Photo by Scott David Gordon
Brenton Johnson started growing vegetables in his backyard in Austin, and then his front yard, and then he started selling them, and then he moved to a larger acreage, and then to an even larger acreage at his current location fifteen miles east of Austin, Texas. Johnson’s Backyard Garden is a little bit bigger now, with 150 acres of vegetables and over 100 employees – and all of this since he first started selling vegetables in 2006.
Brenton shares the hows and whys of growing Johnson’s Backyard Garden, and we take a look at the organization behind his custom-box CSA, farmers market sales, and crop management, as well as irrigation and the use of storage facilities to extend the season into the hot Texas summer. Johnson’s Backyard Garden also has a reputation as a marketing powerhouse, and we get into how Brenton has built the JBG brand.
We also discuss Brenton’s approach to the entrepreneurial aspects of farming, and how Brenton has managed the fast pace of change in his business.
The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.
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Quotes from the Show
It wasn’t planned like this at all, but somehow the Backyard Garden got started in the middle of 17 million people… and [we have] a year round growing climate, as well.
Since I didn’t grow up farming, there wasn’t a path for me to follow. I just tried to look all over the country at people who were successful and tried to figure out who I wanted to aspire to.
When we took off two weeks in the middle of the summer, it was really hard to get our momentum back, and we lost some customers. I asked, “Why stop?” It’s hard to start the farm back up, and it’s easier to keep it going.
Water is an absolute necessity in order to produce a dependable crop. I realized that if I was going to be able to sleep at night, I needed to have an adequate water supply.
A lot of times if you have something invested in something, you’re going to try to make it work. But we don’t operate that way. If it’s not working, we’re going to start over and try to fix it the right way.
Andros Engineering makes the drip irrigation tape deployment shank that Brenton uses.
Brenton suggested looking at Roxbury’s Farm’s information for farmers as an excellent resource for figuring out your systems.
Brenton helped start a farmer training program in Austin, Farmshare Austin.