Investing in Precious Metals 101 Ad

Three years ago, I interviewed Paul and Elizabeth Kaiser about the remarkably effective model being pioneered at their farm, Singing Frogs Farm, a small micro-farm in northern California. It quickly became one of Peak Prosperity's most popular podcasts of all-time.

Developed over years of combining bio-intensive land/forestry management theory with empirical trial & error, the farming practices at Singing Frogs have produced astounding results.

First off and most important, no tilling of any kind is done to the soil. No pesticide/herbicide/fungicide sprays (organic or otherwise) are used. And the only fertilizer used is natural compost.

These practices result in a build-up of nutrient-dense, highly bio-rich topsoil. Where most farms have less than 12 inches of 'alive' topsoil in which they can grow things, Singing Frogs' extends to a depth over 4 feet(!).

This high-carbon layer of soil retains much more water than conventional topsoil, requiring much less irrigation than used at most farms (a very important factor given the historic drought the West is suffering).

All these advantages combine to enable Singing Frogs Farm to produce 5-7 harvests per year on their land, vs the 1-2 harvest average of other farms. And since the annual crop yield is so much higher, so is the revenue. Most other farms in northern California average $14,000 in gross revenue per acre. Singing Frogs grosses nearly $100,000 per acre — a stunning 5x more.

This week, I sit back down with Paul and Elizabeth to discuss the science behind their latest farming practices & techiniques, the importance of biology over chemistry when it comes to gardening, and the hands-on workshops they offer, and what they think it takes to make a 'resilient farmer'.

And shameless plug: the Kaisers will be presenting live at this April's Peak Prosperity Seminar (held April 26-28 in Sebastopol, CA) and then taking participants on a private walking tour of their farm. If that's of interest to you (and it should be, it's an amazing experience), sign up for the seminar here.

Click the play button below to listen to Chris' interview with Paul and Elizabeth Kaiser from Singing Frogs Farm (59m:25s).

Other Ways To Listen: iTunes | Google Play | SoundCloud | Stitcher | YouTube | Download |

Transcript

Adam Taggart: Hello, and welcome to this Peak Prosperity podcast. I’m your host Adam Taggart. Here at PeakProsperity.com we focus on practical and actionable knowledge for building a better future. A big part of that mission is identifying new models that offer better, more economically and environmentally sustainable solutions.

One of the best models we’ve encountered is the regenerative, intensive no till approach to farming being pioneered by Paul and Elizabeth Kaiser at Singing Frogs Farm in Sebastopol, California. The yield they get from the earth, while building new layers of rich top soil in the process is truly astounding. Our earlier podcast with the Kaiser’s back in 2016 remains one of our most popular and listened to episodes of all time. And they were hugely appreciative part of our last annual Peak Prosperity seminar, delivering a science rich and truly inspiring presentation on their growing process, followed by a private walking tour of their farming operations.

We’ve got Paul and Elizabeth back with us this week to talk about what’s happening at their farm now and expanding the theme that they’re presenting these days, resilience in farming, something that’s near and dear to the Peak Prosperity audience. So, without further ado, we’re sitting down around the table in my kitchen as we did last time, Paul and Elizabeth it’s great to have you guys back.

Paul Kaiser: Thank you very much; it’s great to be here.

Elizabeth Kaiser: Adam it’s great to be here and to be chatting with all of you.

Adam Taggart: Great. Well, as I mentioned earlier our first podcast with you guys was one of the absolute most popular we’ve ever done. I still get people almost every week or two ping me about it, and how much it inspired them and really opened their eyes to what’s possible with farming. For the few people listening here that perhaps didn’t listen to that earlier podcast, one - if you’re one of those people, if you like this one go back and listen to that one as well. We’ll have a link to it at the bottom of this podcast. But can you just give us a brief summary for the newbie in terms of the operations at Singing Frog Farms? I’m going to hit just a couple of highlights and you can expand on them, correct them, whatever.

But I know when we talked last time you mentioned that your farm has over four feet of fertile topsoil, versus most farms here in Northern California, which have less than one. You don’t till or disc, you water it less than other farms yet your productivity is much more than many other organic farms. I’ve read you get something like five to seven harvests a year versus the standard one to two that a lot of farms get. Probably most impressively, last time we talked you explained how you’re grossing over $100,000 per acre in revenue, which not only dwarfs other farms but you know out here in Sonoma County there’s a ton of vineyards and we’ve been losing farmland to vineyards forever because it’s a lot more profitable to grow wine grapes than other types of produce. But you’re turning that model on its head. Is all this true and whatever else folks need to know about your operations, just let us hear it?

Elizabeth Kaiser: Adam that was a great recap; I almost don’t have to say anything. Let me just do give a little bit of background of who we are and where we are. We are in Sonoma County, so for those of you who aren’t local to us here, we’re about an hour and a half north of the Golden Gate Bridge of San Francisco. Our property is eight acres and about three acres of that is intensive veg. The rest is our ponds, our home as well as ecology that we have built up. We do sell about 40% of our produce to our CSA and about 50% to our farmer’s market customers and then a little bit around the edges to some local restaurants. So, we’re really proud that about 97% of our produce stays within 15 miles of the farm.

Paul Kaiser: Our CSA just means community supported agriculture, so we have about 120 families who are members of the farm and they get a weekly box year round.

Elizabeth Kaiser: Yes. And year round is really, really important to us so our CSA goes weekly through the main season and every other week in the winter. And we’re in a place where it’s challenging to grow in the winter. We had a pretty good frost this morning. But we all eat year round and so we find that it’s very important to do so and also not only does it keep us fed, but it keeps our customers going year round. And so it really adds to the resiliency of our farm economically, growing year round.

Paul Kaiser: And just to re-solidify sort of our farming practice, we are very much a no till operation. And this is non-mechanized no till. So this is all hand labor. There is no turning or moving of the soil and we can rotate crops through within an hour or so. Once we harvest a crop and clear the bed, prep the soil and continue with the next crop. So, there’s no disturbance of the soil. So it’s not so much that we have four feet of topsoil, it’s that we’ve built up the organic matter and the biology of that soil in the top four feet, so that we have now 400 or 500% more biology of organic matter than we used to have. So in fact, through our intensive no-till agro-ecological farming practices the more we arm our soil, the better the soil gets.

