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