Episode-1460- The Effective Marketing of a Permaculture Farm with Stefan Sobkowiak
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Twenty years ago, Stefan Sobkowiak bought a commercial apple orchard with the intention of converting it to an organic orchard. He did just that, but eventually understood the limitations of the organic model originating from monoculture.
He then decided to tear out most of the trees and replant in a way that would maximize biodiversity and yield while minimizing the amount of maintenance required. Inspired by permaculture principles, the orchard now counts over 100 cultivars of apples, plums, pears, cherries, and countless other fruits and vegetables.
Today’s Steven returns to TSP to discuss the multidimensional harvest of a permaculture farm or orchard and how to effectively market the production profitably.
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Hey Jack, love the show.
Listening to your podcast with Stefan and some things come to mind:
– creating a connection and a story from WHERE and HOW the food on your table is produced is important.
– you hit the nail on the head on non-profits, sales, and profits, IMO. Sales, done right, has no shame in it.
– question for a neophyte: how do you determine dollar value for the products you produce? Obviously material cost but as well maintenance (feed as an example for live animals) but the final dollar amount. How do you come up with that number?
I don’t know where to start how good of an episode this is. Gold nugget after gold nugget. Thanks.
I loved this episode. Lots of good information.
Interesting. This weekend I will sharpen my ax in front of an apple tree that has not even flowered after 5 years. I hope he gets the message.
I have gained the fortitude to cut back a grafted tree down to nearly knee height when planting them, I hadn’t encountered the “you still hadn’t fruited yet” tree but I’m sure I will. They definitely would be breaking the code. I mean cost, plus planting time, care and pruning.
I have followed both methods of planting trees: cutting them knee high, and planting them as they come from the store. I’ve had only one tree not survive the cutting and that’s probably because I planted it in spring and as new shoots would come out rabbits kept eating them, so the tree eventually quit. I think the best time to plants tress is late fall or winter, if bare root. If I want a tree to grow a little taller, I let it be, but if I want to dwarf it a bit then I cut it.
My grandmother talked to her plants all the time while watering them. Maybe the plants really do understand that they’re being cared for and respond better.
I think a lot of it also depends where you get it from and more importantly the reason is what the tree’s shape is. The local big wholesale nursery that supplies all the trees around here is 9/10 horrible. Branching begins at 4 foot high. The tree is 7-8 foot tall and sitting in a 5 gallon pot. (AWFUL). I think one of mine didn’t come back, but it was in a rough spot, and I never watered it. Whoops. (That is a lesson learned I’m realizing now, on establishment of a home scale sized system, pull out all the stops).
I am going to be planting some M111 apples here soon and I’m completely content with full size. The two trees I picked from definitely also have a good shape. I’ll cut them back probably to their lowest best branching and go from there.
Couldn’t agree more about the fall/winter scenario. Unfortunately easier said than done in a lot of ways. In considering a nursery around here I’m even wondering how well I could ship bare root trees if I wanted to.
Freaking LOVED this episode! Stefan is so awesome and the way he talks about his business is beautiful! It gets me so motivated and excited to start my fruit and herb business and I love the ideas he gives out.
Can you have Stefan back (or maybe you just talk) for an episode on the legal issues with a U-pick business? I took some farm business classes 2 years ago and we had a lawyer come talk to us about the legalities of having people work on your farm (as interns or farmhands or even volunteers) and what to do when people come to your farm for events and u-pick operations. She basically said to have people sign contracts for everything and to make sure you have insurance for everything, but I would be curious to hear what Stefan’s experience is in this space. I would hate for my business and hard work to be wiped out by a small accident on my farm.
Just finished listening to the second half of this episode. Absolutely amazing! Lots of great ideas to digest and brainstorm.
The part about respecting the animals and plants that feed us makes perfect sense. If people raised their own food or got involved in the process, we would not be so fat. I think we gorge on food because its deficient in nutrition and very cheap.
Cheap in spirit as well.
I harvested 5 chickens this past weekend. Even with 2 helpers it definitely took a little while, and I thought we were hauling ass and doing good. While we continually keep a good stock of frozen meats on hand, it definitely has made me appreciate the length of time the animal is alive, its life cycle, and what is necessary to takes it life, the good the bad, and the “other”.
