One trait that I think humans tend to have is the copy trait.
When we see success we want to mimic it.
While there is some validity in that mimicking, it’s not always the right approach, because the specifics that we might be mimicking are different in every situation.
When it comes to farming things are no different… people see the successful farms of JM Fortier, Curtis Stone, and my guest today Conor Crickmore, and the first instinct is model them and do what they do.
While that makes sense, it doesn’t always work as planned because markets are different, climates are different, soils are different, and individual skills and interests are different. So when the model doesn’t work for us we tend to blame the model, not the approach.
When you look at a farm like Conor Crickmore’s Neversink Farm which grosses around $350k on 1.5 acres, it’s not about modeling exactly what Conor does, it’s about modeling his approach, using his base principles.
And that’s the focus of today’s show, farming base principles with Conor Crickmore.
Conor also talks about his new Market Farming Course.
Connect with Conor:
Notes from the conversation with Conor:
- Every weeds turns out into a weed, in every small weed turns into a big weed. In every big weed there is a flower. We invest time and money, we disturbed every square inch of soil in the area. We don’t just go after weeds, we just disturbing every square inch to stay ahead of it. I got spraying most of the time in the area that’s why we can get ahead of them before harvest season starts. We create systems that are simple. We try too many different types of tools. But it’s very hard to translate that to every individual crops, to outgrow and grow to find itself. We try to do it simple so that our system can be simple and easily understood. Although we may lose some efficiency in that and I think we got a better product to see and we got it easier to learn.
- It’s up there most of the top three, because it affects everything. You can’t ignore it going to slow down harvesting, someone going to inspect the quality of the crop. It comes before all of that and we have to learn the hard way that we need to adjust to scale to make sure that you are a cup of sugar. It’s getting out of control today and so we were taking up its smaller section out of years so that we can hit the maximum production. One that weed free a good production is fertility.
- Usually, if the weeds are out of control then at that point sometimes we would start it over and concentrate on smaller area, maybe for just a valuable crop. The crop system is we pull it one by one, it’s one thing you will apply pre-emergent burning on current and then you cultivate it for a couple of times. In some point, it may not be working and you need to start it over again.
- I started it very small and then cut it in half because you can always get bigger. If you have it under control and everything’s working then you can just get a little bigger. Then maybe you can cover half of acre with plastics and get it ready, then uncover 1/8 of it. It’s takes a while for you to get things under control on the weeds under control. If systems in place and once you feel comfortable then slowly grow. But slowly growing was going to keep everything under control, keep you profitable, and keep you producing at maximum. It’s the main decision that you can achieve things bigger because you can always grow. It’s harder to put scale back.
- It’s just a sacrifice; it will be very hard to start a business that can grow it for having a second job. That may not be realistic to somebody but we know there is going to be a sacrifice. We put all of our time into it. Starting a business, it doesn’t matter either its farming or a restaurant needs a sacrifice. It’s not a job where you are earning the salary. It’s an incredible sacrifice in the beginning and to build it. There is no way around that.
- Farming is a business, there is no salary. It’s all up to you, it’s all up to hard work you put into it. The beginning you will need to work 14 hours a day but its 14 fast hour which is key. We have it in our head that we will be building something that is going to be easier later. It’s the difference between going out and weeding all day or building a business or building markets and having to do that by growing slowly. But behind that, there is no money there. Everything that you earn is going back into the business continually so that we can make life easier eventually. If you want to get a place in your business that would be easier system and you have market that takes investment. You need hard work to earn that investment. Most people believed that want a farm but when reality hit on what it is to enhance with me is labor.
- It’s the sense of urgency in creating the farm. It’s not just growing at your own phase. But when you do have a farm, you don’t own a luxury. You have to make sure that you are going to be super fast and getting things done, it’s not easy. If the hard work is one thing, it can really be enjoyable. When you start a business it’s the same kind of work with a different type of passion. It’s like cooking in your kitchen for enjoyment or going into a commercial kitchen and to peel 500lbs of potato, it’s very different.
- It’s not about how much money you get from your product. It’s about, how you marketing it. There are a hundred of many things that you can do to increase sales. It’s not just simply as selling to get a lot of money. We wouldn’t be able to have a business with the small plot be able to earn a living. But it wasn’t for a really good marketing and growing off season. It’s not about how much you sell it for, it’s how much you have it.
- We started at very small market, there may be 5 farmers. As we move to market to market, this part is difficult. Little time in farm but they have a big market, but you are getting lost. It’s not easy but it’s easier to small market to do that.
- At the beginning, in our first market I have to change mindset because I’m just standing and all market is watching. I should be more concern in pumping out the products as much as we can.
- January and February are cold, they love buying greens at that time. But then there is a point that which the sun comes out and everybody is rushing to the market. It’s such a great time to be selling things for a useful price. This is about competing in a low supply but the demand is incredibly high. There are some products whose demands are in up and down.
- I have something focus in profitable crops. You really need to strive in the first year, you want to be efficient, and you want to be concern about time. Usually, you are not paying anybody. You are the partner and your appointment it to drive profit. Taking risk out to early.
- In our market, people buy carrots. Even do buy carrots and beans. They always buy more carrots than they buy beans. People don’t see beans as raw crop, much more popular because most people don’t cook. They look into things like they can eat raw, like salad.