Adam Taggart: Yeah, I love that about the model. That’s what I referred to in the beginning as regenerative. And you are actually adding layers of top soil over time, right?

Paul Kaiser: Sure, definitely but we’re also – if you’re a good farmer and we tend to be good farmers, one of your jobs is to extract as much as you can from your land.

Adam Taggart: Right.

Paul Kaiser: So in some regards, you’re constantly harvesting and moving carbon and water and other nutrients from your soil. So, while we’re also adding and building up top soil and harvesting and removing a lot of it, really the key is what’s happening in the soil –

Adam Taggart: Within the soil itself, yes.

Paul Kaiser: So rather than building up we’re really just creating more life within our soil, which really creates more resiliency, not to mention more nutrient density.

Adam Taggart: Well I’m going to dig into that in just a minute. But for, again for folks that didn’t listen to the previous podcast I’m going to try really quickly to differentiate no till versus traditional farming practices, and then you just jump in and correct everything I said that was wrong.

But sort of traditional farm they till, which means they – you basically churn up the top layer of the soil. Lots of issues around that; one it’s very destructive to the life that’s in the soil. Two, it dries out the soil; a lot of the key nutrients dry out and aerosolize away. Other traditional farming practices is because they’re not as regenerative they’re having to bring in lots of outside inputs to the soil, you know key fertilizers, you know, nitrogen, potassium and that type of stuff, where in your scenario what you’re doing – you are bringing some inputs in and that’s largely in the form of compost, which is very naturally generated. But what you do is you grow a crop, you do not till it. I know there’s a lot of complementarity of how you’re growing certain plants with others to create shades and things like that. But then when it comes time to harvest you basically harvest the plants above the root bowl, you leave the roots in the soil. You take out the plant that you’re harvesting and you then – that same day lay a fresh layer of compost on the soil, you’re covering that old root system that’s going to decompose and re-fertilize the soil as it decomposes. You’re then going to plant another crop, same day.

Paul Kaiser: Yep.

Adam Taggart: In that new layer of topsoil that you just laid down and this is one of the ways in which you are keeping nutrients in the soil itself, but you’re also able to go from one crop to the next; so I know one of the things you guys said its really important for there always to be something photosynthesizing on the soil, right?

Paul Kaiser: Yep.

Adam Taggart: And because you’re putting in one crop right after the other you’re able to do multiple crops a year and economically that allows you to sell more product.

Elizabeth Kaiser: Absolutely. And I’d like to talk more about photosynthesis but first of all I just want to recognize it’s challenging to just share this verbally with people. If you’ve not been to our farm or seen photos of our farm, I highly recommend just going, looking at some photos on our website, Instagram, Facebook, anywhere you can so you can actually visualize what we’re talking about right now so that makes sense.

Adam Taggart: And I’ll put some links in the write up, too.

Elizabeth Kaiser: Perfect.

Adam Taggart: Make it easy for folks to do that.

Elizabeth Kaiser: Yeah, but photosynthesis, I mean that’s really what we want to capture. That sunlight that is constantly going on so that the plants are capturing that, taking the carbon out of the atmosphere from the CO2, creating glucose, resynthesizing that into all sorts of other carbon based products, using that for their own growth and development partially, but also then pushing out many of those sugars and other carbon based products into the soil to feed the microbiology in that soil. First the bacteria and the fungi that are right around the root hairs and then from there the entire soil food well. So this is really the reason why we want to focus on having green living plants in the ground as often as possible, diversity of green living plants, so you’re not growing you know chard followed by chard followed by chard followed by chard. But you know one crop and then the next and often different crops mixed in the same bed at the same time; so you’ve got different things going in there feeding that life in the soil.

Paul Kaiser: And so if you have your crop plants becoming these photosynthetic capacitors that have taken the free sunlight and carbon and are pushing out half of what they make into the soil to feed the biology that’s why it’s so critical when the harvest is done and you’re ready to remove that crop most farms would plow it under or till it under or disc it under with mechanical means. And that wipes out all that biology. So, you think about those root exudates being pushed out in the soil to feed the biology, this enormous rhizosphere of healthy biology interacting with those roots of the crop. And the very active tillage wipes it out, completely wipes it out. Whereas if you can cut off that crop at the soil level like you mentioned and all the above ground crop goes to compost pile to come back later as finished compost, but the entire below ground biology of the root structure and the rhizosphere is intact and untouched. And you plant in the very next crop a couple hours later, you always have photosynthetic capture over the soil, you’ve always got root exudates happening. So the biology of the soil is undisturbed. And it’s amazing what really, truly, healthy soil biology can do for vegetable plants.

Adam Taggart: All right, let’s use that as the segue then into this larger topic of farming resilience. I know it’s something that you guys have actually been actively presenting on across the country. And I do want to give you guys, you know, the kudos that’s due, you know no till farming I think is beginning to become kind of at the edges of awareness in farming as a potentially, you know, superior model?

Elizabeth Kaiser: Actually some of these soil management principles we’ve known since the 30’s. But people have had, you know, this box of this is how farming has to be. You know and so they’ll go and learn in academic settings of here’s soil signs but this is how farming actually happens is different because that’s the way that it’s had to be.

Adam Taggart: It’s so funny that it was called the green revolution, right? It happened back in the mid-20th century, that you know let farms boost other crop yields by using all these fossil based inputs and whatnot. Of course, it’s anything but green in terms of the philosophy behind it. But to your point, that’s the established cannon on how to farm and we’re having to rediscover you know, older practices that actually, when applied a bit more scientifically today, it’s kind of a back to the future way to get to a better model. And that’s very consistent with what we – a lot of the different forms of resilience, we talk about peak prosperity. We say you know, a lot of the things that we advise people do in terms of the behavior change in their lives is things that their great grandparents would recognize.

Paul Kaiser: Right.

Adam Taggart: We just culturally lost them over the past couple of decades. It sounds like it’s very similar in farming. But again, I do want to give you guys kudos you’ve been very early on pioneering this no till farming practice not only doing it yourself and proving what’s possible but actually being out there as educators. So, it’s wonderful to have a chance to talk directly with you guys, with our audience about this.

