165. The Farmer’s Office | Julia Shanks | Cambridge, MA

The Farmer’s Office

One of the things my guests have talked about a lot is effective bookkeeping and record keeping whether your a small backyard gardener or a busy market farmer. Today Julia Shanks is going to share her knowledge of business, farming, cooking and restaurants, her books and her new course on how to be the most effective producer you can be and how to enjoy growing a successful garden.

Farmer's Office book

Julia Shanks Author of the The Farmer’s Office: Tools, Tips and Templates to Successfully Manage a Growing Farm Business is here today to share her brilliance and talk about her new course the Farmer’s Edge starting January 11th, 2017!

FA

Tell us a little about yourself.

My name’s Julia Shanks, I’m from Cambridge, Massachusetts. I have 2 books 

the Farmer's Market Cookbook

The Farmers Market Cookbook: The Ultimate Guide to Enjoying Fresh, Local, Seasonal Produce and 

Farmer's Office book

the The Farmer’s Office: Tools, Tips and Templates to Successfully Manage a Growing Farm Business.

It may seem divergent to have a business book for farmers and a cookbook for consumers but it actually ties in really nicely to all of my experiences. Right now a lot of my time is on focusing farmers to be sustainable, I started out my career as a chef, and my first jobs out of cooking school was at one of the first farm-to-table Restaurants in DC. And that was more then 20 years ago… it was certainly before farm-to-table was a concept. 

I was working as a line cook and that was where I met Brett Grohsgal who is now one of my dearest friends. and we both left the restaurant business … I  went on to Boston to get my MBA and started teaching accounting and he moved to southern Maryland and bought an organic farm and he’s been farming on 100 acres for the last 20 years!

And over the last 20 years we’ve been friends we’ve been visiting, I should say I have been visiting him, I should say, he’s a farmer and you can’t get him off the farm!

It’s been 20 years of spending time together

  • harvesting watermelon
  • feeding chickens
  • picking okra

that we’ve developed our friendship and we wrote a cookbook together which started out as a way to help his customers best use the wonderful produce he was growing!

Through all of our conversations together, I also learned about running a farm business… so when I started my consulting practice 8 years ago, it was really just a natural to work for farmers and sort them through the different struggles they have to manage their farm businesses and  to be financially sustainable when they are trying to be ecolocically sustainable …

I love all of that, I don’t think its that odd of a thing, and I worked in a restaurant this summer and it really changed my perspective to see how much food that they bought, and how many heads of lettuce and how many peppers and all the things they were ordering every Wedneseday and Friday, and what it would add up to… I think a lot of farmeres think, I’m gonnna go to the market and sell eggplants, because I like eggplants, and maybe the market has farmers who sell eggplants, and they need toamtoes

It’s funny you talk about Restaurants…

one of the things that its really difficult as business owners as opposed to managers, because the chef is the practitioner, they’re:

  • cooking food
  • writing menus
  • writing recipes
  • managing their staff

but they’re also business owners and trying to think about

  • how to make a living
  • make a profit
  • pay their staff

they do go through a ton of food! Literally a ton of food!

They do!

It can be frustrating to see money flying out the door everyday, and it seems like so much money and often times they need a little bit of help putting the numbers into into context and see do I have enough to:

  • pay my vendors
  • pay my employees

how much business am I bringing into my business every day? And how do I make it work.

Farmers too, they love farming because they love

  • being outside
  • growing food
  • taking care of our environment
  • nourishing our communities

And all these wonderful things but they forget they’re running a business too and in order to keep doing what they love they need to be financially savvy and their numbers and their bookkeeping system.

 

it’s funny I think about that with my own

helping the farmer’s helping them business plans

funding the technical assistance

I hate wrting reports

hate the computer

hate numbers

realities of being in business for yourself

back to something you said

we don’t have numbers

you do have numbers in your business

you go to the seed store

you know what you’re spending on your seeds

soil ammendments

tools that you have in your garden

numbers about your home garden

know what your spending

tractk different things

weigh

what your producing

lbs of carrots and herbs

if you were to go to the supermarket

$1000 a piece

how much money I put into my garden

and the soil here in Cambridge

bring in several tons of compost

you can’t be sure of the soil quality

started one raised bed

when I decided in

make a bigger investment in the garden

what could you produce

what could you earn

what are you spending

it’s funny

Im in cambridge massachusetts,

size of a postage stamp

this may be a silly story

a lb of garlic seed

compared to my garden

in the summer time I harvested 15 ounces of garlic

not quite the

these are the kinds of things

as a home gardener

pleasure

you can’t put a dollar figure on how much pleasure I get out of my garden

curry

chilies from my garden…

Tell me about your first gardening experience?

Well, my first garden was here…

I grew up in DC, where we grew up it was very shady, so My mom was convinced

I didn’t garden growing up

when I had a garden for the very first time

it’s only been 15 years.

fantasize about having a farm

and get eggs and

chicken…

How did you learn how to garden organically?

I think, we garden organically kind of by defualt if your not spraying if you just sort of compost, so I am just adding my own compost

trial and error

the things I struggle with the most is aphids

every year its brutal

how to not get aphids

what can I do… on the one hands there’s all sorts of chemicals

being right there with my food…if I go to the grocery

just don’t tell me and it’s ok

it’s funny as I get farther and farther in my career to buy conventional raised food especially chickens, beef, lamb,

healthier food and healthier environments…

But I guess with chickens for about 2 years they lay eggs regularly… production diminishes you have to decide if they are worth keeping at night

then they have the stewing birds…

Catching them before… to make the most of them… waiting till they …

A lot of farmer’s feel by actually doing the slaughtering themselves… gives them a greater appreciation for meat, as hard as it is, I honor it, I recognize this is how I can feel better about raising …

Eating processed foods, you’re a processed food addict, it sure tastes good. it’s a matter of time, having the time to cook, healthy at home… making the time… to avoid the processed food. scratch mac and cheese takes one more pot, results are so much better… how different my food tastes

homemade ketchup is a completely different beast

home made mayonnaise

discerting

flavors are better… difficult thing told….

It doesn’t quintesential

roast chicken

cut a few vegetables on the bottom

the most delicious

satifsying meal

a lot of vegetables

one of the recipes

I make is a kale salad

kale is prolific in my garden

one of the things that grows well of rme

lemon juice

soy sauce

quality ingredients

a little salt &

Starts January 11,th

it’s an online business course for famers

farmers farm because they love being outside not because they

they didn’t manage their cash well

need to get started for next season

get the tools that they need

financially sustainable

once a month

basic concepts of business

book keeping systems

how to maintain quickbooks

tehy ahve 3-6 months of good records

enough info to sustain

what am I selling for

how much does it cost

how much… does it take to make that worthwhile

takes the business management

One farmer that I talk about in the book, been in business for 60 years, selling hay and pigs… weern’t getting in

single unit

how much did they bring in and how much was left at the end of the year

this is what your doing for the hay

vegetable

pig operation

we’re actually losing money here… and the hay is subsidizing everything else

didn’t know how to look a the different entities

what happened they were selling the pigs for $95 each

it was costing them $124 to raise them… basically giving their customers

figuring

obviously

several options

either lower your costs raise your prices

easier to say lower your costs

need to lower

know what they are to figure out what you can

add value so you can raise your prices

let’s say your growing your tomatoes

let’s say it costs you $2/lb

I just cant sell them

maybe you make tomato sauce

because you’ve added value to the product

it costs more money to make tomato sauce to grow tomatoes

instead of selling their pigs at 8 weeks, raise them

process and sell them in their farm store…

they had the information to make that decision

they didn’t know

It is possible to be a successful small scale farmer

I don’t have a lot of positive

lessons from farmers who are struggling

how they spend their money

track

mechnaism to make decisions

between 1-2 million $ in sales

it’s possible

cost of land is so expensive

can get 100 acres a lot less

then massachusetts

there are farmers who are making it work

running thoughtful businesses

making decisions about what’s working and what’s not

what work… let

It’s interesting not everybody is cut to be an entrepreneur, you work 80 hours a week for their self, for some people 40 hours a week,

you can go home

when your running your own business

you can’t just walk away… that’s a hard lesson…

go back to what you were saying about the millennials

they’re not as constrained of how we’ve always done things…

the gene or baby boomers… fresh eyes

milleninials are willing to say hey why don’t we try it this way

be more creative and adaptive

disruptive technology

different tools

people repurpose bicycles into a cultivator

ride a bicycle and cultivate their land

culticycle… interesting things going on…

small scale

Tell us about something that grew well this year.

4

Is there something you would do different next year or want to try/new?

4

Tell me about something that didn’t work so well this season.

4

Which activity is your least favorite activity to do in the garden.

No, I love it all. I can’t get into the garden enough. I love weeding in the morning with my coffee I find it meditative . . .

What is your favorite activity to do in the garden.

Probably, I do enjoy the weeding I get the weeds in the thread stage and I get to see the clean beds….

just sitting and pondering the different cycles

vegetables behind

watching the vegetables..

What is the best gardening advice you have  ever received?

Well, I’m thinking the most recent gardening advice

there’s a dfference between decomposing vegetables and compost

my compost system isn’t very good, that’s

I tried that. as long as it’s composting well, if the worms the die… the compost gets really stinky, I have a lot of worms in my soil, I feel like I’m vermi-composting, it’s aerated,

You have to drill al to of holes, holes in the bottom of the bin… as you put

not gonna get the same air s

A favorite tool that you like to use? If you had to move and could only take one tool with you what would it be.

I don’t have a lot of tools, I need my hose to water, I just got drip irrigation

I have a trowel, a

Well, I just got the drip irrigation hoses, I bought them at home depot, I just snaked them around the garden… water doesn’t

plant everything pretty darn close

small garden, 100-200 feet was enough…

especially with the drought, on the

be careful

concentrate the water where you want it, turn it on when you need to soak the water …

A favorite recipe you like to cook from the garden?

I do make that kale salad regularly

the other dish

I sautee with garlic raisins, curry powder

romesco sauce,

tomato

pepper sauce

that’s a favorite

I Worte this book with my friend brett

the farmer in Maryland

he has a dish

for potato

december dishes because it’s cold

sauted greens with potatoes

scallions

simple

good curry recipes

I like the coconut curry with chili paste

restorative and creamy and reich

healthy

The Cookbook is called the Farmer’s Market Cookbook

if you go to m

A favorite internet resource?

this is gonna be really self serving

I have a lot of resources

I’e been writing lots of articles

lots of tools and tips

templates

find a cash flow

lots of excel templates

webinars

videos

accounting…

food and ag

links to the

articles….

A favorite reading material-book, mag, blog/website etc you can recommend?

I gotta say I do enjoy growing for market

guilty pleasure is Modern Farmer

I don’t think anyone

written who want to be farmer…

I enjoy it… good magazine…

If you have a business to you have any advice for our listeners about how to sell extra produce or get started in the industry?

I would say, track your costs… as much as you can… that’s the only way you are going to figure out what works

if you do’t know how much you are growing…

if you’re gonna make that kind of financial investment

Final question- if there was one change you would like to see to create a greener world what would it be? For example is there a charity or organization your passionate about or a project you would like to see put into action. What do you feel is the most crucial issue facing our planet in regards to the environment either in your local area or on a national or global scale?

What I am thinking about right now is how can we support small farmers to be sustainable, they are the ones thinking about our soil

providing

the carrot project

proviiding business

that’s what I’m thinking

in Claiforinai

local dept of ags

supporting local farmers …

Do u have an inspiration tip or quote to help motivate our listeners to reach into that dirt and start their own garden?

follow your passion but be realistic

if you love gardening

How do we connect with you?

Sure!

