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Last night, I did a marketing webinar with NOFA- Mass. We had great time talking about the buyers journey, the curse of knowledge, how to tell your customers story, and the importance of unified messaging. At the end, I offered some resources that I have found helpful. Here you go. Click the book to take you to Amazon and purchase.
Paco underhill is an environmental psychologist, who has spent his career researching why people
buy or the science of shopping. For those who have retail outlets for their product, whether they be farmers market stalls, roadside stands, or other venues, Paco’s books are a must.
What do companies such as Go-pro, Apple, and Coca-Cola have in common? They all do a great job with marketing. Yes, they all have great products (well, in the case of Coke its debatable), but in reality, they have figured out how to tell the story of how you need their product.
You can do that too.
You shouldn’t have to struggle with selling your product or communicating with your customers. Join me this Tuesday at 7 PM when I will share simple principles, tips, and techniques to connect with your customers and sell more product. I will talk about the power of developing your farm story and branding your farm, figuring out who your customer is, and connecting with them through simple social media strategies.
Over the last several years, I have spent thousands of dollars on marketing courses and seminars. Why, because marketing is a vital part of any business. As I tell people, “if you can’t sell you product, its like you are just growing expensive compost”
Best of all, did I mention this is free? This webinar will be part of NOFA/Mass’s Inspiring Ideas from Experts in the Field. See all the details below.
You can also click here to see NOFA-Mass’s original post.
Winter growing can be tough. From unforeseen cold snaps which damage plants, to aphids wreaking havoc, it’s not a forgiving growing environment. Then if you manage to get a nice crop grown and ready to harvest, you have voles to deal with, and downy mildew starts destroying your lettuce. Other questions lurk… If you are building a new tunnel, what features do you add? What’s worth the money?
The winter season should be easy and slow paced. You shouldn’t have to be working long days weeding chickweed from your paths, shoveling your tunnels out and fighting those pesky voles for your super sweet spinach. You need a winter growing system that puts you back in control of your time, allowing you to rest and recuperate from the crazy summer growing season.
When I started winter farming back in 2005 at Kilpatrick Family Farm, we had all these problems and more. I remember plowing out greenhouses at midnight because we hadn’t constructed them properly. I remember losing whole crops to disease, insects, or those voles… And yes, I weeded my share of chickweed (and tomato volunteers) from the beds.
I knew there had to be a better way, so I embarked on a cross-country study of winter production farms, talking to dozens of growers, asking about their techniques, varieties, and styles. We talked to greenhouse manufacturers, extension agents, seed breeders. We refined our system to make it work for us, providing a stream of winter growing profits that allowed us to sleep well at night.
I also shared our system with hundreds of growers across the US, talking at dozens of conferences, giving webinars, and getting lots of feedback. I fielded hundreds of questions too. Over time, I realized the questions started following patterns, so I began compiling a FAQ.
Last winter, I sat down and decided to turn that FAQ into a 60 page ebook, covering the top questions I get on winter growing and season extension. It’s jam packed with information that will save you time, make you money, and help you grow a crop you can stand back and be proud of. It will help you know what parameters to run your greenhouse at so you can sleep well at night, knowing that your crops are tucked in and safe for your customers.
Already, the few growers that I have shared it with are giving positive feedback. “A great little book, I enjoyed it” from a grower in Vermont. A grower in NY said “I can see a lot of work went into this, very helpful information”
If you’re wondering how much this information is going to cost you, well, that’s the best part. For now, I’m making it available for free. That’s right, click on the link below, sign up, and we’ll email it to you directly!
What do you have to lose? Click this link, and I’ll send you the ebook. In a few months, I’m going to rewrite and start charging for this valuable information. Don’t miss out.
A couple weeks ago I said that Adam Montri (of Michigan State University) and I were teaming up to offer a webinar on Transplant production. We’re going to cover design, setup, tips and techniques used by some of the most successful farms in the US. It’s scheduled to be an hour but there is so much good information that I’m worried we won’t be able to get it all in! There is only 100 seats available and they are going fast, so make sure to sign up today to reserve your spot! We’re hoping to record it and share the content latter but no promises that it will work!
Here are the details:
Thursday, March 17th 7-8 PM
This webinar is one of three that MSU is offering this spring. I’m definitely going to be sitting in on Adam’s about tunnel crop production!
Here at our farm we transplant well over 100,000 transplants each year. A significant portion of those are transplanted and set by hand. In order to do that efficiently, there are several systems we have set in place.
Good soil preparation is key. If the soil is cloddy, or has too much trash, or is hard, sticking the transplants in is going to be tough. We try to till the same day to create a loose, friable soil. This also helps the transplants out compete the weeds as they are both starting the same day. .
Clearly marked beds helps the transplanting process go smoothly and cultivation afterward work well. There are several ways to achieve this. For our greenhouse transplanting, we have created marker rakes that create lines in the soil.
With our basket weeder, we can turn the row sweeps upside down and use them to mark the rows.
Currently, since much of our transplanting is done on raised beds made with our bedder which has a rolling basket behind it, we fasten tubing around it that creates the lines for transplanting.
To mark in-row spacing, we use ½” x1” 6’ long sticks that have the different spacing marked on them in different colored paint. That allows us to easily scoot along the field as we lay transplants out.
Properly grown transplants that come out of their trays easily is another essential. Start with a good compost base mix, use the right size cell, and harden them off properly. We prefer the Speeding or Winstrip branded trays, although there are many other options. Right before transplants head to the field, we loosen them by using one of our poppers. See video below for a quick explanation.
