Regen Ray: Hello Soil Lovers, welcome to another episode of Secrets of the Soil. I’m your host Regen Ray, and today we’re going to dig deep into our soils with Michael Kilpatrick. Welcome to the show.
Michael Kilpatrick: Hey, thanks for having me, Ray.
Regen Ray: Excellent. So share with our community a little bit about who you are and what part of the world you are joining me from today.
Michael Kilpatrick: Yeah. So we live in southwest Ohio, so we have a small eight acre urban farm here. We’re actually within the city limits for our own actual agricultural district, is what they call it. We have our own little agriculture district here, but so we were our full time farmers. We also have a online education company that we help farmers around the world called Growing Farmers, and we focus on helping farmers learn a business and marketing skills so they can work less hours and do more of what they love and enjoy it and make money at it. So that’s about me. I’ve been in agriculture for now, 17 years. So I started quite young with building a farm with my brother in upstate New York for a decade and now we relocated here in Ohio about five years ago, and we started a new farm here, actually about a year ago, we bought the property and now it’s full steam ahead.
Regen Ray: Excellent. And I’ve loved watching your journey online. You do do a lot of sharing, even though you might not share enough for you; speaking before off camera about some of the projects that you’re working on. But I’ve loved watching your journey and just kind of sitting on the sidelines, someone here in Australia and seeing what is happening over your side of the woods. You mentioned that you got involved in farming 17 years ago. Do you recall that memory of like when you got really interested in the soil side of farming and nurturing the soil?
Michael Kilpatrick: Yeah. So one of the first things that we did is, you know, obviously, especially 17 years ago, it was all about tillage. You know, everyone was like, till it, till it till I. And so we did tillage. But the first things we were doing after that, as we were taking the grass clippings, we were collecting grass clippings and straw and hay and sticking that on the soil, the mulch. And we just always noticed how the quality of the soil was so much improved through that. So that really opened us up into doing a lot more mulching. We were actually on the farm doing probably about two acres every year of mulch crops. We use biodegradable plastics like usually carbon and like a corn based plastic. And then we mulch between that. We had a very specific bale chopper, so it basically eats five foot bales, chews them up, spits them out, chopped up between the beds. And there’s so many advantages of that. It stops the water from running off the fields. It keeps the crops, cleans or reduces disease. It keeps the workers clean. It basically helps feed the earthworms and feeds the soil at the same time. So that was a great system. And really, even though we were relatively hard on the soil with tillage, we always were seeing our soil quality get better and organic matter every year increased because of the large amounts of carbon we were adding to the soil. So, yeah, I mean, yes, we’re trying to reduce tillage as much as possible. But there is also other techniques, I think out there, which can really help do that. So that was kind of our journey. And then obviously with cover crops did a ton of cover crops as well, but was a one like specific. I mean, going way, way back to Westfield. That was where I lived, when I was like 10 12. We started a garden and, you know, tilling that soil. We did the John Jeavons double digging method. I mean, seriously, with the wheelbarrows of soil and, you know, digging out that top foot and moving it forward. Yeah. So we did all that, which actually was a lot of tillage. When you think of it, you know, ? kind of has like completely revolutionized that aspect. But I remember, you know, adding the peat moss, adding the compost cow manure and then watching the garden explode from literally a sandbox. I mean, we had our entire of three quarters of an acre. There was a sandbox, and it was amazing to see the difference that we had in an organic matter, adding that fertility that organic fertility made to this soil.
Regen Ray: Yeah. And so when you go and I think this is really important is because the agriculture industry really made the net worth of a farmer or a gardener, how much they would dig, you know how busy they were in the garden? You know, and now we’re starting to see the reverse of that is like being an observer of the land and learning how to just sit with nature and be with nature and see that. I’m curious to know when you were digging into your soil and you mentioned about organic matter and are you doing testing or you just visually looking at the soil and what are you looking for? Is it color, smell, touch?
Michael Kilpatrick: Yeah, yeah, we do testing. We actually just a lot. We’ll do it as much as two times a year, especially this year, because we had to move some soil because we’re really changing things rapidly. Definitely, things will get tested twice this year. So we’re always looking for that. We’re always on and then we’re microdosing too with fertility, so we don’t dump upon a bunch of (Game of the year}?, we add every single crop, adding some more testing we have, like we did have some Earth moving for our large greenhouse to put up a 36 by 200 foot greenhouse. And so when he’s built to pad that size, you actually have to do a fair amount of soil movement and we actually had to cut down and expose some subsoil. And so, you know, regenerating that has been challenging. I mean, we have some decent crops growing and it looks pretty good. We’ve brought in a lot of peat moss or some compost we used in some prebiotics, which are really incredible. We saw a 19 percent increase in yield from some AB trials with those prebiotics and some of our cropping. So that followed
Regen Ray: spray or seed inoculation, or
