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Logo of AdAgrA 2021: Hidden Treasure

02 Meet the Farmer: John & Pam Dysinger, Bountiful Blessings Farm

John Dysinger Pamela Dysinger Ricky Seiler

Conference

Recorded

  • January 14, 2021
    1:45 PM
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Well welcome everyone we've got a few questions we're putting we're putting John and ham deicing are in the hot seat today but we're we're glad you're joining us for kind of a meet the farmer we have a number of questions will run through and hopefully even more than are on the list but let's 1st start off with the word of prayer Father we are once again. Grateful to be here on this day in Texas in January and to have an opportunity to just continue to learn and experience perhaps new ways of doing things in our gardens and farms at home. Or in a special way with John and Pam. And all of us as we are talking about. Trying to understand and learn better ways of being able to be involved in such a powerful ministry as marker guard and we just look forward to the time we get to spend together and just ask your blessing upon it and we pray in Jesus' name amen Ok so. I kind of like to think of John and Pam deicing or as the grandfather no no no but the experience is coming. Yeah that is coming that is coming but you know in regards to the admin to stagger culture Association. John and Pam were very influential in starting this organization that John was the chair of the board for the 1st several years and we we have a great. Gratitude for the work you guys have done and laying a lot of groundwork. In more ways than one not just in farming but in so many other ways to to reach out and touch many people's lives. And I think only in the kingdom or realize how many lives have been touched not just from helping other people learn and experience the idea and the concept of turning some of these market gardening principles into reality but you know obviously the many people's lives of touch with vegetables that you grow and the ways you just touch people and and you know if you're here for the earlier presentation that John gave he was he you know got me emotional because he got a bit emotional about experience about one of their individuals who they have known and worked with for many years whose wife passed away and you know they reach out to their family to say please pray for us and these people aren't even of the of our similar faith and those are of how do you how do you quantify it how do you put a dollar amount on that and just there's just so many things that are kind of so intangible that in this in this market gardening space that. Just hard to know right because we like to talk numbers sometimes the numbers are good and we'll talk a little bit about that today but there's just variety of things that are going on so about the ball blessings farmers where Pam and John actually 1st I'm assuming that's kind of where you 1st got started is that right I mean tell us a little bit about that John and Pam how when you grew up were you did you get either one come from agrarian based lifestyles where I mean where you had that the soil that was just you came out and there was dirt underneath your fingernails I mean was that kind of where your experience was. Well I used to actually love to eat there as a child. And I think that might have had something to do with my interest later on but I mean the short answer is No I mean I came from a very academic background and my wife also came from a very non agrarian background. We did have a garden we Yeah growing up we both had gardens off and on yeah in our childhood but no interest whatsoever in in agriculture I think that's fair to say Well I think my 1st interest came when we were actually overseas and we were teaching in Kenya and I in in Africa at that time you just had a yard person to do your work and I didn't want to portray that image I wanted to do our own yard work and I wanted to have a garden and I remember trying to urge by how do you remember that. I wanted to have a garden and I'm sure I was influenced by a friend of mine there who they had a lovely big garden and so I can remember I remember him getting the tractor and digging it out the school had a tractor but. I'm so sad to say that without it wasn't a cooperative effort in the garden really failed that was our 1st garden we just had too many other things go yeah it wasn't a high enough priority right so you know you guys have written anybody here actually read their book have been These are what's the title of it Ebony's are are our bodies are who's read the book Ok so if you haven't read the book I would encourage you to read the book Ok now just a side note my son he finds it very stressful to read the book. He goes it makes me. It's probably better to read the book before you get into agriculture because once you get into agriculture you start relating to too many things that they bring up in the book maybe I don't know but and you have to you have to read it all the way to the end yeah yeah you got to read it all because. There's a lot of years. Yeah and I have to say so what does Alan really say about it Oh he says it makes him stressful makes him feel stressed to read the book because of because of well you know it's a roller coaster ride No I mean you know when I was writing it I can remember thinking Who is going to want to read this is that was. Just so he was right you know oh it's a good book raise the price a large. Yeah I know it's it's it's important it's an important anyway it talks a lot about their early years of their journey and so here's the thing we could spend easy an hour just on talking about why they felt convicted to get into the whole agriculture so we can't take that much time but do you have just a little snippet of something that you have to recall a moment perhaps or was it more just a tendency moving this direction was there something kind of that just I think we had to think about this was or something like that that you can kind of put your finger on that you could share with us today. So John and I are both teachers and I think the 1st call to our hearts was definitely because of our experience in Africa working with missionaries children we knew that we wanted a different path we knew God was calling us to something different and so that was the 1st step was we're going to do something where we can be a family and we can be more together and. When we left Africa and we came back to the states John to still teaching for 2 years but at that point we said we are not reaching our goals we are not able to be together as a family and the Lord started laying on John's heart agriculture agriculture agriculture if you read the Spirit of Prophecy you can't get away from that they aim and so he was reading more and more and I did not want to farm I did not want to go that route I was really but he did the right thing and he just gave me time and in time the Lord confirmed that that's what we were to do and so we've been united