Matt Herbruck has lived two farming lives: one in down east Maine, and another in northeast Ohio. After 21 years of farming, he currently owns and operates Birdsong Farm in Hiram Township, Ohio, with twelve acres of vegetables and cut flowers sold through four farmers markets and a small CSA.
Matt shares the story of moving his farm from Maine to Ohio, and we talk about the sometimes radical differences in the two markets, climates, and soils, and how Matt managed the transition from the coast to the middle of the country – as well as personal transitions that coincided with the move. Matt tells the story of breaking into markets in both locations, including how he has engaged with start-up farmers markets to create a winning situation for both the market and for his farm.
We dig into Matt’s tricks for setting up a great farmers market stand and produce display, managing greens and root crops through the hot Ohio summers, juggling the expectations of family and farming, and the ephemeral nature of seemingly permanent decisions and situations.
When Matt’s employee, Dave, recommended Matt for the show, I didn’t remember that Matt and I had known each other when we were both farming on the coast of Maine. But once I made the connection, I remembered his flat-bed truck and his infectious smile. And while the flat-bed truck is history, I enjoyed hearing his smile and the joy he has retained through all of the years and all of the challenges. I hope you’ll enjoy it, too.
The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.
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Quotes from the Show
There is not any money in selling anything for fifty cents. What we’re going to try to now is do something nice for these people. If you make something nice, and you’re reliable about it, it might take a few years, but they’ll support it.
We try to do farmers markets that are very busy. We show up, we pile up, and we’re sold out.
I feel like CSA is about adventure. Just because you think you don’t like radishes… well, you’re going to have to have some radishes.
When farmer’s markets got better, it saved my farm. I thought about quitting farming about four or five years in because I couldn’t make any money and I was killing myself and I had this other job that I liked and it paid pretty well. But when farmers got good, I changed my mind and I reinvested a bunch of money and I went for it.
The soil structure here is… well, we have some. And when you add that in with the fact that we have a growing season that is really long compared to what I was used to, it really added a lot of variables I could play with.
Little did I know that all you have to do with a tomato seed here is throw it in the back of your truck and you get a tomato plant. I’ve never seen anything like it.
You need to be a dad sometimes.
We are building the machine right now. About a month from now, that machine will be well oiled and then we’ll be going.
Personally, I need one season to end and another season to start. Otherwise I might go totally insane.
The decisions you’re making now might seem like huge deals, but you can change them, or they are probably going to change anyway. You’ve got to be resilient and you’ve got to be patient.
Matt uses Serenade to outcompete pathogenic fungal growth on the leaves of many of his crops.