Monday, Martin Luther King Day, January 21, 2019
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m in Boise, ID
I don’t own my own land but I farm on a 3 acre in the city. I farm on about acre and half and share with the landowner who runs a nursery and other farm projects. On our farm we grow about 100 varieties of seed crops for the Snake River Seed Coop
We also have a CSA program
I have been doing for the last 15 years, spring and summer 18 week CSA 45 members
going a different route, we’re just gonna do a fall CSA pickup. Just one big pickup in the fall of storage crops and instructions on how to store them.
Also, spring garden box shares
for people who have small urban gardens, we’re making
4×4 garden boxes of seeds and starts
I just want to make sure I am understand, you are actually giving them a 4×4 garden bed with the lumber etc, or just the stuff that goes in them?
No, we’re assuming they already have the boxes and the soil in those boxes
It’s a pretty common thing for Urban gardeners to have some sort of
4×4 or 4×8 box
just a way to maximize the amount of food they get out of it and use locally grown seeds
Is this your first year offering that?
Yes it’s the very first year
It’s interesting, you had mentioned in starting market farms
I’m in an interesting place because I’ve been running a CSA for 15 years
I am getting to the place where I am burnt out
In the past I have run this massive internship program that is really involved and a CSA with a lot of moving pieces and a serious commitment all season long.
I’ve been wanting a bit of a break, us farmers can’t just take time off in the summer, but just not having to harvest for CSA every single week would feel really nice to me
Trying to provide myself more flexibility this summer and see how that goes
we already grow our own seeds and starts
I’ve gotten decent at doing that and thought it would be offering that to other people
Like the fall CSA, instead of offering harvest and succession plant every week from May-Sept
- root storage crops
do the work of growing those on a less rigorous schedule, if I want to take a few days off and go camping, I am not locked into harvesting ever
doing this one pickup in the fall
ease my constant need to be on the farm
I might miss it, not know what to with myself.
You have no idea how timely this is, I’m working on this free garden course and a workbook to go with it, as I’m finishing it, every page I’m thinking how to help my listeners get from one-to-done in the easiest way possible that they have started their organic oasis, and at the end of this year being able to enjoy it, and this weekend I wrote a whole page on time commitment.
Realistic Time Commitment
Thinking about what are you really going to be able to do. I told you in the pre-chat I am more the eater then the gardener. I like to go hiking, and I usually have a full time job. So, I was saying in the spring you get fresh rain and water from nature. Those crops are best for people who want to go hiking in summer.
The other part is I’m always telling my husband that I think selling organic starts would be huge. The thing I was excited about was I thought you were selling the boxes becuuse I feel like my listeners frequently say one of their barriers is building the physical beds. And then I really want to get my masters too.
When we start farming, I started my farm when I was 24-25 and my farm model has continued in the model of a 24 year old. I turned 40 this year, I need a little more grown up model.
not quite so scrappy, hanging on by the seat of my pants. I don’t own my land and probably for many of your listeners they probably don’t own their own land
When you want to start a farm one of the biggest issues is the access to farmland
Boise is maybe the fastest growing city in the country
We have tons of people moving who have a lot more money then we have in Idaho.
from wealthier places
- Bay area
Is that because of the fires? What’s going on in Boise?
- quality of life
Also, probably the growing number of people able to work from home over the internet.
Yes, exactly and making the same wages with a lower cost of living, it’s driving up the land prices. I want to say I just read something about Idaho 48th in the country per capita wage for employees for Idaho, so we don’t make much money here.
It’s hard to figure that out
And because it’s a city there’s a lot of pressure to develop agriculture land into houses you’re not interested in selling to people who could pay the mortgage off of farming that land not anything new
It makes it hard to figure it out where you can have security
kicked off of several pieces and that can make it very difficult.
I was surprised you didn’t own your place.
It’s definitely a scrappy business model.
Tell me about your first gardening experience?
I do remember there was raspberry patch at our house, it was very
- full of ear wigs
- not exactly pleasant but you could get in there and have berries
I got into doing it through environmental activism in college
I spent a lot of time on public land issues. In Idaho, the political landscape is different then my politics are, working on those issues felt like running my head into a brick wall. Someone else was setting the agenda. I felt like I am wasting my time to shut them down.
no, no, no you can’t do it you shouldn’t do that!
I just want to turn and run as fast as I can in the direction in that I want to go and let someone else waste their time trying to shut me down!
reading stuff about CSAs
local food and how valuable it was as an environmental choice
Idk anything! OMGosh! My first gardens were horrible! You’re still so excited! And the more into seed saving too!
