Erich Schultz owns and operates Steadfast Farm, a certified organic farm in the heart of a suburban community on the outskirts of Phoenix, Arizona. With 3 acres of vegetables, over six acres of orchard, and a passel of livestock, Steadfast Farm is the neighborhood amenity in the Agritopia development – an alternative to the golf courses and swimming pools that often anchor suburban developments.
Steadfast Farm sells produce through restaurants in the neighborhood and around Phoenix, through a farmstand, at farmers markets, and through a CSA.
Farming in suburbia comes with its own challenges, as does farming in the desert Southwest, and Erich fills us on the ways he has made the most of both. We discuss how he’s leveraged his neighborhood for marketing, how he manages irrigation, the evolution of Steadfast Farm’s livestock rotation, and how he has moved away from the intensive mechanization he started with.
We also get into the details of the arrangement Erich has with the developers and owners of the farmland, and how the neighborhood has managed some of the complications of having an urban farm.
The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is generously supported by Vermont Compost Company.
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Quotes from the Show
It can be seventy degrees during the day and then drop into the thirties at night.
We haven’t really taken a break in the last five years [as long as they’ve been in business]… but one of our goals this year is to take a vacation. We can grow twelve months of the year, and that’s what we’ve done, but I’m envious of having a little bit of downtime and being able to plan.
This is what I do and this is my farm, so I can reconcile putting in the hours. But when you have employees too, it gets to kind of wears on them and burns them out.
Since we’ve started to create those restrictions [on the hours we worked], it’s allowed us to look at how we do things and ty to improve upon those.
We don’t get rattlesnake in the field… the biggest thing we have to watch out for is scorpions and black widows.
At one point we had as many as ten folks working on the farm, and I felt like I was just a manager of people at that point and not really where I wanted to be. So we started to pull things down and relook at how we were doing things so that we can do things with less people.
Erich mentioned that he’s been working to dial in some of the principle’s from Ben Hartmann’s book, The Lean Farm.
Erich’s favorite tool is his BCS two-wheeled tractor and power harrow.
Erich’s second-favorite tool, the Quick Cut Greens Harvester, is available from Farmer’s Friend.