- If you are not able to throw away forage you can’t be a positive. You’re not going able to grow the exact number that you can sell. There is always sacrificial vegetable; it’s a hard lesson for us at the beginning. If you produce too much, it’s not being wasteful; it’s not being wasteful of your time and money. But if you can sell 90% of what you’re producing, that’s great.
- It comes down to growing what’s popular to make money. You’ve come to earn the right to experiment. We have those things doing that, we grow things that were popular. When the farm is working and you feel that you earn that right. We have trial on spring, but we were not really a spring crop but we will do at trial on winter. We make sure that what we do during this year that we were trying because we have a new market. We want to see what would be in that market. A few things works really well that they are very particular with the market that we had. There are just too many aspects of profitability that they need. That even if consumers like somebody and it’s expensive to grow or it’s just very short harvest season window or it’s very light that can get money for it for the harvest.
- I was using the same thing because I’m just walking around. Somebody is walking around holding all the stuff, we presented it and people will come to your stall. They always want to throw up the pile, this always want the bottom of the pile. On constantly, we are working it going the top once and the bottom. After we set it up at the beginning of the day that is looks so perfect, I want to look this at the entire market. If someone grabs something and it comes on top and if the piles on top is we shop off. If it’s drying out we make sure we spray it. It’s a lot of work than just sitting waiting people to buy them once in awhile during the least stock, but it doesn’t make a difference on sale. It increase sale at 10 – 15% and over the course of the season and we got a lot of money and it works.
- I’d like going to market because they teach you market it easy. The market is more important. The market doesn’t wait for you. You have a certain period of time to sell everything you brought, there’s no sitting down, no shopping, no hanging out. Things all about of making sale during that period, just increase sales all the time. Its constant work, it sometimes harder on the field and in the field you have your own pace.
- You always go to find something to do on a farm. You can spend the hours doing something; it’s more about making the decisions of taking time off.
- It’s a choice for us; I have a list of a hundred thing than whatever got done in that day that’s it. It’s not just important to me anymore, we earn a living but I’m not going to forego the rest of what we could be doing. We only live once and we don’t want to spend dollar in cultivating. There are always things to do.
- The list of hundred things you have in the first year and the things you have in the fifth year are very different. Things have a way of changing their importance. Things are really important at the moment and the figures go that probably not as important.
- I’m not sure if this is what we pictured, it’ very different when we like it. It’s hard to go back in time and get into it. Imagine what I thought things would be like. It’s a little bit fun and a hard time doing the farm, struggle is part of human experience but I’m not shy with changes. It would be nice and it’s easier.
- Farming is not easy, there’s always struggle, there’s always something. There’s a big difference between farming as a business than other businesses when you’re selling a product. When you’re manufacturing something or you’re finding a product that’s been manufactured, so you buy that product, you can buy a hundred units, you can buy 50 units, you can buy thousand units, you know the cost, you get it and ship it to a customer and you just add a margin half of that. Farming is very hard to know the cost because the cost always shifted. In manufacturing the cost is really be determined. There are always challenges in farming, everything could scroll things up. It’s not the easy business to the end; it’s going to be completely easy.
- Those things are so hard to calculate; when we started we didn’t bother calculating it. We need to keep our cost down and we need to keep our revenue high. We need to focus on that, regardless of what is happening. We need to get the best price we could and look forward towards the cost. I don’t know what farmers are going to set because I only know my little bubble in the farm, so to know what’s going on universally at small scale farming. I have no idea what other people are doing, but if you’re making a profit and that’s good enough. That is working to reduce cost and raise revenue constantly. But as long as you’re earning profit and continue to farm then keep continue to get better.
- Labor is only number one in the list. You can help your labor to be more efficient, it can have huge impact on the farm. Labor is really the main driver of expenses of how much you cost. Labor is one of the biggest bank, sometimes saving a cost is about spending. It’s about buying the right tools for your scale. When we are earning a lot of money, we didn’t have very much money to spend. We thought is very carefully on what we give up. Sometimes saving money is making the right decision on what to spend money at.I don’t think we can calculate the labor because we did so many different things on the farm. We have them to specialize now; we have so much work into them. It’s a lot of fewer questions that need to ask, we are confident on what they are doing. We reach out and touch in every aspects on what are doing on the farm. It reduces cost on all areas we do on the farm. I can’t survive without a lot of the tools in the farm and uses that system. It’s just system that we are dividing things into task.
- The way we get started was people want to come in the farm. At the beginning I was into it but then, people are not getting as much into it as they could. In that amount of time or in that specific moment in the farm or in their specific situation of what they are interested and asking me. The whole of it was very hard to transfer to people, there’s just so much detail in all the aspects of the farm. It was this format of being able to spend whole year, fidelity is something that we include all of those little pieces. I feel that it is very important because of inter change.
- Everybody who is participating the course is they get to ask me questions and I thought that is very important. I don’t want someone to be blocked from moving forward when taking questions answered.
- You can ask a question when it cost you and the questions are answered live. So may have the question that you may not have that somebody else ask and the more people that ask questions. Similar questions will help us change to modify the course. I tried to make sure that it’s not for just a beginner farmer. I wanted to add everything the beginner farmer need, it quickly evolves into helping out farms that are already established or underway to growing the farm. it is certainly multi levels without losing the importance of the basics of starting the farm.