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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: Page 4
Aug 30, 2018

Jan Libbey raises three acres of vegetables with her husband, Tim Landgraf, at One Step at a Time Gardens in North Central Iowa. With sales through their CSA and the North Iowa Fresh Food Hub, the market farm makes up one of multiple streams of income that include cash rent and CRP income on their 132 acre farm.

We dig into how Jan and Tim have made One Step at a Time Gardens work in rural Iowa, with an emphasis on their marketing efforts. Jan shares the story of growing the market farm operation, and then choosing to shrink it again as the business matured. We discuss how they’ve chosen their investments on the farm so that they are mechanizing where it counts.

We take a deep dive into their carrot production and the crop rotation they follow on their hilly farm, as well as the landscape and habitat restoration efforts Tim and Jan have made over the years and how those fit into the life and economy of 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/libbey.

Aug 30, 2018

Jan Libbey raises three acres of vegetables with her husband, Tim Landgraf, at One Step at a Time Gardens in North Central Iowa. With sales through their CSA and the North Iowa Fresh Food Hub, the market farm makes up one of multiple streams of income that include cash rent and CRP income on their 132 acre farm.

We dig into how Jan and Tim have made One Step at a Time Gardens work in rural Iowa, with an emphasis on their marketing efforts. Jan shares the story of growing the market farm operation, and then choosing to shrink it again as the business matured. We discuss how they’ve chosen their investments on the farm so that they are mechanizing where it counts.

We take a deep dive into their carrot production and the crop rotation they follow on their hilly farm, as well as the landscape and habitat restoration efforts Tim and Jan have made over the years and how those fit into the life and economy of 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/libbey.

Aug 30, 2018

Jan Libbey raises three acres of vegetables with her husband, Tim Landgraf, at One Step at a Time Gardens in North Central Iowa. With sales through their CSA and the North Iowa Fresh Food Hub, the market farm makes up one of multiple streams of income that include cash rent and CRP income on their 132 acre farm.

We dig into how Jan and Tim have made One Step at a Time Gardens work in rural Iowa, with an emphasis on their marketing efforts. Jan shares the story of growing the market farm operation, and then choosing to shrink it again as the business matured. We discuss how they’ve chosen their investments on the farm so that they are mechanizing where it counts.

We take a deep dive into their carrot production and the crop rotation they follow on their hilly farm, as well as the landscape and habitat restoration efforts Tim and Jan have made over the years and how those fit into the life and economy of 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/libbey.

Aug 30, 2018

Jan Libbey raises three acres of vegetables with her husband, Tim Landgraf, at One Step at a Time Gardens in North Central Iowa. With sales through their CSA and the North Iowa Fresh Food Hub, the market farm makes up one of multiple streams of income that include cash rent and CRP income on their 132 acre farm.

We dig into how Jan and Tim have made One Step at a Time Gardens work in rural Iowa, with an emphasis on their marketing efforts. Jan shares the story of growing the market farm operation, and then choosing to shrink it again as the business matured. We discuss how they’ve chosen their investments on the farm so that they are mechanizing where it counts.

We take a deep dive into their carrot production and the crop rotation they follow on their hilly farm, as well as the landscape and habitat restoration efforts Tim and Jan have made over the years and how those fit into the life and economy of 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/libbey.

Aug 23, 2018

Lauren Palmer raised 15 acres of vegetables in Smyrna, Tennessee, just south of Nashville. With year-round production, a sprouts operation, a 300-member CSA, wholesale accounts, farmers markets, and on-farm events, Bloomsbury Farm is a thriving hot spot in the local food scene in Nashville.

We dig into how Lauren has built the farm from the ground up since its start in 2009, taking a deep dive into Bloomsbury’s sprout production, employment structures, and CSA setup. We discuss how she deals with extreme deer pressure and regulations, and how she navigated a farm divorce. And Lauren reflects on the value of four-season production and building relationships with her customers and community.

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

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

Aug 16, 2018

Jack Algiere is the farm director for Stone Barns Center in the New York’s lower Hudson Valley. Actively farming since the early 1990s, Jack has been the director at Stone Barns since its inception fifteen years ago. Jack oversees the extensive and diversified farm operations, including indoor and outdoor vegetable production, small grains, and a diverse array of livestock.

Most of the farm’s produce and meat is sold to the partner restaurant Blue Hill, and we dig into how this relationship has benefitted both the farm and the restaurant. We also take a look at how the vegetables are integrated into the livestock and pasture operation, the half-acre gutter connect greenhouse and how that differs from high tunnel production, and the compost heating system for the propagation operation.

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

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

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.

Dec 28, 2017

Siri Erickson-Brown and Jason Salvo own and operate Local Roots Farm, fifteen acres of diversified vegetables in the Snoqualmie River valley thirty miles west of Seattle.

With sixty percent of their sales to restaurants, and the remainder going to a CSA and a farmers market, Siri and Jason take a low-tech, high-touch approach to marketing. We get into the nitty gritty of how they manage their restaurant sales, from crop planning to receiving orders and managing shortages and overages. Siri and Jason also explain how their multiple marketing outlets work together to sell a high percentage of what they grow.

All three of us dig into our Latin roots (yes, that’s a pun), and Siri and Jason tell us about how that’s influenced their choice of chicories as a major focus of their wholesale operation. We talk about how they use QuickBooks and other data to drive business decisions, and how they monitor business performance throughout the season to avoid surprises.

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/localroots.

Dec 21, 2017

John Good farms with his wife, Aimee, at The Good Farm in Germansville, Pennsylvania. Ten acres of vegetables serve 200 CSA members plus farmers market and wholesale sales. 2017 was their first year farming on this land under this name, after eleven years of renting ground at the Rodale Institute where they operated their private farm business, Quiet Creek Farm.

John and Aimee took a very strategic and long-term approach to getting onto their own land. John shares how they developed their farm business on their rented land at Rodale, including how they prioritized their investments and built the markets and off-farm equity that helped them make the transition to their own land. We talk about how they developed their new infrastructure on blank ground, how they financed their land purchase, and how they found a piece of property that met their needs.

Before they started Quiet Creek Farm, John and Aimee worked at Food Bank Farm in Hadley, Massachusetts. Food Bank Farm ran an incredibly efficient, intense, vegetable operation, and John shares how he and Aimee have adapted the systems they learned there for crew management and operational efficiency, but without the intensity. And John shares how he has carried that farm’s maniacal focus on weed control forward to his own farming operations without a bunch of fancy tools.

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/good.

Dec 14, 2017

Heather Secrist raises two acres of vegetables, as well as pastured pork and lamb, on sixteen acres at Suncrest Gardens Farm in the rural hills of Cochrane, Wisconsin – and turns it all into pizzas and other value-added foods. With sales on farm during pizza nights and a new “garden café”, as well as to a farmers market in Winona, Minnesota, Heather has developed a business model that works for herself and for her family.

Heather returned to the region where she grew up on a family farm to start Suncrest Gardens Farm in 2003, and has been making pizza for on-farm pizza nights since long before it was cool. She shares with us how she grew the farm and value-added operation to provide her with a full-time living, including developing the infrastructure, marketing to regular and occasional customers, and how she’s negotiated the regulations for her small-scale processing facility, as well as how her marketing strategy has evolved through the years.

 

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/secrist.

Dec 7, 2017

Will Reed and his wife, Amanda, returned to Will’s home in Tupelo, Mississippi, in 2010 to start Native Son Farm with a walking tractor and an acre of production. Today, Native Son Farm has twenty acres of produce in two locations, and markets through its 200-member CSA, an on-farm retail store, farmers markets, and restaurants.

Will shares the story of coming home to Mississippi, and learning to grow and sell organic vegetables in a climate where everyone said it wouldn’t work. He shares how they manage the long, intense seasons, their strategies for marketing non-southern produce in the deep south, and his involvement in the policies and politics around organic and local agriculture.

We also dig into how his farm team and community rallied during health and weather crises that came just as the farm was really scaling up, and how Native Son Farm has worked to reshape the land they farm on and the community they farm in to make organic, local agriculture a resilient reality.

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/reed.

Nov 30, 2017

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.

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/morton.

Nov 23, 2017

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.

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/strike.

Nov 16, 2017

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.

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/bench.

Nov 9, 2017

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.

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/farragut.

Nov 2, 2017

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.

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/commonthread.

Oct 26, 2017

Today we’re digging back into the archives for one of my favorite interviews, our very first episode of the Farmer to Farmer Podcast, with my good friend Liz Graznak. This one was recorded in early October of 2014.

In 2014, Liz was farming a little over seven acres of ground in central Missouri, and selling her certified organic produce through a CSA, farmers market, and to restaurants and grocery stores. In her fifth year of running her farm, Liz reflects on the challenges and rewards of running a business, managing employees, and doing all of the other stuff that isn’t farming, but is absolutely integral to it.

We dig into some post-harvest handling, talk about winter production, and discuss how her two-year-old has changed life on her farm. Liz also shares her experience becoming part of her very conventional rural neighborhood.

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/happyhollow.

Oct 19, 2017

Brendan Davison grows microgreens in over 4,000 square feet of greenhouse space at Good Water Farms in Bridgehampton, New York. Started in 2011 in the driveway of Brendan’s house, Good Water Farms sells its greens to Whole Foods Markets and a long list of Hamptons and New York City restaurants.

Brendan shares his spiritual and practical path to building Good Water Farms. We dig into many of the details of what makes Good Water Farms a successful microgreens operation, including Brendan’s marketing approach and how he manages production throughout the year. And we take a deep dive into how Good Water Farms’ implementation of a HACCP plan for food safety increased the operation’s efficiency and improved employee competence and confidence.

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/davison.

Oct 12, 2017

Andy and Melissa Dunham own and operate Grinnell Heritage Farm in Grinnell, Iowa. From corn-and-bean ground and no infrastructure when they started in 2006, Grinnell Heritage Farm has grown to twenty acres of vegetables, marketed through a 250-member CSA, natural foods stores, multiple farmers market, and a new on-farm pizza night that they started this year.

Andy and Melissa share how they worked with New Pioneer Food Co-op to develop their skills as market farmers and to learn how to better serve the wholesale marketplace. We also dig into their CSA model, employee management on Grinnell Heritage Farm, and how they’ve changed their CSA to respond to the needs of both customers and employees.

We also learn how Andy and Melissa developed their farm infrastructure, created environmental enhancements to change the farm ecology and benefit the farm overall, organic weed control in asparagus, and how they’ve managed repeated pesticide drift incidents on their Central-Iowa 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/dunham.

Oct 5, 2017

Dave Chapman got his start at Long Wind Farm in 1984 with a team of oxen, a diverse array of vegetables, and a roadside stand in East Thetford, Vermont. Today, he only grows tomatoes – and lots of them!

With 2.5 acres of greenhouses, Dave and his crew produce certified organic, soil-grown tomatoes all year ‘round. Dave digs in to the nuts and bolts of producing tomatoes in protected culture. He shares the details of his high-tech greenhouse system, Long Wind Farm’s fertility management strategies, and how Dave learned to get out of the way of his farm’s success while managing business and personal goals that were often in conflict with each other.

Dave also shares his views on the current state of the National Organic Program, organic hydroponics, and the organic livestock rules, and talks about the action being taken to try to change the situation.

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/longwind.

Sep 28, 2017

Kelly Kingsland and Russell Poe raise about an acre-and-a-half of produce at Affinity Farm in Moscow, Idaho. With sales to a farmers market, a small CSA, and restaurant and retail stores, Kelly and Russell have created a lean, smart, and profitable farm that has provided a “right livelihood” for sixteen years.

We dig in to the values that have informed their decision-making and market development, including their decision to farm in a the small-but-progressive city of Moscow. Kelly and Russell talk about how they’ve developed a CSA model that really works for them as farmers,  their efforts to foster an active market farming community, and their recent diversification into seed production – and how all of that ties back to a philosophy of giving good weight to their customers and 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/affinity.

Sep 21, 2017

Shawn Kuhn of Vitruvian Farms raises about five acres of vegetables with his business partner, Tommy Stauffer, in McFarland, Wisconsin, just outside of Madison.

Vitruvian Farms raises a little bit of everything, and a lot of salad greens, so we dig into the ins and outs producing 1,200 pounds of salad greens a week, from bed shaping and weed control through harvest and delivery. Shawn shares the ways they have – and have not – mechanized their salad production, and how they make this intensive level of production work on a small scale. We also look at the key success factors for their other main crops, oyster mushrooms, tomatoes, and microgreens.

Most of Vitruvian Farms’ produce is sold through 45 restaurants in Madison, and Shawn shares how they got started in that marketplace and how they maintain those relationships. We dig into what quality really means when selling to restaurants, and how Vitruvian Farms gets top-notch produce to demanding chefs in a crowded marketplace.

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/kuhn.

Sep 14, 2017

Sam Hitchcock Tilton studies weed control at Michigan State University, where he went to study after two years of pushing a wheel through clay soil on his own farm, and more years of working for other farmers. His graduate-student work on in-row weed control in vegetable crops has led him to explore the various elements that go into setting up for weed control success.

Sam draws on his experience on farms, a visit to Europe to learn about and evaluate precision weed-control tools, and his work in his experimental plots to provide insight into more than just the cool tools that make weed control work. We look at the foundations of mechanical weed control, starting with soil preparation and seeding the crop through blind cultivation, flame weeding, tool carriers, and selecting the right tools for between-row and in-row weed control.

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/tilton.

Sep 7, 2017

Ruth Chantry raises a little under four acres of vegetables, plus eggs, pork, and beef, with her husband Evrett Lunquist at Common Good Farm, just a little way outside of Lincoln, Nebraska. With sales to their 65-member CSA, farmers markets, and wholesale accounts, Ruth and Evrett make a full-time living on twenty acres of ground.

Common Good Farm is certified organic and certified biodynamic. Ruth spells out the practical implications of biodynamic farming at Common Good Farm, how it fits into their marketing, and how she and Evrett make the biodynamic farming prescriptions work for them.

We also discuss the practical steps Common Good Farm has taken to integrate their livestock into their vegetable operation to help control weeds and insect pests, as well as the challenges of operating vegetables and livestock as significant parts of the farming operation. And we dig into the nuts and bolts of the egg operation, from feed supplies to washing and delivering the eggs.

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/chantry.

Aug 31, 2017

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.

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/perkins.

Aug 24, 2017

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.

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/higley.

Aug 17, 2017

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.

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/davis.

Aug 10, 2017

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.

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/cure.

Aug 3, 2017

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.

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/wasserman.

Jul 27, 2017

Chris Jagger is the owner and operator of Blue Fox Farm, an organic vegetable farm in the Applegate Valley of southern Oregon. He is also the owner and head consultant for Blue Fox Agricultural Services, a full-service agricultural supply and consultation company focusing on ecological solutions for the modern farmer. Both his farm and his agricultural services use living soils as a foundation to scale farming operations efficiently and profitably.

We discuss the changes Chris has seen in the organic and local marketplace and labor environment, and how Blue Fox Farm has worked to downsize in response to those changes. Chris shares how he has worked to determine what makes money with a sensible approach to crop budget analysis.

We also dig into how Blue Fox Farm is getting better crops on a smaller piece of land, the economics of scaling up and scaling down, salad mix production, and mechanization and the choices Blue Fox Farm has made around that.

It’s worth noting here that Chris rounds out his involvement with the agricultural community by hosting the Living Soils Symposium each March. The symposium is an interactive conference for farmers, interested in regenerative farming techniques, to exchange knowledge and gain insight in a peer-to-peer environment.

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/jagger.

Jul 20, 2017

John Stoddard and Lindsay Allen work together at Higher Ground Farm, a rooftop farming operation with two locations in Boston. John is the founder of the business and operator of the site at the Boston Design Center, and Lindsay runs the new site at the Boston Medical Center. Higher Ground sells to restaurants and direct to consumers, and provides produce the Boston Medical Center cafeteria, patient food service, and a preventative food pantry.

We dig into the fundamentals of rooftop farming, including options for different production systems and why Higher Ground has opted for their system. John and Lindsay provide insights into the surprising of ecology of rooftop farming – including weeds and seagulls! – and discuss soil fertility management and irrigation systems.

John and Lindsay also ruminate on how to find a roof to farm on, what it takes for an urban farm to survive, and how they’ve leveraged the rooftops to create relationships with customers and clients. And we examine the two different business models that Higher Ground uses to make their operation work – growing food for sale, as well as operating a rooftop farm for a management fee.

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/higherground

Jul 13, 2017

Brendan Grant raises six acres of vegetables plus laying hens, Highland cattle, and a hundred acres of hay with his wife, Marcelle Paulin, at Sleepy G Farm, just east of Thunder Bay, Ontario, on the north shore of Lake Superior. The only certified organic farm for 500 miles around in Canada, Sleepy G’s produce is marketed through a 150-member CSA, grocery stores, a farmers market, and a small on-farm store.

Brendan shares his techniques for bringing new land into production, and delves into the ins and outs of tillage and mechanical weed control on raised beds. We also dig into marketing in Thunder Bay, an isolated city eight hours from other metropolitan areas with no history of market farming, as well as the impact of their isolation and extreme climate on production and input choices.

We also discuss how the farm survived a serious accident two years ago, the impact that accident had on the farm and on Brendan, and how they managed their way through the crisis. We also discuss the pieces that Brendan and Marcelle had in place that helped the farm survive.

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/grant.

Jul 13, 2017

Brendan Grant raises six acres of vegetables plus laying hens, Highland cattle, and a hundred acres of hay with his wife, Marcelle Paulin, at Sleepy G Farm, just east of Thunder Bay, Ontario, on the north shore of Lake Superior. The only certified organic farm for 500 miles around in Canada, Sleepy G’s produce is marketed through a 150-member CSA, grocery stores, a farmers market, and a small on-farm store.

Brendan shares his techniques for bringing new land into production, and delves into the ins and outs of tillage and mechanical weed control on raised beds. We also dig into marketing in Thunder Bay, an isolated city eight hours from other metropolitan areas with no history of market farming, as well as the impact of their isolation and extreme climate on production and input choices.

We also discuss how the farm survived a serious accident two years ago, the impact that accident had on the farm and on Brendan, and how they managed their way through the crisis. We also discuss the pieces that Brendan and Marcelle had in place that helped the farm survive.

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/grant.

Jul 6, 2017

Ray Tyler raises about an acre of salad greens at Rose Creek Farms in Selmer, Tennessee, about two hours east of Memphis and three hours west of Nashville. He farms with his wife, Ashley, and his five children, as well as employees. Produce is sold at farmers market, through a CSA, and to grocery stores in Memphis.

Ray tells the story of his farm from its start as a mixed vegetable and livestock operation in 2010 to its current focus on specialty salad greens, baby root vegetables, and tomatoes on a small scale. We discuss the never-ending vicious cycle of failures Ray encountered in the beginning years of the farm, and how the life-threatening illness of a young child resulted in Rose Creek Farm’s transition from a failing operation into a thriving, joyful, vegetable production machine.

Ray also provides insights into the challenges and opportunities of farming in the south – including a fantastic tutorial on summer lettuce production in that challenging climate. We also dig into how Ray leveraged an intensive education to make his farming transition, and the large and small practical changes that make it possible for Rose Creek Farms to gross big dollars on a small acreage.

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/tyler.

Jul 6, 2017

Ray Tyler raises about an acre of salad greens at Rose Creek Farms in Selmer, Tennessee, about two hours east of Memphis and three hours west of Nashville. He farms with his wife, Ashley, and his five children, as well as employees. Produce is sold at farmers market, through a CSA, and to grocery stores in Memphis.

Ray tells the story of his farm from its start as a mixed vegetable and livestock operation in 2010 to its current focus on specialty salad greens, baby root vegetables, and tomatoes on a small scale. We discuss the never-ending vicious cycle of failures Ray encountered in the beginning years of the farm, and how the life-threatening illness of a young child resulted in Rose Creek Farm’s transition from a failing operation into a thriving, joyful, vegetable production machine.

Ray also provides insights into the challenges and opportunities of farming in the south – including a fantastic tutorial on summer lettuce production in that challenging climate. We also dig into how Ray leveraged an intensive education to make his farming transition, and the large and small practical changes that make it possible for Rose Creek Farms to gross big dollars on a small acreage.

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/tyler.

Jun 29, 2017

Less than one percent of the people farming in Minnesota are Latino, and Eduardo Rivera is one of them. His operation, Sin Fronteras Farm & Food, specializes in producing fresh, healthy, Latino food for restaurants, grocery stores, and a 40-member CSA marketed to the Latino community in Minnesota’s Twin Cities.

Eduardo started farming with his infant daughter on his back on a quarter acre of rented ground near Stillwater. The farm has grown to three acres of production, still on rented ground. We discuss Eduardo’s rigorous business planning process and the progress he has made towards his goals as he has financed his farm’s growth and development. Eduardo shares the challenges of piecing together infrastructure like greenhouses and cold storage in multiple locations due to Sin Frontera’s land tenure situation.

We also dig into the challenges and opportunities that Eduardo has found in marketing his produce, especially with regard to making it available through Latino markets in the Twin Cities. And Eduardo provides lots of great details about his cilantro and pepper production, his irrigation system, paying employees, and more.

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/rivera.

Jun 22, 2017

Chris Field farms fourteen acres of ground with his partner, Jessi Okamoto, at Campo Rosso Farm in Gilbertsville, Pennsylvania. Camp Rosso Farm is what happens when two New York foodies decide to start a farm. Chis and Jessi grow a wide variety of very high quality Italian chicories – radicchios, endives, and more – as the cornerstone of their operation, and market through New York City’s Union Square Green Market and wholesale to restaurants in New York City.

We dig into how Chris and Jessi learned how to grow this challenging crop, and how they get compensated for the high labor inputs chicories require. And while we didn’t get into proprietary details of the more specialty varieties, Chris provides a primer on producing quality chicories for fall production, as well as insights on how they produce other high-end crops bursting with flavor.

Chris also provides insights into their marketing strategy, how he and Jessi jumped from city jobs into farming, and how he and Jessi are working to solve the challenges they’ve had sourcing labor for their young operation.

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/field.

Jun 15, 2017

In this episode, we revisit Jess and Brian Powers at Working Hands Farm, eighteen months after they were first on the show on Episode 040. Since the fall of 2015, Working Hands Farm has gone through some significant changes and phenomenal growth on their property in Hillsboro, Oregon, just outside of Portland on the north end of the Willamette Valley.

Jess and Brian have gone from raising four acres of vegetables in 2015 to eight acres now, and have expanded their on-farm CSA to cover 48 weeks of the year – all with just the two of them, plus the recent addition of a part-time employee. In the past year, they’ve gotten out of the livestock business to focus on their produce business, standardized their farming operations, and made significant investments in machinery and infrastructure on their farm. We dig into all of these changes and the rationale behind them, as well as how the changes are helping them to face the extreme wet-weather challenges they’ve faced this year.

When I interviewed Jess and Brian the first time, it was clear that although they were working insane hours, they found ways to emphasize and build their personal relationship, so we also come back to how they’ve continued to nurture their love for each other alongside of their professional and business development.

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/workinghands.

Jun 8, 2017

Danny Percich raises vegetables at Full Plate Farm in Ridgefield, Washington, for a ninety-member winter-only CSA. With three acres of mostly-outdoors production, Danny has decided to focus on an underserved niche in the marketplace, enabling him to make a living on a small acreage.

We get muddy discussing the challenges of winter production in a climate where it rains all winter. Danny gives us the low-down on how they manage deer predation and vole populations, as well as how he dresses to stay warm and dry no matter the weather.

Danny also provides insights into how he has minimized capital and labor inputs on his farm, and how that influences his farming schedule, as well as his cropping and production strategies.

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/percich.

Jun 1, 2017

Melanie and Kevin Cunningham own and operate Shakefork Community Farm in Humboldt County, California, where they raise five acres of vegetables and a diversity of livestock, including broilers, egg-layers, pigs, and sheep.. And they do it with oxen – as well as with four-wheeled and two-wheeled tractors. Since their start in 2008, the farm has evolved from an emphasis on small grains to a focus on vegetables and livestock, which they sell through their 120-member CSA and three farmers markets.

We take a deep dive into how they’ve integrated the oxen into their operation, including the why behind it and how they use draft power in ways and places where they feel tractor power and human power aren’t the best choices.

Kevin and Melanie dig into how they manage the complexity of their operation, including their introduction to Holistic Management and how they’ve used that to support their decision-making and to get on the same page from a relationship standpoint, as well as to help them do the caliber of work that they want to be doing. We discuss how they schedule multiple labor-intensive enterprises, and how they’ve divided responsibilities and how they coordinate between the different parts of the operation.

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/cunningham.

May 25, 2017

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.

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/villageside.

May 18, 2017

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.

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/hawkins.

May 11, 2017

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.

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/teitelbaum.

May 4, 2017

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.

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/weston.

Apr 27, 2017

Dan Guenthner of Common Harvest Farm, along with his wife Margaret Pennings, has been a CSA farmer since before CSA was even really a thing – 1990, to be exact. With twelve acres of vegetables and a 200-member CSA in Osceola, Wisconsin, just outside of Minnesota’s Twin Cities, Dan and Margaret take a thoughtful approach to how they engage with their CSA membership, the farming community, and their farm’s land and production systems.

Dan reflects on the CSA movement, and how it has grown and changed since its inception, and the challenges that even CSA farms with a deep focus on community have faced as local and organic produce has become more widely available. We discuss some of the ways that Dan and Margaret have built their CSA on community organizing and shared values in an effort to break out of the marketing paradigm, and how they are working to get even deeper into this heart of the CSA movement now.

Dan also digs into how he has built the production system at Common Harvest Farm, including a foray into draft animal production, and the investment strategy that has supported the development of a highly efficient farm, in terms of both labor and energy use.

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/guenthner.

Apr 20, 2017

Susan and Harley Soltes of Bow Hill Blueberries raise five acres of high-bush blueberries on the northern edge of the Skagit River Valley in western Washington. Susan and Harley bought the oldest blueberry farm in Skagit County in 2011, transitioned the farm to organic, and launched a new line of value-added products along with their fresh and frozen berries.

Harley shares the details of organic blueberry production, from weed control and management of mummy berry and spotted wing drosophila through the GAP-certified harvest that provides access to institutional markets. Bow Hill’s blueberry bushes were mostly planted in the 1940s, which provides a great marketing opportunity – heirlooms! – but also presents challenges when it comes to keeping the harvest crew happy, and Harley and Susan dig deep into how they work with their labor crew to maximize the harvest and keep worker satisfaction high

Susan walks us through how they market their fresh and frozen berries to institutions including Microsoft’s food service and the Seattle Seahawks, as well how they created their unique line of value-added products, and how they have established a differentiated presence in the marketplace, even though Washington State is the United States’ largest producer of organic blueberries.

We also discuss how Bow Hill has developed and enhanced their u-pick market and on-farm sales, as well as how they’ve turned purslane to their advantage.

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/soltes.

Apr 13, 2017

Janaki Fisher-Merritt owns Food Farm with his wife, Annie Dugan, and operates it with his parents, John and Jane Fisher-Merritt, and long-time employee Dave Hanlon. Located in Wrenshall, Minnesota, 25 miles southwest of Duluth, Food Farm raises about thirteen acres of vegetables, and sells them over an extended season by storing crops in their high-tech root cellar. In 2010, they were selected as the Organic Farmers of the Year by the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service.

Food Farm was started by Janaki’s parents in the late 1980s. Janaki shares the story of the farm’s development in the late 1980s and early 1990s, how they developed a market for local food and CSA in their area, and Janaki’s gradual assumption of responsibility and eventual ownership of the farm.

In addition to 200 summer CSA shares and a significant amount of wholesale sales, Food Farm packs about 150 CSA shares all winter long. We dig into Food Farm’s amazing root cellar, which combines traditional techniques with modern technology to create a facility that is practical and efficient. Janaki walks us through the development of their root cellar, the creation of a second-generation version, and the nuts and bolts of how they keep storage crops fresh into March and beyond.

Janaki also explains their wood-heated transplant production system, and the steps they’ve taken to make that energy-efficient in a climate where heating bills in March can be much more outrageous than on the average Minnesota vegetable farm.

We also delve into Janaki’s involvement with his local non-farming community through the school board and a film festival, and how having something outside the farm – including, recently, a couple of children! – has enriched and balanced Janaki’s life, and the life of his family.

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/foodfarm.

Apr 6, 2017

Josh Slotnick has farmed at Clark Fork Organics on the outskirts of Missoula, Montana, with his wife, Kim Murchison, since 1992. With about eight acres in vegetables and eleven acres of total crop ground, Clark Fork Organics is a pillar in the Missoula local foods community, and is well-known for their salad greens. They sell at two farmers market, through a local health food store, and to restaurants in the community.

In 1996, Josh and a few others founded Garden City Harvest, a non-profit in Missoula that builds community through agriculture. Garden City Harvest does this by providing community education while managing ten community garden sites and four neighborhood farms in Missoula. Josh is the director of Garden City Harvest’s largest farm, the PEAS Farm, which is a partnership between Garden City Harvest and the University of Montana’s Environmental Studies program.

