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The Thriving Farmer Podcast

The Thriving Farmer Podcast

Author: Michael Kilpatrick

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If you’re looking to build a profitable farm that works, The Thriving Farmer Podcast is for you. Learn the latest tricks and strategies from successful farmers, strategize with in-depth interviews with leaders in the industry, and connect with stories of farmers just like you. With over 15 years of farming background, your host Michael Kilpatrick has the experience and authority to bring you practical advice, ask the hard questions, tease out the gold nuggets, and help share what it’s really like to build a truly profitable, sustainable farm. In the interviews, we focus on building farms that last, setting up your systems, knowing your customers, building your team, and treading that ever-challenging work/family/life balance.
28 Episodes
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Crystal Stewart is a Cornell Cooperative Extension agent for 17 counties in New York State. She recently started a SARE Fellowship which took her across the country to visit farms of all types. In this episode, we discussed her trip and what she learned, her research work with garlic, melons, carrots (yes bolero is still the best) and lettuce, and how she sees agriculture progressing in the Hudson Valley In This Episode: >> A deep dive into all things garlic and the mulching methods that decrease fusarium. >> How a SARE fellowship works and the places that Crystal visited on her trip. >> How growers are dealing with allium leaf miner in NY >> Some varieties of carrots that show promise for storage Full Bio Crystal Stewart works with diversified organic, small and beginning vegetable farmers throughout a 17 county region of Eastern NY, helping them to improve both sustainability and profitability for long-term success. Her responsibilities are divided between providing on-farm support to address grower concerns; creating educational programming including local, statewide, and regional meetings; and conducting research in organic systems with a focus on root crops, garlic, and other alliums. Prior to joining Cornell Cooperative Extension in 2007, Crystal worked as a regional horticulture specialist for South Dakota State University. She received her Masters in Horticulture and her Bachelors in International Agriculture from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
Ray Tyler farms and educates at Rose Creek Farms in Selmer, TN with his wife Ashley and their children. In this interview, we break down how Ray got started farming, their drastic shift into a much more focused production, their diverse marketing to make it in a very rural area of the country, and the challenges they have faced along the way. In This Episode: >> The big change that Ray made in 2015 to simplify his life and give him back time on his farm >> How they attract and keep high-quality help on their farm and who Ray likes to hire >> The niche marketing channels that Ray is seeing explode for them and how they make that work for their farm. >> The importance of a mentor and how to make sure you value their input Full Bio Ray started farming full time in 2009. At first, it was a wide focus with tractors, vegetables, animals and more which resulted in an extremely chaotic lifestyle. Early in the spring of 2015 right at transplant season, Ray and Ashley’s 6-year-old daughter was diagnosed with a very aggressive life-threatening stage 4 cancer. After a radical diet and lifestyle change that followed their daughter’s health crisis they started to consume large amounts of Vegetables, a lot less meat and in the fall of 2015 we made a leap of faith to sell their meat business, stop using a tractor, and farm using only one acre. By focusing on creating better growing systems in their produce operation and changing their farming practices, Rose Creek farms now focuses on year-round production, a near weed-free farm and being really aggressive and creative about their sales outlets they have been able to live a sustainable and enjoyable life, rarely working in the fields more than 8 hours a day.
Here's a bonus episode that I put together after meeting up with Becky at the Frozen Ground winter growing conference in July 2019. I wanted to share her research about overwintering onions since it's an opportunity that some of you may want to try out or perfect on your farm. Becky Sideman is a professor, researcher and extension agent with the University of New Hampshire. Her areas of expertise include sustainable agriculture, season extension and high tunnel production, vegetable and small fruit crops, plant breeding and genetics, plant disease resistance and disease management. Takeaways >> Becky was shocked when even applying 900# of potassium to a greenhouse tomato crop wasn't enough >> Her favorite varieties for overwintered onions include bridger, gatekeeper, forum, walla walla and desert sunrise. >> An overview of crop management, fertility, irrigation, pest and diseases in overwintered onion trials
