Mike shares the recent history of Spiral Path Farm and the return of his sons to the operation. We talk about how they’ve come back to the farm, and how Mike and Terra have integrated them into the operation, including the unconventional details of how they keep the communication channels open and everyone headed in the right direction. Mike also shares how he, Terra, and his sons have divided up the responsibilities for managing employees, and the guiding philosophy and daily actions that have helped them retain several employees for over a decade.
We dig into the production side of the farming operation, as well. Mike digs into his strategies for growing nutrient-dense, flavorful foods, including the nuts-and-bolts of the composting and cover cropping techniques that work together on the farm to build carbon and soil life. We also discuss farming on the contours, how they harvest and make the most use of the water that falls on the farm, and their approach to salad mix production and large-scale season extension.
Perennial support for the Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously provided by Vermont Compost Company and BCS America.
BCS America: BCS two-wheel tractors are versatile, maneuverable in tight spaces, light-weight for less compaction, and easy to maintain and repair on farm. Gear-driven and built to last for decades of dependable service on your farm or market garden.
Small Farm Central: Providers of Member Assembler CSA management software. Member Assembler has the flexibility to serve the needs of the myriad of farmers’ business models as well as serving non-traditional local food subscriptions like meat, fish, dairy, and fruit CSAs and CSFs.
Quotes from the Show
Our philosophy is basically, you pack your CSA box like it's going to your mother-in-law.
And it's okay to make a profit, but in the process, you want to hold to your values.
If I'm selling to an intermediary who's selling to a customer, the new economy has to take into account that it has to be win-win all the way down the line, and, and it cannot be parasitic.
Our motto is if it falls on us, that's our water, we want that water. We're not trying to get rid of that water, we want it in the ground, infiltrated in so we can use it because we make a living by that water.
I look at instrumentation as teaching you what your senses should know.
The harder something is to do, the less likely it is to get done.
The first employee I had that bought a house I just about had tears in my eyes, I mean, to be a little farmer, and to grow a business and to have an employee, your employee, you're paying an employee enough that they're actually buying a house, having children and providing health coverage. That is the American dream. And it's not just an American dream, for having an employee, it's an American dream for that employer. And I think we have to, we got to hold that, we got to make sure that we have a country where that's, that's the possibility.
I would rather err on the side of generosity in spite of the fact of my weakness in dealing with my fellow man.
What a blessing it is to have passion. I mean, that's, that's the motor running baby. And the thing of it is, to have your heart working and functioning to a degree that your passion is held in check by the wisdom of your heart.
When I sunk my hands in the soil and felt that earth, it was like I was totally cleansed.
He also mentioned the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) annual conference as an important resource – I’ve been to this show, and I would agree!
The Tuscarora Organic Growers Cooperative came up a couple of times in the course of the conversation.