Josh digs deep into how Clark Fork Organics builds and maintains relationships with their restaurant clients, both during the short, intense growing season and over the winter, when the farm doesn’t operate. We also discuss how these same techniques spill over to the farmers market, and how they’ve used those relationships to keep a marketing edge as the local foods scene has grown up around them. And, Josh shares the many ways that the PEAS Farm and Garden City Harvest have contributed to the overall social ecology of Missoula.

We also talk at length about salad mix production at Clark Fork Organics, as well as their irrigation tools and strategies – and about how Josh juggles two farms, family, and friends.

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/slotnick.

Mar 30, 2017

Landis and Steven Spickerman own and operate Hermit Creek Farm 15 miles south of Lake Superior in far northern Wisconsin – a challenging place to farm, with lots of woods and a lot of water. With about ten acres in vegetables and another six in cover crop, Landis and Steven sell their produce through a combination of wholesale and a 200-member CSA.

We discuss their long, slow, roundabout journey through homesteading and small-scale production to having Landis full-time on the farm. Landis and Steven share how they made the decision to acquire new land a few miles from their home farm, and the challenges they experienced in making the change from growing on one small piece of land to growing on two very different pieces of farmland with two very different farming systems.

Landis and Steven also share the whys and hows of expanding to a larger marketplace, and how that drove their pursuit of scale. We also dive into how they’ve expanded their CSA through the expansion of seasons and products, rather than raw member numbers.

Hermit Creek Farm has integrated hogs and now sheep into their vegetable and cover crop rotations, and use native prairie strips for pollinator and biodiversity inoculation in the vegetable fields. Landis and Steven share details about how they make this work, and why it matters to them and to the farm overall.

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/spickerman.

Mar 23, 2017

Rashid Nuri is the founder and CEO of Truly Living Well Center for Natural Urban Agriculture in Atlanta, Georgia.  With four farm sites in Metro Atlanta, Truly Living Well is a leader in demonstrating urban agriculture as a sustainable solution for helping people to eat better and live better.

Rashid shares his journey through the conventional agricultural system, including time spent working for Cargill and as a Clinton appointee to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to becoming an organic urban farmer. Along the way, he shares his insights into food systems, and how Truly Living Well uses fresh food and crops to enrich lives and build communities.

We also dig into the systems Rashid has developed for effective urban farming, whether he is growing in boxes on top of concrete or in the soil. Rashid also shares the simple but effective composting and fertility system Truly Living Well uses to create healthy crops that allow them to grow without the use of pesticides.

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/nuri.

Mar 16, 2017

Jean-Paul Courtens is most famous for being the founder and owner of Roxbury Farm in New York’s Hudson Valley. He operated Roxbury Farm with his farming partner, Jody Bolluyt, from 1990 through about 2015, when he started work with the Hudson Valley Farm Hub to create and then to run a professional farmer training program, where he is now the Associate Director for Farm Training.

Roxbury Farm is a 245-acre integrated farming operation, with a hundred acres dedicated to vegetable production for a thousand-member CSA. Jean-Paul shares the details of Roxbury’s green manure rotation, and the details how they use unique crops, careful scheduling, and a summer-fallow period to clean the fields of weeds and pathogens, allowing for more efficient field operations. We also discuss the details of the semi-permanent bed system that complements the soil building cover cropping program.

Jean-Paul’s success as a farmer and his distinctive leadership builds upon the recognition of his skills as a teacher and mentor on organic practices, land stewardship, whole farm planning, and farm business development, and we discuss how he brings this to bear in the ProFarmer training program at the Hudson Valley Farm Hub.

Jean-Paul also shares some of the techniques used at Roxbury Farm to train employees and establish expectations, as well as to help people avoid mistakes and misunderstandings.

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

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

Mar 9, 2017

Andrew Mefferd farms at One Drop Farm in Cornville, Maine, with his wife, Ann, where they sell produce and transplants at farmers market, to a multiple farm CSA, and to local restaurants and food stores. Andrew is also the editor and publisher of Growing for Market, having taken over that business from Lynn Byczynski last year – the magazine’s 25th year in publication.

Andrew is also the author of The Greenhouse and Hoophouse Grower’s Handbook, a fantastic new guide to growing things in protected culture. This is a really cool book, short on rah-rah and long on real how-to, and Andrew really lets his plant-nerd flag fly. Much our conversation focused on the lessons that Andrew took from his experience working with large-scale greenhouse growers as the tomato trials guy at Johnny’s Selected Seeds and applied to his own high tunnel operation.

We talk extensively about how to take on some advanced greenhouse growing techniques, without getting too deep into the weeds. Andrew digs into his opinions about the return on investment for increased management in the greenhouse. And he provides some practical tips for extending spring production in the high tunnel, as well as for growing transplants for protected culture.

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/mefferd.

Mar 2, 2017

Michael Phillips raises about three acres of fruit trees at Lost Nation Orchard in extreme northern New Hampshire. And while that’s pretty cool, and while Michael is well known for his books on organic orcharding, today we dig into the subject of his new book, Mycorrhizal Planet.

Michael started his orchard on imperfect apple ground, something that forced him – or gave him the opportunity – to figure out what he needed to do to make his apple trees tick. And that led him to the fungal relationships between trees and soil organisms that transfer information, nutrients, and water not just to individual plants, but through a field or plant population. In addition, mycorrhizae induce a systemic resistance to pests in the plants.

We dig into how this amazing fungal network works, and how you can enhance and preserve its functioning in the orchard and in the vegetable field. Michael provides background information and practical tips on how to maintain and enhance mycorrhizal populations even when we have to till the soil, as well as how to make and use your own mycorrhizal inoculant for transplants and seeds.

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/phillips.

Mar 2, 2017

Michael Phillips raises about three acres of fruit trees at Lost Nation Orchard in extreme northern New Hampshire. And while that’s pretty cool, and while Michael is well known for his books on organic orcharding, today we dig into the subject of his new book, Mycorrhizal Planet.

Michael started his orchard on imperfect apple ground, something that forced him – or gave him the opportunity – to figure out what he needed to do to make his apple trees tick. And that led him to the fungal relationships between trees and soil organisms that transfer information, nutrients, and water not just to individual plants, but through a field or plant population. In addition, mycorrhizae induce a systemic resistance to pests in the plants.

We dig into how this amazing fungal network works, and how you can enhance and preserve its functioning in the orchard and in the vegetable field. Michael provides background information and practical tips on how to maintain and enhance mycorrhizal populations even when we have to till the soil, as well as how to make and use your own mycorrhizal inoculant for transplants and seeds.

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/phillips.

Feb 23, 2017

Hans and Katie Bishop raise fifteen acres of certified organic vegetables at PrairiErth Farm in central Illinois, marketing about $250,000 worth of produce through a farmers market, CSA, and wholesale outlets.

With about fifty percent of their sales going through one farmers market in a mid-sized city, Katie and Hans had a lot to say about how they make that work, from the details of their display and market stand setup, their digital checkout system and the value its data brings to their farming operation, and their farmers market magic sauce – the passion Katie has to connect with their customers. Katie digs into the nuts and bolts of how she connects with customers at farmers market and through social media.

Hans started growing vegetables at his family’s operation in 2009, while he and Katie both lived in the city; over several years, Hans made the transition to full-time farming, and then Katie followed, and then they moved out to the farm. Hans and Katie share how they knew it was time to make the various transitions, how they prepared to make the changes, and how they’ve divided up the responsibilities on the farm. Hans and Katie also provide an honest look at the challenges of farming together, and of bringing a spouse into the operation.

We also dig into the shipping relationships that help PrairiErth Farm reach into the Chicagoland market, how they’ve mechanized their operation to retain and attract good help, and how they’ve changed and continue to improve their employee management practices.

I’m also excited to share that Hans and Katie were selected as the 2017 MOSES Organic Farmers of the Year, an award that recognizes organic farmers who practice outstanding land stewardship, innovation, and outreach.

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/bishop.

Feb 16, 2017

Josh Volk is, most recently, the author of Compact Farms, a new, illustrated guide for anyone dreaming of starting, expanding, or perfecting a profitable farm enterprise on five acres or less. Compact Farms includes in-depth interviews with fifteen small farms about the systems and tools that make them tick. With over twenty years of experience working on and managing small farms around the country, Josh currently works part time at Cully Neighborhood Farm in Portland, Oregon, as well as providing consulting to farmers, presenting workshops at agricultural conferences, and writing.

In this episode, Josh provides insights into what makes a small farm work. We discuss the importance of automation and good systems, and good systems to manage the automation. Josh also shares his perspective on how limiting hours and scale helps to increase focus and productivity, as well as avoiding burnout.

We also discuss Josh’s experiences as a part-time farmer, his own Slow Hand Farm, where he farmed without any fossil-fueled equipment, and his comprehensive planning and record-keeping system.

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/volk.

Feb 9, 2017

Mimo Davis and Miranda Duschack farm at Urban Buds City Grown Flowers, an acre of flowers in a working class neighborhood in St. Louis, Missouri. Urban Buds is located on property that was an operating flower farm in the city for three generations, but had fallen into poor condition when Mimo and Miranda purchased it in 2012.

We talk about how Miranda and Mimo rehabilitated the property, and made the journey from startup to turning a profit while they financed the farm with income paychecks from their day jobs. We discuss the challenges of running a farm while working an outside job, as well as adding a child to the mix this past year. Plus, Mimo and Miranda talk about the challenges they’ve encountered on an urban farm, and how they’ve overcome them.

Miranda and Mimo share their strategies for season extension, which they consider key to their business model in order to maximize profits from a limited land base. Urban Buds uses a variety of techniques inside and outside of a variety of structures. We also get into the nuts and bolts to achieving a long vase life with their cut flowers.

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

Feb 2, 2017

Mike Brownback farms at Spiral Path Farm in South-Central Pennsylvania with his wife, Terra, and sons Will and Lucas. Spiral Path farms over seventy acres on more than 300 acres of land that they own. Serving two farmers markets, and 2,000-member CSA, and a substantial wholesale business with Wegmans grocery store, they farm all of their acres organically, and have been certified organic since 1994.

Mike shares the recent history of Spiral Path Farm and the return of his sons to the operation. We talk about how they’ve come back to the farm, and how Mike and Terra have integrated them into the operation, including the unconventional details of how they keep the communication channels open and everyone headed in the right direction. Mike also shares how he, Terra, and his sons have divided up the responsibilities for managing employees, and the guiding philosophy and daily actions that have helped them retain several employees for over a decade.

We dig into the production side of the farming operation, as well. Mike digs into his strategies for growing nutrient-dense, flavorful foods, including the nuts-and-bolts of the composting and cover cropping techniques that work together on the farm to build carbon and soil life. We also discuss farming on the contours, how they harvest and make the most use of the water that falls on the farm, and their approach to salad mix production and large-scale season extension.

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

Jan 26, 2017

Todd Nichols is the head grower at Nichols Farm and Orchard in Marengo, Illinois, about 65 miles northwest of Chicago. Founded in 1977 by Todd’s parents, Nichols Farm currently produces about 260 acres of vegetables and forty acres of apples. Nichols Farm markets to some 200 restaurants, fifteen farmers markets each week, and a 450-member CSA.

Todd digs into what a farm this size looks like, and the sorts of investments they’ve made in equipment and infrastructure to ensure that they can complete the large amount of work that often needs to be done in a short period of time. We talk about the low-density approach to cropping at Nichols Farm, the workflow they use to provide outstanding service to their restaurant and farmers market customers, and the ways their four different farming locations create advantages for disease management and coping with the weather.

Nichols Farm is certified to the Food Alliance Sustainability Standard, but is not certified organic. Todd shares his reasons why, how he farms differently because of it, and some of the other ways that Nichols Farm has taken a green approach to their agricultural production.

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

Jan 19, 2017

Shiloh Avery and Jason Roehrig own and operate Tumbling Shoals Farm in northwestern North Carolina. With three acres tilled and almost half an acre under plastic, they gross about $145,000 selling certified organic vegetables through a CSA, three farmers market, a cooperative CSA, and a few restaurants.

Shiloh and Jason were very intentional about where they chose to start Tumbling Shoals Farm, and the smaller cities that they chose to market in. They share the factors behind locating in northwestern North Carolina, the advantages of marketing in smaller markets, and how their marketing decisions have shaped their production strategies. Jason and Shiloh tell us about the ways they’ve made use of high tunnels and Haygrove polytunnels to increase the reliability of their cropping systems.

We also dig into the lessons Shiloh and Jason have learned about the power of having enough labor to leave them time to manage the farm, and the changes they are making based on some in-depth business planning as they move into their tenth season on the farm.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company and BCS America

Jan 12, 2017

Curtis Millsap farms raises two acres of vegetables, with 22,000 square feet under plastic, at Millsap Farms, just outside of Springfield, Missouri. He and his wife, Sarah, make a living from the farm with the help of their ten kids, a full-time farm manager, and another employee.

Curtis shares how his farm grew over the years – and then how it shrunk on its path to profitability and a more family- and faith-focused life, shedding most of its livestock and farmers markets in favor of production that they can stay on top of, and the addition of a major value-added enterprise with their pizza club.

We dig into the pizza club, why they’ve structured it as a membership program, and how that works on a farm that’s wired for community. Curtis shares how they have leveraged seconds and family labor – including Sarah’s skills as a pizza magician – to grow the enterprise and make it work.

Curtis also lets us in on how they’ve created a farm that allowed them to take five full weeks of vacation last year. We talk about the routines and management systems they’ve built to support Curtis’ quality of life goals, including the fundamentals of Curtis’ paper-based system to stay on top of tasks and projects. He also shares the good and the bad about the Chinese-style solar greenhouse they built.

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

Jan 5, 2017

For episode 100, several listeners requested that I either do an interview with myself, or get somebody to interview me. So I invited my good friend Liz Graznak to do the job – Liz was also the first guest on the podcast, so it seemed to me to have some nice symmetry.

Liz reached out to many of the previous guests on the show to get their input on what to ask me, and we dig into what I’ve learned from interviewing over a hundred farmers since the show’s beginnings during a drive to a field day in Minnesota.

We explore how I came to farming in Iowa from an urban childhood in the Pacific Northwest, and Liz gives me a chance to share how my farm grew, the challenges we faced, and what led me to leave the farm behind to pursue my current work as a farm educator.

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

Dec 29, 2016

Chris McGuire and his wife, Juli, own and operate Two Onion Farm in Belmont, Wisconsin. With four acres of vegetables and ¾ of an acre of apples – all certified organic – Two Onion Farm is packing 300 CSA shares each week for delivery in Madison, Wisconsin, Dubuque, Iowa, and Galena, Illinois.

Chris digs into the details of weed control without tractors on Two Onion Farm, with an emphasis on prevention and reducing the bank of weed seeds in the soil. We also explore details of the farm’s use of drip irrigation to make the most of a limited water supply.

We talk extensively about Two Onion Farm’s organic apple production, including how they manage that alongside of the vegetables and incorporate it into the marketing for their CSA shares.

Chris also gets into the ways that Two Onion Farm has managed their worker-share program, and how that has changed over the years as their employee management has gotten better. And given that they’ve improved their employee management, Chris talks about how he has improved their hiring process and employee engagement.

We also hear about Two Onion Farms’ new transplant-production greenhouse, and the energy savings and automation features they included when it was constructed last year.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Dec 22, 2016

Mike Nolan raises about five acres of vegetables at Mountain Roots Produce in Mancos, Colorado. With a focus on storage crops, Mike has patched together a market in his rural marketplace that includes restaurants, grocery stores, schools, and CSA members in the Four Corners area of Colorado. Farming in Mancos for the last seven years, Mike has recently brought Mountain Roots into profitability, and no longer has to work off the farm to make ends meet.

We dig into the details of Mike’s operation, including how he has structured his tractor-scale farming operation for growing crops that are planted a limited number of times every year, and why he decided to start farming with a business model based on these limited-succession crops. Mike shares his challenges with weed control, how he’s used local resources to store his root crops with limited capital investment, and the changes he is making to prepare for the new marketing realities he expects as the Food Safety Modernization Act begins to take effect.

Mike also gives us an overview of water rights in the West, and how that influences the structure of his farming operation. Plus, Mike and his girlfriend, Mindy Perkovich of Early Bird Gardens, recently joined forces in Mancos, and Mike shares the details and realities of making the transition from a solo operator to being part of a partnership.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Dec 15, 2016

Eva Rehak and Rebekah Frazer Chiasson are members of Coin Bio – that’s Organic Corner in English – a small marketing co-op at the Dieppe Farmers Market in Dieppe, New Brunswick. With a total of four farms, the Organic Corner co-op allows these farmers to show up at market with the greatest diversity of produce in southeastern New Brunswick.

Eva and Rebekah share the details of how they make the co-op work, including how they decide who sells what and how they structure the finances to keep the cooperative operating and vital. We also dig into how they resolve and avoid conflict within the venture, and the attitude and approach that make Organic Corner a positive experience for farmers and customers alike.

We also discuss the realities of raising families on the farm, and the political activism they’ve participated in around childcare subsidies in New Brunswick.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Dec 8, 2016

Diane Szukovathy raises about 4.5 acres of cut flowers at Jello Mold Farm in Mount Vernon, Washington. Now in their eleventh year of selling flowers, Diane and Dennis Westphall have become cornerstones of the local flower movement in the Pacific Northwest.

Diane cofounded the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market when she realized the need to expand her farm’s reach without putting more hours into marketing and distribution. We discuss the establishment of the cooperative and its journey to self-sufficiency, including details about how the cooperative has brought on staff and set standards for its growers.

Diane also digs into the details of producing cut flowers at Jello Mold Farm, where she and Dennis manage annual and perennial flower and foliage crops. She shares her techniques and perspective on weed management and pest control, and gets into the nitty gritty details of how they produce top quality cut flowers – including an excellent tutorial on cleaning buckets and totes. We also talk season extension in the high tunnel, and forcing woody crops to flower in order to have products to sell in January.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Dec 1, 2016

Michael Ableman splits his time between his family’s Foxglove Farm on British Columbia’s Salt Spring Island and SOLEfood, an urban farm on the downtown east side of Vancouver, British Columbia. Michael has been farming full-time since 1976, starting as an orchardist and evolving into a wide range of vegetables, fruits, grains, dry beans, and livestock. An early pioneer in the urban agriculture movement, Michael has long focused on the creation of good jobs and production quantities of food.

We dig into the production systems that Michael developed at SOLEfood to allow that 4.5 acre urban farm to meet the challenges of growing in an urban environment, including how they farm on top of pavement and how they mitigate the risks of uncertain land tenure. In addition to producing $350,000 in food each year, SOLEfood provides employment to individuals who struggle with poverty and addiction, and Michael shares his perspective on managing labor under challenges circumstances.

Michael’s 120-acre farm on Salt Spring Island includes 30 acres of hay and grain and six acres of fruits and vegetables, marketed on the island and via the ferry into Vancouver. Michael shares details about marketing in the two very different marketplaces, and we get a good look at his white asparagus production as well.

We also get to hear about Michael’s experience with global agriculture in the 1980s, and how that’s influenced his approach to farming in North America.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Nov 24, 2016

Heather Lekx has managed Ignatius Farm since 2001, when she arrived to start a new CSA program at the Ignatius Jesuit Centre in Guelph, Ontario. She currently oversees the vegetable farm, an extensive community garden, and land management for a multitude of independent enterprises at the Centre’s farm, which has served as the well of sustenance for the Jesuit community in the region since 1913.

Heather provides insights into the dynamics of farming with an institution, including how the CSA program and the farm developed in a vacuum left by previous programming and how the farm became a focal point of the Ignatius Centre’s identity. We discuss how her role has changed through the years from the initiation of the CSA program to its current ten acres of production alongside of 250 acres of additional farm production as part of the Ignatius Jesuit Centre’s larger mission.

We also dig deep into Ignatius Farm’s process for hiring great employees and interns, from advertising and interviewing through the onboarding process and beyond. Heather helped to start the CRAFT program for Southwest Ontario, and she shares the ways that her farm provides a mission-driven internship program that also provides for the needs of the farm.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Nov 17, 2016

John Middleton farms with his wife Lidia Dungue at Fazenda Boa Terra in Spring Green, Wisconsin. After years of working on other farms, and starting on an incubator program in Minnesota, John and Lidia started a vegetable farm on the farmland at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin estate. Three years into their tenure at Taliesin, they’re growing a little under ten acres of vegetables and grossing about ten thousand dollars per acre.

John shares some of the details of getting started at Taliesin, where an architectural apprenticeship program was already in place when he and Lidia started the vegetable farm – an arrangement that has been rewarding but has also come with some challenges. We discuss Fazenda Boa Terra’s strategy for investing in equipment and infrastructure, how they’ve grown their operation rapidly and what the future is expected to bring, and how they are dealing with the very full marketplace for local vegetables in southern Wisconsin.

We also dig into John’s weed control tools and techniques for both wide rows and solid-seeded beds, their year-on, year-off cover crop rotation, and the challenges of becoming a boss after many years of working on farms.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Nov 10, 2016

John Hendrickson raises two acres of vegetables and cover crops at Stone Circle Farm in Reeseville, Wisconsin. He also works for the University of Wisconsin’s Center for Integrated Agricultural Studies, where he has lead any number of interesting projects and where he organizes the Wisconsin School for Beginning Market Growers.

This is not a story about how John makes hundreds of thousands of dollars on two acres. It is a about how John set out to grow a farm, and how and why he decided to remain a part-time farmer. John shares the way he’s organized his production and marketing to provide a financially and emotionally rewarding supplement to his day job.

We dig into John’s narrow crop focus and why that works for him and for his farming business, how he rotates his crops with cover crops for soil building and weed control, the tools he uses to manage sales to his and his wife’s co-workers, and his discovery of the paper pot transplanter system while in Japan and the subsequent founding of his company, Small Farm Works.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Nov 3, 2016

Brooke Salvaggio and Daniel Heryer own Urbavore, one of the nation’s largest urban farmsteads. With thirteen acres in the urban core of Kansas City, Missouri, Urbavore produces vegetables, berries, tree fruits, and laying hens on an energy-independent piece of land with a meth house just down the street.

We dig into their mulch-based no-till production system (which doesn’t require much digging!), including the nuts and bolts of how they handle different crops, source appropriate materials, and manage fertility. Because their production system also relies on the incorporation of a 200-hen laying flock, we also dig into the challenges of managing egg production alongside of the vegetables. And a goose comes into the story, too.

Brooke and Daniel share how they developed their off-the-grid infrastructure, including an engineered filtration system to draw potable water from a pond on their farm. We also discuss the impacts of bringing a second child into the family and onto the farm, and the challenges of building a farm from the ground up with a minimal debt load.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Oct 27, 2016

Lucila de Alejandro owns and operates Suzie’s Farm with her husband, Robin Taylor. Located three miles from the Pacific Ocean and three miles from the Mexican border, Suzie’s Farm got its start in 2004, and has provided fresh, organic produce to the San Diego area through a CSA, farmers markets, and sales to restaurants and grocers.

As a 70-acre urban farm, Suzie’s Farm provides a rare blend of tractor-scale farming just minutes from the urban core, and Lucila and Robin leveraged their geography and scale to grow rapidly as the local food scene in San Diego took off – but when that local food scene leveled off, they were faced with making hard decisions to save the farm and their relationship.

Lucila shares the process they used for making those hard decisions, including a technique with the acronym POEM. We also dig into how she and Robin have created a loyal workforce that carries Lucila’s energy and enthusiasm out into the community, how they use farm tours to engage the community and build their customer base, and how vegetable farming works in the Mediterranean climate of San Diego.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Oct 20, 2016

David Hambleton manages Sisters Hill Farm in Standfordville, New York. David says he has five acres in production, but it’s worth noting that with what seems like typical attention to the details, that’s five acres of ground actually growing vegetables – he figures he’s got another four acres in field roads and other grass areas around the farm. All of Sisters Hill’s produce is sold through a market-style CSA.

Sister Hills’ CSA program has maintained an 80% retention rate by selling the farm experience as well as the vegetables, and we dig into the details of how he’s created a farm that provides a peaceful, relaxing, and community-oriented experience for its members, as well as for David and his apprentices.

David shares how he’s designed the farm so that it serves him rather than him serving the farm. We dig in to his apprenticeship program, how David has created his own tools to solve little bottlenecks, his design for weed control from soil prep through mechanical cultivation, and more – including how the management and teaching structures he has put in place helped the farm survive David’s two surgeries in the past year.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Oct 13, 2016

Lily Schneider and Matt Mccue raise fifteen acres of vegetables at Shooting Star CSA in Fairfield, California, just 35 miles from Berkeley on the edge of the Central Valley. Along with four employees, they provide vegetables for a 250-member CSA plus three farmers markets.

Matt and Lily have a couple of unique twists on their CSA operation, making the unusual choice in their area to not operate year-round, as well as to focus on guiding members towards purchasing a full-season, rather than monthly, CSA share.

We dig into these choices, as well as their  histories before starting their own farm, how they found land and why they’ve chosen to stick with leasing, how they’ve worked to distinguish their CSA program from box-schemes, and how they use field preparation, bed layout, and a couple of cool tools to stay on top of the weeds.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Oct 6, 2016

Simon Huntley is the founder and developer at Small Farm Central, a technology company focused on farming business success with a website builder designed for small farms, a CSA member management and sales solution, and more. Simon is also the author of the new book, Cultivating Customers.

Small Farm Central grew out of Simon’s work with an expanding CSA program in western Colorado. Simon got into online marketing before e-commerce was cool, and definitely before its use was widespread in the farming community. And serving over a thousand direct-marketing farmers, Small Farm Central and Simon have a lot of direct contact with what’s working and what isn’t in the direct-to-consumer marketplace.

We dig into the world of marketing and relationship-building for small farms, including how to apply the marketing funnel concept in your farm marketing, how to build trust and create a sense of authenticity with your customers, what to do with your website to get customers engaged with your farm, how to get your customers to open your email newsletters, and much, much more.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Sep 29, 2016

Brian Bates is a first-generation farmer at Bear Creek Organic Farm in Petoskey, Michigan. He and his wife, Anne Morningstar, started farming in 2014, and have rapidly grown their business to anticipated 2016 sales of $180,000.

With just an acre and a half of cultivated ground, Bear Creek makes most of its money from greenhouse and high tunnel crops, and Brian breaks this down for us. We get an in-depth look at the tools Brian uses to track wholesale and retail sales, and to track those back to the enterprise they’re a part of – something that gives him insights into where he’s earning most of his returns, which in turn drives his business decision-making.

Bear Creek sells half of his produce wholesale, mostly to grocery stores, and Brian shares how his work in the back end of his local natural foods store informed the ways he has structured his production and marketing efforts.

We also explore how Brian and Anne financed the startup of their operation, and how they’ve used debt as a lever to both enable and drive the rapid growth of their operation.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Sep 22, 2016

Eric McClam and his dad, Robbie, own City Roots in Columbia, South Carolina. With eight acres of vegetables, mushrooms, u-pick berries, flowers, bees, agritourism, vermicomposting, and several high tunnels, City Roots is seven years into its operation and grosses about $650,000 annually.

We dig deeply into their operation and the relationship between Eric and Robbie, including how their different personalities have influenced the growth of the operation and the directions it has gone, as well as how they structure their communications and their relationship. We also explore how City Roots has leveraged marketing partners to extend their reach, how they manage so much diversity and three distinct production parcels, and their experience with no-till vegetables, organic certification, and GAPs audits.

City Roots has received numerous awards and recognitions, including the 2012 Green America’s People and Planet Award for Best Green Business, 2010 International Downtown Association Pinnacle Award, the 2010 Columbia Choice Award, the 2010-2013 Free Times Best of Columbia – Best New Green Business and the 2010 Farm City Award – Richland County, and 2015 Green Business of the Year award from the Environmental Education Association of South Carolina. After spending a couple of hours with them, I know why!

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Sep 15, 2016

Lydia Ryall raises fifteen acres of vegetables at Cropthorne Farm, located on a small farming island where the Frasier river meets the Pacific ocean, just twelve miles outside of Vancouver, British Columbia. $600,000 of produce is marketed through three farmers markets and a CSA, as well as through wholesale accounts and a farmstand on the property.

A third-generation farmer (and maybe more), Lydia farms on a fifty-acre property owned by her family. In addition to her operation, family members raise flowers, grains, and eggs in two additional businesses operating on the same piece of land. Lydia also hires family members as part of her operation. We discuss the nitty-gritty of how they’ve made this work, including their experience bringing in outside help to work on the details of their business agreements and how they can better work together.

Named the British Columbia and Yukon Outstanding Young Farmer for 2014 http://www.oyfbc.com/recipients.html, Lydia has operated her farm since 2009. Her depth of experience and business and horticultural acumen are apparent as we discuss the ways she has mitigated the heavy clay soils in her wet climate, the challenges and opportunities of the recent addition of migrant workers to her farm crew, the changes a new baby has brought to the farm and how she prepared to accommodate those changes, winter roots storage and ongoing harvest, the tools she uses to track harvest, packing, and sales, and more.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Sep 8, 2016

Jim Gerritsen of Wood Prairie Family Farm in Aroostook County, Maine, is not just a potato farmer; he’s a potato artist. Wood Prairie Farm provides certified organic seed potatoes and other products to customers around the country through their mail order catalog. Certified organic since 1982, Wood Prairie Family Farm has 40 acres in production, with ten or twelve of those acres in seed potatoes each year.

After an orientation to the history of Wood Prairie Farm and the potato culture of Aroostook County, we dig into the whys and the how’s of growing a great crop of from seed warming and green sprouting through weed control to harvest. We also discuss the ins and outs of producing Maine-certified potato seed. Jim is an observant and specific farmer and marketer, and really brings out the details of what goes into bumper yields and high quality spuds.

Named by the editors of the Utne Reader to the magazine’s 2011 list of 25 “People Who Are Changing the World,” Jim is also one of those organic farmers who spends a large part of his time serving the community. Jim is the president of the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, and has served for more than twenty years on the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association certification committee, along with about a dozen other roles that he has played in the organic farming movement.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Sep 1, 2016

Paul Underhill is a partner in Terra Firma Farm, where he manages crop production on 220 acres in the southern Sacramento Valley. Terra Firma Farm raises certified organic vegetables year-round, as well as fruit and nuts, which they sell through a 1200-member CSA in Sacramento, Davis, and San Francisco, as well as through retailers, wholesalers, and restaurant accounts.

Paul gives us a look into operating at scale, including the logistics of a thousand-member CSA. We also get a peek at the equipment he’s found useful at this scale, including a relatively inexpensive GPS system, multiple-bed equipment, and low-tech harvest tools.

Terra Firma Farm has been around since the 1980s, and Paul tells us about the many changes to California’s food and agriculture scene, and the impact those have had on Terra Firma’s employment practices, equipment-acquisition opportunities, CSA program, and food safety practices. Paul also shares the story of how he became a partner at Terra Firma Farm, and how they make their partnership work.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Aug 25, 2016

Stephanie Spock raises two acres of vegetables and a whole lot of mushrooms at Rolling Hills Farm in Lambertville, New Jersey. She and her partner, John Squicciarino, gross about $165,000 with sales to a 200-member CSA, two farmers markets, and a smattering of wholesale accounts.

Stephanie digs into the inner workings of Rolling Hills’ mushroom operation, including the challenges and rewards of integrating that into a vegetable farm. We discuss some barriers to achieving profitability in the mushroom business, how they converted an old barn into a production facility, and the fickle business of mushroom grow kits.

We also discuss the ways they’ve modified the popular permanent-bed system to fit the needs of their operation and the heavy clay soil they farm on.

The Rolling Hills Farm CSA distributes vegetables through a market-style pickup and a points system, and Stephanie shares the nuts and bolts of how that works, from distribution through crop planning.

Stephanie also shares some details about their land rental situation, and how she and John work to keep the relationship with their landlords positive and mutually rewarding. And we learn about how Stephanie has managed Lyme Disease as a young farmer.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Aug 18, 2016

Don Lareau raises about four acres of certified organic flowers at Zephyros Farm and Garden in Paonia, Colorado (in addition to an acre of vegetables, plus fruit trees and pasture). He and his wife, Daphne Yannakakis, emphasize quality flowers and exquisite design to cater to florists and farmers markets in the resort communities of Telluride and Aspen.

Don digs into how Zephyros gets excellent visual quality and shelf-life without the preservatives that most flower growers use, as well as how they market their certified organic flowers. Don shares some tips and techniques for maximizing sales to florists, as well as the nuts and bolts of how they set up and run their farmers market stand to generate a buzz that really helps them move their blooms.

We get into the challenges and advantages of producing flowers in the desert western slope of the Colorado Rockies.

Don and Daphne have a strong emphasis on design, and Don describes the ways they have worked to maximize the results they get from their design work, from training employees in the art of flower design to the business structures and marketing processes they’ve implemented.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Aug 11, 2016

Daniel Allen raises fifteen acres of vegetables at Allenbrooke Farms, just outside of Nashville, Tennessee. He and his wife, Stephanie, market all of their produce to 367 families through their free-choice, market-style CSA.

While many farmers are intensely focused on maximized dollars per acre, Daniel has taken a perpendicular approach, grossing just $200,000 on Allenbrooke’s fifteen acres of vegetable production – but he does that with no season extension, and just one hired hand.

Daniel digs into the details of production and distribution at Allenbrooke Farms, and how the free-choice distribution system enables them to maximize efficiency and minimize complexity in the production side of the operation. We get into the details of their rapid harvest system, simple-but-effective production systems, weed management, and how Daniel keeps his mind and body in condition during the production- and off-seasons.

He also shares the colorful history of his farming operation, where he and Stephanie jumped in with both feet and sold their car to pay for seeds in 2011, their first year in production. And we hear just a little about Daniel’s career as a high-fashion model in New York City before coming back to the family farm.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Aug 4, 2016

Conor Crickmore grosses a little over $350,000 on just over one-and-a-half acres in Claryville, New York, with his wife, Kate. Marketing through farmers markets and restaurant sales, Neversink Farm has developed a reputation for meticulous, thoughtful, and simple production.

Conor shares the history of Neversink Farm, including how he simplified production and marketing and increased his income at the same time. We discuss how he and Kate found the time to make decisions and improvements in the hectic and critical early years, and the whys behind the choices and investments they made.

We dig into the details of Neversink’s no-tractor production system, and why they’ve eschewed tillage, plastic, and more. Conor tells us the details about how they’ve made everything from weed control and irrigation to harvest and washing the produce easier, and how they relay that information to their employees.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Jul 28, 2016

Kristen Kordet farms seven acres of vegetables at Blue Moon Community Farm in Stoughton, Wisconsin. Located just outside of Madison, Blue Moon Community Farm markets through hyper-local CSA, as well as a farmers market in the city.

Kristen shares how she leveraged the organic certification process and the birth of her son to create systems that improved employee engagement to contribute to the farm’s success. And we discuss how her work schedule has evolved to support a sane and full life beyond the confines of the vegetable fields.

We also get into the history of the farm, including Kristen’s decision to take on debt and transition to full-time farming, and how Blue Moon’s market developed and matured with the farm. Kristen tells us about the market-style, on-farm pickup that has helped her increase customer loyalty and make her farm irreplaceable in the highly competitive CSA market in Madison. Plus, Kristen shares her experience with a challenging Canada thistle infestation on her farm.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Jul 21, 2016

Mark Cain owns Dripping Springs Garden with his partner, Michael Crane. Located in northwestern Arkansas, Dripping Springs has about four acres in production, with half of that in cut flowers. Most of the flowers are sold at the Fayetteville Farmers Market, while the vegetables are sold primarily to local retailers and through a small CSA program.

Mark shares the story of how Dripping Springs built the market for local, organic flowers, and how they continue to maintain a strong market presence in the face of increasing competition. We dig into the wedding market, practical farmers market strategies, pricing, and how to produce a high quality cut flower.

We also hear about Mark’s journey to starting Dripping Springs in 1984, including his encounters with some of the giant thinkers of sustainable agriculture in the early 1980s. And we dig into how Dripping Springs manages to farm on steep hillsides with a minimum of erosion and a maximum of water harvesting, as well as the well-respected internship program at the farm.

Mark also tells us about the work structures that they’ve put in place to maintain a vibrant quality of life more than thirty years into the farm.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Jul 14, 2016

Jack Hedin owns Featherstone Farm in Rushford, Minnesota. Farming 132 acres of certified organic vegetables (out of 250 total planted acres), Featherstone Farm provides around two million dollars of produce directly to stores, restaurants, and distributors in Minnesota’s Twin Cities, to a produce warehouse in Chicago, and 900-plus summer CSA shares – in addition to seasonal add-ons.

Featherstone Farm got its start twenty years ago on 5 acres in a narrow valley in the bluff country of southeast Minnesota, before devastating floods and continuing growth pushed the farm to relocate to flatter ground in the midst of an industrial park. Jack shares his lessons learned about land selection and farm location, from soil conditions and airflow to logistics and transportation. We delve into Featherstone Farm’s distribution system, which includes using hired semi-trailers to move produce one hundred miles from the farm to the Twin Cities, and a fleet of their own trucks and cross-docking arrangements to get the produce to the final customer.

Jack also shares how, after years of running the farm on intuition and duct-tape, they worked to create systems to run the farm. We get into the nuts and bolts of how Featherstone Farm has structured and documented standard operating procedures, policies, and goals to make the farm work, and the paper-based systems they use to manage day-to-day operations.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Jul 7, 2016

John Navazio manages the plant breeding program at Johnny’s Selected Seeds in Albion, Maine.

John takes us on a seedy tour of the early days of organic and local vegetable production, and his journey into the world of variety selection, horizontal disease resistance, participatory plant breeding, and why quality seed and quality varietal maintenance matters for every farmer.

We dig into the modern history of hybrids, why open-pollinated crops can be a competitive alternative,  and why some of your favorite hybrid varieties just up and disappear – as well as why some of your favorite open-pollinated varieties devolve over time, while others just get better.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Jun 30, 2016

Ali and Dan Haney own Shenandoah Seasonal, two-and-a-half acres of vegetables and 400 laying hens in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. Now in their fifth year of running the farm, Ali and Dan sell their produce through three farmers markets and a modest CSA program.

Ali and Dan share their story, from their work as social workers in Cambodia to their struggles finding suitable land after moving back to Virginia. We dig into their salad production system, how they’ve developed an egg production system that really works, how Dan and Ali have made their investment decisions as the farm’s internal economics evolved, and the consequences of cutting off your dreadlocks.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Jun 23, 2016

Jen Campbell raises two acres of vegetables on Canada’s Prince Edward Island at Jen and Derek’s Organic Farm. She sells about $80,000 of certified organic vegetables per year primarily through a 90-member CSA, as well as to a retail store and a wholesale distributor.

Jen has been farming on Prince Edward Island since 2006, and she tells the story of growing her farm from a part-time operation to a full-time income. We talk about how she made the leap to full-time farming, including the decision she and Derek made to have Jen focus on the farm while Derek works off the farm. Jen also provides an honest look at her experience of having twins early in her full-time farming career, how she managed that in the early years, and the decisions she made around childcare and schooling.

Prince Edward Island is potato country, and Jen and Derek’s Organic Farm is located in one corner of a conventional potato farm. Jen shares the social and cultural strategies she follows to maintain the integrity of her organic crops, and how she fits into the community of conventional potato growers on the island. We also touch on her participation in a winter CSA program, including how to harvest roots on a small scale and the economics of winter storage, tractor farming on two acres, and how she’s adapted the food safety practices of her conventional, large-scale neighbors to her own operation.

Jen’s the real deal – I hope you enjoy getting to know her. I know I did.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Jun 16, 2016

Nate Parks raises twenty acres of vegetables at Silverthorn Farm in west-central Indiana, and sells his produce to restaurants, a custom-packed CSA program, and at an on-farm store.

We dig into the nuts and bolts of how Silverthorn Farm works, with particular attention to how Nate has used the scale of his operation to break into the restaurant market in Indianapolis. Nate also describes the system Silverthorn Farm uses to manage his unique on-line ordering system that allows members to pick what they want, when they want it. Nate also shines a light on the strategy he’s used to scale up and equip his farm, and how he’s leveraged employee involvement to do more with his farm than he could have done on his own – while creating a work environment with excellent retention.

Along the way, Nate shares the story of getting his start as a pumpkin farmer, losing everything in the housing crisis, and rebuilding the farm. It’s a touching and empowering story.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Jun 9, 2016

Janet Czarnecki raises five acres of vegetables, flowers, and fruit at Redwood Roots Farm on the northern California coast, just outside of Arcata. Almost all of her produce is sold through her CSA, with the remainder sold through her on-farm farmstand.

Janet shares how she has developed a year-round CSA farm serving 160 shareholders in the summer with pickup on the farm, and a u-pick winter CSA program that has her customers out in the mud harvesting their own vegetables in the mild but rainy coastal climate. Her summer CSA also includes a u-pick component, and Janet gets into the details of how that works, as well.

Janet puts significant effort into creating reciprocal relationships with her customers, her employees, and her community. We discuss how she has worked with her CSA members to finance the farm and infrastructure, how she uses a structured give-and-take with her employees to encourage them to engage in the farm, and how she manages a significant engagement with her local community through food banks and community education.

We also discuss how she manages a completely off-the-grid operation, her minimally mechanized production systems, and how she co-exists with the symphylans on her farm.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Jun 2, 2016

Allen Philo is the specialty crops consultant for Midwestern BioAg, a biological fertilizer company in Blue Mounds, Wisconsin, where he works with fruit and vegetable growers around the country to help them develop approaches to optimizing soil conditions for plant growth. He also runs a pasture-based livestock farm north of Dodgeville, Wisconsin.

Allen was one of the first guests on the Farmer to Farmer Podcast, and I’ve had request after request to bring him back.

Allen digs into cover cropping, from the biology and theory behind it to the nuts and bolts about how to make it work on the farm. We discuss how cover crops work to get sugar-rich calories into the soil to feed the microbes, and how you can use cover crops to create microclimates to break down crop residues. Allen shares nuts-and-bolts details how he and his clients have used cover crops to disrupt pest cycles, reduce pest and disease pressure through rapid biological cycling, and control annual and perennial weeds.

We also discuss the tools and techniques that Allen recommends for managing cover crops, from establishing a strong stand to managing the resulting mass of vegetation. Cover crop selection, practical approaches to cover crop blends, and using cover crops to manage the pre-harvest interval for manure applications are also on the table.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

May 26, 2016

Matt Herbruck has lived two farming lives: one in down east Maine, and another in northeast Ohio. After 21 years of farming, he currently owns and operates Birdsong Farm in Hiram Township, Ohio, with twelve acres of vegetables and cut flowers sold through four farmers markets and a small CSA.

Matt shares the story of moving his farm from Maine to Ohio, and we talk about the sometimes radical differences in the two markets, climates, and soils, and how Matt managed the transition from the coast to the middle of the country – as well as personal transitions that coincided with the move. Matt tells the story of breaking into markets in both locations, including how he has engaged with start-up farmers markets to create a winning situation for both the market and for his farm.

We dig into Matt’s tricks for setting up a great farmers market stand and produce display, managing greens and root crops through the hot Ohio summers, juggling the expectations of family and farming, and the ephemeral nature of seemingly permanent decisions and situations.

When Matt’s employee, Dave, recommended Matt for the show, I didn’t remember that Matt and I had known each other when we were both farming on the coast of Maine. But once I made the connection, I remembered his flat-bed truck and his infectious smile. And while the flat-bed truck is history, I enjoyed hearing his smile and the joy he has retained through all of the years and all of the challenges. I hope you’ll enjoy it, too.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

May 19, 2016

Peter Seeley and his wife, Bernadette, began farming at Springdale Farm in 1988, at the dawn of the CSA movement in the Upper Midwest. Over 25 years, the farm has expanded to twenty acres and 800 CSA shares, plus thirteen greenhouses and five children, not far from Lake Michigan in Plymouth, Wisconsin.

Peter tells the story of Springdale Farm’s founding and growth, and how he and Bernadette navigated the challenges of the new CSA market, including the reasoning behind their decisions about core groups and distribution models that were different from most CSAs operating in 1988. We learn how Peter has met the challenges of farming in extremely rocky soils head on, including the strategies he’s developed for machinery and fertility to succeed in a challenging environment. And, Peter shares the farm’s strategies for managing four season production and storage, including the very low-tech way they got started.

Springdale Farm has worked hard from the start to provide an alternative to fossil fuels for powering the farm, and Peter shares what they’ve learned about outdoor wood boilers and electric tractors and carts.

Along the way, Peter consistently shares the passion he brings to his farm and his life. And he even brings Marx, Hegel, and Plato into the conversation.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

May 12, 2016

Shawn Jadrnicek manages the Clemson Student Organic Farm at Clemson University. Six acres of produce serves a one hundred-share CSA, wholesale markets, and a farmers market, in addition to providing a home for graduate student research.

Shawn is also the author of the new book, The Bio-Integrated Farm, a twenty-first century manual for enhancing farms with practical, permaculture-based design elements. Shawn shares his experience with and insights into the creating optimum farm layouts, including road placement and bed structure, creating drainage patterns that enhance the farm’s biological functioning, and using ponds to increase light and heat in the greenhouse. We also dig into the Clemson Student Organic Farm’s other strategies for temperature management in the greenhouse, including supplementing greenhouse heat with external compost piles.

We also explore the Clemson Student Organic Farm’s strategies for weed control and soil health, including the use of crimped cover crop no-till and additional mulch materials to create season-long weed control, and cover cropping on raised beds. And Shawn shares how he has structured the CSA to function in a campus environment, managing customer needs as well as adapting to a high-turnover, low-work-hours student labor force. Plus, we get a great tutorial on gopher control.

I learned a lot from this interview, and enjoyed the ways that Shawn talks about big ideas and practical details. I hope you enjoy it, too!

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

May 5, 2016

Jeremy Mueller and his wife, Ashli, operate Excelsior Farm, just outside of Eugene, Oregon. Together they raise produce for restaurant sales, retail grocers, and a small CSA to make a modest living on less than two acres. Jeremy and Ashli are starting their fourth year at Excelsior with the recent birth of their daughter.

Jeremy shares the story of how he got started with Excelsior Farm, which is owned by the owner of Eugene’s Excelsior Restaurant. We get into how he has worked with the scale that’s available to him, using a small tractor to keep up with bed preparation and weed control. Jeremy and Ashli have a reputation for achieving excellent weed control and working efficiently, and Jeremy tells us about some of his favorite tools and adaptations for minimizing labor while maximizing production.

We also delve into the challenges of getting started in the already crowded local foods scene of Eugene, including evolving choices about markets and product configuration that have helped them to grow their business.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Apr 28, 2016

Laura Frerichs owns and operates Loon Organics with her husband, Adam Cullip, in Hutchinson, Minnesota. Loon Organics grosses $200,000 on 8 acres of produce and 10,000 square feet of high tunnels, providing for a CSA, local retailers, farm-to-table restaurants, and the Mill City Farmers Market in Minneapolis.  Six employees keep the farm humming and beautiful.

Laura and Adam started farming at their current location in 2009, after several years incubating at Gardens of Eagan in Farmington, Minnesota, and several years before that of working on farms of different scales around the country and the world. Laura shares her experience as an incubatee, including the investment and business growth strategies Loon Organics used to provide a running start once they landed on their own place.

Laura also shares her experience farming with children, and how that prompted her and Adam to invest in improving their quality of life by improving their utilization of employees. We dig into some of the practical aspects of employee delegation at all levels. We also talk marketing, electric tractors, post-harvest handling, and growing broccoli all year.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Apr 21, 2016

Rachel Armstrong founded the nonprofit Farm Commons, a legal resource for sustainability-minded farmers, in 2012. And Cassie Noltnerwyss owns Crossroads Community Farm in Cross Plains, Wisconsin. And they’ve both joined me for this episode to talk about the legal side of employees and other workers on the farm.

Rachel started her career working on farms and in community gardens before she transitioned into doing nonprofit and advocacy work for sustainable agriculture. She decided to go to law school when she realized that the resources didn’t exist to answer the kinds of questions small-scale and local growers were asking. Today, Farm Commons offers a variety of legal resources for farmers, from land use and business transfer to employment and contract law.

Cassie owns Crossroads Community Farm with her husband, Mike. They raise about 20 acres of vegetables, sold through a CSA, farmers market, and wholesale to grocery and restaurants in nearby Madison. Now in their twelfth year of business, Crossroads has up to ten full-time employees at the peak of the season. While Cassie doesn’t have any formal business or law training, she had learned a lot along the way as the business has developed and grown.

Together, Rachel and Cassie dig into the nitty-gritty parts of the legal side of having employees on the farm. We take a look at contractors versus employees, managing volunteers, workers compensation, minimum wage, overtime, navigating federal and state laws, payroll taxes, unemployment insurance, and more.


The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Apr 14, 2016

Brenton Johnson started growing vegetables in his backyard in Austin, and then his front yard, and then he started selling them, and then he moved to a larger acreage, and then to an even larger acreage at his current location fifteen miles east of Austin, Texas. Johnson’s Backyard Garden is a little bit bigger now, with 150 acres of vegetables and over 100 employees – and all of this since he first started selling vegetables in 2006.

Brenton shares the hows and whys of growing Johnson’s Backyard Garden, and we take a look at the organization behind his custom-box CSA, farmers market sales, and crop management, as well as irrigation and the use of storage facilities to extend the season into the hot Texas summer. Johnson’s Backyard Garden also has a reputation as a marketing powerhouse, and we get into how Brenton has built the JBG brand.

We also discuss Brenton’s approach to the entrepreneurial aspects of farming, and how Brenton has managed the fast pace of change in his business.


The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Apr 7, 2016

Eliot Coleman raises about an acre-and-a-half of vegetables in Harborside, Maine, with his wife, Barbara Damrosch. With over 40 years of experience in all aspects of organic farming, Eliot is widely recognized as a pioneer in the world of organic market farming, especially when it comes to producing crops year-round in the northern tier of the United States. He is the author of the bible of organic market farming, The New Organic Grower, as well as the Winter Harvest Handbook.

Eliot shares his farming history in this episode, including the ways that farming in Maine has influenced his approach to farming, and how trying to make Maine soil resemble Iowa soils has led him to develop the skills of observation that have served him so well in the development of his farm. Along the way, we get into picking rocks, marketing, plant-positive pest control, and Eliot’s views on organic hydroponics.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Mar 30, 2016

Mike Bollinger raises about three acres of outdoor vegetables and a half acre under cover just inside the city limits of the small town of Decorah, Iowa, with his wife, Katie Prochaska. River Root Farm serves grocery stores and restaurants in its local market in Decorah, as well as in surrounding small cities and Minnesota’s Twin Cities. Enterprises at River Root Farm range from microgreens and transplants to fresh herbs and four-season salad greens.

Mike and Katie have worked hard to adapt to the marketplace in rural Northeast Iowa as they slowly laid the groundwork for their farm. They’ve found ways of making a living on the farm that didn’t put them into direct competition with an already crowded market farming scene in Northeast Iowa. We dig into how they’ve gone about testing markets and products to limit risk and maximize potential as they grew the business to a point where they could make the leap into both farming full time.

We dive deep into the details of how they’ve made the logistics work for co-shipping and cross-docking their product by adapting to the distribution system around them., discuss some of the finer points of producing transplants for sale to grocery stores and other retailers, and look at how River Root Farm harvests and handles their microgreens.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Mar 24, 2016

47th Avenue Farm’s Laura Masterson started her farm on a double lot in a residential neighborhood of Portland, Oregon, twenty years ago. The farm expanded to many different plots of land, then consolidated; now, Laura farms about 20 acres of vegetables on land on two main parcels in the Portland  suburbs, providing a year-round CSA to over 200 families and produce to restaurants in the Portland Metro area.

Laura’s commitment to the triple bottom line is apparent as we talk about Laura’s work in government and with non-profit organizations, her plantings of beneficial insect habitat on her farm, her weed control strategies, and record-keeping’s roll on her farm for making management decisions.

47th Avenue Farm was one of the first in the Portland area to move away from the internship labor model to providing full-time, year-round employment opportunities, and Laura goes in depth with how she has worked with her farm manager to create an open and encouraging work environment.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Mar 17, 2016

Curtis Stone raises $100,000 of vegetable on just a third of an acre at Green City Acres in Kelowna, British Columbia. He’s also the author of The Urban Farmer, an excellent text on growing food for profit on leased and borrowed land. Curtis came out of a career as a musician and tree planter to start his urban farming venture, and he’s adapted the lessons he learned on the road and in the mountains to his farming career.

Oh, and he actually shrunk his farm in order to make more money! By focusing on the Pareto Principle – also known as the 80-20 rule – Curtis puts his attention on the right customers, the right crops, and the right techniques to maximize the output and the profits from his tiny acreage.

Curtis shares his tips for controlling weeds before you plant a crop, capturing and organizing information effectively, marketing at farmers markets and to restaurants, and how to structure your farm to better serve yourself and your markets.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Mar 10, 2016

Dru Rivers began farming in 1983 with her partner, Paul Muller, in Northern California’s Capay Valley. Since that time, Full Belly Farm has grown to over 200 acres of vegetables, with still more acreage devoted to flowers, animals, fruits, nuts, and even grains. They’ve recently ventured into value-added products, as well. All of this is marketed to farmers markets, CSA customers, and wholesale customers in the Bay Area, Davis, and Sacramento.

Full Belly Farm has also grown in the number of people – and not just their intern program or their employees, although we dig into how Full Belly has created a renowned and very successful internship program and an environment that fosters fantastic employee retention. Full Belly’s ownership has also grown, with an early partnership with Judith Redmond and Andrew Brait, as well as a more recent expansion to include some of Dru and Paul’s children. Dru shares about why their partnership has worked, the return of all four of her children to the farm, managing a wide diversity of enterprises, and the renowned Hoes Down Harvest Festival.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Mar 3, 2016

Emily Oakley owns and operates Three Springs Farm in Oaks, Oklahoma, with her husband, Mike Appel. Since 2003, they’ve sold their organic vegetables through a CSA and at a farmers market. They’ve chosen to keep their farm small, not just in acres but also in overall production, substituting tractors and equipment for labor on their three acres of vegetable production where they gross about $80,000 per year, with a net of well over half of that.

We talk about their choice to limit their acres, their work hours, and their growing season, and get into the way that their farm changed when their child was born three years ago.

With its unpredictable weather and biblical pest outbreaks, Emily says that if you can farm in Oklahoma, you can farm anywhere, so we also dig into how Three Springs Farm manages uncertainty and risk both in the field and in its business management processes.

Emily was also recently appointed to the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), and she shares her perspective on organic certification and community service.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Feb 25, 2016

Jane Hawley Stevens raises certified organic medicinal herbs on her farm in North Freedom, Wisconsin, and turns them into creams, lip balms, and salves  that are sold nationwide. With about five acres in production, Four Elements Herbals produces a wide variety of annual and perennial medicinals in the Baraboo Bluffs of Wisconsin.

We dig into medicinal herb production and post-harvest handling, meeting FDA regulations for processing and for selling herbal products, and how Jane has grown the Four Elements Herbal brand in the market place.

Four Elements Herbals recently used a Value-Added Producer Grant to support the expansion of their product line, which in turn drove significant growth in the business overall. Jane shares her experiences managing growth and moving into a national market, as well as how she has passed the field production torch to a new generation and the ways that her job has changed as her business has grown.

We also learn the meaning of the word, “garble.”

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Feb 18, 2016

Erich Schultz owns and operates Steadfast Farm, a certified organic farm in the heart of a suburban community on the outskirts of Phoenix, Arizona. With 3 acres of vegetables, over six acres of orchard, and a passel of livestock, Steadfast Farm is the neighborhood amenity in the Agritopia development – an alternative to the golf courses and swimming pools that often anchor suburban developments.

Steadfast Farm sells produce through restaurants in the neighborhood and around Phoenix, through a farmstand, at farmers markets, and through a CSA.

Farming in suburbia comes with its own challenges, as does farming in the desert Southwest, and Erich fills us on the ways he has made the most of both. We discuss how he’s leveraged his neighborhood for marketing, how he manages irrigation, the evolution of Steadfast Farm’s livestock rotation, and how he has moved away from the intensive mechanization he started with.

We also get into the details of the arrangement Erich has with the developers and owners of the farmland, and how the neighborhood has managed some of the complications of having an urban farm.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Feb 11, 2016

Patrice Gros farms on just a half an acre of beds in northern Arkansas without ever tilling the soil. And while it sounds like gardening, he’s definitely farming, grossing $80,000 a year from the crops he grows. Founded in 2006, Foundation Farm builds on ten years of experimentation with various methods for growing organic vegetables, and markets produce through farmers markets, retail stores, and a small CSA.

It’s worth noting that Patrice keeps a pretty sharp pencil, and rakes in a 70% profit margin doing all of his farming in just three mornings a week with a small crew. And I do want to emphasize, the no-till farming that Patrice does isn’t just an occasional no-till crop here and there. He doesn’t own a tractor or a tiller, and doesn’t even use a broadfork on his soils.

We dig in to – or rake in to – the details of how he manages his system, from scheduling and weed control to fertility management. Along the way, we explore how Patrice has planned his farming operation around his family’s needs, how he evaluates crop profitability, and his efforts to balance productivity and quality of life with his employees.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Feb 4, 2016

At Bluebird Gardens in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, Mark Boen farms 320 acres with his wife, Diane, and a crew of ten employees. Starting with six acres in 1978 selling produce at a farmstand, they grew Bluebird Gardens to over 2,000 CSA members and 80 drop sites in far northwestern Minnesota and the Fargo/Moorhead metro

Mark is an enthusiastic farmer, and his zeal for the craft shows when he shares how he has transitioned the farm to include a year-on, year-off rotation of cover crops and vegetables. We get into the nuts and bolts of the Bluebird Gardens cover crop system, including the challenges, planning techniques, and the tools he’s using to establish and manage the cover crops.

Bluebird gardens is also in the midst of a marketing transition, and we delve into the changes Mark is making to make his food accessible to a wider swath of the population than just the customers who are able to make CSA work for their lifestyle. Plans include marketing Bluebird Gardens produce in local grocery stores and increasing agritourism opportunities.

We also get into some of the harvest mechanization Mark has used to manage so many vegetables with a small staff, as well as irrigation and crop planning.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company

Jan 28, 2016

John Biernbaum is a professor in the Department of Horticulture at Michigan State University. He has spent most of his career working with farmers to develop practical solutions to the challenges faced by small-scale organic farmers, with research into high tunnels, compost production, organic transplants, intensive vegetable production, and organic soil management.

We dig into the economics and practicalities of worm compost, including methods for low-input, low-energy worm composting through the winter. And we take a look at how farmers can do a better job of transplant production by optimizing the greenhouse environment and developing a transplant production action plan.

I’ve worked with John in a variety of capacities for about fifteen years now, and I am always impressed with the practical, farmer-focused approach he takes to research and teaching.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Jan 21, 2016

Dan Brisebois was a founding member of Tourne-Sol Cooperative Farm, begun in 2004. Located just outside of Montreal, Quebec, Tourne-Sol is an employee-owned cooperative with five members, engaged in about seven acres of vegetable and vegetable seed production.

Dan provides an eye-opening discussion of his experience as part of a cooperative farming venture, including their use of Holistic Management to guide decision-making with regards to both profitability and quality of life. We dig into some of the logistical details of how the Tourne-Sol farmers plan their business and divide responsibilities, as well as how they make operational decisions together and how they assign leadership responsibilities. And, Dan lets us in on the ways that being part of a co-op allows them to work less than many of the farmers  they know, both day-to-day and seasonally.

Dan manages garlic and seed production at Tourne Sol, and we discuss the details of seed selection and processing, as well as the planning and cropping adjustments that seed production requires. We also spend some time discussing crop planning on the vegetable farm, as Dan is a co-author of Crop Planning for Organic Vegetable Growers.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Jan 14, 2016

Mark Shepard’s New Forest Farm, in Viola, Wisconsin, isn’t your average farm. After twenty-one years of an intentional conversion from 106 acres of corn, beans, and overgrazed pasture to a chestnut, hazelnut, and apple mimic of the oak savannah, New Forest Farm presents an alternative to just about every way of thinking about agriculture that you’ll find out there. Mark, the author of Restoration Agriculture, is not just a nuts and fruits guy: he used the cash flow from his low-input vegetable operation to boot strap his longer-term plantings.

In addition to getting into some of the basics of Mark’s approach to creating a permanent agriculture, we dig into his personal history, how he came to his farm in southwest Wisconsin, issues of scale and finance, and how Mark managed his vegetable operation during the startup of his perennial polyculture. We also spend some time talking about how to take some of Mark’s ideas and apply them to a more conventional market farming setup.

I’ve had the good fortune to work with Mark in various capacities for over fifteen years now, and I’ve been to his farm a few times over the years, and I can tell you, it’s a pretty cool place. And Mark’s got some ways of looking at things that will likely challenge at least a few of the ways you’re looking at your farm and the whole farm and food system.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Jan 7, 2016

Boggy Creek Farm got it its start in 1991 selling produce at a farm stand in Austin, Texas – and to the original Whole Foods Market, which also there in Austin. Now with two farms – one in Gause, a little over an hour outside of Austin, and one just 2.5 miles from the state capital in the heart of Austin – my guest, Carol Ann Sayle, and her husband and farming partner, Larry Butler, sell their fresh produce and value added products – including smoke-dried tomatoes that have had my mouth watering since I first read about them in a Growing for Market article many, many years ago – at the farm stand on their farm in Austin. Carol Ann shares the story of Boggy Creek Farm’s start, how she and Larry manage the challenges and reap the rewards of having two farms over an hour apart, pricing strategies, and the nitty gritty of growing year-round in Texas.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Dec 31, 2015

Don Zasada and Bridget Spann own and operate Caretaker Farm in western Massachusetts, where they raise vegetables for 275 CSA families. Caretaker Farm got its start in 1969 when Sam and Elizabeth Smith purchased the land. They started the CSA in 1991, and Don and Bridget came to the farm in 2004, eventually transferring ownership through a land trust and lease arrangement. We dig into Caretaker Farm’s relationship to its members, and how Don and Bridget arrange things so that members do more than just picking up their vegetables, as well as how Don and Bridget have structured their own relationship to the farm and the apprentices to enhance the farm’s sustainability, profitability, and quality of life.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Dec 24, 2015

When today’s guest Leslie Cooperband, and her husband, Wes Jarrell, started Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery in 2005, they didn’t expect the goat dairy and creamery to become the primary driver of the farm. Located just outside of Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, Prairie Fruits Farm and Creamery has over seventy milking does providing the basis for their goat cheese and gelato business, which they run in addition to a vigorous on- farm dinner enterprise. We discuss the history of the farm and its various production and marketing enterprises, including market development, how Leslie and Wes navigated the regulatory landscape in a state that lacked farmstead creameries, and how the farm has grown and changed to meet the realities of the farm economy while staying true to its principles - and we dig into the nuts and bolts of the record-keeping Prairie Fruits uses to keep on top of the profitability of various enterprises and market outlets, including on-farm sales, farmers markets, CSA, and wholesale sales.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Dec 17, 2015

Elizabeth Henderson was a founder of Peacework Organic CSA, one of the oldest CSAs in the United States, where she farmed for over thirty years. She is also the author of the definitive work on CSA farming, Sharing the Harvest . And she has been involved in any number of other initiatives in the food movement, from shaping the National Organic Foods Production Act,  to her work with the Agricultural Justice Project. In this movement, especially in the Northeastern United States, it can be hard to turn anywhere without seeing Elizabeth’s handprints – and indeed, this is true around the country and even internationally.. When we recorded this interview, she had just returned from the sixth gathering of Urgenci, the International Network for Community Supported Agriculture, which took place in Beijing, China, this year. Elizabeth reflects on the shape and texture of the international CSA movement and the resurgence of small-scale organic farming in China, and we dig into the mechanics of how her CSA farm accommodated having members and children as part of the harvest activities, the farm’s transition to new partners, and the farm’s relationship to the Genesee Land Trust.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Dec 10, 2015

Sophia Kruszewski leads the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s work on food safety, and has put a ton of time and effort into the FDA’s new rules under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The final version of the produce rule was just rolled out by the FDA, so we take the time to dig into who and what is covered under the rule, how the exemptions work, and the highlights of the major provisions of the rules – including some of the important victories we achieved in the proposal and revision process, and where work remains to be done.

Sophia does a great job of putting the Food Safety Modernization Act Produce Rule in context, especially where we’re at and what happens between now and the point when non-exempt farms have to come into compliance.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Dec 3, 2015

Dru and Adam Montri raise vegetables in 6 large high tunnels and on 3 acres outdoors at Ten Hens Farm in Bath, Michigan, just outside of Lansing. They also both work off farm in jobs related to farming – Dru as the Executive Director of the Michigan Farmers Market Association, and Adam as the Hoophouse Outreach Specialist at Michigan State University’s Center for Regional Farm Systems. In this wide-ranging discussion, Dru, Adam, and I talk about how they balance their off-farm jobs with a farming operation that could easily keep them employed full time, including their strategies for managing employees and their relationship with each other. We also dig into the nuts and bolts of selling to restaurants and how they grew with, and helped to grow that market in their area; dig into winter production and the high tunnel they use for a packing shed; and Dru’s experiences as a woman farmer and agricultural activist.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Nov 26, 2015

Valley Flora’s Zoe Bradbury grew up on the family homestead in southern Oregon, just a few miles from the Pacific Ocean. She left at sixteen and came back many years later to a farm where her mother and sister had started growing and selling vegetables. Many years later, Valley Flora feeds over 100 CSA members and provides produce to dozens of restaurants and stores in the 50-mile radius around their farming collective, as well as a farmstand and u-pick operation on the farm. We discuss how she, her sister, and her mother have integrated the troublemaker of the family into the existing farming ventures, including the nuts and bolts of how the three separate farming operations cooperate to market together and share resources. Zoe shares her experience about the joys and challenges of farming with children, integrating horses into the operation, marketing in a rural environment, and living off the farm.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Nov 19, 2015

Andrea Hazzard grows and mills 30 acres of ancient and heirloom grains, from black beans and red corn to emmer, spelt, einkorn, and oats. Returning to her family farm, she originally began growing vegetables, but gravitated back to grains – with a twist on what her family and her neighbors are doing. We get into the nitty gritty of growing and handling specialty grains, and the differences between planning and marketing a shelf-stable product and planning and marketing vegetables. Along the way, we get into the challenges of working with a distributor, the joys of working with family, and the special demands of farming as a woman.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Nov 12, 2015

Jess and Brian Powers own and operate Working Hands Farm, with 4 acres of vegetables and a bunch of livestock just outside of Portland Oregon. In this episode, we talk about how the farm got started in 2009, the ways they’ve worked to evolve their CSA into something more sustainable for themselves and the farm, and the relationship they’ve developed and nurtured between themselves as the farm has grown. There’s a lot of great information in here about land access, working together as a couple, and the creation of a farm-centric, rather than a customer-centric, CSA operation, and Jess and Brian are two thoughtful, inspiring farmers who brought everything they’ve got to the show. Plus, how they met is a pretty darned cute love story.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Nov 5, 2015

Paul Dietmann is the Emerging Markets Specialist with Badgerland Financial, a member-owned rural lending cooperative and Farm Credit System institution serving southern Wisconsin. Paul has worked with farmers and farm financial issues for over twenty-five years, first as an extension agent, then as director of the Wisconsin Farm Center and Deputy Secretary of Agriculture for Wisconsin, and most recently in his role as a lender. He has woked with hundreds of farmers, helping them assess their farm financial situation. Paul is the co-author (with Chris!) of the book, Fearless Farm Finances: Farm Financial Management Demystified. We talk about common pitfalls of beginning farmers, strategies for getting on the land, profitability and cash flow, how to set up early-warning systems for your farm finances, and the guilt and shame that hamper our ability to deal with farm financial issues in a timely manner.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Oct 29, 2015

Ben Flanner raises over two acres of vegetables on two rooftop farms in New York. His Brooklyn Grange provides over 50,000 pounds of produce every year to restaurants, stores, farmers markets, and a 70-member CSA. We talk about the nuts and bolts of establishing a rooftop farming operation, the unique challenges of farming above the eleventh story, tools, distribution strategies, and how Brooklyn Grange has incorporated events hosting and outreach into its operation.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Oct 22, 2015

Steve Tomlinson manages Great Road Farm just four miles from downtown Princeton, New Jersey. Making its home on 112  acres, Great Road Farm has over seven acres in vegetable production in close partnership with Agricola restaurant in Princeton. A graduate of Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute, Steve worked for artists Christo and Jeane Claude to build an expansive installation titled “The Gates” in Central Park, and managed a warehouse before starting over working on farms after the 2008 financial crash. We talk about how Steve leveraged his background outside of agriculture into managing Great Road Farm, the joys and challenges of working for a farm that is owned by a restaurateur, and the nuts and bolts of working with the chefs and restaurant to meet their needs and the farm’s.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Oct 15, 2015

J.M. Fortier is the author of the award-winning book, The Market Gardener. At his farm in Quebec, J.M. and his wife raise 1 ½ acres of produce in permanent raised beds, grossing over $100,000 per acre. His biologically intensive farming practices have inspired readers around the world to imagine human-scale food systems, with a focus on intelligent farm design, appropriate technologies, and harnessing the power of soil biolog. We talk about how J.M. and his wife came to their farm in Quebec, how they developed their approach to farming, and get into the nitty gritty of farming practices at Les Jardin de la Grelinette, including the proper use of the broadfork, J.M.’s approach to record-keeping, minimum tillage, and where to find the best waves for surfing in Montreal.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Oct 8, 2015

Karl Hammer is the founder and president of Vermont Compost Company. Vermont Compost collects food waste and manure in central Vermont, and adds it to grass, tree bark, and chickens on the farm to create a compost that serves as the basis for potting soils that have created raving fans all over the United States. Karl is a font of knowledge about all things soil, plant, and long-eared equine, and we tap into just a corner of that here with the history of Vermont Compost Company from Karl’s start as a young boy shoveling manure in Vershire, Vermont to its modern-day national distribution, with plenty of detours into soil, society, and the potential for great compost to catalyze the recapture of carbon on farmland.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Oct 1, 2015

Clay Bottom Farm’s Ben Hartman is the author of The Lean Farm, a book on minimizing waste and increasing efficiency on the vegetable farm. He has farmed full time for the past ten years with his wife, Rachel, in Goshen, Indiana, where they’re both making a living on less than an acre of production, selling 90 percent of their produce within ten miles of the farm. Of course, we talk about applying the lean methodology on the modern market farm, including the basics of creating value, establishing pull with customers, and the 5S pillars of the lean cycle: sort, set in order, shine, standardize, and sustain the cycle. Plus, we get into some cool details about how Clay Bottom Farm keeps produce cold at CSA drop sites, how they design a CSA share, marketing and pricing strategies at farmer’s markets, and how a stupid little sticky note makes them thousands of dollars each year.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Sep 24, 2015

Eatwell Farm, in California’s Sacramento Valley just over an hour from San Francisco, is 105 acres of deep, flat, fertile ground. There, Nigel Walker conducts a symphony of employees, cover crops, lavender chickens, vegetables, fruits, and herbs, to provide for a CSA of 550 shares a week as well as the Ferry Plaza farmer’s market. Nigel describes his systems for training and delegating to employees to create pride in their work and profits for the business, and we dig deep on the cover crop and chicken management system on his farm that allows him to grow vegetables year-round without fertilizer or pesticides.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Sep 17, 2015

Rebecca Thistlethwaite, author of The New Livestock Farmer, currently lives and raises livestock near Hood River, Oregon. She and her husband ran TLC Ranch near Watsonville, California, where they raised ten thousand broiler chickens, five thousand laying hens, and 300 hogs each year on twenty acres of irrigated pasture for many years. We discuss ways farmers who are focused on livestock and farmers who have livestock as a secondary enterprise can make the most of their critter-based efforts. Along the way we get into the importance of matching the scale of your livestock enterprise to the equipment and infrastructure you have on hand, the considerations of selling meat through different outlets and in different ways, and how to make the most of your water, feed, and fencing.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Sep 10, 2015