in that vision ever since we put our hands to the plow so what would you say when you say he gave you time what kind of time period I mean you were talking weeks Montt a few years what how did that transfer I mean I only drill down on this because this is for couples small families you know this is a this could be a real sticky situation I remember at this conference at this location at this conference several years ago and we had it here I remember a gentleman coming up to me towards the end and he says I really feel convicted to do this but my wife doesn't want anything to do with it and as he's telling me there's a tear coming down. I mean you could tell you could see it's a struggle and and the idea is like he says he's looking for what what do how do I proceed because I mean obviously his marriage is very important to him what I'm just curious so do you recall the time how that worked out I mean for us it was not very long you know because I was I was completely sold out in following the Lord in whatever he wanted us to do and so I mean I don't remember exactly but John just told me Honey you need to take some time with the Lord and the Lord can print but in that situation to me that something very different Yeah and you're dealing with a heart issue you know and your marriage has to I mean you have to do what's right for your marriage and pray that that spouse will come around so in that situation it might be yours it might be yours but you can't for such a weighty thing it would it would have destroyed our marriage surely it would have destroyed our marriage if we had been united you know. And I'll just say although you know when I came to her so I took time out you know for probably I would say well even close to a year it had been a growing conviction you know after I quit teaching because it was kind of like Ok now what do we do you know I'm out of a job I just. You know so it was you know it was a real time of soul searching but. You know so it wasn't like this came out of the blue you know I was reading Elliot Coleman and the spirit of prophecy and those 2 together and the Bible so I guess those 3 together were just putting more and more conviction on my heart so but it was scary you know I didn't mention it to people it's like yeah well that's that's a neat idea but you can't make a living doing that you know boy and yeah to idyllic Yeah. So anyway I finally took some time out with the Lord and said Just show me and I asked for some signs and he fulfilled the signs but one of those signs was that my wife would be in agreement and so when I came back and shared you know did I really feel the Lord's calling us to this you know it's like I'm not so sure that's when the way yeah yeah yeah you know but it is it's it's a it's an important juncture Right right and that whole experience with with the spouse if you're married and those types of things it's I mean you know it's an important aspect now tell us a little bit about where is the farm located how did you find out like about this particular property that the farm is located on and why did you decide to locate where you're actually located where it. Yeah it's keeps kind of blank and on its shaking. I mean wonder is this Is it a bad. Yeah. Middle Tennessee an hour south west of Nashville feels like summer here. Yeah and we can spend a little time I don't know if we want to do that now looking at this Yeah so tell us a little bit about how did you how how was this location where you decided to land what's what's out about well these are all long answers my parents bought the farm in their retirement 193 acres. You know yeah it was like What are you doing buying a farm for your retirement but you know it was one of those things the Lord knew what was coming and so he prepared the way so the farm was there waiting for us there saying we'll give you 10 acres if you'll come live on the farm. So yeah it was it was. We say were sharecroppers you know yeah on my parents' farm but. They was their thing so you went there. How did you decide like well how to start where to begin I mean what was going through your mind at that point in time. Me if. We had a lot of ideas and I'll say this farmer I'll just caution you this Farmers love what they do or they wouldn't do it and so it looks always good on paper or even when you're talking to a farmer because they're passionate about what they do they love it so. You know the the best numbers they've ever had you know even though that may have been an anomaly. You know you know we me this much you know growing this is what. I'll tell you just a quick a quick story so when we 1st moved there and we were teaching actually but then the 1st spring I wanted to take my little children to pick strawberries and we could not find a strawberry grower anywhere and we drove 2 hours to a farm by an older gentleman to pick strawberries and we did that for 2 seasons I think and the 2nd season we were starting to have some thoughts that we should maybe think about agriculture and I talked to that gentleman about his operation and he was so encouraging about our family starting to grow strawberries and so they actually hand wrote us several pages and we as a family so I had only met him because I was going with the children to pick strawberries while John was working but after they sent us this letter John and I went and sat down and spent an evening and the kids we all went and spent an evening with this precious couple and it was our far my 1st real introduction to kind of the culture of what farmers are I had no idea that's what it was but the kindest most generous willing to share any knowledge they had and that was where we started with strawberries and we crunched the numbers half an acre producing this much we should be good for a year and it all looked good on paper so the land that we're looking at right now was what you are living kind of in that area or on that property yet. Over here out here yeah yeah their. Own home. We built a little log cabin there when we were still thinking we were going to be teaching for many years and then the Lord you know switched our direction eventually we had to sell that log cabin and we actually now live in that big red barn on the 2nd this one right here yeah yeah on the 2nd story we. Yeah you anyway. Well but here's the here's a thought what I what I'd love to just visualize here is could you point out where you actually planted that 1st set of strawberries on that up there is that possible Yeah our 1st field was actually right here where all these are that was where our 1st in our 2nd year and then we kind of made another field here so this is all been leveled and graded and you know for these hoop houses those are movable hoop elss Yeah and so for folks who are just seeing this for the 1st time I've had a chance to go to their farm a couple times from here to here I mean it's a bit of a drop yeah yeah there's definitely a slow and that's why the fields are kind of laid out you know maybe a little funny is just because of the lay