Efficient planting techniques is the last key to good transplanting. Our transplanting team is usually comprised of 3 or more people. Two to lay out the transplants (one on each side of the bed) and one person to do the actual transplanting. We find that the transplanter works fastest by being in the bed, and straddling a row of transplants. As you can see in the video below, we have a specific method we use to transplant. One hand grasps the transplant and lifts, the other hand pokes the hole with the index (and middle finger if they are big rootballs) and the thumb follows up by sweeping soil back around the plant. We try to irrigate right after transplanting or time our transplanting before a rain storm to set the plants in well.
Having a good system for transplanting has made it much more enjoyable. We find with 3 well-trained people we can plant 3000 plants per hour. What are your favorite transplanting tips and techniques?
Today was the first real field walk of the season. Frankly, the ground has been covered with snow before today and we just couldn’t get out in the field. There are so many reasons to do a field walk, but the biggest is that you get a real idea of exactly what is happening on the farm, in the moment.
Today there wasn’t too much to see. There were still patches of snow, lots of mud, and cover crop starting to green up. The compost piles were finally thawed, and that’s good because people are starting to ask about buying it.
A couple key takeaways:
- The overwintered spinach looks great. Other than the section of cover that blew off, its green and growing. Hopefully, we can get in there later this week and fertilize and cultivate. Interestingly, the spinach that we harvested last in the fall is for the most part alive as well, especially the Space and Red Kitten varieties. It had no cover on it. I’m still trying to figure that one out…
- I hate voles. They created significant damage in row covers as well as some of the overwintered crops. Granted it was a hard winter for them but why did they have to create holes every 2 ft in that brand new cover as well as destroy some overwintered cropping? Agrid3 and bait boxes do a wonder on these guys. I’ll have to set those up as well.
- New drainage is working excellent. I am disappointed that we won’t be here longer to benefit from the money we put into the drainage project, but for this spring it will be great. No ponding in the lower fields and a 8″ deep flow was making its way into the river with no erosion. It does need overseeded with more grass, since last year’s take was a bit sparse.
- Scallions are bulletproof. Two different locations, different dates and soil types, survived. Not looking forward to cleaning them (overwintered scallions usually have lots of dead lower leaves on them) but it’s amazing how hardy they are. No covers, even in -25 F, and they live. We need to clean them up, fertilize, and row cover them to push them along.
Hope you have enjoyed this mini-tour of the farm. I usually do 2 a week. One early in the week to get a feel for what we’ll be harvesting, and a Friday walk to come up with the task/work list for the week. That gives me a few days to get supplies, plan out the daily schedule, and organize our efforts.
NOFA-VT does a great job organizing a calendar of workshops and tours. This workshop was another home run for them! Managing people is always one of the hardest parts of business, and I’m always interested to hear another farmers take on this difficult subject.
Chris Blanchard is a former farmer of 25 years, and is now an educator, consultant, and speaker. You can learn more about him and what he does at his website, PurplePitchfork.com . I highly recommend checking out his Podcast as well.
Chris started off the morning by having us all introduce ourselves and say whether we were a good boss or bad boss. It was interesting to see what people thought they were and why. Then Chris opened by telling us that his farm used to be known as the “Yelling farm” and no one wanted to work there. This is what made him really focus on learning to manage people.
Here are the takeaways that I got out of the conference:
- Screen your potential employees by creating hurdles for them in the application process, i.e., employment application, references, showing up for interview on time, etc. At KFF, our farm, we had an online application, interview, and then checkout day that the applicant had to survive, before getting hired.
- Tell the rules- UPFRONT. Have an employee handbook, do a walk-around the farm and show them where things are and the procedures that help the place run.
- Blurry edges make crappy work. Define the job so there is a clear expectation for how and why things are done. Use SOP’s, directives, checklists, etc… Common sense isn’t as common as we would like to think.
- Establish authority by following up. To often we tell someone how to do something and then 15 minutes later they are doing it their way. You need to follow up 15 minutes later and retrain (if they don’t understand) or reprimand (I’m just going to to do it my way).
- Fire well- don’t drag it on by just giving them the rough, miserable jobs so they want to quit. You owe it to them to let them move on into a job that is better for them.
- Order Propagates- keeping things organized encourages the workers, speeds everybody up, and helps you find thing later.
- You don’t know what you don’t know until employees show up.
Overall, I really enjoyed the workshop. Chris is a fabulous speaker and entertaining. I came away realizing I had a lot of work to do to be a “good boss” but Chris gave me many tips to help me on the journey.
As you may know, we’re relocating our farm and selling off some of our equipment. We are doing a facebook sale starting this Saturday and End Tuesday, March 10th at midnight. All items are on the Facebook sale page where the bidding will take place Here:
If you want more information on the sale, terms, trucking, etc… and to see everything laid out in spreadsheet format on google drive here.
Items are sold as is/where is. You are more than welcome to come and inspect item anytime after March 5th. At conclusion of sale, highest bid wins unless it doesn’t meet my reserve price (which is not the ES price ((that is only what my research shows they are going around)). Buyer will be informed of winning bid within 24 hours of close of sale.
Equipment inspection: Our address is 9778 State Route 22, Middle Granville, NY 12849. Please call before coming to look, we are closed Sundays.
Bidding: Please bid by commenting below the item for sale. If you have questions or can’t figure facebook out, emailing me your bids are okay.
If you have questions, comments, about sale in general, please ask them in the top post on the facebook page, so everyone can see the answers.
Here’s a video I made last summer to explain how our greenhouse tray systems work. Enjoy!!!