Jen Campbell raises two acres of vegetables on Canada’s Prince Edward Island at Jen and Derek’s Organic Farm. She sells about $80,000 of certified organic vegetables per year primarily through a 90-member CSA, as well as to a retail store and a wholesale distributor.
Jen has been farming on Prince Edward Island since 2006, and she tells the story of growing her farm from a part-time operation to a full-time income. We talk about how she made the leap to full-time farming, including the decision she and Derek made to have Jen focus on the farm while Derek works off the farm. Jen also provides an honest look at her experience of having twins early in her full-time farming career, how she managed that in the early years, and the decisions she made around childcare and schooling.
Prince Edward Island is potato country, and Jen and Derek’s Organic Farm is located in one corner of a conventional potato farm. Jen shares the social and cultural strategies she follows to maintain the integrity of her organic crops, and how she fits into the community of conventional potato growers on the island. We also touch on her participation in a winter CSA program, including how to harvest roots on a small scale and the economics of winter storage, tractor farming on two acres, and how she’s adapted the food safety practices of her conventional, large-scale neighbors to her own operation.
Jen’s the real deal – I hope you enjoy getting to know her. I know I did.
The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.
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Quotes from the Show
I think the main reason I’ve been so successful and my members are so happy is because when they have questions, I’m there to talk to; or if they’ve got a problem, I’m the face that they see.
I worked full time and farmed for quite a few years before I left [that job]. It was small scale but I wanted to make sure that I enjoyed it.
It’s one thing to apprentice on a farm and have your boss tell you what to do, and it’s another thing to all of a sudden be responsible for all of these people’s vegetables.
I realized quickly that I wasn’t going to be that woman who had her kids home at the farm. It just did not work with me.
I still feel a little guilty [about putting her kids in daycare] because I think people assume, they say, it must be nice that you work for yourself and you work at your farm, your kids must be so helpful, and I always think, where do you work? If you work at the bank, do you take your kids to work and how helpful do you think that would be?
I chose to farm with iron so that I wouldn’t have to be out there with a hoe, so that I would have more time for family.
I don’t figure anybody’s paying me to weed. They’re paying me to harvest and to plant.
One of Jen’s favorite crops is Osborne Seed Company’s Multi-Leaf lettuce, which is similar to Salanova in its growth habit.
Jen recently started using Farm Credit Canada’s accounting software, AgExpert Analyst, and she wishes she had done it sooner!
Photos from the Show
Here’s Jen rolling up the row cover: