Dr. Surendra Dara brings over 25 years of experience to his work as an Oregon State University professor and director of NWREC, the North Willamette Research and Extension Center in Aurora, Oregon. In this podcast, we talk about integrated pest management (IPM) tactics growers can use to keep pests and diseases in check without getting to the point of spraying, even if the sprays are organic. We discuss controls as diverse as physical barriers, irrigation, nutrient management, biostimulants, biological soil amendments and more to develop sustainable agricultural solutions.
No one gets into flower farming because they love business analytics, however if you don’t know how to make sense of your business and make a profit, you’re not going to stay in business for very long. Luckily we’ve got Lennie Larkin of B-Side Farm to help us cut through the clutter and tell us how to plan to make a profit in our own flower farm businesses. She’s on the pod this week, telling us about her new book, Flower Farming for Profit, which will be out in January.
One perennial problem for market farmers is how to make local food and flowers available to customers every day, without having to spend seven days a week standing behind a table or giving up most of the value to a wholesaler. The farm stop is the most innovative answer to this problem we’ve heard of in years, and Kathy Sample & Bill Brinkerhoff of Argus Farm Stop are on the pod this week to tell us about it. Billed as a “year-round, everyday farmers market,” it isn’t a replacement for farmers markets, but a complement to them. In fact, many farmers make deliveries to the farm stop on and between market days.
Julia Shanks helps us plan for our farms to be profitable businesses. She has used her background in the food industry and accounting to help hundreds of farmers make sense of their numbers. On this week’s pod, we pick up on the trends she has noticed over the years and talk about important ways to understand farm business metrics, like calculating the breakeven point, figuring out cost of production, profit per hour, whether growth or specialization is the right strategy for profitability, and more! We cover everything from pivoting, to the entrepreneurial mindset, to how to get excited about digging into your numbers, even when you aren’t.
Sophia Ngueyen Eng left a successful career is Silicon Valley, after questioning the health of industrial agricultural practices that men workers wear hazmat suits to spray the endless acres of strawberries planted not too far away from her. Now, she pursues her passions for sustainable farming and nourishing Asian cuisine on her farm in Tennessee, where she employs regenerative practices to raise grass-fed dairy cows, beef cattle, laying hens, broilers, ducks, sheep, goats, turkeys, and traditional Asian practices to grow a variety of produce for her multi-generational family and local community.
Learn how Ben Hartman cut his farm down to 1/3 of an acre from an acre without taking a pay cut on this week’s pod. Ben Hartman is well known for adapting LEAN principles from manufacturing to his farm in order to cut out waste and maximize efficiency; that is the subject of his previous two books, The Lean Farm and The Lean Farm Guide to Growing Vegetables. However, even after LEANing up his previous two farms, he found he was working too much at the expense of family, friends and community. So he and his wife and farming partner Rachel embarked on a quest to radically LEAN up their farm, and that is the story of his new book, The Lean Micro Farm, and this podcast. Hear how, though skeptical at first, he was able to make as much income and support the family off of 1/3 of an acre instead of the one acre they were previously farming, which in itself is a big reduction from the 400 acres his family was farming when he was growing up.
Sometimes we can be stronger when we collaborate, and on this week’s pod hear from two growers with over 20 years of experience working together. Lyn Jacobs @la_finquita_del_buho and Polly Gottesman @pumpkinridgegardens each run their own vegetable CSA farms, and they’ve been collaborating to sell vegetable and flower seedlings, fresh cut flower bouquets, dried flowers and wreaths since 2002. This episode is packed with lots of great ideas and growing info, including how to keep your flowers distinctive at markets with other flower growers, how they manage the cooperative business arrangement between their two farms, and how to keep the personal relationship strong along with the business after more than two decades of collaborating.
PFAS are toxic chemicals that are widely used and have accumulated to dangerous levels in agricultural soils in some areas. On tomorrow’s pod we talk with Caleb Goossen, an Organic Crop Specialist at MOFGA (Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association) about why Maine may be the canary in the coal mine for this type of contamination, and how farmers in other areas can know whether their properties are at risk for contamination. As the Organic Crop Specialist for MOFGA he has been helping farmers deal with the repercussions of PFAS contamination, and we talk about the effects on human health, and how to deal with the situation if farm soils are contaminated.
Diversity of crops is one way to spread the risk in farming, and on this week’s podcast we talk about what Noah Poulos of Wild East Farm grew in this first year on his farm outside of Asheville, North Carolina. In addition to vegetables, crops include pastured meats and agroforestry, and we discuss how the short-term crops help them get into farmers markets and generate income while the longer-term crops grow. We also discuss their unusual lease that was set up to keep the property in farming, recap how the first year on the property went, what he learned managing other farms, and more!
Podcast host Katie Kulla illustrated a new book! In this episode she interviews Kevin Hobbs and Artur Cisar-Erlach, the co-authors of the book, "Edible: 70 Sustainable Plants That Are Changing How We Eat." Over half of the modern diet is based on just a few plants, however with a rapidly changing climate, plants that can thrive under more challenging conditions will become more important in ensuring food security.
Mimo Davis and Miranda Duschack grow flowers at Urban Buds @urbanbuds City Grown Flowers in St. Louis, Missouri, and we love this interview where we talk about rehabbing a legacy farm property including an old glass greenhouse, what it’s really like to grow flowers in the city, and what their markets are with so many potential customers nearby. We talk about how to get the most out of a small area, favorite floral crops and growing tips, why they keep growing ginger along with all the flowers, the impact of urban farms, and so much more!
Eli Wheat is both a farmer and a teacher, splitting his time between SkyRoot Farm on Whidbey Island, WA and teaching at the University of Washington. On this week’s podcast, we get to hear how he balances both, taking the ferry back and forth between the island and the city, and how different the University of Washington urban farm is from his farm!
Harvesting vegetables all winter long is what we discuss on today’s podcast with Catherine Sylvestre of Ferme des Quatre-Temps, in Hemmingford, Quebec, Canada. Catherineis an agronomist and director of vegetable production and leader of the market garden team at the farm. She is also the co-author of a new book, called The Winter Market Gardener, along with JM Fortier.
Farming can take a toll on the body, and this week’s podcast guest Cynthia Flores founded Labor-Movement to help farmers stay healthy through many seasons of farming. That’s because after 20 years of farming herself, she has felt the toll it takes on the body, and decided to do something about it! As a certified personal trainer and licensed massage therapist, we have a lot to learn from her about how to stay healthy through seasons of farming, including how to move to reduce injuries, how to recover from injuries, and how to get stronger in the off-season.
Nella Mae Parks went from a farm with lots of topsoil to one with lots of clay, and in the subsequent decade she has learned a lot about clay! Nella Mae’s Farm is in Cove, Oregon. Podcast host Katie Kulla and Nella Mae talk about the advantages that clay can provide (high water and nutrient holding ability), as well as the disadvantages (can be hard to work with, can turn into a brick if worked at the wrong time).