of the land. So you grew those strawberries and that's how you got you got started in the strawberry business right and of yeah. So it's fair to say things didn't go quite like you expect that the numbers on paper didn't match. The only thing that matched up was it was a very big trial a very big trial now tell me how old were you guys when when this all happened tell me about your family dynamics how old were you how many kids you have all that kind of stuff well it was in 98 so I guess I was. 30. I don't know I get in these situations and my brain doesn't work very well mid thirty's of. Our children were our children were 24 and right around 6 their 1st 3 are about 2 years apart so we were in our early thirty's and well the youngest so I would have been 32 so you would have been 35. So that So you've been growing for you said what 22 years that right yeah. Yeah $22.00 and a half now I'm curious to know how did you could you just kind of give us a sense of over this 22 year period without going into tremendous detail of course but how has that farm that's that's a current picture right relatively recent picture it's actually a few years old we've we've rearranged the middle fields there so there's 12 of them rather than and Ok but but it's fair to say that primarily you're growing spaces from like here over to over there somewhere Ok And how did you decide to build out I mean you did the strawberries the what was the next step you took after moving beyond strawberries How did you how did I mean is there a way you could just help us if somebody is here thinking about this I mean that's a pretty that's that picture is a bit intimidating for somebody who's thinking about this at least I it's common to mean to me and we have a small farm but our farms much smaller than this I'm just trying to think sequence really how do you can you walk us through something like that so we started so this. Year so these 1st there was no tunnels here and we didn't have all that is just one. This was our 1st structure this houses are now our propagation house so as John said we grew strawberries just strawberries for I think 6 years and so that would be the our 1st crop was 99 to 2003 Ok So that was that when we and then in 2003 we had a devastating hit on the farm that almost took us out and it was at that time that we started a winter growing in the winter and this house was new and we started growing some lettuce and things in there so that that was added in 2003 and then we started to grow well the next structure was that 1st tunnel on the far side these middle sections where you are slowly rolling over here yeah yeah Ok yeah so we had started to grow a little bit in these fields but I will let me just tell you this when we 1st started growing we were doing more than we are now well not when we 1st but in the middle years of our farming you know when John's brother partnered with us for a few years he and his wife in those years we weren't just growing here but we were growing across the road we had about 6 acres under cultivation now we have less than an acre and a half right at an acre and a half that learned growing on so we have brought it much tighter can you tell us a little bit about well I'll come back I'll just I want to come back to Ok so so then we just started adding I think we added some of these moving tunnels but they just added slowly over the years and we've just added our last tunnel down there you see the plots beyond those who poses Yes there are 6 of them those plots aren't being used now we have a house down there where my mother lives oh so. These circular. Right there the circular Rose those are blueberries Ok but we have one we have a force tunnel so the only place we are still going to put a structure is right there. But it's just grown I mean we've been there 2022 years and it takes it's just a process it's a process as if it so I'm curious to know you grow many years did you grow without even having a green any kind of. Green House who pass anything like that did you just the 1st the whole book every time you're gone strawberries you never had that under a tunnel or anything or No No But we actually got this 1st structure pretty early on I think it was in 2000 that you see propagation Yeah and you know I don't ask me how we did it because I don't know where we came up with the money for that but. Yeah we did it because we felt we thought we needed it at that time for propagating the strawberries everybody was doing it under cover so we were just following what everybody else was doing now since then they've realized that actually is better outdoors but anyway that's why we got it and then in 2003 as she was saying we started growing in there in the winter and yeah so we did everything kind of backwards restarted with strawberries and then we do it started doing the winter and then eventually in 2010 I think we had our 1st summer commercial operation could you walk us through a little bit about you went from up to a point where you had 6 or 7 acres now you're back down to about a acre and a half give or take what was the mindset about scaling up and now scaling I mean going back to acre and a half from 6 or 7 acres that's a pretty big. What brought you into that way of thinking well so when we were doing 6 or 7 acres that was when my brother and his family were working with us and we were just at that point we were still focused on strawberries and a winter c.s.a. it was kind of like we would start marketing in October go through strawberry season in May and then this summer we weren't doing marketing we were just we were growing crops for the winter storage crops and stuff. But as restarted getting more structures we you know it's kind of a no brainer it's like these are expensive we need to be using him year round not just in the winter so it's like Ok how do we start utilizing these more efficiently and so then it was kind of a logical step to start doing some are growing and then where it was kind of like well but we don't want to grow year round because that's it's tiring I mean to me it's not the growing so much as the marketing gets stressful after a while and the planning you know you just need a break so then we had this brilliant idea of dividing the seasons so that we would do the spring and summer and Edwin and Jennifer and their family would do fall and winter and that worked well and I still think it's a great model for a farm for a multifamily farm because there's very little overlap actually there's some but. Anyway eventually because of Edwin and Jennifer's children kind of choosing other pathways they didn't see it they didn't choose a future on the farm then Edwin and Jennifer were like you know we're not we don't want to grow old doing this by ourselves so they kind of. I got more involved in their children's lives and activities and we bought them out there half of the partnership and Joshua our son Joshua and his wife lead out in the winter now so we do the spring summer growing they do the fall winter and it's a nice balance