So resilience in farming, I know there are several different components that are important to you. Just quickly mention and then we can dial through them in whatever case we want. But soil biology, which I think we were just getting into and I’d like to continue that. And you contrast that versus chemistry and I’d love to have you kind of expound on why you differentiate biology versus chemistry when it comes to farming. Basically income resiliency, innovation and research; so it’s going on in the science right now, ecological resilience and we’ll talk about this in a moment, but I think that the way I’m thinking about that is it’s not so much the soil itself, that’s the biology part. The ecology is what’s happening all around the soil. And then farmer self-care, which I think is really –

Elizabeth Kaiser: Resilient farmers.

Adam Taggart: Yeah, resilient farmers. So diving into this, why don’t we start on the biology side of things. You talked a bit about what’s happening. You know under the soil level or under the ground level in the soil. Why don’t we talk about some of that science? I know when you were talking at the Peak Prosperity seminar this past April you had a lot of slides and you talked about the fact that there’s a whole universe down there going on that I think most people are just completely unaware of.

Paul Kaiser: Good word choice. I was going to bring up our galaxy. It’s ironic that we have spent the past 70 or 80 years so heavily focused on the chemistry of soil and trying to feed it chemically to get back a return from our harvest. If you think about our solar system, all the planets that we have what makes the earth unique? All planets have chemistry. Earth is the only one that has biology. We don’t farm on Mars, but Mars has plenty of chemistry going on. It’s the biology that makes things unique. And we have forgotten that because chemistry from World War I and World War II we have lots of our chemicals. We had to find places to use them.

So, I think coming back to the roots of biology as the basis of life on our planet earth is so critical to helping create life in terms of crops and plants and nutrient density and our own health. And one of the reasons why it’s so important to focus on the biology we have found as farmers is that honestly if you think about farming we all, whether you’re a farmer or not, we all can name the typical problems farmers face, it’s weeds and pests and diseases are typical farmers problems, period, and top soil management and arrangement.

Well it’s amazing that – we used to have all the same problems, weeds, pests, diseases and erosion until it began to build up our silicate matter, sequester atmosphere carbon into the soil and build up soil biology. And I don’t mean build it up a little bit like a 10% increase or 20% increase. I’m talking about 400% increase in soil health and that changed the game. We don’t have pests. We don’t have weeds; we don’t have diseases, pathogens. Our biggest challenge are simply just managing people and selling food. So the real crux of what we all know to be farming is based in a system of degraded soil that causes so many of those problems.

Adam Taggart: That’s great, so let’s dig into that for a bit because essentially what you’re saying is by feeding the biology of the soil, it’s just like feeding your immune system in many ways, right? Bringing your immune system up to a healthy state; so what’s really going on down there? Like what are the things that you’re actually feeding or nurturing down there? I know you’ve talked a lot about my mycelia and what not and I think that’s a novel term for folks. It’s an area they don’t really know much about. And for a lot of people talking about fungi, but go ahead.

Elizabeth Kaiser: A lot of people don’t know a lot, but – and we’ve had soil biologists come out, microbiologists come out and like look at the soil test and tell me – “Oh no, no that’s too complex and I focus on nematodes specifically under oak groves.” It’s like can’t you infer something –

Paul Kaiser: We’ve only identified maybe 4% of the total soil biology and we haven’t even named that 4%. We’ve only just identified that it exists. So, it’s massively complicated.

Elizabeth Kaiser: But going back to that, especially the fungal capacity in the soil – we know that it is not only bringing water in, it is helping bring in nutrients and there’s many, many different signatures going back and forth between the plants through their roots, through their exudates and the microbiology, be it the bacteria or be it the fungi in terms of I need this nutrient and pulling it out of the minerals and the soil, be that a heavy clay or, you know, sandy loam, whatever you have, be it a high pH or a low pH. And the biology is able to help the plants do that. They’re even doing communications between plants.

There was an interesting study that looked at bean plants. There was an interesting study that looked at bean plants in a field. And one end of the field was attacked by a certain pest; the other end started exuding a chemical that just repelled that pest. And so they took it into the lab and they said, “Well let’s isolate for air transfer, soil transfer.” Without biology soil transfer, with biology water transfer and what they found it was mycelium that were connecting and basically acting as internet between the plants.

Adam Taggart: Soil based internet, that’s so cool.

Elizabeth Kaiser: I mean so that’s just one tiny example and if that’s happening there is a lot more communication out there. There’s new research in forests and trees, looking at how trees are communicating with each other and if there’s an old tree and a young tree and they’re competitors it might actually be a negative communication, where they’re pulling nutrients away from that younger tree or maybe they’re helping that tree. It’s really interesting nascent science that’s happening.

Paul Kaiser: But I think a lot of the – what we’ve really learned from it all is that world of soil biology is so complicated and yet it mirrors our own human digestive system.

Elizabeth Kaiser: Sometimes; yes. And we are just learning about our digestive system, how it’s working as our immune system sometimes, how it’s helping our mental health and so many other things. So, I think that’s an example and they are just starting to look at you know the nutrition in our vegetables and how that is linked with the biology in the soil. And you can look at many studies over many, many years have looked at nutritional density of not only our vegetables but also our grain and our meat in the United States and how it’s declined, so that these days they have to recommend, you know, you have many, many servings of vegetables. Well grandparents maybe didn’t have to have that many servings because their vegetables were far more nutrient dense. And there’s a direct link it seems we’re just lacking the science between soil organic matter and soil biology and nutrition, given everything else we just mentioned here it – we don’t have the exact one plus two plus three but we’re getting the gist of what’s happening there. You build up your soil, you support the biology in the soil, you make sure that you don’t use any bio-sides or other fossil fuel based fertilizers that hurt that biology, support it in every way that you can, and you will grow better like Paul said with fewer bests, fewer weeds but you’ll also grow more nutrient dense food and that’s powerful.

Adam Taggart: I love all that and I love the analogy of the gut biome versus the soil biome. It just makes a lot of sense that they operate very similarly and what you were just saying there Elizabeth; I think anybody listening to this you know, kind of intuitively knows the correctness of what you’re saying because everybody has had a tomato from a big box grocery store. And I hope everybody has had a chance to eat a tomato freshly picked from their own garden or the garden of a friend. And they just don’t compare. I mean you can literally see and taste the difference. So, no surprise at all that you raise a plant in a soil with a healthy biome; it’s going to have a lot more nutrients and taste a lot better too.

Elizabeth Kaiser: And I’d actually like to bring this back to resiliency in terms of the climate, also, because these days we have a climate that is quite unstable and there’s many things happening. And as we want to farm into the future where we have a growing population we need to provide for; we need to make sure that our farms are resilient. And what – I just want to give a couple of examples of climactic challenges that we’ve had on our farm. This might not be what all farms have but I think it gives a good example.

I mean, here in Sonoma County we’ve got floods, we’ve got fires and where we are in our low valley bottoms we have frosts and freezes. So in terms of the floods about a fourth of our fields actually will go under water every winter and that’s just from the backing up Atascadero Creek that is in our valley bottom, and for many farmers and actually some of our local farmers, as well, when you have that flood water come in it can lock up the soil if you don’t have good soil structure through the biology and the soil organic matter there’s no air left in there and the plants can’t breathe and the plants can’t get their nutrients. And so we’ve seen instances where you know, other farmers have even said oh, there was a flash flood and we had 10 inches of rain and they had complete loss in their fields because all their plants were drowning. And we are going wait, we’re not having anything. It’s fine because that soil, that resilient soil is able to take the rain and you know instead of running it off and soaking and creating this anaerobic mess actually infiltrating down and holding that water –

Paul Kaiser: While still maintaining air spaces so plants don’t get waterlogged, they down get drowned. The soil actually takes in the moisture and holds it and recharges the aquifer and there’s no erosion. There’s no sediment loss and there’s no nutrition loss, nutrient loss.

Elizabeth Kaiser: Absolutely.

Adam Taggart: This again parallels the message we talk about at Peak Prosperity, where we focus on wetlands versus areas that have replaced their wetlands with culverts that just rush out to the sea, right? So very similar to what you’re talking about and those wetlands are a natural sponge. There are a way to keep the local ecosystem around when there’s too much water, right? And that’s essentially what you’re creating in your farm and obviously your neighbors who haven’t built up the same type of soil you have there.

Elizabeth Kaiser: Absolutely. I mean the floods for us are mostly a problem in that we have to make sure that those areas don’t have crops coming out during the seasons when we’re going to have floods because I can’t harvest a crop after the flood is in there. But in terms of the soil, the soil really helps us move through that with ease.

Another one then is fires. So, we had fires last year in Sonoma County that came as close as 11 miles to our farm and then again this year we had fires that were 120 miles away but we had really intense smoke. And that impacted us last year; we had so much ash falling out of the sky because of the fires. Paul and I really had to sit down and say “Is our food safe to send out” and we had a lot of questions in the community. Is the soil safe; are their all sorts of toxins that have gone up there? Well there have since been some community studies through our UC extension that have actually shown that, well first of all, our most major exposure was through breathing it. But then when the toxins, if there are any enter the soil then through ash and then the rain following it, you’re ways of mitigating that are going to be mycorrhizal fungi and other types of fungi. So, when we were talking about remediation of areas, I don’t know if you remember last year, it was inoculating areas with spores of different kinds of fungi. And so, by having biologically active soil you are able to be resilient as well to some of those toxins that may come our way.

Paul Kaiser: That’s the number one way, that’s the number one strategy to mitigate that kind of mycotoxin –

Adam Taggart: So we’re right back to the immune system analogy, right?

Elizabeth Kaiser: Exactly. And then the last thing being freezes –

Paul Kaiser: And honestly with more soil biology we – and more so like any matter we have a darker, richer colored soil that looks like chocolate cake. And that’s just a glorious sight to see and by being rich dark chocolate cake honestly that’s going to have a darker color, so it absorbs more solar gain in the day, it stays warmer at night, it releases that warmth and so the plants do better against freeze and frost. And by having a darker colored soil that’s warmer, that’s better for soil biology. So biology will stay active longer into the fall and winter and become active again earlier in late winter and spring because the soil warms up more quickly, which keeps that biology active rather than hibernating.

Adam Taggart: So interesting. That is really cool. Real quick before we move on, too. I just wanted in the presentation that you gave at our last seminar you had slides of different types of soil, some that had this sort of rich chocolate cake biology, like a lot of those probably came from your farm. But you had instances of soil that wasn’t – it was very chalky or very hard dense clay or whatnot. But you then showed before and after pictures where the people who were on that soil then started adapting some of your – adopting some of your no till practices. And you can see the transition from what looked like almost you know, unfarmable hardpan to something you can just stick your fingers in, right?

Paul Kaiser: Absolutely, definitely. And you mentioned one of our biggest farm inputs might be compost and I don’t know if we mentioned it last time, but compost is, I think, a fantastic off farm input that we should be doing.

Adam Taggart: Agreed.

Paul Kaiser: Because honestly if we don’t recycle food waste it creates greenhouse gas emissions. So we should be recycling food waste far more than we should be recycling steel, glass and plastic. They don’t have negative externality. But the food waste does have a negative externality if it’s not recycled. So bringing it back onto the form, we’re in the business of exporting nutrients off the farm. If we can bring that nutrient cycle back onto our farm, it’s just closing the loop, so there’s no spillage and leakage and loss of nutrients out into the environment but rather that nutrient just cycles from the farm to the community, to the compost, back to the farm.

Adam Taggart: And that’s what I love about the whole resilience thing here because what percentage of food is thrown away?

Paul Kaiser: 52% or something like that –

Adam Taggart: Exactly and a tremendous amount; so this is a way for the community to become more resilient, where you’re taking that rather than going to a landfill and creating greenhouse gasses and just being pure waste. It’s going back into the local farming production, right.

Paul Kaiser: And when we put down a layer of compost between crops it isn’t every time. There are plenty of crops will just keep going crop after crop without any compost put down. And when we do put the compost on it’s really only about half inch; so it isn’t like adding a whole new layer of topsoil. It’s just a small sprinkling and we’ve also looked at our total organic matter increase over the past 10 years and the biology in the soil. And we’ve looked at how much of that probably came from the compost application versus being no till and intensive in managing the soil for soils sake. And we found that probably only a quarter of our increases in organic matter and biology came from the application of compost, far greater percentage of it three-quarters of it came from honestly taking care of our soil, not tilling, being intensive, maximizing photosynthetic capture and exudation, etc.

