahanock County, Virginia, about seventy miles from Washington, D.C.

We dig into the ups and downs of managing other people’s farms, including why they’ve chosen to do it and how the farm owners set expectations and provide oversight. Stacey provides insights into how they manage the financial implications, and we look at some of the other goals of the property owners and how those fit – and don’t fit – with a vegetable-farming operation.

Casey and Stacey share how they make the most of their spot at the high-quality, high-volume Dupont Circle Farmers Market in D.C., including strategies for standing out from the crowd, and how they manage their employees at the stand.

We also talk about how Casey has worked to fit cover crops into the vegetable rotation, and how they have integrated laying hens into the cover crop rotation – including the steps they’ve taken to ensure the safety of their fresh produce in the face of nearby chicken poop.

And Stacey and Casey share the steps they’ve taken to manage employees for year-over-year retention, from their overall staffing strategy to their day-to-day communications. Finally, we discuss their experience with Lyme disease among their crew, and the steps they take to try to reduce its incidence among their employees.

Perennial support for the Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously provided by Vermont Compost Company.

Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/sunnyside.

Feb 22, 2018

At Beech Grove Farm, Anne and Eric Nordell manage six-and-a-half acres for vegetable crop production, with half of that in cover crop, and half of that in vegetables. And they do it with horsepower, next-to-no hand-weeding, and no irrigation.

Anne and Eric share their experience farming with horses, something that they’ve done since Beech Grove Farm’s start 35 years ago, and how they set the farm up from the start to be manageable for the two of them. We talk about their strategy for reducing weed pressure, including their reduced tillage system, and the year-on, year-off rotation of vegetables and cover crops that allows them to build soil while minimizing weed issues.

We also dig into their low-input system for making compost, their low-input wood-fired greenhouse, and the changes they’ve seen in their rural community.

Perennial support for the Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously provided by Vermont Compost Company and BCS America.

Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/nordell.

Feb 15, 2018

Angie Raines and Miles Okal raise diversified vegetables, rice, and dry beans at South Wind Produce in Rougemont, North Carolina. With sales at five weekly farmers markets plus wholesale sales to restaurants, they have built a viable business in a short amount of time.

Angie and Miles take us on a deep dive into their rice and dried bean production, as well as how they market these crops and how they fit into their farm economics and overall farm agroecosystem.

We also explore how they stand out in the crowded marketplace of North Carolina’s “research triangle,” how getting the business started on an incubator farm let them establish a business with less up-front risk, and how they manage the potential chaos of five farmers markets a week on a small farm.

Perennial support for the Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously provided by Vermont Compost Company.

Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/southwind.

Feb 11, 2018

David Greenberg of Abundant Acres Farm raises about five acres of vegetables with his wife, Jen, in rural Nova Scotia, about an hour from Halifax. With four full-time employees in addition to David and Jen, Abundant Acres focuses on high-value crops, while also growing a bit of everything for their diversified market streams.

David takes a deep dive into the cooperative direct-to-consumer marketing arrangement Abundant Acres has with a few select food producers in Halifax, including how they use that storefront to host the free-choice CSA. And David digs into how he and Jen manage inventory and supply for the off-farm free-choice CSA, including everything from record-keeping to how that informs their planting choices.

Abundant Acres uses several different production systems, including tarped, deep-compost fields for high-value crop production, tractor-based row crop and plasticulture vegetables in rotation, mobile caterpillar tunnels, and heated greenhouse space. We take an especially in-depth look at the investment and returns on the deep-compost system, discuss the engineering behind the mobile caterpillar tunnels, and get some insights into the lessons-learned in the plasticulture system.

According to David, the farm succeeds in large part because of its reliance on radical delegation to employees. We discuss how David and Jen set expectations, guide their workers, and give and get feedback to improve performance so that they can rely on employees to take leadership and responsibility for the production on the farm.

Perennial support for the Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously provided by Vermont Compost Company and BCS America.

Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/greenberg.

Feb 1, 2018

After starting out in 2008 on a homestead in the country that grew to a market and livestock farm on several different parcels, my guest Steven Beltram and his wife Becca Nestler moved Balsam Gardens to two large parcels right in the city of Asheville, North Carolina. They now farm on 30 acres of certified organic ground, selling their product to wholesale distributors.

Steven digs into how he has developed a large, efficient farm without any infrastructure. At Balsam Gardens, the crew field packs all of the crops, and Steven explains how they do this in a way that has helped them pass their GAPs audit while maintaining good quality. We also discuss Balsam Gardens’ plasticulture system, including how they manage weeds between the plastic-covered beds. And, Steven shares how they have worked to structure their crops and their labor pool to maximize their efficiency.

Perennial support for the Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously provided by Vermont Compost Company and BCS America.

Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/beltram.

Jan 25, 2018

Howard Prussack of High Meadows Farm raises crops, potted herbs, and vegetable starts with his wife, Lisa, in 30,000 square feet of greenhouses as well as out in the field in Putney, Vermont. Howard has been farming since 1971, and High Meadows Farm was the first certified organic farm in Vermont.

We dig into Howard’s history and the growth of the farm, Howard’s early off-farm job and how that helped him learn the business, and the logistics of marketing to retailers. Howard also shares his tips about transplant production, training employees to water plants in the greenhouse, and the overseas education work that he has done.

Perennial support for the Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously provided by Vermont Compost Company and BCS America.

Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/prussack.

Jan 18, 2018

Today’s show is a repeat of an episode I recorded in the spring of 2015 with Richard Wiswall Cate Farm in Plainfield, Vermont. Cate Farm has sold produce through a CSA, farmers markets, and wholesale accounts, and has been in business since 1981. Richard is also well known for his excellent book, the Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook. We take a hard look at the business side of vegetable farming, with some quick pointers for how you can start to understand the cost of production and marketing on your farm to inform better decision-making on your farm. We also take a look at framing both big-picture and day-to-day decisions on your farm.

Perennial support for the Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously provided by Vermont Compost Company and BCS America.

Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/wiswall2.

Jan 11, 2018

Ryan Thiessen farms four acres of vegetables in two locations at Creek Shore Farms in St. Catharines, Ontario. With 110 CSA members in the summer and 72 in the winter, as well as farmers market sales, Creek Shore Farms provides a modest living for Ryan and his wife, Amanda.

While Amanda has been full time on the farm since its start in 2010, 2017 was Ryan’s first year with farming as his only job. We talk about the challenges he encountered while making the transition, and what he plans to do differently in 2018.

Creek Shore Farms is highly mechanized for a farm of its scale, and Ryan shares where and how he’s made choices about mechanizing, and how he’s taken advantage of farming two properties as a way to organize what crops are raised using what methods. Ryan shares his adventures with two-wheeled Planet Junior cultivating tractors and how they revolutionized weed control at Creek Shore Farms.

Perennial support for the Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously provided by Vermont Compost Company and BCS America.

Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/thiessen.

Jan 4, 2018

Scott Chaskey is the Director of Quail Hill Farm, one of the original Community Supported Agriculture farms in the United States. Located in Amagansett, New York, on land donated to the Peconic Land Trust, the farm also delivers fresh food to local restaurants, food pantries, and the Sag Harbor Farmers Market.

Quail Hill’s 250 member families harvest their own food each week from the 35 acres of vegetable production, and Scott digs into the nitty gritty of how that process works. We also discuss the ways that Quail Hill works to keep the community involved in the farm through its advisory committee and other mechanisms.

Scott shares how he worked in the early years to build up the depleted soil at Quail Hill Farm, how they maintain it now, and how they’ve met the challenge of a nutsedge infestation. We also discuss the farm’s advanced apprenticeship program, Scott’s start in food production while living in Cornwall, and how Scott has made time and space for writing poetry and prose while managing the farm.

Perennial support for the Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously provided by Vermont Compost Company and BCS America.

Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/chaskey.

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