Just a lot of mistakes!
learning about I planted hopi blue corn and sweet corn next to each other!
blue corn in sweet corn
neither is good to eat!
a lot of that in the beginning
but gosh even though there were a lot of mistakes and failures, it’s such a satisfying way to spend my time! I was riding my bike home from some of my gardens I feel like my 12 year old self!
- best self
it is a lifestyle commitment
lifestyle change to start gardening
angsty person before that and it’s led to a really meaningful life.
seeds have bene really useful
We have so much in common, when I was in college, I met my husband because I felt like I was banging my head against the wall and my friends said go plant trees, and that’s where I met my husband on a mountain and our goal is to be as self sufficient and local as we can be.
I love your logo of your little bike, do you want to tell us about your sustainable bike part?
Boise’s a great bike friendly city
I will be honest as I’ve gotten older, biking has not been as much as a crucial part of the farm
10 years we did almost everything by bike
- move chickens
- straw bales
- farmer’s market set up
Everything! We would pedal those around by bike! It was fun!
How far would you go like a block or a couple of miles?
A couple of miles!
I now have one piece of farm only
I always had 2-3 plots of land farming concurrently so we would go between them. In the very beginning they weren’t all in the same neighborhood
3 those three would be within 10 blocks of each other
but now I’m just at one place, it’s 2 miles from my house
I have a dog that is kind of a pain in the neck now, he has to be on a leash when I’m riding with him, he won’t stay next to me. So that’s been annoying to get around by bike
it’s one thing to have myself, but to pull a giant ass cart, I feel like a horse!
more reliant on my little truck
human powered farming
important to never use fossil fuels for stuff we were doing
There’s a tractor on the farm, I don’t own it but I can use it once a year
Maybe to till in a cover crop instead of with a shovel which is really nice.
I think I double dug an acre 1/2 of land I didn’t own.
That like countless thousands of hours, when we got kicked off those pieces of land, that was horrible!!!
- older wiser
- more practical
the true authenticity has suffered in that
I’ve done it for 10 years
I took a class through the University of Idaho
series of classes about this or that about beginning farm.
Certified farmer mentor course
I took it maybe 12 years ago where they taught you how to outline a really good internship so you could share the info that you have in a way that is respectful of people’s time and gives them lots of resources and not like exploited free labor
I ran the internship with woman who I was farming, it ran for 3 years, till we parted ways and then I did it by myself for 7 more years
10 years developed a really rad curriculum! It’s really good.
We go through everything through
- soil science
- seed production
- vegetable production
a lot of Philosophy!
We read a lot of Wendell Barry
- water use
Try to combine that with hands-on farmwork
- group discussions
- share lunches
- field trips
- guest speakers
really good overview of what a season on a farm looks like.
We start in March and go through October
2 days a week essentially 5 hours including lunch, class, a few hours in the field
So when they are done
Help with the CSA harvest
plan out a CSA crop if they take good notes the idea is after they are done they could start their own CSA
- Seeding charts
- seed production
- as we have gotten more and more into growing seeds
huge part of what they do to
teach other interns
- know when a seed is ready to harvest
- when to winnow it and thrash it and up and ready to go
Pretty life changing for people who do it. It’s a huge commitment on my part! I felt like I was burnt out after doing it for ten years and I didn’t feel like I was giving 100% of what i could give.
So there’s a little hole in our education scene as that’s on hiatis, someone will pick up the torch, or I will again once I get a little rest
I love the program! I think it’s really valuable to provide that in a way that allows them
Because I am in a city I am able to do this. But because I live in a city if you are in a rural area you will probably have to have people on your farm and provide them full time work and they probably need to live there because they can’t go back and forth to their home
For me, people who live here, I don’t have to provide them housing,
I don’t have to
- provide them housing,
- figure out what they’re gonna do for their work!
Basically they’re with me for 10 hours a week and they can figure out the rest of their life on their own.
I like that model a LOT!
Then they’re not around all the time.
It gives me time to figure things out. Allows them to have a full life outside of the farm so they don’t feel exploited.
I know a lot of my listeners are older and people my age or even my husbands age, who want to try the CSA model or something but can’t commit a whole season everyday and that only 10 hours a week is a more doable option.
What I am wondering is what do you get out of this with all the work it sounds like you put into it? It sounds like you are teaching a lot more then you are getting labor out of it and that also you should definitely do this online.
Because so many people are interested in this knowledge that you have, you could have a very specific niche that people are really interested in, kind of like Melissa Norris has with the Pioneering Today Academy.