They can go to my website Julia shanks.com

cookbook and the business class

the Farmer’s

The Organic Gardener Podcast is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com

If you like what you heard on the Organic Gardener Podcast we’d love it if you’d give us review and hopefully a 5 star rating on iTunes so other gardeners can find us and listen to. Just click on the link here.

Let’s Get to the Root of Things

Which activity is your least favorite activity to do in the garden?

No, I love it all. I can’t get into the garden enough. I love weeding in the morning with my coffee I find it meditative . . .

What is your favorite activity to do in the garden?

Probably, I do enjoy the weeding I get the weeds in the thread stage and I get to see the clean beds….

just sitting and pondering the different cycles

vegetables behind

watching the vegetables..

What is the best gardening advice you have  ever received?

Well, I’m thinking the most recent gardening advice

there’s a dfference between decomposing vegetables and compost

my compost system isn’t very good, that’s

I tried that. as long as it’s composting well, if the worms the die… the compost gets really stinky, I have a lot of worms in my soil, I feel like I’m vermi-composting, it’s aerated,

You have to drill al to of holes, holes in the bottom of the bin… as you put

not gonna get the same air s

A favorite tool that you like to use? If you had to move and could only take one tool with you what would it be.

I don’t have a lot of tools, I need my hose to water, I just got drip irrigation

I have a trowel, a

Well, I just got the drip irrigation hoses, I bought them at home depot, I just snaked them around the garden… water doesn’t

plant everything pretty darn close

small garden, 100-200 feet was enough…

especially with the drought, on the

be careful

concentrate the water where you want it, turn it on when you need to soak the water …

A favorite recipe you like to cook from the garden?

I do make that kale salad regularly

the other dish

I sautee with garlic raisins, curry powder

romesco sauce,

tomato

pepper sauce

that’s a favorite

I Worte this book with my friend brett

the farmer in Maryland

he has a dish

for potato

december dishes because it’s cold

sauted greens with potatoes

scallions

simple

good curry recipes

I like the coconut curry with chili paste

restorative and creamy and reich

healthy

The Cookbook is called the 

the Farmer's Market Cookbook

The Farmers Market Cookbook: The Ultimate Guide to Enjoying Fresh, Local, Seasonal Produce

A favorite internet resource?

J

this is gonna be really self serving but my website

I have a lot of resources

I’ve been writing lots of articles

lots of tools and tips

templates

find a cash flow

lots of excel templates

webinars

videos

accounting…

food and ag

links to the

articles….

A favorite reading material-book, mag, blog/website etc you can recommend?

I gotta say I do enjoy growing for market

guilty pleasure is Modern Farmer

I don’t think anyone

written who want to be farmer…

I enjoy it… good magazine…

If you have a business to you have any advice for our listeners about how to sell extra produce or get started in the industry?

I would say, track your costs… as much as you can… that’s the only way you are going to figure out what works

if you do’t know how much you are growing…

if you’re gonna make that kind of financial investment

Final question-

if there was one change you would like to see to create a greener world what would it be? For example is there a charity or organization your passionate about or a project you would like to see put into action. What do you feel is the most crucial issue facing our planet in regards to the environment either in your local area or on a national or global scale?

What I am thinking about right now is how can we support small farmers to be sustainable, they are the ones thinking about our soil

providing

the carrot project

proviiding business

that’s what I’m thinking

in Claiforinai

local dept of ags

supporting local farmers …

Do u have an inspiration tip or quote to help motivate our listeners to reach into that dirt and start their own garden?

follow your passion but be realistic

if you love gardening

How do we connect with you?

Sure!

They can go to my website JuliaShanks.com

the Farmer's Market Cookbook

The Farmers Market Cookbook: The Ultimate Guide to Enjoying Fresh, Local, Seasonal Produce

cookbook and the business class

Farmer's Office book

The Farmer’s Office: Tools, Tips and Templates to Successfully Manage a Growing Farm Business 

The Organic Gardener Podcast is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com

If you like what you heard on the Organic Gardener Podcast we’d love it if you’d give us review and hopefully a 5 star rating on iTunes so other gardeners can find us and listen to. Just click on the link here.