Darren Doherty is the worlds foremost farm designer and founder of the Regrarians platform and Regrarians LTD. In this episode, we dive into what got Darren started in farm design, what a truly regenerative farm is, and the challenges that farmers all around the world face as they attempt to restore carbon to the landscape. In This Episode: >> How Darren developed the Regrarians platform and the original framework it is based off of >> Darren’s advice to new farmers and the key areas they should focus on >> How so much of farming is the climate that you are are in, and the climate of your mind is an important part of that >> Why Darren prefers the word 'team' over 'staff' Quotes from the episode: “Looking through just 1 lens (biodynamic, organic, etc) is myopic, and today's farmers need to play with a full deck of cards” “Surround yourself with those a little further down the road than yourself, a community” “Know yourself better so that you can work with yourself” "Make your farming year boring to the point that you can focus on building the systems into every area of our operation” “Be excited about feedback, whether from other farmers or from your customers, its free advice!” “Your network of customers is your greatest allies in building your business, so often, they are experts in so many areas that you need help in”
Erika Tebbens is a Sales Strategist and Speaker. She worked for Michael’s farm, Kilpatrick Family Farm for a number of years as the market and sales manager before running her own farm for several years. In this fascinating interview, she unpacks how to cultivate raving fans, how Kilpatrick Family Farm innovated and outsold much more established farms by implementing simple sales techniques, and her pet peeves that farmers do that decrease their sales unintentionally. Check out the 3-day #FarmersMarketChallenge that Michael and Erika will be hosting from July 30 to August 1st! Sign up here at https://www.farmersmarketchallenge.com/   Full Bio Erika Tebbens is a Sales Strategist and Speaker. She coaches female, and gender-expansive entrepreneurs, on how to sell smarter, earn more and create raving fans for their business. She's been selling and teaching others how to run successful businesses, for over 15 years. When she isn't working, she's relaxing in her Upstate NY home with her husband, teenage son, and two spoiled dogs.
This week's episode is a bit different...I brought on Alex Judd, my business coach to talk about how to set yourself up for success in small business. We talk about goal setting, pushing yourself, working with Millennials, and much more. You may not think this is for you if you're a farmer, but I'd disagree with that. I always encourage farmers to look at their farm through a business lens and this is a great conversation for that! In this Episode: >> Why Alex is so passionate about leadership and helping small business owners become the best leaders they can be >> Why people problems are usually leadership problems and how focusing on being a team encourages cooperation >> How it takes humility to realize you can't do it all as a business owner >> The biggest thing that Alex learned from one of his mentors that wasn't an easy lesson for him to take >> How goal setting is like sowing seeds Alex Judd is a Business & Leadership Coach for Dave Ramsey's EntreLeadership Team. In addition, he hosts all EntreLeadership live events and often appears as an interviewer on the top-rated EntreLeadership Podcast. Alex is a passionate communicator who is committed to inspiring understanding, action, purpose, and faith in the lives of others. He is a 2x Ironman Triathlete and has run 18 Marathons.
Daniel Brisebois is a founding member of the Tourne-Sol Cooperative farm which grows vegetables and seeds outside of Montreal, Quebec. In this interview, Dan shares how his role on the farm has evolved as the farm has grown, how the cooperative management model works, and how farms need to focus on running their numbers which can easily be done with spreadsheets. In This Episode: >> The 3 different types of farm stress and how to manage them >> Why working on other farms as you start is so key for a great education >> Dan’s physical planning process that sets him up for success every day >> Why even in the crazy busiest times it's so important to step back, spend time with friends, family and get perspective. >> How Tourne Sol consistently finds excellent workers to help their farm grow Quotes from the episode: “We’ve never been in a time with more information available but none of that replaces actual experience, I think it supplements it.” “There is no one way to farm, no one system that fit everything.” “Farmers frequently take better care of their BCS than their bodies.” “I need to have time to spend with my brain.” Full Bio Dan is a founding member of Tourne-Sol co-operative farm where he now leads the seed team. He loves solid farm planning and great management and is a spreadsheet maniac. There's a soft spot in his heart for Brassica rapas, hot peppers and anything crossed up. But he'll grow anything to seed at least once.