Michael Kilpatrick: You can do it with anything. It’s got 250 different strains of bacteria in it, right? And you can put it on. The seed treatment is actually like the cheapest way to use it, but it’s actually cheap. I mean, like if you get the prices like thirty dollars a gallon or something in a gallon, we’ll do an acre four times. And yeah, so it’s relatively you can use a full-year spray too. So it’s relatively cheap. But we’re seeing, you know, we’ve seen a lot of things with that. We’re seeing the soil opening up better. We’re seeing yield increasing, disease decreasing and just soil, general soil health there as well. But so yeah, we’re testing twice a year. We’re also doing leaf testing, sap testing too with especially with our heavy hitters like our tomatoes and stuff like that. But once we get into the soil, you know, we’re always, you know, looking at the soil, looking at the organic life in the soil. So we were on our farm before we bought it. The year before had 11 different herbicides sprayed on it, everything from 24-D to dicamba to round up to, you know, just the nasty stuff of the nasties. And so, you know, we kind of regenerated it from there. I mean, it was first year doing a bare fallow to kind of get rid of some of those weeds because as soon as those pesticides and herbicides start to wear off, the weeds just explode. And so we have everything from thistles to vine milkweed, which is like a really nasty (by-nd?) weed. And then all the annuals. So you’ve got your deer pick weed, your lambs, quarters, chickweed, that kind of stuff. Thankfully, we don’t have a lot of (slang?) We have very little purslane and we also have very little (gallons soga?) So we haven’t seen that one yet. So I’m praying they don’t show up. But that’s the other thing we’re looking at as we’re always looking at the weeds that are coming up because the weeds can tell us about the soil, too. Yeah. And based on the weeds, we have relatively healthy soil. I mean, we have very few thistles. I mean, we I know on the farm right now, we have about six or eight thistle plants and I can tell exactly where they are. And so that means usually the soil is a little tight there. And so we get all of calcium on there. The vine milkweed. That’s another story. That’s a nasty one. We’ve tried really hard to get rid of it. I think the only way to really get rid of it is just repeated tillage or tapping it for a long time. But with tapping, you’re going to be there for a very long time because it’s very regenerative and just very robust. So we’ll get to, you know, look at this the soil and putting our hands in it, looking at the life to see how many earthworms are in it. It’s really cool when you have like a really good no-till cover crop on it, you’d say you chop that all up and let it lie on top of the soil and then you come out after a rain after a week or so. And what will happen is if you have a good earthworm population, they will actually go outside their little circle and gather all the pieces of grass and the pieces of bio organic matter and make a little mound around their their whole. I mean, I’ve seen it as high as, like three inches. Wow. Then you can just like pop that little cap off and it’ll be a mix of all that organic matter that they’re collecting, as well as all their earthworm droppings. And so their base make it a little tiny, like bio fermentation like right there, which is kind of really cool to see. And so it’s always cool to see. And obviously, the more tillage you go, the less earthworms you’re going to get. So how can we, you know, manage this and what we’ve done so far? And it’s not as well as I would like because we’re still struggling with getting enough nitrogen on it, but anything that’s not in production, and for us, that’s typically vegetable production is in a no till cover crop. So we’ve now no tilled that field for over a year and we’ve no tilled three or four cover crops in and went from a six or eight way cover crop with majority species of sunflower and cow peas to a winter cover crop of rye and clovers. We took off the (rain?) clover we bailed that will use that as mulch between our beds and our strawberry production. And then we went back into a sunflower mix. Now we’re having trouble with those sunflowers. Get enough fertility. We have lots of phosphorus potassium, but it’s a little tied up in our nitrogen. I thought that we would have enough from the lot of clover because when we when we took off the rye, we cut the clover to the ground and that usually. (?)to slough off and release some of that nitrogen? But I think we didn’t release enough nitrogen, right? So our third cover crop isn’t coming back like I want. The clover is actually completely out-competing everything else, so we may have to go in and try to terminate the clover and then get another cover crop to establish itself, which is unfortunate because clover is awesome and we want to feed our bees and all of that. Yeah, but if we really want to (steal?) the sunflowers, which people want to come take pictures at, then we have to have actually sunflowers out there. So that’s where we are right now with that. Yeah, but our goal is to be able to swap out some of these field sections that we planted on this year. So it typically will double crop. And we like to actually crop a field as much as we can in one year and then go back into two or three years of long term cover crop instead of like crop, cover crop, crop cover crop because in the long term a cover crop is where you can get those deep roots of the sweet clovers and even rye (seal rye is?) to get some decent roots on it. But yeah, I’d like to get multiple years of that and keep cutting that. So you get in the slough off and then regrow and slough off and then regrow, because that really helps get the carbon released down into the soil.
Regen Ray: Yeah. And I just love the way that when you’re explaining all of this, your understanding of like what’s happening above the ground is telling of a bigger story below the ground, you know, understanding all the different species are doing from, you know, adding, removing, aerating and really, you know, deep roots and what that’s doing the worms and how they’re going out and collecting everything and doing the heavy lifting for us. You know where if you just think about a tiller going through that land every year, it’s never going to have that ability to heal and regenerate the way that you’ve just explained it. But what we can’t see is below the ground, but there’s so many signals above the ground that can tell us a bigger, bigger story or, you know, the start of that story anyway. You’ve mentioned regenerative a lot. What does regenerative mean to you as a farmer and someone who’s been on the land? What does the word regenerative mean to you?
Michael Kilpatrick: Yeah. Well, I think it’s it comes really down to stewarding the land and leaving it better than we found it. I think that’s kind of like our our basic aspect. I mean, yeah, there’s aspects of pesticides and herbicides and all this other stuff and, you know, erosion, but it all comes back down to yes, those are all like symptoms or like things that are expressed. But if at the end of the day my soil is doubled, the organic matter, I have doubled the amount of worms and (same parasitic wasps?), and I’m not seeing the pests that I usually do, and it’s feeding more people. That’s what to me where it is and it’s feeding where people without, you know, massive amounts of inputs. And to me, yes, there’s like so we do a lot of inputs and let’s say like a lot of straw and a lot of wood chips, but a lot of those inputs are free, like the wood chips for us are free. They’re actually helping. They’re breeding less in landfill. So to me, I know in one aspect, I’m not really counting that as like an input because it like it literally was a it was a less of a strain on the larger ecosystem. Yeah. And we even take those wood chips and we’ll throw wood chips down in our drive pass in the field. And even like, so we’ll go through in like just drops them on even on top of our or even their (sodden?). So we’ll throw a little bit on and then (Assad?) will grow through that. So basically, we’re just creating this massive spongy mass, which is basically, you know, soaking up the moisture and creating this is this living basically passed through our entire farm. But yes, that’s the big thing is, you know, leaving. And obviously, you know, we’re exporting lots of vegetables. We’re very intensive. So like a bed can produce, you know, 150, 200, 300, 400 pounds of produce a year easily, you know, especially like if you’re double, triple cropping that. So we’re definitely going to have some inputs, but the inputs are a lot different than the farm that is not as regenerative. One of the problems is where we are. We’re an eight acre urban farm and we aren’t really allowed to have a lot of animals here. So we were picking our battles. You know, first thing was, you know, there’s different battles to pick with the town and we pick some other battles currently. But the next battles will be around that because again, we want to get animals on property. And one aspect of being a vegetable mushroom and, you know, horticulture farm is they don’t talk back and they tend not to run away. So what you do get animals, we’re going to start working with that. So one aspect, I’m OK with pushing that off a little bit, but I do know that animals are the best way to regenerate soil fast and we are currently right now we’re buying our eggs for our farm stand and we export to them a lot of our seconds. So they get a lot of our squash seconds that are microgreens seconds. But I’d love to have that all happening on farm.
Regen Ray: Yeah, I love that. And you’ve just mentioned your little stand idea and we were talking off camera, can you share with the soil lovers listening today about your whole kind of paddock to plate farm stand?
Michael Kilpatrick: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. So really, you know, we bought this property because there’s 12,000 cars that go by it a day. And you know, there’s pluses and minuses of that. You know, people show up on a Sunday afternoon and we close at six p.m. Hey, can I get a tomato? And we’re lucky enough not happy. So you have to deal with that. So that’s the downside. But there’s so many other pluses. The pluses are people stopping in and being able to walk around the farm and see how their food is grown beautiful. So we bought the property with that idea. A very massive traffic on the farm to see how is their food grown. Across the street was a corner lot that was vacant and we were going to put a farm stand down. We worked with the city and struggled and, you know, many sleepless nights and 10s over $10,000 in planning costs to get to the point to realize it’s going to be a hundred thousand dollar investment to simply put up a 16 by 20 four foot building. And they don’t do anything like there’s no gray area. There’s no like, you’re not a Wal-Mart, you just want to have a little farm stand. It’s like your business and business has all these ridiculous codes that are needed. So we were after we kind of like looked at the costs and looked at everything we’re like, this is not going to work. And by this time, I’ve read through every single page, every nine hundred pages of the town code. And I know them inside now. So I know like, OK, if I want to, how do I get around this? Well, if we don’t want to, we can’t build anything because if you build something, then you have to go through a development plan and go back to the city for that. But you’re allowed to park an RV on your property and you can buy a bus and you can license it as an RV. And that way, it’s not fastened to the ground, it’s sitting on its wheels. So that’s what we did. And we also started in the US what’s called a private membership association. So ours is technically a food church. You know, we’re not like it again to start a food church, you just have to be religious and your religion can be as much as you believe in the power of food to regenerate. And yes, there’s all sorts of religions out there. So I mean, obviously, you know, I have a faith background, but it wasn’t like we didn’t start the church around that faith background. He says, you know, do you believe in the power of good food here? And I’m like, Yes, he’s like, OK, you have a food church now. So I love that.
Regen Ray: I love that innovation and thinking outside the box. That’s crazy.
Michael Kilpatrick: So technically, we’re not selling anything on our property. So the city or the town, because they’re not a city, because they’re under five thousand people, they cannot get us on selling things. They can’t require us to have permits and licensing around that because no one’s buying anything. They’re technically donating to our food church and then just picking up produce. So that was the two things we kind of had to do to get up and operational on this property was to, you know, have a farm way to sell that didn’t require building new structures and getting new permits, as well as then not being in general commerce, which is what the Private Membership Association is all about. So that’s kind of how we set out to what we ended up doing was he found an old transit bus to the transit. Buses are nice because they are low to the ground, so it’s not like you walk it up until, let’s say, a school bus or walking up until coach bus is very low to the ground there, the floor is about a foot off the ground and you can rip all the seats out and we put in a cooler. I mean, if you go to our go to Facebook and go to farm on central and just type that in, you’ll see dozens of videos that we every week we tour people around the bus with what’s good and what’s for sale. And so people are you can see that on there, how we have it set up. And we just recently, as I was telling you earlier, we set it up as a self-service. So yes, Friday and Saturday, it’s me and we go out and pick massive amounts of piles of produce and we have that all there and someone out there talking to people. But Monday toThursday, now it’s set up self-service with a little kiosk and a ring button. So if they need service, they can press the button and or ring in the house. So all that is set up now and working, and we’re pretty excited about that. Our first day, you know, it’s literally today was our first day of being fully open self-service and we were really surprised that, you know how much, how much sales we did with just literally people driving by and seeing the sign saying, we’re open.
Regen Ray: Wow. So it’s hot off the press here. And at first, I love that. Just, you know, so Soil Lovers, if you’re out there thinking about how can you sell directly, you know, here’s an innovative way that’s got an around town planning council concerns. You know, if there’s a will, there is a way, you know? And so this is really cool, Michael, for sharing that because I I know that so many people get stuck on this topic of like how to sell directly and most people just give up. You know what? This is too hard. I’m going to go through the mainstream. We’re going to put into a co-op. We’re going to sell it to commodity market. We’re going to lose money just so we can sell something and not end up having to dump it. But you know, you’re stuck in enterprises too. You’re taking people on tours, you’re having conversations with them. People are getting to know the farmer like this is serving a community on so many different levels and it’s so, so innovative. Thank you.