Collin Thompson manages Michigan State University’s North Farm near the village of Chatham in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The North Farm hosts a two-year residential incubator program in the extremely short season of the Northwoods, with their last frost in the first week of June, and the first frost right about now, in the second week of September. We talk about the ins and outs of running a market farm as part of the University, practical successes for overwintering crops in high and low tunnels for early spring production, and ways Collin has worked with and around the 190 inches of annual snowfall in Chatham. We also had a chance to get into the culture of root cellaring in the north, and I had a chance to take a nice rant about food safety and barrel washers.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Sep 3, 2015

For more than twenty years, Mushroom Mountain’s Tradd Cotter has been working to think like a mushroom as he worked to build a business based on his mycological adventures. Since 1996, South Carolina’s Mushroom Mountain has produced edible mushrooms and served as a laboratory for Tradd’s explorations into the use of mushrooms for everything from mycoremediation to personalized antibiotics. Tradd and Chris explore Tradd’s low-tech and no-tech strategies for growing mushrooms, including the fundamentals of mushroom production and strategies for fitting mushrooms into a vegetable operation, getting into the psychology and physiology of the fungal kingdom.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Aug 27, 2015

Anton Burkett started Early Morning Farm in 1999 with three acres, three friends, and a rototiller. Since that time, this farm in the Finger Lake region of upstate New York has grown to 100 acres and 1,500 CSA shares. Anton and Chris talk about how he has managed this rapid growth year over year. Anton has a thoughtful approach to issues of scale, and we talk about how he’s leveraged his CSA to solve the land-access problem, his approach to personnel management and hiring, and how he’s strategically managed machinery investments and reinvestments as his farm has grown.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Aug 20, 2015

Adam and Mel Millsap own Urban Roots Farm, a four season micro farm set in the West Central neighborhood of Springfield, Missouri. We talk about their family and neighborhood involvement as they grow about a third of an acre of intensive produce, including three mobile high tunnels. Adam and Mel share their experiences managing the extremely wet weather in southern Missouri this summer, and how they care for the natural landscape in their urban environment.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Aug 13, 2015

University of Vermont Extension Professor Vern Grubinger does not fit the conventional extension agent mode. For twenty-five years, Vern has worked to develop a co-learning community among the professional vegetable- and berry-growers of Vermont. In this episode, we talk about the challenges facing Vermont vegetable farmers, from soil fertility basics and phytophthora to human resources, food safety certification, and costs of production – and about how a healthy food system, from marketing to education, is all about relationships.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Aug 6, 2015

Dan Kaplan has managed Brookfield Farm in Amherst, Massachusetts, since 1994. Brookfield Farm was one of the first CSAs in the United States, and currently supports 525 shares of produce, plus an additional 200 winter shares. Our conversation reflected on the growth of CSA and local foods from Brookfield Farm’s founding in 1984 to now, including how Brookfield has embraced a contemporary way of looking at its CSA shares without losing the core of its CSA community. Dan reflects at length on shared risk – and shared loss – as the core value of the CSA concept, binding the producer and consumer in a way that no other marketing model does. We also discuss Dan’s popular crop-planning spreadsheets, and his aspiration to time travel.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Jul 30, 2015

Dave Paulk farms at Sassafras Farm on the western side of Chesapeake Bay, near Leonardtwon, Maryland. Sassafras Farm is based around its four acres of vegetables, although Dave has many more acres in cover crops and grains on his 46 total tillable acres. Dave and his wife, Jennifer, started the farm in 2011 after Dave retired from the Navy. Dave and I talk about how his career in the military – and just having a career before he started farming – has shaped the development of his farm and business, from hiring and training employees to planning and making use of a wide range of resources.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Jul 23, 2015

Jim Crawford raises thirty acres of vegetables at New Morning Farm in Hustontown, Pennsylvania. Jim started New Morning Farm in 1972, and has gained a reputation for an excellent operation with great employee engagement. In this episode, we talk about New Morning Farm’s marketing strategy (including the Tuscarora Organic Growers Cooperative, which Jim founded with neighboring organic farms), investment and debt, the H2A guest-worker program, irrigation, and controlling pests in sweet corn. The value Jim places on knowledge sharing and collaboration shines through in this episode.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Jul 16, 2015

Alex Hitt and his wife, Betsy, started Peregrine Farm in 1982 in Graham, North Carolina, near the booming “research triangle” of Chapel Hill, Durham, and Raleigh. Today, they use four acres of tilled ground to raise produce and flowers for farmers market, restaurants, and grocers. Alex and Chris talk about how and why the farm went through some radical changes early on, how the Hitts financed the farm by selling shares in the farm (not CSA shares, but actual investments in the farm), practical record keeping strategies, soil solarization, scale-appropriate equipment and tools, and Peregrine Farm’s strategy and practices for bringing a partner  into the operation as a succession plan for the farm. This episode is jam-packed with information and inspiration for making a living on a very small acreage.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Jul 9, 2015

 

My guest for this episode is Kat Becker, who farms with her husband, Tony Schultz, at Stoney Acres Farm. Stoney Acres is located on the edge of the north woods in Wisconsin, at the border between zones 3 and 4. Managing 150 acres, Kat and Tony raise ten acres of vegetables and fruit, rotationally grazed cows, pork, maple syrup, small grains, and mushrooms. And they host on-farm pizza night every Friday night during the warm season, featuring their own farm ingredients – including the wheat – baked in one of their two wood-fired ovens. We talk about the challenges of managing this diversity, how pizza has helped them integrate into their community, family dynamics, and Kat’s transition to focusing on the farm full time.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.

Jul 2, 2015

Linda Chapman owns Harvest Moon Flower Farm in southern Indiana. Harvest Moon is a 2 - 1/2 flower farm run by Linda and a very small crew. They market flowers through farmers markets, a business subscription program, and weddings in the Bloomington and Indianapolis markets. In this episode, we talk through some great practical flower farming information, from weed control to bouquet construction, as well as Linda’s labor situation and plans for transitioning the farm to a new generation.

The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost.

Jun 25, 2015

Pete Johnson of Pete’s Greens farms ninety acres of vegetables – with three under cover, and an additional 130 acres in hay and cover crops, in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, with sales through a CSA and farm stores, as well as through wholesale markets. Pete shares his strategies for extending the season with roots and greens storage, in addition to winter growing. We also get into Pete’s efforts to develop new weed control strategies on his large-scale farm to help mitigate risk with a changing climate, managing employees and projects, and scaling equipment for your operation.

Jun 18, 2015

Nick Olson and his wife, Joan, own Prairie Drifter Farm in Litchfield, Minnesota – out on the edge of the prairie. They raise about six acres of vegetables 90 minutes west of the Twin Cities, selling most of them through a CSA and the rest to stores and restaurants. Nick has also coordinated the Farm Beginnings courses for the Land Stewardship Project for a number of years. We talked about how his experience with that program influenced the decisions that he and Joan have made on their farm over the past six years, covering topics from holistic management to relationship management. I had a lot of fun talking to Nick, and I learned a lot. I think you’ll find the conversation as valuable as I did.

Jun 11, 2015

Annie Salafsky and Susan Ujcic share the story of how two women – one from suburban Chicago and one from suburban New Jersey – started and grew Helsing Junction Farm in western Washington. Annie and Susan have raised produce for their CSA since 1992. Chris and Annie and Susan discuss improving nutrient density, farming in a business partnership, using online customer relationship management software to improve logistics, and how they’ve built Helsing Junction around their families and personal needs.

Jun 4, 2015

Greg Garbos brings his training and experience in conventional engineering to his work as a small farmer and with small farmers. He is the owner and cofounder of Four Season Tools, a greenhouse and horticulture supply company that also provides farm design consulting, as well as the owner and founder of City Bitty Farm, a grower of microgreens for Kansas City area restaurants. Greg and I dig into using intentional decision-making as a basis for developing a farm around sound principles.

May 28, 2015

Mike Kwasniewski runs a whole-diet CSA farm in rural West Virginia as part of a larger operation. He farms several hundred acres including beef cattle, hogs, chickens, and vegetables, with his mother and business partner, Pam. Mike reflects on the whole-diet CSA model in a relatively low income, rural environment, and how it fits into a beginning farmer’s diversified farm.

May 21, 2015

Amigo Bob Cantisano is one of the most widely experienced and influential figures in California organic agriculture. Founder of Peaceful Valley Farm Supply, the Ecological Farming Conference, the first organic advisory business in the United States, and a number of farming operations around California. If you’ve never been on Amigo’s bus tour of Central Coast organic farms as part of the EcoFarm Conference, you’re missing out. In this episode, we talk about the basics of organization and planning as they relate to organic farms, the connection between paying attention and top yields, and Amigo’s recent work with another organization he founded, the Felix Gillet institute.

May 14, 2015

John de Graaf is an environmental filmmaker and activist who has had a significant focus on agriculture for many years. 2015 is the 170th anniversary of the Irish potato famine, so I thought this would be a great opportunity to talk about the history of one of my personal heroes, John Niederhauser, who worked on the development of blight-resistant potatoes in Mexico, and his encounter with genetic giant Nikolai Vavilov in the 1930’s. In addition to potatoes and genetics, we get to talk a little bit about baseball, and John’s current work as executive director of Take Back Your Time, an organization challenging overwork and over-scheduling – and John’s analysis of over-work’s impact on farmers and their customers.

May 7, 2015

Bob Cannard is one of the farmers that I think of as a first-generation visionary in the world of organic farming. For over three decades, he has been at the forefront of the local farming movement in California. Farming just north of San Francisco Bay at Green String Farm, Bob has a farming process that flies in the face of a lot of what I, at least, “know” to be true. His natural process farming system relies on sharing time, space, and resources with the weeds, insects, and other organisms that the rest of us consider problems, and using weeds, minerals, and native soil inoculants to encourage healthy plants that simply aren’t bothered by these “problem” plants and critters.

Apr 30, 2015

Shannon Jones, from Broadfork Farm on the New Brunswick – Nova Scotia Border, reflects on selling hope and other values with your produce, shares her experience with caterpillar tunnels, and talks about her political activism on the farm. Shannon and her partner, Bryan Dyck, raise two acres of vegetables and cut flowers on a 15-acre parcel, and sell to farmers markets, restaurants, and retail food stores.

Apr 23, 2015

Theresa Podoll owns and operates Prairie Road Organic Seed in Fullerton, North Dakota, with her husband and brother-in-law. Prairie Road Organic Seed is a small organic seeds company where Theresa and her family grow all of the seed they sell – the seed sales go to gardeners, farmers, and seed companies. We talk about the history of the farm and how the seed company came about, the importance of breeding and selecting seeds in an organic production environment, and how Prairie Road has created a brand that is synonymous with quality seeds adapted to northern conditions.

Apr 16, 2015

Ellen Polishuk manages one of two locations for Potomac Vegetable Farms – hers is the “west” location, in the exurbs of Washington, D.C. Potomac Vegetable Farms has been around for about 50 years now, but Ellen joined it in the late 1970’s, first as a farm worker, and later as a manager and co-owner of the farm. Potomac Vegetable Farms runs two farmstands, attends farmers markets in DC, and has a CSA. We cover a lot of ground in this episode, including how Ellen got adopted by the farm, the weed control rotation she uses, making over 200 yards of compost on the farm each year, and how organic mulches work for Ellen as a weed control and labor-management tool.

Apr 9, 2015

Paul Arnold and his wife, Sandy, own and operate Pleasant Valley Farm in Argyle, New York. Started in 1988, the 8 acres of vegetable production at Pleasant Valley Farm have provided Paul and Sandy Arnold a full-time living since 1992. Paul and Sandy market their produce to several farmers markets in upstate New York, including increasing amounts of winter growing and storage crops at year-round farmers markets every year. Paul and Chris talk about the farm’s history and development, decision-making and record-keeping, and the keys to building a successful small farm that involves and enriches the family’s life.

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Apr 2, 2015

Steve Pincus owns and operates Tipi Produce in Evansville, Wisconsin, with his wife, Beth Kazmar. Tipi Produce grows about 45 acres of certified organic produce, and markets to 500 CSA members and makes nearly year-round sales to stores in Madison and Milwaukee – in fact, the last carrots will be delivered the same week this episode goes live. Steve has incredible employee retention from year to year, with many employees having worked on the farm for nearly twenty years. Chris and Steve talk about taking the long view with employee management, cropping systems, and business investments, as well as harvesting and storing lots and lots of carrots.

Find links from the show and more at farmertofarmerpodcast.com.

Mar 26, 2015

Richard Wiswall owns and operates Cate Farm with his wife, Sally Colman, in Plainfield, Vermont. Cate Farm has sold produce through a CSA, farmers markets, and wholesale accounts. The author of Organic Farmer's Business Handbook, Richard is known for his solid approach to the business of growing vegetables. Richard and Chris dig into business development, cost of production and marketing, and ways of thinking about your farm as a way of making a living.

Mar 19, 2015

Linda Halley, Farm Manager at Gardens of Eagan in Northfield, Minnesota, talks about the logistics and management challenges of growing transplants for other farmers before digging in to the nuts and bolts of how Linda has learned to get real results from her employees, many of whom operate at a high level in the organization.

Mar 12, 2015

How do we define “community” in Community Supported Agriculture? Patty Wright and her husband, Mike Racette, have owned and operated Spring Hill Community Farm in western Wisconsin  since 1992. In this episode, Patty shares some very practical methods that she and Mike have used to foster member-to-member connections and effectively engage with a core group to improve the farm and its impact.

Mar 5, 2015

Farmer John Peterson of Angelic Organics Farm in northern Illinois talks scale, farming time, and weed control with Chris. John is famous for his starring role in The Real Dirt on Farmer John, and this interview really reflects the unique but very practical and caring approach that John brings to his farming practice.

Feb 24, 2015

Midwestern Bio Ag soils consultant Allen Philo talks with Chris about his journey into organic soil fertility, from managing a monastery farm in West Virginia to pursuing a soil science degree at the University of Wisconsin - Madison. Allen provides insights about soil nutrient balancing, simplifying your fertilizer needs on a diversified vegetable farm, and how vegetable plant physiology can tell you about how best to fertilizer your crop.

Feb 22, 2015

What does it take to make a living farming? Ecopreneur Lisa Kivirist shares her experience creating a lively-ness  from a diversified income stream on her rural homestead in southwest Wisconsin. Lisa and her husband, John Ivanko, made a change from their mainstream, white-bread, suburban, commute-to-a-job world in Chicago twenty years ago, and now make an intentionally modest living from their homestead, with income streams from their small market garden, a bed and breakfast, writing, and contract work.

Feb 22, 2015

Liz Graznak of Happy Hollow Farm shares the story of her first five years raising organic vegetables in the heart of central Missouri’s conventional corn and soybean country. Liz and Chris talk about the rewards of getting to know your neighbors, geek out on organization and record-keeping, and discuss the ways a two-year-old changes a farmer’s life.

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