I appreciate you saying that, I need to figure it out, step away for a second
Over time I’ve gotten to be a be much better farmer and every year I start over with a brand new crew of people, that’s more difficult over time
When I first started it I was like oh great! People here to work and we could figure it out over time, it’s gotten a little bit, I’m ready to value my time
One of the parts of growing up is you learn when you actually have something to offer
A big challenge for farmers, it’s not always valued our time and expertise
often asked to do things for free
go and talk here or go and teach here, da,da,da, whatever there are rarely times to advocate and sharing things for ourselves
I appreciate you saying to figure out how to make some money doing that
huge part of what I do
what I love doing!
It would be great, part of what I am saying I need to get a more adult model
it’s time I need to start to value what I have to offer!
The great part of about it is you already have your curriculum laid out, you have the assignments and you’ve been teaching it for 10 years and you know what questions they are going to ask and what parts are important that they need to know. What mistakes to avoid.
For people to be able to walk away at the end of the summer with the knowledge what it takes to get a CSA off the ground is amazing! I wanted to ask what’s the difference between growing for seed and growing for a CSA.
There must be a huge difference right?
In some ways they can be really complimentarily and in other ways they can be somewhat at odds with each other
there’s so much that works well to do both!
Say we grow a patch of lettuce for seed
Slower bolting seed population!
If I plant a huge bed of slow bolt lettuce, the second I see something looking like it’s going to bolt I can harvest that and give to CSA which allows me to select out the earliest bolting stuff and select for a slower bolting seed population!
they get lettuce
which is great!
bolts slower here in Boise
allows me to have somewhere to put all this early bolting lettuce that I am removing I can take that out of the field and immediately feed it to someone
forty varieties of tomatoes
One week we pick 5 varieties and save them for seed
35 give to members
5 variety we are saving
we get a huge variety of seeds.
But where it doesn’t work
cross pollinating crops
need bees to pollinate
As a CSA farmer I don’t want to feed my CSA same variety of cucumber all season long. I can’t produce 4-5 cucumbers
I can’t pure seed off a seed crop if I have a CSA like that.
If you go to market, if you go to farmer’s market you might only have one type of cucumber which would allow you to save seed
that kind of stuff
careful about what you allow to flower at what time
You potential to make me money selling seed
If I plant a bed of lettuce
- 40 heads
- $3/piece at market $120 bucks
But if I let them go to seed, they might make $250 worth of seed so I wold get more money but they have to stay in the ground A LOT longer! They have to stay in the ground a couple of months longer then the lettuce heads would be in
So I have to weed them in the field and water longer
- harvest them
- clean them
- seed ready to sell
but it’s still if you like the work of it it is a good way you can maximize the dollar value on a square foot of land on an urban farm which is a good way to get each penny you can out of a smaller space !
- locally adapting them to
- work better in your garden
- saving yourself the money to buy the seed
- spending $800/a year on seed
I could in theory not spend anything on seed, but now maybe I spend $100 on seed just trying new things because I always have to try new things.
we grow that much food
gardener have to try new things
can save you a lot of money!!!
if I was just trying to be a vegetable grower I would have lost interest in my farm
If I grow a radish for market
But if you let that radish stay in the ground! It’s so
So much more fun and interesting
- get huge
- flower stalk
- bees that come in
gardener see your plant completely it’s life cycle
so much more interesting than pulling it out and eating a tiny little root.
It is also, true that if you plant 30 radish seeds and you let 2 go to seed and eat the other 28 you are still going to get more then 28 seeds out of those 2 plants right? Just like a tomato like one cherry tomato will make a couple of dozen new plants or so right?
Because Mike lets a lot of things go to seed! IT’s true You describe them with the enthusiasm of a little kid. And then if you let volunteers come up they are even hardier right? Or do you ever let volunteers go?
It depends on what we’re doing
can be a blessing or a curse to have volunteers
last year for example I grew bok choy as a seed crop
the year before I had grown mizuna
flowering at the same time I had to make sure I was scouring the area that I had grown mazuma the year before. I had to make sure that none of the volunteers that were coming up make sure that none of them were flowering
so they didn’t cross pollinate in the field
haven’t painted in 8 years or something. I just let them seed out
save seeds off of them
eat their food off of them
definitely from a gardening standpoint it makes it a lot easier!
A lot of the flowers fill volunteer but when it comes to the vegetables I am a lot more picky about what I let come up because we’re saving seed that year!
between seed saving and growing for CSA
I’m so curious about you saying you had all these different plots of land. Where did you find your spaces? Advertise? Just ask? Where did you find these spaces.
Usually it was something I would ask
neighbor of mine, I just saw him outside. He had just bought the place. He had a patch I think he thought he would develop at some point that I think he bought it to develop and sell the other.