I don't know if that fully answered your with that was. Very good but I would be interested in knowing back down to scaling down oh yeah there's So I have 2 families involved in it but now you're growing on a 3rd of what you were at one time I'm just curious to know what I think it was a combination of saying you know I'm always reading new books you know j.m. came out with his market gardener book and it's like man you know you realise it's not always about doing more that it's about doing it better and we started realising that you know if we did less we could probably make as much money and that's proven true and also as a part of this you know Mrs White has a quote talking to farmers who keep adding land and getting bigger and she says Don't you know that 20 acres with the blessing of God can produce as much as 100 and so that really has has motivated us it's like why why keep adding if we can do less and do it better do it more efficiently and with the blessing of God make as much money in you know then we can have ideally you know more time for ministry and stuff so there's yeah yeah absolutely and I would just add to that on a marketing scale at one point we were doing 3 markets a week and we dropped one and we made more. This 2nd one dropped us and we were left with one market and we made more 2019 we thought we really need to pick up a 2nd market we picked up a 2nd market but in 2020 we only had one market we back we went back down and we made as much this year on our market as we did in 2019 when we had to so for us last has been more I think we've just been able to do a better job at it and there's something about farmers' markets if you don't have a bounty if you don't come with an abundance people don't come by your booth and so it's better to have a really balance a full display and you'll sell more and when you just have a little less. I mean it's important lesson because I mean I think a lot of us think in order to in order to maybe make a little more to make this work we've got expand and. Maybe at some point that's true but perhaps it's just you do better with what you have it's also what you're doing yeah you know this year we added my career greens that has been angry addition Tell me about how many people actually work on the farm how many I mean I know you say you divide it into a couple differences and for just you know just a little problem over a class tomorrow we're going to be interviewing Joshua their son and we're going to specifically talk about winter growing that's all that classes about is about growing in the winter I don't really talk to touch on that much here today we're going to you guys do more spring summer but how many how many people work on the farm Tom and I were just saying you know that's really a hard question for us to answer because you know our family that works on the farm is John and I Joshua and Kelly and Caleb So 5 of us but none of us except maybe John are working full time. I mean I certainly don't work full time on the farm I'm doing good if I get out there for an hour I mean I do the books and whatever but and then we have interns and they put in hours but their hours obviously are not valuable like our hours when we really know what we're doing and and then those in turn take a lot of emotional and physical energy from us to care for them to nurture them to guide them to to help them get the experience from the farm that they're looking to get and so I mean this is what we did say though that 5 of us could run the farm at the same level if it was just us that's I think that's safe to say because we have experience we have you know. But because the Lord has called us to lots of other things like you know that takes our time takes us away from farm or are any of the other individuals like yourself or our Joshua r. Kelly are they actually earning income at another job up the farm they're just involved in something else that's kind of not farm specifically related Well Joshua and Kelly have a number of side things Joshua does chickens well eggs yeah and so that's kind of separate from the farm right Kelly has goats Kelly has also done a lot with at sea and she's getting into painting and crafts and that kind of thing so those are all some site things but pretty much it's supporting 2 families full time. I was going somewhere tell us about the internship program how does that work do you like do you do you pay your own turn to they volunteer for a certain amount of time they get a stipend do you provide them housing just how does that generally I mean there may be exceptions but how does that generally work. Well you're asking a lot of big question here. So just briefly the internship we have literally tried all all different ways at one time we were charging quite a bit for the internship and making it much more academic and. And then we've gone to the other extreme where. We were paying them a stipend a monthly stipend but just a couple years ago when we took a sabbatical I tried to do a little more research into it and realize that basically technically from from the government's point of view if you're paying somebody anything they're an employee unless they're contract labor you know but and and we didn't want to get into that with all the complications of that so we're doing what what is technically called a legal unpaid internship and basically they come I mean they pay what is it $250.00 or $250.00 to kind of hold their place and that also covers textbooks and some basic tools and then. There's no additional charge to the interns but we're not paying them either they get free housing they get we eat our noon day meals together or lunches together. We give them $100.00 a month for food stipend to cover you know what they need for their breakfasts and if they supper and they can also eat from the farm so that's kind of it and then as far as we try to make it educational we do we do farm visits 2 or is in that kind of stuff we try to throw on some fun stuff so it's not all work going canoeing and camping and so on. And then class work every day we're doing both spiritual things we go through we study the book education and councils on agriculture and then we go through the new organic grower and. The lean farm a number of books that we go through just trying to give a good basic So it's a combination of of class work but mainly hands on and they do everything from seeding to selling Do they stay where you have accommodations for them that are separate than your house or where they said yes we have 3 tiny cabins very Spartan cabins. So you know we're not we're not trying to give luxury accommodations we're trying to toughen them up a little. It's a 6 months program from from beginning of March to end of August and then usually will keep a couple on through the end of October by the end of the October most of the planting is done for the winter and. Ok good appreciate you sharing that I appreciate you thank you I mean sharing with us that's gone kind of you know you've gone through the whole circle