Michael Kilpatrick: Yeah. And I think the cool thing, you know, obviously I’m not sure I know you have, you know, soil lovers all around the world listening, so I’m not sure the different rules in the different countries. Yeah. So but the thing about a private membership, too, is that we now skip a lot of the rules and regulations around the prepared foods and processed foods so that we are making our own pickles, which pickles are now our number one grossing item in our bus. Wow. It’s like more pickles than anything else throughout the week. We’re making our own mayonnaise. We’re making our own zoodles for taking zucchini and just spiralizing those, and we’re selling those. So we’re being able to use a massive amount of stuff that would hit the waste stream because we’re no longer having to comply with all those regulations. Yeah. So, you know, it’s really up to look at what your county, what your state, what your country allows. But if they’re interested in that, make sure they reach out to us because we have we are starting to get a lot more information around this because again, to us, we want farmers to succeed. We want farmers to grow products and sell it to their neighbors, and we want to break down the barriers, as you said, to do that because as I said earlier, we spent over $10,000 on just planning to put up a little 16 by 24foot farm stand. And I mean, that wasn’t it wasn’t even like a production of building that out was going to be $100,000. So yeah, I mean, the bus we could have bought the bus and built a business two months earlier.
Regen Ray: Yeah, you know, but now you’ve got this gift of educating others and sharing that story. And I think, you know, sometimes we have to go somewhere to then come back and call, you know, and. And so I think, you know, the bus idea and the whole, you know, unmanned vehicle, I just think is amazing because you’re giving people the experience to interact with your brand without you having to physically create more of you or hire staff. And that, again, is another concern that farmers always have. It’s like, I don’t want to have an open gate or farm gate because it means that I have to always be available. I can’t go on holidays and you know, your boss is movable. You could take it to a farmer’s market if you wanted to, you know, and take it or take it on the road. So I think that’s a great idea and I’m going to go Google buses after this chat.
Michael Kilpatrick: Yeah. So the other cool thing, Ray, is that it allows us to take the bus on the road. So yes, the bus is stationary. It’s open six days a week. But what we will end up doing is we’ll put on the sign and say, Hey, the bus is gone for the afternoon because we are in our local community and the local community providing amazing food to them so we can literally. It’s all set up. We can just get on the road. It’s interesting. The drive and transit buses are not the easiest thing to drive, but it will allow us to, you know, take that on the road and and literally have a mobile farmers market that’s providing products from, let’s see how many different things we have. I think like six different farmers and artisans now represented on the bus. So we provide 90 percent of the vegetables on there. But we buy in honey, eggs, milk, elderberry products and, you know, open to talking to other vendors too about like actually having like meat and that sort of thing on there as well.
Regen Ray: Amazing. So inspirational. This is like the way of the future and the economy. You know, this is how farms can stack other enterprises and scale, meet their producers in the area, collaborate together. You know, you have solved a problem not just for yourself, but for the whole community, which is just so, so awesome to hear. And you know, I really hope that others hear this conversation and get inspired to, you know, get inspiration and make make copies of these. You know, because this is where mass change of buying behaviors happen, people can go and buy locally. Just it’s not easy sometimes, and we’re busier than ever before. And so we default to the convenience prepackaged foods or the Uber that drives it to our door, you know, so. Mm-Hmm. Very, very cool to hear. I’ve seen your journey over the years and I want to just dabble a little bit in the whole I know you came from like leasing land and then acquiring your own, and it’s been a bit of a journey. Can you just share a little bit of the pros and cons that you’ve felt firsthand and the difference between working someone else’s land and then getting your own parcel of land?
Michael Kilpatrick: Yeah, absolutely. So, you know, when we farmed in New York, I first started on my parents property and we bought eight acres. We moved up there in 1999 and we had no idea, we weren’t farmers. So we bought a rocky steep farm with very little water and the drive’s, a 1000 foot long and the first 400 feet were 15 degree grade, and so, you know, that was upstate middle, the winter upstate New York, I mean, was a sheet of ice. So again, there’s literally a very poor piece of property to buy. Thankfully, it all faced south. So we had a really great southern exposure and had a good, really nice quality upland soil. But because of the lack of water, it really meant we were very limited with what we could grow. We had five gallons a minute if we were lucky in the middle of the summer. And so what we needed was another property. And so we started talking to other people and picking up other pieces, and eventually we were managing around 500 acres across six different landowners and about a 4mile radius. And you know, obviously if you have the money, if you can buy property, own it and just have it, you know, that is the ultimate. But the problem is, land is expensive now. It always really depends to if your land intensive or land extensive. So land intensive is usually vegetables on some vineyard, cut flowers. Are mushrooms these incredibly intensive that if you’re not doing like logs and having to be in the forest, if you’re doing like agritourism, that can be really intensive. You’re doing like farm. But let’s say you’re a pizza farm where you did everything ratings of the wheat and had people come on site to actually make pizza. That’s incredibly intensive as well, and that can actually be incredibly high margins. But extensive would be your cattle, your and your, you know, grains, that kind of thing where it’s very low dollar per acre. I mean, if you look at some of these, like wheat farmers, they’re making 15 to 20 dollars an acre, but they’re doing 10,000 acres. So that’s where their money comes in. It’s all about scale there. So if you’re intensive, own your own land, obviously, because then you can sink your heart and soul into it. You’re not worried about investments. You’re not worried about spending $2000 in soil amendments per acre because you know you got the life span, you’re going to come bring that back. But if you’re leasing land, you never know if it’s going to lose it. Now, if you are leasing