Another option for ‘customer relations’.. how about someone living on the farm who’s social, enthusiastic, but physically less able.. i.e. grandma.
Partnership is a scary word.. but lets be frank, you can’t do everything by yourself. You have strengths & weaknesses. Interests & things you abhor.
You MIGHT be the perfect balanced combination of Salesperson and Producer, but lets face it, most of us aren’t. So its time to get serious about OPT (other peoples talents).
IMO, part of the problem is thinking small.. ‘how can I make a living (scrape by) at farming’. When you’re thinking that way, the pie isn’t big enough for ONE family, let alone TWO (or more).
For the biblically inclined:
‘Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble… A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.’ (NLV)
Now a lot of people think of this in terms of the nuclear family. But the reality may be that you and your spouse don’t possess all of the skills needed to create a successful business. Its even possible (gasp) that your spouse isn’t interested in being directly involved in your farming operation (or other business). And if there is anything that will sink a business, its a reluctant partner. Instead of the ‘wind beneath your wings’ they become ‘the anchor around your neck’.
So lets get real, what are your skills? What are your weaknesses? What do you need in a partner? And WHY SHOULD THEY PARTNER WITH YOU?
What makes you ‘worth a damn’ in the business/industry you want to be in? If the answer is ‘I took a permaculture class & I like to wander around outside’.. you’re not going to be attractive to the right sort of partner.
Partners are looking for ‘equals or better’, preferably better.
Think about the people you would kill to work with, or mentor under.. why are you attracted to them? Are you like that?
What sets you apart from the 10k other shmucks with vague dreamy plans of a better life, saving the world, surrounded by nature?
And to close out the rant.. there are business people that want to be involved in the business of ‘better farming’ that don’t want to be farmers. They’re looking for outstanding, driven individuals that do.
What sort of partnerships can we form that benefit all of us?
but jack how can you bag on grass??? you say you love football! what is football? recreational activity! what do they ( traditionally) play football on? grass! what is one of the best weapons in the war against obesity and excessive sedentary activity? recreational activity! valerie heine from growfoodsummit.com and many others are always bagging on grass, but there are many benefits to grass that are being overlooked. some of the best moments in my life were created playing around in the backyard in the grass or baseball, football, soccer field. i certainly understand that there is a ton of grass that doesnt get used for the most pragmatic of all purposes, and yes that is a problem, especially in the desert.
Really? Dude get a clue! This isn’t even worth really responding to. No one is saying to get rid of all grass everywhere just that the average American “lawn” is a waste of energy and resources.
well, my point was that many people dont point out the upside to having a lawn. I study permaculture/gardening/landscaping quite a bit, and the topic of grass comes up alot and it is very rare that anyone even mentions that grass gives us an opportunity for recreation. I am not foolish enough to think that you were saying that we should “get rid of all grass everywhere. I was saying that I dont think the average american “lawn” is as much of a waste of energy and resources as you seem to think that it is.” I also think that you said what you said thinking that my point goes without saying, but I am just saying that I never hear my point made.
The average American lawn is a waste of resources, energy, water, etc. Any damn moron knows open spaces are good for recreation, so are forests by the way, not all exercise involves a ball. Geeze some people just want to bitch about something, anything I guess.
Thanks for the show jack. I really didn’t think I was bitching, But I am so glad that we can converse on these subjects like grown adults. I know you have a temper and that is what makes your show awesome a lot of the time. That fire in your belly has inspired me to change ever since my first show (1325 or so) so thank you very much! I WONT cross the line and tell you that you are not Ukrainian or not a Texan or not a Pennsylvanian (see show notes from Fernando Aguirre) here’s hoping that we can ALL continue to bring up any and all issues that we want to and we can converse in such a civilized manner.
@Andrew you are acting like a wounded child. Yes you were bitching and I do not even care if you bitch but I might point it out. Now stop acting like a scolded school girl.
Hey Insidious I don’t know you but thank you for your comment from nov 10. Very well said and thought out. It seems like you are exactly in that situation as well.
Thanks to everyone for listening, commenting and doing. For we all need to be ‘doers of the word and not just hearers and so delude ourselves’.
Another great episode.