Adam Taggart: All right, so we just hit, I think, the biology part of your resilient farming. Let’s transition now into income.

Elizabeth Kaiser: Absolutely.

Adam Taggart: So we talked earlier about, I mean obviously one way there would be more resilient with income is to make a lot more money per acre of farm, which you guys seem to be doing.

Elizabeth Kaiser: Right, so honestly that’s the big one and for us that does mean, you know, having one crop come out and one crop – the next crop come in so that each bed on our farm has between three to eight economic crops per year. And then often two crops at the same time. Now we can’t do that in the winter and the early spring, but for late spring through late summer we can definitely do that where we have 100% cover of say a cauliflower plus another 70% cover of another crop like a lettuce or something like that that serves lots of different. . . But also just in being resilient you want to have a lot of different enterprises especially in something like farming where whether can have such a huge impact and you can have you know, all your asparagus go bad over the spring or something like that. And one thing that I found is that over the past several years our income has been very flat. And I see that as a good thing, because we’re not increasing our production. We’ve got good methodology and so forth, but during that time I can tell you we had huge problems this spring with X and huge problems this fall with Y. But how many different varieties do we grow on our farm? We grow almost 100 different varieties.

So when the lettuce crops are doing bad, you know, this is doing well. And so it’s resilience through basically stacking functions and stacking different enterprises, some – most of which are in the field. But honestly some of which aren’t, so one of our more recent enterprises has been doing shoot production in our greenhouses in the winter. So that gives a really lovely high quality and high value crop to our CSA and our farmers markets in the winter when it’s more challenging outside because fewer hours of daylight and cold weather.

And then we’re also on the farm doing education. We don’t count that in the numbers of how much we’re bringing in per acre. But that definitely helps, you know, with our family and everything else. And we need to take that into consideration.

Paul Kaiser: So every season and every year we’ve had a variety of different challenges or losses here and there. But despite always having a different kind of crop loss and different challenges every single season our overall revenue stream hasn’t varied by even 1%.

Adam Taggart: Wow, that’s impressive.

Paul Kaiser: That’s how stable it is despite challenges that are always different and varied.

Adam Taggart: Right.

Paul Kaiser: And that’s resiliency.

Elizabeth Kaiser: I’ll listen to a story of some farmers who are no-till who put a third of their crop into garlic for this year and they had a loss on their garlic; there goes a third of their income.

Paul Kaiser: There’s no resiliency there. There’s no stability because there are too many eggs in one basket.

Adam Taggart: What I love about this again, another parallel with Peak Prosperity, so with financial capital we talk about having multiple constraints right. And in many ways that’s what you’re saying, right? You’re not putting all your eggs in one basket. So you’re highlighting a difference between mono-cropping operation and I’ve never heard anyone really use this term but poly-cropping operation. That’s where you guys –

Elizabeth Kaiser: Poly-culture.

Adam Taggart: Exactly. And you know the key you know, thing I think that kills most farmers especially the mono-croppers is the crop gets popular one year so everybody plants that the next year, right? And then the bottom falls out of that market. So to your guys point whether you’re Brussel sprouts didn’t do well this year either because of you know frost or because everybody planted Brussel sprouts this spring, you’ve got many, many other products that you’re selling that are going to take up the slack.

Elizabeth Kaiser: And so our markets also, I mean, you notice I said that we are 40% CSA and 50% farmers market. There’s a reason why it’s that split. It works really well in terms of you know, having your core people who are there to support you throughout the year and you do your best and you do an awesome job, that doesn’t sound great, but you provide them sort of the meat and potatoes of what’s coming off of the farm. And then your farmers market you have much more flexibility. So, it’s lovely having different markets and like I said before, also growing year round provides us a lot of resilience because you know when we were at just the seasonal CSA, I can’t tell you what that dance was like in early spring. I remember how great it was last year, why don’t you come on back and join us again versus just here’s your quarterly bill, and here’s your next bill.

Paul Kaiser: And stay with us for years.

Elizabeth Kaiser: So that works really well. And even though CSA’s throughout the nation are declining, I actually have a wait list right now. So our CSA is rocking and also being year round in terms of like the farmers markets and restaurants for instance. Our largest market come late January there’s about four vendors who sell fresh veg that’s not storage crops or shoots, like microgreens. And then you come what is –

Paul Kaiser: Mid-May and those four farms are now 15 farms in mid-May and by mid-June when the season really begins those 15 farms are now 48 farms doing fresh harvest and veg. So you go from four farms in the winter to 48 farms at peak season. Well, the other part of what happens in peak season and summer time school is out, people go on vacation, their own backyard gardens come into fruition; so buyers fall away just when all the farms come online, everyone has got a ton of food and no one is buying. But we’ve been there year round, so the customers who are still dedicated and still come every single week, they still come to our booth first because we’ve been there 52 weeks a year for years. And they know that we are their grocery story and they get all their food from us and then they’ll go find out what these new farmers might have for a dollar here and two dollars there. It’s a very different marketing strategy to be the grocery store for your customers year round.

Adam Taggart: That makes a ton of sense and I’m sad to hear that nationally it sounds like the CSA’s are declining, you said. But I mean you guys are an outlier in terms of your level of productivity, your diversity of product and all that stuff. And again I’m hoping that more and more farmers and hopefully somebody can listen to this podcast or get inspired by you and get into this more.

But in addition to specifically what’s going on in your farm, I just love the CSA model from the community resiliency standpoint. Farmers, there’s a lot of risks that they take on and the ability to have dependable cash flow throughout the year allows you to make the investments you need to make at the right times during the season and what not. You’re not living with the uncertainty and you’re not – if there’s a bad harvest for some of these other farms, they can get wiped out. September comes along, they didn’t get the income they thought and they’re done. Whereas stringing that revenue out over the year you’re risk of failure at one point in time is a lot lower and so that actually keeps the farming network in your community a lot stronger.

Elizabeth Kaiser: I can tell you that I rely on the CSA year round payments to help us pay our payroll in February and March.

Paul Kaiser: Hard times of the year to grow food, but we are still harvesting –

Elizabeth Kaiser: Oh yeah, we are.

Paul Kaiser: And it keeps things really even keel and balanced throughout the year.

Adam Taggart: Infrastructure in place that –

Elizabeth Kaiser: Yes.

Paul Kaiser: So we don’t have to rehire –

Adam Taggart: All right, so yeah. Hurray CSA’s. Let’s switch to ecology side right now.

Elizabeth Kaiser: Absolutely.

Paul Kaiser: We have definitely talked a lot about these slow biology, which is the below ground ecology of our farming operation.

Elizabeth Kaiser: Absolutely.

Paul Kaiser: There’s also the above ground, the ecology part which really for us includes a lot of the perennial plants that we bring in to mix with the annuals. I think we talked about it a little bit the last podcast, but briefly your beneficial insects tend to have longer lifespans and therefore they need a stable environment. And they can find stability in perennials, which are the bushes and trees that live year to year. So, if we can really focus on above ground and perennial bushes to create habitat for beneficial insects, then we started to introduce permanent pest control into our fields. There’s another whole secondary aspect to the same hedge rows, which would be rows or plots of three to six foot high bushes, perennial bushes that your annual vegetable fields.

The other benefit to those hedge rows, honestly, is climatic stability. It’s amazing how much resilience hedge rows can offer vegetable fields. On the super-hot summer days it’s cooler near the hedge row. Really bitterly cold, frigid winter mornings and nights, it’s a little bit warmer near the hedgerows.

Elizabeth Kaiser: You’ll notice that those areas don’t have frost whereas 10 feet further away from the hedgerow does have frost.

Adam Taggart: And why is that? Is it air currents –

Paul Kaiser: They’re trapping air masses so on the winter times they’re trapping warmer air amongst their wet branches and leaves and allowing the warm air to trickle out into the nearby field areas. In the summertime it’s kind of the same idea of trapping cooler air amongst the branches, plus they’re transpiring and respiring is a lot more moisture in that air, so it can help moderate the temperature spike. So, you make a much more healthy balanced temperature throughout the day and night year round with hedgerows. And the other benefit is wind reduction. Honestly, you all know you stand out in the middle of a field in the afternoon and its windy and full sun, you don’t feel so hot. That’s not the best place to hang out and have a conversation. If you want to have a conversation, you don’t stand in the middle of a wide open field in the sun and the wind for two hours. You go find a tree or even a fence or a truck or something to lean against or stand near, and it makes you feel more protected, less exposed.

Well, that wind is amazingly stressful on the plants and the soil biology. We often forget the effects of constant sun and constant wind on the soil biology, not to mention the crop plants. So, by having hedge rows that can reduce that wind stress on both the crop plants and the soil you reduce not only the stress, you reduce the evapotranspiration and loss of water, and you overall make a better growing environment for the crop plants and that soil biology.

Adam Taggart: Okay, so for hedge rows you said you’ve got about three acres that you’re actually farming on.

Elizabeth Kaiser: And some of that includes a few hedge rows that are –

Paul Kaiser: Part of the fields –

Elizabeth Kaiser: Intersection the fields.

Adam Taggart: Okay but those three acres is it just hedge rows on the perimeters or do you have them kind of going lattice through –

Paul Kaiser: It is throughout. You can’t go more than 100 feet without coming across a hedge row. So they are constantly throughout the fields, all of our orientations though they are primarily oriented as windbreaks from the main direction the wind comes from. But they’re still throughout the fields everywhere.

Elizabeth Kaiser: And a lot of the studies have shown that your beneficial insects that are going to find their home in those dense woody perennials will go out up to 200 to 500 feet, but we’ve decided you know what; they’re going to forage closer to home. So our rule has been about 100 feet from any one crop to a hedge row.

Adam Taggart: So this is a naïve question but what are some of the species of plant you have near the hedge row?

Paul Kaiser: There’s actually a great non-profit called Pollinator Partnership.org in San Francisco and they actually have an online calculator where you can type in your zip code, your area code; zip code? Type in your zip code and it will give you a list of all the native plants to your zip code that are pollinator friendly. And it will break them up by annuals and perennials and bushes and trees and ground covers. But really, whatever is native in your area will be the most resilient because it will be adaptive to your climate. It will also be adapted to your beneficial insects and pollinators or they’ll be adapted to the plants. So here in Sonoma County we use a lot of toyon, ceanothus and buckwheats and purple flowering asters and some dog woods, that kind of stuff. Things that are native to our area that have a high value for pollinator, as well as a high value for the beneficial insects in addition to pollinator.

Elizabeth Kaiser: And then we also like to mix in some that are fruit bearing; so that might be small elderberry, it might be apple trees and it might be pear trees.

Paul Kaiser: Or the guavas; we also focus on some ground covers like clovers that are perennial or perennial grasses like a deer grass. The clovers in our roadways tend to harbor millions or billions of beetles and spiders which do phenomenal as pest control for us. And the deer grass harbor lots of lady beetles or ladybugs that over winter hibernate there and they do a wonderful job of aphid management for us. So all these different perennials can really provide the habitat you need for your pest control.

Adam Taggart: All right, well that’s just so inspiring. And I’m sure too for those that go on the tour at Singing Frog Farms that you’d be able to point out in real time where all these things are. And if folks want to create some of this at home, they can get some inspiration and ideas for how to do it.

Paul Kaiser: For sure, definitely. And it’s just – because we’re out of pests, it’s nice to loop back to the soil biology because people forge that soil biology by increasing it by 400% actually becomes one main system of pest control, as well. Almost every natural farming pest out there has at least one life cycle stage in the soil. Usually adults are feeding on the crop, then adult drops in the soil, burrows down and lays eggs. The eggs hatch and the larvae crawl through the soil and come out and then become adults to feed on the crop again. If you have healthy soil biology, those adults drop into the soil are probably going to be devoured before they can ever lay the eggs. And if they lay the eggs, those eggs are never making it back to the surface. So healthy biology really in the soil takes care of your pests, as well.

Adam Taggart: That’s very cool. All right, so just looking at time here. I want to make sure we get through your other elements of resiliency here. Innovation and research.

Elizabeth Kaiser: Honestly I would say that nobody can tell you how to farm. You need to figure out how to do it in your area, given your markets and so forth. And that really takes observation. And that’s how we got where we are. And we are continually doing it. We’re doing some trials on doing cover crops and growing plants through them, cover crops versus occultation in the winter right now. And you need to do that in order to know you know, what’s the best way we can do this. So constantly being flexible and keeping an eye out is very important.

Paul Kaiser: And we’re definitely trying multi-crops. What kind of things grow well together at the same time in the same bed space. And both architectural and structural shapes and also for nutrient extraction and nutrient exudation. So, what crops grow very well together? And –

Adam Taggart: Can you give an example of a crop pair that works well together?

Paul Kaiser: We’ve always loved – the easiest one for us are the bracioles, like cauliflower and broccoli with lettuces underneath. And the reason for that, we transplant both at the same time. That gives you better ground cover right away so you have more photosynthetic capture and less exposed soil to the sun and the wind. And then as they grow, the lettuce gets ready to harvest just as the cauliflower and broccolis begin to close canopy, which means the broccoli, cauliflower are giving just a little bit of light shade and light wind break to the lettuce right in your harvest, which makes more tender, more flavorful and just healthier all around. Meanwhile, that lettuce is suppressing weeds for the cauliflower and broccoli. It’s also because it’s covering the soil it tends to be creating higher levels of soil moisture and healthier soil biology from less soil exposure and more exudation; so the lettuce is helping benefit the soil and suppress the weeds for the broccoli and cauliflower crops, so the lettuce harvests and then the broccoli cauliflower fill in entirely and a month later you get the harvest from them, weed free, using less water with healthier soil returns.

Adam Taggart: Makes total sense. So, it’s basically a process of ever hacking the garden and just trying to figure out what works best. And you know, in our framework the eight forms of capital we talk about knowledge capital and it’s really the marriage of you know kind of what you know, sort of the book knowledge and what you know how to do, which is the experiential knowledge, right? And a lot of times something works great on paper or on the blackboard but does not work dependably when you go try it in the real world; so you’re developing what we call as mastery is really getting out there and marrying the two together and finding out what’s going to work and what’s going to work dependably, right? And so even though the principles of no till make a ton of sense, if you go out and just magically apply them to your own specific garden or plot of land there some moments might work great, some might not work great. And it’s that tinkering, so what you’re talking about you’ve got to put in – you’ve got to be observant as you said, but you’re also got to dedicate the time, right?

Elizabeth Kaiser: Absolutely.

Adam Taggart: You can’t go from zero to 100 in a single season; you’re probably going to have to go through a couple of trial and error periods.

Paul Kaiser: But that’s why it’s really critical that people understand the science behind this. Because a lot of people come to us for the how, how do you do it?

Elizabeth Kaiser: The book that you’re talking –

Paul Kaiser: Yeah but if you don’t understand the science of why things work then you’ll never have success just using our how and your context. So it’s so critical to understand the science behind it and then – the science is universal. That’s global but contextual factors will dictate how and when you use what kind of mulch, how and when you plant what kind of crop and all of the variables that are more selective to your context in your area.

Adam Taggart: Because they’re not going to have the same topology as your farm, they’re not going to have the same climate.

Paul Kaiser: Right.

Elizabeth Kaiser: And I would say what’s really important is, you know, sort of the boil down principles of soil management and as an example last January we did a really fun talk with Gabe Brown from North Dakota who also does very regenerative grain and cattle growing on 3,000 acres and has brought his solar organic matter from 1.9 to over 11%. And we went over these principles of soil management and on three acres of veg in northern California this is how we’re applying this principle. And on 3,000 acres in North Dakota this is how I’m – you know? And so it was the exact same principles but very different practices. So just to say them real quick those principles are disturb the soil as little as possible, number one. Number two, keep green living plants in the ground as often as possible. Number three, keep a diversity of plants in the ground as often as possible. Number our, cover your soil and number five, incorporate animals.

Adam Taggart: All right. To this point then, so for folks that are interested in learning more about this, I know one of the things that you guys offer at Singing Frogs Farm, I think you mentioned this back in the income section, is you do offer workshops where people can come and actually you know, they might have some of the book knowledge or even the science knowledge, but they haven’t actually rolled up their sleeves and gotten dirty actually applying this. You give them the opportunity to do that, correct?

Elizabeth Kaiser: Yeah so we do a very intensive seven hour day where we do some discussions and walking around the farm looking at these principles and how we’re managing them and examples and then yes, we dig in, we transition over a bed, we do some seeding in the nursery. We get our hands in the compost.

Paul Kaiser: But also plenty of farmers come out who already have a lot of physical experiential practice but they’re missing the science background, and therefore how to transition their farming over to a soil beneficial farming process through notes on, etc. So really it can be whether you are just the academic coming in or the farmer both groups work well to see this marriage of the knowledge and experiential coming together.

Adam Taggart: That’s great. So just real quick because I’m sure this is catching the attention of a number of our listeners here. When are your next workshops that you’re offering?

Elizabeth Kaiser: We – they’re advertised through EventBrite, so you can find them pretty easily there and I’ll give you the link to share. March 5, March 20 and April 9 are our next workshops.

Paul Kaiser: And then we’ll follow that up with two or three workshops in the fall as well. So every spring and fall we do a handful.

Adam Taggart: All right. Spring and fall you’ve got a selection of ones that folks can go to. I do want to just give quick commercial again for the next Peak Prosperity annual seminar which is happening the last weekend in April 2019 here in Sebastopol. That’s the 26th through the 28th of April, not only with the Kaiser’s come speak but on the afternoon of Sunday the 28th we’re going to be offering some private tours of their farm by Paul and Elizabeth; so if you want to come see this for yourself that’s another great opportunity to do so. But if you’re somebody who thinks you really want to apply this in your life definitely get the more hands on experience and go check out one of their spring or fall seminars. And then lastly, let’s move on to the resilient farmer element.

Elizabeth Kaiser: And a lot of the farmers that we see, they’re gung ho and jumping into it when they’re younger. And you’re at it for 60-80 hours a week and that’s just not sustainable. And so self-care is a very important way of – very important in all of that. And that might mean having a larger team so that you can flex different tasks. That might mean finding crops that are higher value. I actually just had a wonderful discussion with a couple that started farming in their late 50’s and they said, “We can’t do market gardening and we knew that, so we’re growing saffron.” And I thought that was great and they’re doing awesome. So you need to figure out how you’re going to take care of yourself in the whole system, as well. Because if you break, then your system isn’t going to –

Adam Taggart: Again making a parallel to Peak Prosperity so among our eight forms of capital is emotional capital. If you’re the type of person that can’t deal with adversity kind of the rest of your preparations don’t matter if your mind is not in the game.