so to speak about it and that's it's just interesting that we used to I mean we used to really feel like these guys really should be making us money so it shouldn't be a hardship to pay them a little stipend but the reality is that I think maybe for some people it worked that way but for us it hasn't worked that way and you know interns make mistakes and sometimes those mistakes are very costly to us and we've had some very recent experiences like yeah yeah so they want to share no. I mean that opportunity and I thought good but Ok we give a lot to it or I take a bit of a transition here we're going to talk about water and what how you deal with water on the farm not I mean as far as irrigation and things of this nature how how are you guys currently set up with with irrigating water and things of that nature we're kind of almost sheepish to talk about it because it's so good that every year we don't want people feeling jealous but. We have I think the ideal water set up we have a large spring you know I don't even know how much you know 6080 gallons a minute that feeds into a pond it's like a 2 acre pond that's up the valley from our house and fields right if you're visualizing it would be kind of yeah. Where yeah Oh and actually that's one of the intern cabins right there I didn't know right here yeah oh yeah all right. So we have a 4 inch line coming down from the pond gravity flow so we don't have to pump our water at all and it's enough pressure to do all our irrigation so it's ideal and we have plenty of water for washing produce you know spring water for that. As far as irrigation goes we we have the farms set up with you know a Fossett by each of the pads so it's a very simple 2 to hook up irrigation and we do a combination of overhead and drip overhead I think is much easier less work involved so we do that as much as we can but some things do better with drip What are the things that you typically find do better with drip as opposed to overhead Well you pretty much you're fruiting crops you know your tomatoes your peppers q. cumbers and the other thing we're kind of going back to a little more we're realizing that overhead irrigation in the winter is is a challenge there's disease issues specifically with downy mildew but then also the weeding even though the weeding is much less in the winter because the soil doesn't really dry out very much especially if you're still irrigating some it's almost impossible to get the weeds out through cultivation they just really root you know after cultivation because the soils moist so we're feeling if we go back to drip we can maybe do a better job of winter weeds. Let's talk a little bit about your propagation your seed house. Talk about if you would a little bit about what what you're a show in regards to you mostly seed and have transplant little plants that you put out in the field or do you are there some crops you actually direct seed right into the field what's up what's up look like and if you do direct seed What are those crops that you direct seed and you don't put out as seedlings. My husband's really the cedar but we do a lot of transplants that is you know it gives us a head start on the weeds because you can have you can have the weeds taken care of and then you put in the plant and it's much easier we even do corn that way in the spring we get a jump start on corn because we can get it you know this big and then it's you know if you plant corn direct seed it it doesn't often come all come up right or the birds get it or its body germination but when we do it for seeds in a soil block and then we can put it out we've got complete in good rows we do direct some things carrots radishes turn up the root their root crops. And we also do paper pot and we're doing a lot of paper if you're not familiar with paper pot it's. It's a chain that has you can you can put it in a tray and then you fill it with soil and you see that and then when you plan to use the paper pop planter So your tray actually sits on the planter and you pull it through pull it towards you and it just. Leaves the leaves the paper part right there and covers it I don't watch a video that's a better so but we're doing a lot of paper padding all of our lettuces and all of our b. and all of our Swiss chard. So just to finish the so direct seated would be carrots beans. Radishes we really don't do much direct seeding of turnips we'll use the paper for that. Baby salad greens like a root. Many of your Asian Mizuno mustard kinds of things. So any baby salad greens other than salad over lettuce which I don't know how much you know about that but that's it's kind of a full head baby mix I don't know how to say it better than that but. Trying to think if there's any other direct seeded crops so pretty much I mean even beats you know we transplant. And the reason is primarily just better stance better results plus much more efficient use of space. So let's talk about your seed your when you're seeding. Do you have a couple tips for people that help them think about when they're wanting to have better success with seeding and germination and and the 2 things that come and what you've learned over the years that you feel like or why this is a big one this is important I wish I went on my 1st tip would be to just listen to the transplant class site just the audio. Slides from that we use soil blocks we really like soil blocks the results of them. Get a good potting mix you know don't fiddle around with with junky stuff don't buy your potting mix from. A box store you know buy it from a nursery supply house or something. Owes it to you yeah yeah but very good. Nother another topic that we can spend a lot of time on and where we have more to cover but what about soil fertility I know you mentioned earlier in the classroom taught here you talked about you had a high phosphorus level or you hear that they are in Tennessee is this is this where do they have a quarry right next to mine the Tennessee Brown. They did it yeah this is really honestly yeah they they had a railroad line down our valley and they mined all of that so any organic growers are probably familiar with Tennessee soft rock phosphate you know that's probably from our farm and we'd be happy to give you some more if you. Have a way to extract it so we just have we have sky high phosphorus levels and we realise there's really nothing we can do about that that's just something we have to deal with so that upside is we never have to add it in now but as far as soil fertility I I kind of have 2 or 3 pronged approach you know I believe in soil testing and trying to balance your soil the best you can chemically. Through through amendments natural amendments but I'm not convinced that's the full picture. I think there's a physical structure component you know our soils tend to be on the clay side they're not super high clay except one little part of the farm. But we've been doing a lot recently with mosques. In my mind is kind of the miracle soil improver because it's fertility wise it's fairly neutral it's not going to throw your numbers off too much but it does an amazing job of of increasing the health of the soil the structure of the soil which makes everything easier that's the thing you invest in the soil and seeding is easier because your planter is not bouncing around and hitting hard spots. Cultivating is easier you know the soil is just softer to work with harvesting is easier because it's easier to pull stuff out. So we were putting a lot of peat moss on our beds just to build the structure of the soil make it looser and and of course it's it's a long term source of organic matter slowly breaking down and then the biology of the soil I'm really intrigued in trying to learn all I can about that and just trying to definitely kind of moving in the direction more of note Hill and that's kind of a whole nother subject but. Yeah so kind of looking at at the soil from all those different angles John or Pam tell us a little bit about the I want to talk a little bit about infrastructure regarding season extension Ok And so just just the concept maybe for some new people here give us a definition of what season extension means and what are the types of tools that typically somebody would use why would they want to see why would they want season extension why why is that important. Well the there's a lot of good reasons for season extension you know one is just holding your customers if you've got all these customers for the summer and then at the end of the summer you say See you next year you know that's always that's hard for them because what are we going to do with fresh veggies so it's good for customer retention but also again it's just it's making the most efficient use of your infrastructure. And when we started out especially with the winter growing you know back in 2003 people were like What in the world are you going to grow in the winter you know it was such a new concept that we had a wide open market we could sell everything we grew in the winter and I would say it's still largely that way although there's certainly many more people getting into it now. So it's it's a less crowded market you know in our area trying to sell tomatoes in July it's like there's tomatoes everywhere it's it's you know people do are looking for tomatoes in July but our goal this year we actually just added a force large house down there and this is our 1st venture into what I would call a high tech climate controlled growing with the fans and heater and automated roll ups sides and stuff so that it's going to be interesting to see whether. It's worth all the additional money but our goal with that is to have tomatoes at our 1st market the 1st of May and. If we can do that we can make a lot of money in May and June tomatoes right and then when everybody else has them then you know we back off from it. But what was your 1st I'm just curious thinking back what was your 1st. Experience with Season excess something that was a season extension did you actually ever do low hoops or in the wire hopes or do you still do any of those or because I'm paying for that for a starter farm when budget is really critical I mean that's how that's how we got started was just a simple we went to Lowe's and we bought these things we bent them and we stuck on the ground and put a blanket on you know whatever I'm just curious is that our 1st season extension was definitely low tech and we did not have the structures we might have had $11.00 of the houses one of the we call them so the small ones are m. houses because they're movable on the far Windsor so we had one of those a child's I think when we 1st started growing in the winter but we definitely used those low who it is a pain there there I mean now if you can get a caterpillar tunnel from the farmer's friends. That's have way better option than what we started with those low tunnels and you know yeah so there are better options now. For those on a budget starting out it's definitely a good way to go you know it's if that's what you can afford that's what you do it works I was telling the others earlier we've had great success with you can you know cover them with row cover but then if you want to go the next step cover them with plastic and with those 2 layers row cover and plastic you can take most any cool weather crops through that any weather that that winter throws at you it's just the effort of setting it all up and then pulling up throw covers and getting under there and harvesting and then putting it all back down and tightening it down it's it's kind of back breaking but if you're young and you've got lots of energy go for it. Talk to us a little bit about well I'll tell you what I want to jump jump down a little bit I'm just kind of keeping track of time here. I have you I know you mentioned earlier you had this period where you're at 6 or 7 acres if scaled back have you found that you've also scaled back at all on the variety of produce that you grow from from a point somewhere before and if you did tell us walk us through why you decided to do that we're not sure. So much it's sad that we still grow a large variety how what what's what I'll maybe 80 varieties of now so that would be kale there are you know we grow 2 kinds of kale we grow curly kale the girl lost a lot of kale right so but I just looked on our c.s.a. they have about 80 different things that they. Where we write. It's a lie I think the difference well yeah we could talk about how our c.s.a. has changed but because that's changed what we grow you know Ok we've we've realized that most people you know we always tried to grow more variety thinking that people are going to be tired of scale in their box every week you know so we're we're growing 5 or 6 different kinds of kale you know red kale and white kale and and all these different things well come to find out most people just want curly kale you know in the same with that with carrots you know you try the white in the red in the purple carrots Well most people just want an orange care tomatoes same way tomatoes are supposed to be red for most people you know so it's like why are we killing ourselves growing all these fancy varieties when they just want what they're used to yeah so yeah I mean we've definitely cut back you know we used to grow a lot more exotic things like chicory and I was in Riddick yos and. But you know people don't really like them that much coal Robbie's you know yeah they will eat em but they'd rather have something else you know so. You know. I just I'll just add a thought though in the way that we used to say before we would be introducing people to food and many times people I have a new favorite like I can remember called Robby being with Hyde never had it before I love it so that's the good thing about the all the way that the c.s.a. was done and the new way they just get what they want and most people just are very noncreative stuck in their garage and they don't really want to hear the new thing unless it's just forced upon them so yeah I guess in that way we do