Brian Bates farms with his wife Anne at Bear Creek Organic Farm in Petoskey, Michigan. In this episode, we dive into what it takes to run a successful farm business, how Brian innovates constantly on his farm, how he believes that his team is his most valuable asset and the process he uses to train them, his foray into super sustainable packaging, and why his favorite tool is a calculator.   In This Episode: >> Why their original farm plan had no plans for a team and why that changed >> The simple schedule that Brian follows and why it makes his farm work better >> The number one mistake that new farmers make and how to avoid it >> How Brian and his wife Anne split responsibilities on the farm >> Brian’s number one focus in his business and why that has made him successful >> How one of Brian’s key decisions on where to locate his farm came from a conversation he had while stocking groceries. Quotes from the episode: “you might want to think twice about growing arctic kiwis ” “You are hiring a human- not a washer, a cultivator, a weeder, so treat then like one” “all our enterprise budgets are built with $25 an hour labor included so we can afford to pay well” “because we are in far north Michigan, in a small community, with already established farms, we wanted our own market, and not to step on toes” “asking for money through a loan filters out many bad ideas” “If we didn’t focus on our customers we would be out of business” “Self-care is so important, - you can’t keep a farm going for long going to sleep exhausted and waking up tired” Full Bio Brian Bates owns and operates Bear Creek Organic Farm in Petoskey, Michigan with his wife Anne. Brian is passionate about small farm finances, making a living doing what you love, and savvy marketing. With no secrets, a lot of ideas, and some serious elbow-grease, Bear Creek has grown dramatically in five years to over $400k in sales on just 2 acres. Growing from part-time farmers to full-time farmers with 6 employees and a growing family, Anne & Brian are committed to the process, their people, and serious customer service. Brian and Anne have been honored as Entrepreneurs of the Year and Local Food Heroes by their community and in 2018 Brian was named one of Fruit+Vegetable’s Top 40 Under 40 Next Generation Leaders. Follow them on Facebook & Instagram @bearcreekorganicfarm for daily updates from the farm!
This week we're doing a round-up of season 1 to highlight the best of the podcast so far and look ahead to what's coming up in season 2. A big thank you to all of our loyal listeners for making Season 1 a success!
In This Episode: >> How communication is key across any farm but especially when you are renting or leasing land from others. >> What Jordan learned from his mentors that has made a huge difference in structuring their marketing >> Why he is in favor of hiring employees vs a bunch of interns on his farm >> How they accomplish a tremendous amount of work with only 4 people on the farm. >> Jordan’s 3 recommendations for any new farmer when getting started   Quotes from the Episode: “We only have so much bandwidth, especially at the beginning, there is so much to figure out” “When you set up your employees for success with clearly delineated jobs, they can accomplish so much” “Marketing is all about relationships. We focus our marketing heavily on building long-term relationships” “Success takes time, 5-7 years in is where you really start seeing massive traction” “If you are looking to get started farming, learn on someone else's dime first” About the Guest: Jordan Green is the founder of FarmBuilder (2017 – current), co-owner of J & L Green Farm in Edinburg, Virginia (2009 – current), a United States Marine Corps veteran (2004-2009) and graduate of the apprentice program at Polyface Inc. (2001-2002). Prior to that, he grew up on his family’s homestead in Virginia and had several successful small farm enterprises.  
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Comments (2)

Ryan Slyzuk

Great content Michael! Thanks for stepping up and filling the giant void left after Chris' passing and the end of the Farmer to Farmer pod. Keep the torch lit!

Jul 9th
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Jake Caron

Great to have this podcast from In the Field Consultants! Looking forward to learning from the guests that are hosted on it.

Mar 9th
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