Emily Oakley owns and operates Three Springs Farm in Oaks, Oklahoma, with her husband, Mike Appel. Since 2003, they’ve sold their organic vegetables through a CSA and at a farmers market. They’ve chosen to keep their farm small, not just in acres but also in overall production, substituting tractors and equipment for labor on their three acres of vegetable production where they gross about $80,000 per year, with a net of well over half of that.
We talk about their choice to limit their acres, their work hours, and their growing season, and get into the way that their farm changed when their child was born three years ago.
With its unpredictable weather and biblical pest outbreaks, Emily says that if you can farm in Oklahoma, you can farm anywhere, so we also dig into how Three Springs Farm manages uncertainty and risk both in the field and in its business management processes.
Emily was also recently appointed to the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), and she shares her perspective on organic certification and community service.
The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.
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Quotes from the Show
We have intended from the beginning to stay small. This is what works for us.
Since we had a daughter, it forced us to stop working some of those super-long days… it was quite a gift to see that we could work less and still make the same amount of money, and still keep our customers, and still be happy, and have this other focus of our lives.
Because we’re a two-person operation, we’re substituting tractors and equipment for labor.
The biggest part of the two-person farm piece is just trying to manage your time efficiently and get your systems down as efficiently as possible.
It’s a hard place to farm in that you can’t plan what your climate is going to be like… if you can farm in Oklahoma, you can farm anywhere.
At first blush [opting out of organic certification] doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. At the same time… it means that a large number of growers who are growing using these methods, who are representing some of the ideas and values that started the organic movement in the first place, are not choosing to be counted as a part of that movement. The implication for that is that when the USDA does its farmer survey… they’re just not counted as actually being organic growers, and that has real policy implications.