grow less so if you started all over again the very beginning what what would be 2 or 3 things that you would say where you would do that perhaps you would consider doing this different I mean is there something that you would say to like a a newbie out here or even someone who's been around for a while say hey this is something we need to be thinking about when you're heading down the path of considering market farming so I'll tell you one thing that we would do differently and that is that we would standardize everything we would every plot would be the same size every Because that way you can you can use the same row covers on any plot the same drip tapes the same lengths the same if it standardized so much easier but you can look at our car it was a process and nothing I mean we have some standardization is all the ads are the same and. We have well let me say this we have changed you know the structures and the plot sizes to become more standard. But if we were starting from the beginning we would definitely standardize it from the beginning so that's one and then diversification I think is the 2nd thing you know starting out just with strawberries was kind of almost a fatal mistake you know the more diverse it is the less you're dependent on any particular crop. And you guys jump in the Deep in right I mean you left your work and you went into farming full time with there would there be a place for somebody saying maybe start this out keep your day job and do this on the side and work and for sure yeah don't don't do it we do. Because we always do things the hard way what would you say would be a couple things that you're still feeling like your challenges on the farm that you're wanting to. You want to still trying to work with get over this hurdle is there anything in particular that strikes you like that well we wrote down a couple things number 11 weakness that we have is in the area of marketing we're none of us we didn't breed high pressure sales people. And none of us really like that kind of a hustling produce so for the most part marketing takes care of itself you know our farm has a good reputation our customers. Stick around pretty well so marketing isn't a huge thing but where we get into trouble is if we've got like a bumper crop you know like a bunch of cherry tomatoes like this spring you know somebody we thought we had a market for these all these cherry tomatoes so we grew a bunch and then that fizzled out because of cove it so we're you know we're picking you know hundreds of pints of cherry tomatoes and if we'd had somebody with a little more marketing savvy or you know we could have really sold those probably rather than post them. So that's one thing and. So the the other option and this is what we're choosing to do from here you know this next year is that we're actually hiring one of our interns to come back to the farm to deal with value added stuff so that when we have that situation well number one you have somebody that you're not depending on every day to be on the farm so that person can actually do more marketing or could process those in a way that they give them some shelf life do you have a commercial kitchen we have. In Tennessee you can do most things under what under the cottage kitchen ruling and cottage kitchen you can do bread you can do jams you can't do any processing like canning tomatoes or any vegetables but you can dehydrate you can like with the cherry tomatoes if we had dried them we could have been putting them in our gluten free bread that would have been a great you know cherry tomatoes aren't really that good just a hydrated by themselves but I think if we had hydrated them and then we were putting them inside our gluten free bread with our farm herbs so the you've got farm herbs farm dried tomatoes in and a product that's not coming from the farm so that's kind of our tack and that's also why we like the c.s.a. you don't have to market so much we live a long ways out it's not easy for us to just pop in to a restaurant or a store and say hey we've got some cherry tomatoes for you John and then consistency of availability I think this is kind of. The Holy Grail me of market farming but to be able to have led this year round you know and people come to the market knowing you're going to have lettuce or whatever it is you know the big things carrots you know just you know. It tends to kind of the crops ebb and flow and to try to even that out I think is something that every market farmer is trying to figure out it's going to and the challenge is as good as are going to figure out let's open it up for a couple questions maybe 3 or 4 who has one. I mean I've just come to you. Or you said you've been farming for 22 years and there's always a reason to call it quits there's always a reason to be discouraged what has kept you going I don't think we would say there's always it I think in the early years yes there was a lot of discouragement but I would say in the last 10 years we don't face that the farm is on a sound footing it's doing well financially you know this when I look back to even the years when we were growing 6 or 7 acres I mean we made way more money this year than we made back then if that makes sense what keeps us going is we in our customers the relationship we have with them we're more passionate about the lifestyle of the agrarian lifestyle the opportunities for ministry than we've ever been because now we're seeing more of the fruit of it does that mean does that answer your question Michael. I think the other thing is just knowing that we're where God wants us right now you know that keeps us going and I'll just throw this out you know when there have been really discouraging times the Lord kind of you know when I'm ready the throne of how the Lord kind of says Ok well what are you going to do. And it's like I can't think of anything I'd rather do than what we're doing so that kind of gets you through the hard times it's like I can't think of anything else I'd rather do except of course if I know God's called me to something else what are some ideas for value added products and how do you advertise your farm stuff like when you're 1st starting out as a cost. So the value added I'll say come to the Come what is it called Birds of a feather we're doing a birds of a feather in just a few minutes on value added products so come and give your 2 cents but the other the other part of it was how do you get c.s.a. member so this is what I would say we would say c.s.a. is not a place to start you don't start a farm and start a c s a it's see if you think of it in the academic realm c.s.a. As for your master's degree it's just not you don't want to start there and so start by doing farmer's market there's very little you know if you have a crop failure if you go to a farmer's market and start establishing a client tell a customer base and once you get that customer base in place then invite him to join your c.s.a. when you started to get a few years I mean it doesn't have to be long I mean there's so much knowledge out there now there there is so much so just grow for a year or 2 years and if it goes well star c.s.a. Oh do stick. Question. It seems to me I'm in an engineering background and workforce and so this may seem counterintuitive but I'm curious about. Right I kind of find it. That I could cut off work. And say Ok Sabbath time. But I look at this performing thing and I'm like How can I when. You know the person when when the 4 asked this meeting on Friday night or whatever you know could you have any experiences that help you or something that you could. Help you to go ahead and release and truly rest on the Sabbath and not worry about the strawberries or the whatever farming town. That. You. I mean I think we both would have and I'll give we can both get $0.02 on that but it's not easy I will say it is it's not easy to find the balance. We especially John doesn't like to be on the farm on Sabbath because it really reminds of all the things that he needs to do but I think that the bottom line is there are some things that have to be done on the Sabbath when you're doing it when you're dealing with living creatures whether it's plants or animals and so watering whatever can be done ahead we do ahead but if it can't be done ahead like if you're going to have a hard frost on Saturday night sometimes you have to get out there on Sabbath afternoon late usually and pull the covers on but. We really we really do very little on Sabbath and I will have to say that our Sabbath rest is very sweet after weeks of weekly. Yeah just to confirm you know in the busy part of the season we just try not to be there on the Sabbath school summer totally different because then it's not at all weighing on you and again you know Mrs White has a statement. And I just need to memorize it I can never remember exactly how it goes but. No unnecessary work should be done on the Sabbath or something along those lines so we try to really you know I do all my watering in the greenhouse Friday afternoon and much minit much of the year I don't need to water plants in the green the starter house on Sabbath but if it's super hot I'll go there in their Sabbath afternoon and just water but you know that's not really work to me. Yeah and my son says Sabbath was made for farmers. Really but you know honestly I mean here we go. Any. I know you host the intern but it sounds like they're all young or younger and. Bring in a family Apprentice. No pay you know. Experience on the farm just the theory so we're always willing for whatever God brings us and so actually the largest brought us a family there on the farm now 2 months ahead of the internship basically we said we're willing to consider you but you would have to come with your housing so we can't provide housing for if it's a family of $5.00 and $3.00 grown children you know they're there in their late teens early twenty's so so they came and they came and I said just come to the farm and stay for a week you can look around to see if it really seems like the right thing for you if the Lord provide you with housing Well they came with it with a U.-Haul and put it in storage in the town near us and I was like wow Lord you must be you know they spent today looking for a 5th wheel and the Lord provided an amazing deal for them and they they when we get home to the farm it will be there sitting next to our barn so I guess the answer is we're always open for what the Lord brings this is the 1st time that we will have a family our I mean I'm going to say our hearts are largely in the youth ministry because that's where we started our life together and so we love to work with young people but we're also all about family and so and these people have young people and they're not the only interns we're get we're going to a large group there share actually so we have the that family a 5 and then we have. Yeah last question Ok yeah the young lady who's coming back to work for us Ok one more question here we'll wrap it up so recently maybe a little bit more than a year I mean my life moved from Michigan and I was growing little stuff and fish tanks you know and stuff and then I got to Michigan at variance rings right out a plot of land and that was really my 1st time being able to get in the ground and it was awesome but then but then we had events that we had to go to and for myself I grew up playing a lot of sports but I don't play sports anymore so a farm is good enough and then I came back and though we were really did keyless And so my question. But I mean I love because I was my exercise but I was like the weeds were like brutal you know for my how long were you gone like a week or 2 weeks you know I was gone for and my question is. I definitely do enjoy what I see there are different other skills that I have I'm left handed person so the different things I see myself doing and I still enjoy the farm but have you all got into a place where most likely but I just want to hear your thoughts where you What are some tips you would say to keep in mind for the farm where that if you do have a way obligations how to manage that you know in the starting stages or do you just feel slanderous and thought you say oh yeah you know there's a lot to learn about management that you know just learning how to cultivate and when to cultivate in those kind of things that can really help a lot with that. But if you're truly farming for a living. You can't just be a wall farmer you know you if that's one of the beauties of the internship you know we often go away for well even this last summer we went away for a week during the season and it's kind of like Ok guys this is your test here can you can you run the farm without us and they usually love to rise to that challenge and you know go to market and everything and they feel really like wow this is great we don't need them anymore. So it's good to have somebody there to cover for you you can't just leave a farm and say I'll come back in a week or 2 but I would say on a home gardening scale you should be able to leave. Your garden for a week and come back and not find it in too bad a shape that is assuming there is proper rain but we cultivate on our farm once a week it's in the schedule every Thursday or whatever day it is cultivation happens if you do that you never have a weed problem it's amazing it really works beautifully so then you time it Ok if you know that you're going to be have a tendency to be gone in Oh then you if you leave it cultivated and weed free when you come back in one week it's not going to be overgrown but the problem is if you leave it with weeds then you come back in a week and those weeds are going to have really taken. Very good thank you John and peck am. Glad you all. This media was brought to you by audio verse a website dedicated to spreading God's word through free sermon audio and much more if you would like to know more about audio verse or if you would like to listen to more sermons leader visit w w w audio verse or.

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