land, we love to see or rent land as a five year rolling lease. So that means that every year you sign a brand new lease so that you’re going to have it for five years. And that way you have maximum knowing of like when you’re going to lose the land. And the nice thing about that is so, you know, like they would choose not to renew. OK, you’ve got multiple years to figure out your exit strategy last year. Next options. Sometimes you won’t get that at beginning of your farming career. You rarely get that. It takes a lot of trust to get there. So when we first started, we had poor pieces of property. By year six, we finally were able to find in the long term somebody that would sign a multi-year lease. And the only reason I came to him one year and he said, Nope, I want to see your track record. Basically, that’s what he told me without telling me that directly. And after a couple of years, he came back and said, I’m ready to do the deal and we will pick up 12 acres of prime river bottom and have a really good tenure on that. But so if you are going to sign a lease, you obviously want to get everything in writing,you want to get a lawyer to look over both sides. You got to ask all the hard questions. Don’t assume, don’t think that it might or might not happen. Well the big things for us is what about pests? Can we, you know, fence it? Can we shoot deer on it? Can we trap groundhogs? Pruning back hedgerows is always a thing. Can we bring back the hedgerows trees? What are we allowed and not allowed to use on the property? What are they allowed to do and not allowed to do in the property? Are you allowed the fences to keep people out? We had a lot of trespassing, and so some of the landowners were not OK with us stopping it. Some of them were OK with us stopping it. So that’s all things you really need to think about. Are there advantages to leasing land? Yeah, lettuces are expensive. If we were trying to own that 500 acres, that would have been around seven hundred and fifty two, probably a couple of million dollars in upstate New York. Land’s cheap up there. You can get land for as little as 100 dollars and 1,500 an acre, but it’s pretty poor quality land up there. But where we are now in Ohio, 7 to 10 thousand an acre, you know, other places in California, it’s $100,000 an acre. So sometimes in general the option. But just try to protect yourself as much as possible and don’t over extend yourself. I’d rather see you doing really, really well and then scale up, and it’s really nice. If you can’t, let’s say you have a 20 acre piece of property and you’re like, Oh my gosh, I wanna get this whole acreage. But I only know the farm. One acre I had to. Hey, just bush it. If you have to, that’s the cheapest way to do it. Or just like have someone who can do the hay because he is relatively chemical free, it’s not going to throw a lot of chemicals typically and it’s helping the soil, it’s removing a little bit of organic matter. But again, most of that’s in the roots under the soil. So that’s to keep the the soil in relatively good condition.
Regen Ray: Yeah, I love that. And did something psychologically change when it was your land and someone else’s land? Like you always just thinking, I’m doing this, but I’m not going to get the long term benefits? Or were you happy to pass that on to the next farmer?
Michael Kilpatrick: It was tough because literally at that place, we actually moved the year we set our farm down the year thatwe were able to certify that last. Is a property that was a three year transition in year three. My wife was like, I want to be in Ohio or near my family because we just had a kid and I was like, OK. So we lost that. We were to pass it on to somebody else. But I mean, there’s a massive psychological shift. I mean, we’re planting perennials or planting 50 year trees here. Yeah. So because we know that’s the long term, we’re like, we’re looking at all eight acres and like, and before I put a building up, I’m talking to four or five people. I’m like, I’m not sure about this. Do I want to put this here at all? I want to orient to this year on. So it’s like you’re on one aspect. You’re second guessing yourself a lot because you realize the time span is so much longer. And you know, if you put in a bed of willows, obviously, willows are relatively easy to eradicate. But if you’re put in a row of evergreens or you put in a row of fruit trees, that’s a lot different. One of the things we did when we moved here is we had a food scraper come in and design all eight acres of this property to basically be profitable. So we’ve got hedges and there’s hedges of I think we have over 100 different varieties and types of different things on there. Everything from elderberries to willows to perennial flowers, you know, echinacea to Popeye’s to Chinese chestnuts to, you know, just having hops grow up the side of the house because they’re shade in the summer. And then in the winter you skip the hops down so the sun hits the house, try to heat it. Because we were living in an1890s, double bricked a big square house, which is a small fortune to heat and cool,
Regen Ray: but not houses.
Michael Kilpatrick: Yes, all of our carbon credits are sequestered, so. So yeah, so it’s. So that’s one of the things we did, and no one is going to spend several thousand dollars on something like that unless they’re going to be there for a while. Yeah. So that’s the kind of stuff you know we’re doing. And you know, it’s completely different. We’re cleaning back the hedgerows, we’re opening things up. We’re working on long term relationships with the neighbors. We’re actually trying to buy the properties that abut us because we’re all houses around us, but we’re looking for long term employee housing. So that’s the kinds of stuff we’re thinking about. It’s the long term. We’re going to be here for a couple of decades. Yeah, or and not necessarily us, but this farm will be here for multiple decades because I don’t know, you know, five or 10 years. We are building this to sell. And that was one of the other major things different. Somewhere the farm we built in New York. The farm we built here is we didn’t build this with our name attached intentionally because the farm on central can be sold to anyone. Yes, the next farm family can steward this, and it’s going to be an amazing farm in five to 10 years, but they’ll be able to steward it, and I may move on to some other project. I don’t know what the future holds, but we are building this for the long term and we want it to be a farm for the long term so we could conserve it and preserve the eight acres and a trust we would most farm, most development do or buying development like farm trust or something. They won’t buy such a small acreage. But if we build out the eight acres, as you know, an incredible, you know, regenerative permaculture /just urban mecca, they probably will be interested. So, yeah, hopefully that will happen someday because it will really be cool once we finish out the build.
Regen Ray: Yeah. And I love that mindset to to build the farm, to sell. I think that’s a really good mindset, even just in any business, because you don’t have to sell it, but you can if you want to. You know, so many people decide to sell a business or farm 10 15 years into their journey and then everything’s out of order and then they spend the next five years trying to put everything back in order. So with that mindset from the front, I think it’s really, really good. And even the food Skyping side of things, I see this trend, you know, landscaping was one thing, but now food, Skyping, you know, that ability to design land. So not only are you creating a windbreak, but it also creates a flower that you can then have people come and pick during a farm to, you know, it’s like there’s a really smart, innovative, small tweaks. You can make that something’s going to grow there as a windbreak or a hedge, but now it has another purpose as well. Or you can harvest the berries from it and then that makes jam and you constantly like creating derivatives on your farm of other produce.
Michael Kilpatrick: Well, I think what you said there was important, Ray, is we do derivatives because right now we have three different main enterprises. We have the mesmos we have, it will for now because we added value added. We have the horticulture, which is the greenhouse for transplants and we have mushrooms. But once everything is going, we’re going to have woody ornamentals. We’re going to have like 10 or 15 types of fruits. We’re going to have basically planting stock for all these different willows and elderberries. So will Bill sell that every spring we’re going to have carbon coming off. Anything that doesn’t get sold is going to be chewed. Up as and go back into the soil. What other planting stock with the echinacea and the comfrey. So I mean, there’s going to literally be 15 or 18 different revenue streams and it’s going to be perennial. So it’s not like at the ground planted every year. These are going to be perennial basically places throughout the thing which are going to be sequestering carbon because they’re going to be covered with 12 to 18 inches of mulch or more like aged 16. But, you know, so they’re going to basically, we’re going to be this massive carbon sponge that’s also has I mean, basically, we’re going to have all these different income streams and we have to shut down or greatly constrict the the annual side of the farm, which is a very heavy labor side to because planning had a less harvest in that that’s a lot of labor, but an elderberry tree. Very little. And you’re going to cut. Yeah, there’s so many different income streams from all that as well.
Regen Ray: Yeah. And sometimes people say they go, How am I going to pick it? And it’s like, no people will pay to come to pick a for you. You know, it’s yeah, it’s the way when you start thinking outside the box and seeing everything as a way of creating community and see some of the traditional farms. They’re stuck in this world of biosecurity because they’ve always played the chemical and the toxic life. And so, yeah, you have bio risk. But when you grow a food forest and an abundant farm like you’re describing, there is no bio a risk. If anything, people coming on the property is biodiversity. It’s other mind’s. It’s like, Oh, have you ever thought of doing this? And I’ve seen this on another farm, and all of a sudden you’re like awesome. That’s the problem I’ve been trying to solve, you know? Yes. So how long have you been on this farm? Like, what? What’s this farm model look like and how long it is because you’ve shared some really good like ideas and inspiration? And I know some people might be sitting there going, I’ve run out of time to do this, but it seems like you’ve done this quickly.
Michael Kilpatrick: Like, Well, yeah, we bought the property. We closed on the property July 1st of last year, so we bought a property in the middle of a pandemic, which is not easy. I’m more grey hair because of that process.
Regen Ray: I can’t see it. Don’t worry. And for Australian listeners, closing on a property means settling a property. Same thing.
Michael Kilpatrick: Yes. OK, yeah. So that’s the wording you use over there. Cool. So we have we actually because it is a very unique situation. A church had brought the property. They were going to try to move the house on the property and build their church building. They ended up not doing it due to multiple factors, so they were great to work with. They were, you know, they send their parishioners here to buy from us, which is super cool. And so, yeah, we still actually, you know, very good friends with a lot of the people from the church. So great working relationship with them. They let us get onto the field before we actually close. So we able to do some work on the fields and the house and store stuff and start doing some renovations and stuff. So we did that kind of stuff, but this is going to be a six to eight year build out. And, you know, I was on a podcast and I said something to the effect of that. I probably won’t make money for three to four years, and I was like, Oh my gosh, don’t tell farmers that I was like, This is our journey. We have an incredibly ambitious goals we have. We’re blessed that we have multiple income streams, that we’re able to sink a lot of money into this, as well as taking out loans and stuff. But again, they will loan you money if they see ROI and you can see a business plan. And also, at the end of this year, we have to go to our bankers and show them where we are and the kinds of things. But they’ll say we will say, Hey, this failed, this worked. We’re seeing massive growth here. We’re going to double down on that and they’ll be willing to hand us more money because it’ll be like, OK, cool. So I think that’s another thing is a lot of farmers don’t understand the money game, and that’s kind of what it is a lot of time when you’re working with these lenders. And in the U.S., we have multiple funding options, which I know some people around the world don’t have, which is kind of a nice to have. We have federal and private and stuff like that. So there’s all sorts of ways there were a lot of ways to crowdfund to. If you have a really good idea, you can crowdfund. Incredibly, there’s really cool ways to do that, too for anyone. But yeah, I mean, we’re going to be building. I mean, we’re not going to take a salary from this for a long time, but we realize that after six, seven years, the money will just be compounding upon itself because of the other the income streams coming in. And yes, this food ? is going to take three or four years because I just don’t have the bandwidth to put in literally 6,000 different plants. We’ve done like three or four different sections of it. And the other thing was getting the plants, too. So this fall, we’ll start to source, you know, another 30 percent of that, we’ll start to build out the beds. We really probably should be starting to prep those beds now because we know where some of that stuff needs to go. So I mean, even if it’s just (wrote it still in the area) and threatened to kill the weeds and dumping a foot of compost and woodchips on that, that’s probably a great place to start on because we do have some hedgerows and stuff that need be completely removed before we can get this implemented, and that would actually get rid of the (woodchucks which have cards and some major havoc too.) So I have to put that on my ‘to do’ list. This week, but yeah, so it’s going to take a while. I mean, there’s fast aspects and the slow aspects, you know, money solves a lot of problems. So one of the big things for us was a high quality nursery/greenhouse. So we prep that 36 by 200. We’re going to be sunk about $60000 U.S. into that. Everything from, you know, gas lines to irrigation to automation. We paid people to come in and put it up because if we hadn’t paid them to put it up, they put up in two days. It would have taken us a month or two months to put it out because of the size of the structure, the amount of steel. But that’s a structure that will go through probably will go through a tornado, but we’ll go through a hurricane or go through a three foot snow storm. No problem. And we can generate out massive amounts of plant material and in-ground growing there. And then we also put up four hoop houses. So for us, especially in the US, I mean, we’re anywhere in the world we’re getting crazier and crazier weather. So it’s really important for us to have covered production where any weather we can harvest product almost year out. So well, actually year round here in Ohio, we totally came in New York with a year out. So we have now well, it’s 16 by one or five, so that’s six square feet. That’s 30. Choose that 6400 square feet in the high tunnel is 70 200 square feet, so that’s thirteen hundred square feet or almost a third of an acre. I don’t know what that is in hectares, but that’s completely under cover. And so just from that, we can generate a 100,000 dollars a year. So yes, we obviously gross every amount on the outside, but we also want to always hedge your bets with COVID production to be able to. So like it, it’s pouring rain, I can just have my team go inside and prune tomatoes. You know, me and my team, we’re like the talking wind farm manager. Like, we need to do this with the peppers. We’re like, well, rain Friday. So we’ll just do that Friday because they’re inside. And tomorrow we actually get some seeding done outside and get carrots in for the winter. So that’s the beauty of that. So that’s kind of stuff we focused on right now. Some of this other stuff, it’s going to take a while. We’re not going to get to it right away because it’s just there’s diminishing returns to like someone said you put solar on your roof, Oh, I want to buy. The solar return is only like a 1.2 or 1.4, whereas let’s say a hoop house is a one to 10, it’s going to be ten dollars for every $1 I invest. So that’s kind of where we are right now is just weighing these options and really kind of like figuring out, you know, what’s the highest priority. And obviously, especially at the beginning, it’s marketing. It’s getting the money in the door. So that’s where we’re spending a lot of our time. And if sometimes it feels like diminishing returns to send that email newsletter like, did I actually generate sales? But you’ve got to get it for your customers. You’ve got to get those, those weekly customers that you know, they give you money every single week.
Regen Ray: Do you (slate?), Michael?
Michael Kilpatrick: Yeah, a few hours.
Regen Ray: I love it. I love it. Your mind ticks exactly like mine. I think is why we’ve always kind of jammed really well in the marketing business, entrepreneurship, background level, you know, layer that with soil and regenerative farm enterprises. We, you know, the whole new buzzword now is region pioneers. And I do like that space because it’s my two worlds kind of colliding together and we can make a lot of magic. And, you know, knowing your numbers like, that’s what’s really important and a key distinction that I’ve seen with you is, you know, your numbers and that’s really important. And you’re talking profits per acre, not yields and kilos. And you know, I think that’s a lot of old school thinking,
Michael Kilpatrick: Well, yeah, that numbers staying about two points here. We don’t actually think profit per acre. We think dollars per square foot per week
Regen Ray: perfect
Michael Kilpatrick: Because, you know, so just two quick examples on this is lettuce 4 weeks in the ground. I can get one hundred pounds of 100 foot bed. That’s a 1000 dollars at our wholesale price. While we don’t actually do a lot of wholesale, but we do. Our biggest seller is a one pound bag of salad for 10 bucks. That’s a big seller. So OK, a 1000 dollars in6 weeks. OK, that’s cool. Now we look at tomatoes, tomatoes, I can get the twenty point twenty pounds per plant. And so we can fill 100 plants in a 100 foot bed at $3 or $4 a balance, an average of 350. So that’s 20 pounds times 200 plants. That’s 20 pounds times 350. So two thousand that’s now 7,000 dollars. Is that right? So I get that right.
Regen Ray: I’m not a mathematical genius yet, but. But what you’re talking about is through put, and that’s what I really like in the franchising models. They do this a lot. So, yes. Yeah. You know, it’s about 7,000.
Michael Kilpatrick: Yeah, that’s 7000 dollars per 100 foot, but tomatoes take pruning, tomatoes take 16 weeks. They take all or they take. I need to test that every three weeks with leaf test. So my profit is much, much higher with the lettuce because of the dollars per square foot per week and average when you add in your labor, but not enough to buy less. So that’s why I have to grow the tomatoes, so that’s just the one side of things, we’re always messing with those numbers. Let’s go backwards to the processing side because processed food and I told you pickles are now our number one seller. So obviously, I had to start figuring that out. So jars at the scale we’re buying jars. They’re a $1.10 and jar is for the jar and the lid and the shipping. The shipping is almost as much as the jars, unfortunately these days, and we start buying by the pallet quantity and then it would bring it down to about 70 cents, 75 cents per jar. We have a clove of garlic in there. That’s 50 cents. We have a sprig ?. That’s 10 cents, which takes one cucumber per jar, buying it from ourselves at retail prices. And this is better than retail because we’re technically buying our second from ourselves for this jar. And then we have some labor, so we have a little bit of vinegar in there, and the vinegar is probably 10 cents and then we have the labour, so they’re charging seven for that and so are costs. Then if we look at our costs, they’re three to four dollars. And then we got our labour on top of that, which is probably about a dollar,two dollars. We haven’t quite run the numbers on the labour, but I can tell you it took my wife six hours plus six hours to 12 hours to produce one hundred and forty four jars. So we’re making money on pickles, let’s just put it that way.
