Curtis shares how his farm grew over the years – and then how it shrunk on its path to profitability and a more family- and faith-focused life, shedding most of its livestock and farmers markets in favor of production that they can stay on top of, and the addition of a major value-added enterprise with their pizza club.
We dig into the pizza club, why they’ve structured it as a membership program, and how that works on a farm that’s wired for community. Curtis shares how they have leveraged seconds and family labor – including Sarah’s skills as a pizza magician – to grow the enterprise and make it work.
Curtis also lets us in on how they’ve created a farm that allowed them to take five full weeks of vacation last year. We talk about the routines and management systems they’ve built to support Curtis’ quality of life goals, including the fundamentals of Curtis’ paper-based system to stay on top of tasks and projects. He also shares the good and the bad about the Chinese-style solar greenhouse they built.
Perennial support for the Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously provided by Vermont Compost Company and BCS America.
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Quotes from the Show
We started more from a vision of community more than really wanting to be agricultural producers. We wanted to farm, but the motivation behind that was community.
You can have all of these good feelings, and how do we actually make this work financially? We have found ways to interface with that community that generate enough income that it works out.
I don’t think anybody gets to start something up without having a real intense period.
We had about forty goats, which is forty-too-many goats no matter what else you’re doing with your life.
Larger than two acres, smaller than ten acres, it’s hard to mechanize fully enough to really take advantage of economies of scale.
So, I’m out there tilling, and it’s dark, and it’s like the finger of god came out of the sky and pointed at me and said, “Hey, stupid, what are you doing on the tractor? There are five little girls in the house who want a bedtime story, and you’re out here on the stupid tractor. Are they really going to care in ten years if you grew carrots in the fall of two-thousand-whatever?”
Farming is ninety percent figuring out when to do things.
When you get connected to the land and the soil, you can’t be out there very long before you start thinking much bigger thoughts than the thoughts you were thinking when you started.
Curtis had nice things to say about the Great Plains Growers Conference – and I agree!
Curtis shared a lot of details about Chinese-style solar greenhouses. His was inspired by Sanjun Gu, who is featured in this article.