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.
Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/nordell.
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.
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.
Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/greenberg.
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.
Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/beltram.
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.
Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/prussack.
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.
Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/wiswall2.
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.
Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/thiessen.
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.
Pictures, show links, and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com/episodes/chaskey.