Regen Ray: Yeah, yeah. And you probably have a nice spreadsheet, too.
Michael Kilpatrick: Well, actually, no, I don’t have it yet. I need to. I mean, this is the thing with no a year, no one at any farm, as long as I know those numbers in my head and I’m like, we’re actually really making money on this. If I started to get where, oh, are we making money? That’s when the spreadsheets come out. Yeah, because I don’t I know I really ought to start my pencil, but we’re in the fridge right now where we have massive, massive margin and we probably can move to 8 bucks and we’ll probably be completely fine on those pickles and everyone was still buying. No one’s ever questioned the price, and we have people coming back for two, three or four jars. Actually, if you go on our Facebook page right now, there’s a really funny testimonial of someone who bought a jar and posted it on their private Facebook and shared it on our page. But yeah, basically they’re up at 12, 13 and eating pickles because they’re that good. That’s a great testimonial. Yeah. So so yeah, I think we’ve hit something there. So we obviously like now so we sold pickles, so we’re selling pickles. So now we’re like, OK, how do we pivot? Knowing that value added seems like it’s going to be a larger aspect of our thing a. OK, do we want to start taking this to the masses? If that’s the case, we need to get a the kitchen because the private association text us selling directly to our consumer through our own channels and through like online. It’s like to do Shopify and Shipping. But if we do go to a farmer’s market or food or sell some other aspects, then we now enter commerce again and we are governed by those laws. So that’s one aspect. Buying in jars by the pallet is obviously now something that will actually bring our costs down substantially and growing for it too, because I do not want to be that pickle company that buys their pickles and all they do is process, because now you’re really not a farm, you’re just a processor, and I want to be a farmer. The goal is to have a farm where the kids can run and play and enjoy and people come to visit. So if pickles are a large portion of what we grow great, but I still want all those other aspects of the farm to be intact with that. So that’s why we call up the seed companies. We’re talking to them about what’s going to produce the best pickle and all that stuff. And so now we’re planting a lot more pickles out. So that’s kind of how things are kind of shifting. And we’re also like, OK, we had our garlic production with up our dill production. I know, you can’t grow your own vinegar so you can still buy vinegar. But to me, that’s a small thing to buy. But you know, that’s the kind of things where we’re moving based on what the numbers tell us.
Regen Ray: Love it. Love it, Michael. We could chat for days and days about this, but I want to get to the our signature question, which is if you could be the voice of our soil, what would you tell the planet? Yeah.
Michael Kilpatrick: Well, I think the biggest thing is, you know. Just listen to the soil. The soil has so much to offer, so much to tell you if you just, you know, testing and testing, I guess, would be listening. Feeling the soil, looking at what happens after you tell it, after you, treat the different things, do it and just stops putting so much poison on it, too. You know, I think, you know, even us organic farmers sometimes look at, you know, and we’re putting stuff on, we don’t need to necessarily be putting on. So, you know, like thinking about that too. But you know, I think too is just armor. The soil cover the soil if you can get it covered. You know, again, back to I just said, don’t put pesticides and herbicides on it. But if you can use one pint or a cup of an herbicide that allows you to know tilled down, I can pick a eight foot cover crop and no-till into that. That’s the decision you’re going to have to make, in my opinion, of any organics or we don’t. But I have an incredible amount of respect for the STEVE graphs that are the gay browns that literally are armoring thousands and thousands of acres and in showing incredible increase of organic matter. And you know, talking to I was able to interview from the Rodale Institute not too long Jeff Moyers from the Royal Institute and and talking to them where they now have soil so healthy that they can grow any crop on any part of their farm without any fertility. This no, I can’t do that every year. But he says, we have gotten to the point where the soil is so alive and releasing so much fertility that we can do that. So, you know, listen to the soil and let’s get it covered. Let’s build that, that life back into the soil. How can we get more life into the soil? And I think we will change the climate change. Climate change will no longer be as big of an issue.
Regen Ray: And what a wonderful world to live in. Thank you so much for sharing that. Michael, you’ve just shared so much wisdom information, gold nuggets, and it’s been an absolute pleasure hanging out with you today. So if our soil lovers wanted to spend more time with you, how can they get in touch and hang out with your brand?
Michael Kilpatrick: Yeah, yeah. So we’re GrowingFarmers.com. It is kind of our hub for everything we do on the education side as our podcast lives. There, you can find our podcast there and find our educational resources. I don’t recommend people follow our Facebook page that’s just because I’m very picky about organic reach. And so if I go through until it goes to follow this, it actually kills our organic reach because Facebook doesn’t know who to actually send to the page. But you can. So I just want to say I don’t like the page it but you can follow the page because that’s the kind of the difference on there. But yeah, because again, we’re always putting out cool stuff on there, too. We do have a YouTube channel too, though, for the Growing Farmers. So definitely check that out too, because I do a lot of educational videos there, whereas on the Facebook page for the farm, it’s literally completely 100 percent customer focused. The YouTube channel is going to be the farm focus.
Regen Ray: I love that. Love that. Well, all those links, except for the Facebook,will be around this video. I love that the fact that you even tracking those numbers have organic reach on a page, so kudos to you for understanding all these metrics in your business.
Michael, it’s been great chatting to you. We’re going to have to sign off and any final words to leave the community thinking.
Michael Kilpatrick: Yeah, just thanks so much for having me. And again, it just comes back to the numbers, everything comes back to the numbers. Obviously, we have incredible heart and soul in what we put into it, and it’s incredible. You know, we’re always thinking about the regen aspect, but also the numbers have to make sense for us to have the triple bottom line. We need to to survive.
Regen Ray: Also more on that note. Everyone get outside, get your hands dirty and keep digging deeper into your soils. I’m Regen Ray.