Mark Cain owns Dripping Springs Garden with his partner, Michael Crane. Located in northwestern Arkansas, Dripping Springs has about four acres in production, with half of that in cut flowers. Most of the flowers are sold at the Fayetteville Farmers Market, while the vegetables are sold primarily to local retailers and through a small CSA program.
Mark shares the story of how Dripping Springs built the market for local, organic flowers, and how they continue to maintain a strong market presence in the face of increasing competition. We dig into the wedding market, practical farmers market strategies, pricing, and how to produce a high quality cut flower.
We also hear about Mark’s journey to starting Dripping Springs in 1984, including his encounters with some of the giant thinkers of sustainable agriculture in the early 1980s. And we dig into how Dripping Springs manages to farm on steep hillsides with a minimum of erosion and a maximum of water harvesting, as well as the well-respected internship program at the farm.
Mark also tells us about the work structures that they’ve put in place to maintain a vibrant quality of life more than thirty years into the farm.
The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.
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.
Quotes from the Show
They’re never going to pay thirty dollars for a watermelon no matter who’s birthday it is.
People that are out there that are trying to grow cut flowers on the cheap and then not handle them well, and then sell them at farmers market, are not doing themselves a favor, because people will stop buying them.
Part of [our pricing strategy] is what the market can bear, and part of it is the costs that we have in the flowers.
My personal journey has been finding my way between these two polarities of this exuberant, eccentric English horticulturist and this Zen nature-person that Fukuoka was.
If you don’t put some boundaries around how much you’re willing to work in the field, the farm can just eat it all up.
You need to change the oil in the machine, including the psychology of the machine, once a day in order to be a really happy person.
It is not a matter of just resting; somehow you have to be able to set down the entire ball of wax.
Somehow I had to find a way to break that mental chain of being always attached to what was weedy and what needed mowing and what needed planting. Of course all of that‘s important, but how do you break the incessant worry about it? If you can find a way to do that, however it is, it’s really important.
As you get older, you realize that you can work hard your whole life and then one day you’re going to be dead. What will you have done if you’re going to be lying on your deathbed and say, wow, that was a lot of gardening, and that’s all there was.
Mark mentioned the importance of John Jeavons’ book, How to Grow More Vegetables, its mention of Alan Chadwick, and how that took him to California where he learned the market farming trade.
While Mark was an intern at UCSC, he had the opportunity to meet Masanobu Fukuoka, the author of The One-Straw Revolution, who inspired Mark to experiment with Fukuoka’s methodology.
Dripping Springs Gardens laid out their fields based on the concepts outlined in P.A. Yeoman’s Water for Every Farm, which allows them to harvest water and prevent erosion on steep hillsides.
Mark mentioned his Celli spader, which he feels has allowed them to do a tremendous amount of work with their small Kubota tractor. This is Mark’s favorite tool on the farm.
Dripping Springs also uses a Buckeye Junior Bedder for shaping beds.
Mark uses a BCS and implements to complement the work done by the tractor. (BCS America is a sponsor of the Farmer to Farmer Podcast)
The ATTRA Internship List is the primary way that Dripping Springs Garden attracts interns.