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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.