I’ve had several where people build a house on one and are waiting for the economy
build a house on the other to sell
I just asked the guy can I grow a farm?
- city water
- I didn’t know
- it’s way to expensive
look at places that have a well
irrigation type water of some time
in the west we have to worry about water
If listeners in other parts of the country where water just falls out of the sky maybe they don’t have to worry.
My dad was dating a woman she couldn’t take care of
intern on my farm
that same year and she was watching the relationship unravel with the landowner and she was like you should come and farm at my house
big piece of land
We’ve there for another 6 years
in a situation
pieces are smaller
There’s a lot of people in an urban setting that believe that their land would be great for a farm. But it wouldn’t be!
It’s a small piece of land
They’re like yeah you should start a farm here and its like no, that’s for you to have a garden
urban people they don’t know
I think in the beginning I think they thought they were doing me a favor
I was in landscaping for a long time to pay for my farming habit
It was such a weird dichotomy on a day to be landscaping, someone would be paying me to come take care of land they didn’t want to take care of and then on a different day of a week I was at the farm and the landowner was like they were do a favor letting me take care of their land for free
landscaping vs farming in our society
doing them a big favor
taking care of their land
giving them food
shifted what I was looking for as well
My current land over has a much more grounded idea of what it takes to be a farmer, she was a farmer and has a strong understanding
She’s grateful to have me there
both of us
what we need to make the situation work
interesting she can’t guarantee me a long lease on her land
she’s in her 70s and she doesn’t want to tell her kids what to do, doesn’t want to tell them what they can and can’t do
don’t have a lease
another reason to look
would really like the security of knowing that I could stay somewhere. It’s one thing if she’s around for another 10 years, and something happens then I’d be 50!
I don’t want to pick up again then!
I totally understand!
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Now Let’s Get to the Root of Things!
Which activity is your least favorite activity to do in the garden?
In the business it would be marketing
On the farm it would be harvest for CSA
What particularly about harvesting? For me it’s the consistency piece.
Yeah cause I always feel like it gets in the way of doing the work
The interns always give me a hard time, they’re like this is the reason we’re doing this
gets in the way of the work
taking time away from taking care of the garden.
I think that’s realistic, because people are always like harvesting’s fun. For me harvesting’s fun when I go pick a salad for me. Harvesting for Mike when he’s picking the green beans bending over, or I think of Joyce Pinson going out on a hot southern afternoon in the rain and picking okra because thats the day the okra is ready to harvest and the market is calling.
Absolutely, like no matter what the weather is doing if it’s a Tuesday and it’s a lightning storm you have to harvest for CSA that day.
If you are full time farmer you are not a full time farmer because you also have to be an
- web guru
- social media maven
All these other things that are outside of the work you are farming
If you want to run a business of any type and you have to do all of these other things as a small business
those are hard to make yourself do!
many farmers fail
they don’t have the schmoozer type
You have to have someone who will tell the story and sell the farm and sell yourself
If you have someone you can spend your time in the field with your head in the ground but if you don’t you have to look up out of the ground and do a social media post!
And also for me, getting the produce ready, and I was thinking last year produce that I am willing to eat, the leaves of kale, tomatoes, presentation is huge if the farmer’s market is at 6 o’clock at night, how am I going to present it? and am I going to keep it on ice? or where is it going to be? And like the flower farmers talk about the work of coming back and having to clean all the buckets! There’s all these extra pieces that are a lot different then just going out in the field and picking some vegetables.
That’s why I love CSA
I don’t do
- grocery store
Reason why I do the CSA I can tell people this is what you are getting and you should be damn glad this is what your getting!
I give them bok choy that has slug damage
tomatoes that are cracked
We have to get over the idea that food has to look perfect
agrees to be on your schedule
If I give you a radish with a little worm hole, cut it out!
I was looking last year, we grew a lot of swiss chard and kale. Mike’s geting a lot better, like last year he probably grew 10x as he ever did before and the year before that it was like 4x as much and as we grow more. I’m also wondering are people going to be eating this?
The funny thing was I remember telling JM Fortier that I don’t know if I could ever have the energy to be a farmer, I look at what I put into teaching and I guess a labor of love is a labor of love.
What is your favorite activity to do in the garden?
depends on the season, my favorite is to put manure in the fall
Really? Well where do you get your manure from because that has been the question around here. I know we are constantly expanding where do you find good quality manure?
same way you find land
Here someone has horses you say ~ hey what are you doing with the manure?
It matters what they eat
But even more so than what they eat
how do I have to get it?
Do i have to shovel into my truck? Or is there someone who has a loader who can load it for me? Can I pay someone with a dump trailer to drop it off?
It’s part of my getting older, I’m more interested in those types of things
If someone has a dump trailer, I can let it sit for a year and it’s probably fine, I know I have been taking risks but it’s been fine
what was going on with it before
many problems with it
Probably it’s fair to say a lot of people who are raising horses I’ve been dealing with there
yuppies for lack of a better word, they’re a little more conscientious, and feeding them groovy stuff
not giving them tons of antibiotics
I don’t usually ask and take it if I hear there is free manure to be had
let it sit and rest
The compost pile is a marvelous thing!
I have yet to have problems
What is the best gardening advice you have ever received?
I guess the best advice is to find your niche
You know, find a thing to do in your garden or farm that
- you love to do
- that you think is interesting
- unique in your area
People will seek you out in your area for me that’s become the seeds!
That’s for sure, I’ve been struggling to figure out what your niche is and I guess I’ve finally decided it’s building an organic oasis that’s not just a place to grow food but a place you like to enjoy and live and relax. It could mean harvesting all your food like Mike or me someone who has a full time job or you who has dedicated 16 summers to growing organic food! So whatever that looks like for my listeners.
A favorite tool that you like to use? If you had to move and could only take one tool with you could you not live without?
That’s an impossible questions! Because you need to have a way to work the soil!
If I have to have one I guess it would be a shovel but if I had a way the soil was worked I would chose a hola hoe and not anyone but one of those red ones you buy from Johnny’s!
A stirrup hoe or scuffle hoe.
We use them all the time
hours and hours in the summer.
A favorite recipe you like to cook from the garden?
green bean tacos
You steam green beans
While you’re doing that sauté some
- olive oil
- lots of cumin
When the beans are tender you add it and get it really good an covered in that cumin sauce with corn tortilla!
OMGosh! I can’t wait to make those because that’s one of Mike’s favorite crops is green beans and I have canned ones. I’m always looking for things.
Ok, but they’re better fresh, so if you don’t like them don’t judge it by that! Give fresh ones a chance!
A favorite internet resource?
I think I just learn a lot from the other small regional seed companies
I would like to say our seed company
bio-regional seed company in your area
generally have really good
not a company like territorial
based in a place buying seeds
list of small scale bioregional
find the ones closest
Excellent we’ve gotten seeds from them too!
A favorite reading material-book, mag, blog/website etc you can recommend?
Vadana Shiva too prefer to listen to her speak but I do read her writing.
Wendell Barry has been very helpful. Not a how to, anything but a how to.
They’re really great positive solutions centered journalism
- reading comprehensive take on one certain topic
- solve these problems
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 or if you had to start over?
Honestly I wouldn’t do anything differently
people I have trained
want to start their own projects
honestly is where I see people getting into trouble is doing too much research to begin with and get too bogged down in all the particulars of what is going on.
I’m glad I didn’t know what the heck I was doing when I started digging I just grabbed a shovel
I wouldn’t be
It’s just too hard
If you think you want to start a farm start one just start one and you’ll figure it out as you go!
this is what my grandpa If you’re looking for rules you’ll find them.
I’m so glad to hear that because I was just talking to a friend of mine whose spouse is struggling as an entrepreneur and she is worried he will never succeed and I said well this idea may not succeed but while he’s building it he’s learning things that will help him in his business that will succeed. I always feel like failures are stepping stones to success.
What was my motto last year
Life happens for you not to you
and this year it’s
motivation is earned not given.
Like if you want things to get easier, mostly I’m talking about running, on days I don’t want to go out there for being in training. And of course eating healthy.
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?
IDK about the most
all the issues are interconnected so the solutions are interconnected as well!
Where I have decided to focus my work is on the idea of
if we each work in our own individual places
If we work globably, if we each work for us in our places to grow seeds that work for us in our places!
That does a huge amount to combat all of these massive problems associated with
- climate change
- loss of biodiversity
- globalized system
that is creating more and more wealth and equality
certain people slaves to other people
unravels by us have our own selection of locally grown seasonal seeds we share in our individual areas
- creating culture
- delicious food
while combatting massive global challenges
Do you have an inspiration tip or quote to help motivate our listeners to reach into that dirt and start their own garden?
“Opportunity is missed by many people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work”
Quote by Mark Twain
How do we connect with you?
what we’re working on in our intermountain
I am horrible at all methods of marketing and social media
I think going on line is going to be amazing for you because it’s so important and I love your internship course is so important and put together well!
Thanks it was fun!
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