Eatwell Farm, in California’s Sacramento Valley just over an hour from San Francisco, is 105 acres of deep, flat, fertile ground. There, Nigel Walker conducts a symphony of employees, cover crops, lavender chickens, vegetables, fruits, and herbs, to provide for a CSA of 550 shares a week as well as the Ferry Plaza farmer’s market. Nigel describes his systems for training and delegating to employees to create pride in their work and profits for the business, and we dig deep on the cover crop and chicken management system on his farm that allows him to grow vegetables year-round without fertilizer or pesticides.
Farmigo: The Farmer to Farmer Podcast is brought to you by Farmigo CSA Management Software, providing the tools you need to manage your CSA business. Farmigo CSA Management Software has a customizable management system to meet your farm’s specific needs.
Peltor 2600N Noise-Isolating Earbuds do a great job of keeping the loud sounds out and the good sounds in, so that you can listen to the Farmer to Farmer Podcast while you’re driving the tractor or running the rototiller.
Quotes from the Show
I’m very much not a micro manager. I would like to think that I can train people to do their job… and then quickly get out of their hair. And it does seem to work.
I see my job here as a responsibility for the livelihoods of the seventeen, eighteen people who work here. And it’s a serious business, you know? Their kids needs shoes, they’ve got mortgages to pay. And we all need to work as a team.
I want to get up in the morning not thinking about what I’m going to kill today.
My big herd of buffalos is chickens, or a mower. If I’ve got a cover crop at the right stage of growth and my chickens are on the wrong side of the farm, my buffalo is a flail mower, just as if a herd came through. And then the plants will give out the root exudates and all of that good stuff that happens when a crop is given an impact, either by the animal or by a mower. You do that repeatedly and your flushing all those exudates from the plant into the soil. You’re generating all of that growth by the fungi and the bacteria.
On this soil, in this situation, with this rotation, we’ve been producing broccoli that’s the size of a small dinner plate.
It’s a whole system. If I grow good soil, I can forget about the vegetables.
If you waste water in California, you’re a wasteful person. In Israel it’s treason.
The party underneath the ground has to have a smorgasbord of food. The more diversity of food that you can give the soil life, the better.
There’s a lot of stuff coming up cheap from Mexico and not certified organic. And like my crew says, what I pay them in an hour, they get paid a day in Mexico. And there’s no worker’s compensation, there’s no safety training, there’s none of this stuff. That’s why it’s become very competitive over the last four or five years.
Money is energy, and you need that energy to do everything you need to do with your business.
I work for my crew, but I also work for the community. I do the best that I can with people’s hard-earned money.
Sutton Ag in California carries the Checchi & Magli transplanter that Nigel mentioned . These are also available from Windridge Implements in Decorah, Iowa.
Nigel uses CSAware to manage his CSA program.
Nigel’s favorite tool is the finger weeder, as shown here: https://youtu.be/KQEX0yVHHSI. Eatwell Farm has made some improvements for their operation, show in this video: http://youtu.be/yVvYEzjJIVw.