Mike Bollinger raises about three acres of outdoor vegetables and a half acre under cover just inside the city limits of the small town of Decorah, Iowa, with his wife, Katie Prochaska. River Root Farm serves grocery stores and restaurants in its local market in Decorah, as well as in surrounding small cities and Minnesota’s Twin Cities. Enterprises at River Root Farm range from microgreens and transplants to fresh herbs and four-season salad greens.
Mike and Katie have worked hard to adapt to the marketplace in rural Northeast Iowa as they slowly laid the groundwork for their farm. They’ve found ways of making a living on the farm that didn’t put them into direct competition with an already crowded market farming scene in Northeast Iowa. We dig into how they’ve gone about testing markets and products to limit risk and maximize potential as they grew the business to a point where they could make the leap into both farming full time.
We dive deep into the details of how they’ve made the logistics work for co-shipping and cross-docking their product by adapting to the distribution system around them., discuss some of the finer points of producing transplants for sale to grocery stores and other retailers, and look at how River Root Farm harvests and handles their microgreens.
The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.
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Quotes from the Show
We’ve been around long enough, [and] we’ve really focused on consistency and quality and just trying to create the system and the process so that things can run smoothly. And that has allowed this exponential growth for us to happen.
[Regarding the production of transplants for sale:] We’ve had to work that system out, but it’s very easy for us to work in this controlled environment where we know what to expect.
Don’t be afraid to experiment. Don’t be afraid to try things out. Don’t be afraid to fail.
River Root Farm’s germination chamber, which features an auto-filling water pan, came from Phytotronics.
Mike sent pictures of the integrated benches he discussed for transplant production: