Two Gander Farm – 10 acre vegetable farm operated by Trey and Deirdre Flemming

Trey and Deirdre Flemming operate Two Gander Farm near Philadelphia, PA.

I drove to Two Gander, a 10 acre vegetable farm, late one evening to talk with them about their new or should I say old farm. Trey and Deirdre have accomplished a lot over the last year. This season they moved their farm operation about 25 miles to a new, more permanent location. As I drove in the long driveway I could see even in the darkness and through the high tensile deer fence the makings of a viable vegetable farm. High tunnels, 1000 gallon water tanks and an organized opperation all lay in front of me.

In some ways this episode revolves around land access. Trey has been farming for quite a while on different properties and for different people. He’s on his own now, with Deirdre of course, in a true family farm situation. The Flemmings had to move from leased farm property due to a sale. During their search for property they were introduced to the Brandywine Conservancy through an almost random conversation with a farmers market customer.

Access to land is a huge issue for all farmers. If you’re young you probably don’t have the capital to buy land. If you’re currently farming, rising land prices are an impediment to growth. Finding a way around land access issues occupies the minds of a lot of people in the farm industry right now.

Trey talks about The Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture also known as P.A.S.A. This organization has brought him many opportunities.
Good Agricultural Practices or GAP in farm jargon is taking on more weight each year as a third party checklist to ensure that farmers and the supply chain they use practice safe food handling.

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Mike Traud -Drexel University Culinary Arts Program

Mike Traud is an educator/administrator within the Culinary Arts and Hospitality program at Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pa. The Drexel Hospitality program, which includes the Culinary Arts program is reenergizing itself by bringing on a faculty with high end dinning and business experience.

Mike and I had a meandering conversation about Drexel, the restaurant industry in general and you. Yup all you eaters out there.

What strikes me pretty hard about this conversation is the similarities between the farming industry and the restaurant industry. Remember, my wife and I operate a small certified organic vegetable farm so I know a little about farming. While obvioulsy they both involve food you’re going to also hear about long work hours, low wages, doing a thing for the love of it, and demanding customers all of which happen to be hallmarks of the farming business too.

I have a brand new Facebook page and Twitter account so please like and follow JACK’S FARM RADIO. Thank you for the ratings and the comments on iTunes. They really make a podcaster feel good. And quite frankly motivate me. So keep doing it. Thanks once again to Tin Bird Choir for the intro and outro music.

A.T. Buzby- Eric Buzby- 170 Acre Vegetable Farm

Eric Busby is the second generation on his family’s 170 acre vegetable farm. Located in Salem County New Jersey this commercial operation is all about family.

The average farm size in the USA is about 440 acres. So, at 170 acres A.T. Buzby is really quite small. I guess this podcast just goes to show that size really is relative. With the villianization of the mega farms where does A.T. Busby fit? Where does any small farm fit?

The Buzby’s sell much of the produce they grow through wholesale channels and it is interesting to get a glimpse into the real price of just one of the crops they grow.

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Tianna Dupont- Co-op Extension Service

Tianna Dupont of the Penn State Cooperative Extension joins me on this episode for a fun and informative conversation.

The Coop Extension Service plays an integral role in supporting agriculture throughout the United States. If you’re a farmer and you have a problem or question, the extension is a great resource. Folks like Tianna are  the behind the scenes people who make agg. hum.

In this episode of JACK’S FARM RADIO you get a lesson in some of the basic terms, trends and issues of agriculture. Tianna is articulate, thoughtful and quite objective. Listen carefully as she characterizes the word, sustainable, as existing in both the organic and the conventional agricultural paradigms. I think that way of looking at the word makes sense.

As an eater, ultimately, it’s your choice of food that drives the methods that food producers use. Supply follows demand. At the same time food producers, as business people, must constantly strive to maintain and reduce the costs of production. This dance between consumers and producers leads to the innovations we see in agricultural production. The practices and concepts of Integrated Pest Management and No Till are terrific examples of the both the benefits and complex outcomes that drive the agg research – training cycle. While pesticide use has dropped dramatically under the no till concept; the use of Genetically Modified Seed has played a major part in it’s success as a production method.

It may surprise you just how much firepower in terms of people and money are behind the agricultural industry in the United States. There are a ton of federal, state and local programs that are available to farmers at little or no cost to help them stay in business. While this episode does not dwell on them’ here’s a random sampling of the help available to the agg. industry.

The most publicized and as a result, controversial program, is direct farm subsidies.  These subsidies are basically a form of insurance that are pegged to the risk of reduced yield or entire loss of a crop due to weather. Other federally funded programs are research based S.A.R.E. grants, Rural Development grants and grants and loans through the Farm Service Agency’s New Farmer and Rancher program. 

Plus there’s money and services to protect wet lands, build fences, heck even offset costs of greenhouses. Even farmland preservation is, quite frankly, a subsidy of sorts. The support and research that goes into food production is monumental.

I’ll leave it up to you to decide your position on what type and how much help the agricultural industry needs.
Just remember, agriculture is 1% of GDP in the US as of 2011.

I mentioned Tim Stark on the podcast and here’s a link to his book: [amazon text=Heirloom: Notes from an Accidental Tomato Farmer&asin=B005UVUXKG].

Thank you Tin Bird Choir for my intro and outro music. You can subscribe to JACKS FARM RADIO on i Tunes and please rate the show when you do.

Maysie’s Farm and Cucina Verde

Annmarie and Sam Cantrell join me on this episode.

Sam runs Maysie’s Farm Conservation Center. He’s a conservationist at heart and a dreamer too. Sam started his CSA in the ’90’s. We talk about some of the history of the CSA movement including Sam’s 1980’s brush with one of the earliest adopters of the CSA concept in the USA. A look at history I think, is a look at change. From my experience, small farmers are changing their businesses more frequently than most. Face it, farming is a commodity business where it’s quite difficult to differentiate one farmers products from the same ones another farmer is growing.

With this challenge of differentiation comes the need to tweak your business more frequently than most, I think, and you’ll hear how Sam has done that to keep himself afloat. You will hear about the ever-present stress of the business coming from both managing perceived customer expectations and managing the labor to meet those expectations.

Annmarie has worked as an educator her entire adult life. She currently operates Cucina Verde providing culinary wellness training. She also sells her own fermented foods at local farmers markets. Annmarie is a founding member of GMO Free PA where she advocates for food labeling policies.

I mention the book: [amazon text=Tomorrow’s Table&asin=B00BR5LC72] by Pamela Ronald and Raoul Adamchak. This book discusses the practical juggle between the need to supply the world with food and the need for environmental and economic sustainability for the farms that grow your food.

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Root Mass Farm- 3 acre vegetable farm

Lindsey Shapiro and Landon Jefferies own and operate 3 year old Root Mass Farm in Oley, PA. This young, well educated couple work on a limited budget growing vegetables that they sell primarily at farmers markets in Philadelphia, Pa.

Lindsey and Landon really are doing this on a virtual shoestring. You’ll hear about the limited equipment they use, how they found a farm to lease and what they eat during the busy season. Lindsey and Landon sell their produce at Headhouse Square and The Frankford Transportation Center markets in Philadelphia.

If anything this discussion really points to the need for you to spend more of your food budget at your most local, Producer Only Farmers Market. Producer Only Farmers Markets are just that; the folks selling at those markets are growing and or making their own items to sell directly to you. In The food industry, the vast majority of profit typically goes to the wholesalers. Supporting your local farmers at a Producer Only Farmers Market is a really heathy decision for both you, your community and the producer. Shopping this way helps the farmer or producer capture more of the profit in the transaction.

Lindsey and Landon are a terrific example of the modest, hard working, idealistic food producers you’ll meet at your local producer only farmers market. These are the types of local food industry people you need to support. Hope you enjoy this conversation with Root Mass Farm.

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