Elizabeth Kaiser: Absolutely.

Adam Taggart: So, I’m curious. So, definitely sort of finding your niche, right? So, I actually really like the saffron example. And putting together a good team. What are some of the other you know, practices that can be helpful to folks that are you know challenged as they’re trying to do this?

Elizabeth Kaiser: Well just knowing when you need to take a break and how you are going to refuel yourself. And that might be going to Zumba twice a week, or that might mean I have some friends who are no till farmers and they say yeah we know we could farm year round, but we need to take a break of two months off of farming. And you know, go to Baha, California or something like that. For us, we have built up such a wonderful team that we take vacations and vacations are very important. And I just this morning did a sit down of planning of who is taking which vacation when, so that each of our farm crew can take a chunk of vacation and yet we can make sure to get all of the tasks covered; so for that – for us that’s very important.

Paul Kaiser: Which is why, possibly, one of our biggest challenges is simply just managing people. And it’s a fun challenge, it’s great but it means that if we have a big family of people taking care of our farm, then we can all take vacations whenever we want, as long as we coordinate to make sure we all keep that farm running in our individual absences.

Elizabeth Kaiser: Yes.

Adam Taggart: It’s interesting. I’ve been here in Sonoma County long enough to see folks that really jump gung ho in to the farming thing and you know having a farm, it’s a lot like having an infant, where it just needs constant care every day, right?

Elizabeth Kaiser: Absolutely.

Adam Taggart: The kid has got to be fed and protected every day; you can’t take a day off, right? And you know, you jump in with enthusiasm and if you’re younger and you’ve got that youthful energy but after you know five or six years, if it’s still just you know you or you and a spouse doing this you know, it’s a treadmill that never ends. And so you can easily get burned out, so to your point you’ve got to figure out ways to either give yourself seasonal times to rejuvenate or to, you know, become financially successful enough that you can hire a couple of people to give that balance of power, mentioning of okay we’ll take some time off here, you take some time of there.

Elizabeth Kaiser: Absolutely.

Adam Taggart: And how about organizations like Granges and things like that? I mean are they good sources of you know not only information and what not, but moral support or you come help me at my farm and I can come help you at your farm. Are there organizations out there that can help put this sort of support and self-care?

Paul Kaiser: It’s definitely important to have a sense of community. You want to have the community with your customer base for sure, but that’s a business orientation for a community and it’s wonderful. We love it. We totally believe in it and it keeps us going. It is also nice to have a community with other growers and other food distributors, other people on that side of the business model; so, it’s wonderful to have the grange just for a sense of meeting up with the farmers, sharing information, just having that community and that really feeds you as well.

Elizabeth Kaiser: However you do it, if it’s the grange, we’ve also got a very strong farmer guild movement out here, where there’s once a month potlucks and people get together and chat. And often it just happens casually, be it at the farmers market, sharing information; we just had a farmer friend over yesterday and “Where are you getting your tool right now and how are you doing this? And are you taking a break.” And those sorts of discussions. And my brother who is an aeronautical engineer sometimes is shocked when I share with him how much information I share with the fellow farmers, i.e. our competitors in our area. And he’s like, you let them come on your farm, we would never let somebody else come into our work space. They might learn what we’re doing. But amazingly with farming there is that culture, sometimes of sharing. And we actually often get questioned; we do so much education, a lot of people who come through and/or our employees end up starting farms in Sonoma County. So we actually have three of our employees from this year of 2018 who are starting their own farms in Sonoma County and now they’re going to be our competitors. And people say isn’t this a bad business, you’re creating your own competition? But we actually find it doesn’t seem to be an issue because people end up finding their own niches and a rising tide floats all boats.

Paul Kaiser: We’ve been training our competition for many years, not just this year. And it has been a great thing. It just creates more awareness of good, healthy food and more awareness of good, healthy soil management and food production. And so you just get a larger community understanding and support and resiliency by having more farmers do what we’re doing even though they’re right in our community at the very same farmers markets that we’re in. So, it’s just been wonderful, honestly. It creates much more resiliency and much more capacity that we can feed into then.

Elizabeth Kaiser: I’d actually like to transition into something that Paul land I have been saying for a long time, we often – especially in the early years of talking about our success have been asked well, this works great for you, now grow it. Because that’s how our economy is. And for us the way that we want to grow is not by growing in acreage, necessarily. We believe that it’s much more important to have more smaller farmers rather than a few very large farmers. And there’s actually been some really wonderful putting together of data that is known in certain circles, especially internationally, but there was a publication that I really liked. It’s put out by a group called the ETC group that really looks at you know the industrial food chain versus small shareholders and it’s wonderful to find out that globally we don’t see this so much in the United States, but globally 70% of the food produced is produced by small shareholders. Not the industrial food chain of, you know, monocrop farms.

Paul Kaiser: And yet the small shareholders use 20% of all the resources to produce food, whereas the industrial production uses 80% of agriculture resources to make –

Elizabeth Kaiser: Isn’t that funny.

Adam Taggart: I mean how damming is that in efficiency –

Paul Kaiser: So, it comes down to for every one energy – one caloric energy unit you put into, I get back one and half units of energy and food. Well, for the small shareholder you put in one energy of – one caloric energy and you get back 15 calories of energy.

Elizabeth Kaiser: Isn’t that just huge?

Paul Kaiser: Your ROI is 1,500% there, right?

Adam Taggart: Yeah, just crazy. I’m so glad that you – Elizabeth a great way to kind of bring the conversation here to a close, which is you know I used to be a part owner in a meat CSA down in Petaluma a few years ago. And what I always used to tell people is we’d give our farm tours as – look I’m pretty agnostic as far as whether you subscribe to my CSA or not, I’d love for you to do so obviously but the key thing is to have this awareness of these better models that are better for the land, they’re better for our bodies, they’re better for our palettes, the food tastes better and they’re better for our local economy, right? You hire more people with smaller operations like this than you do in a big monocrop farm. We have huge economies of scale but you have all the other inefficiencies and deficiencies we talked about.

And so you know, people would come up from the city and they loved the experience of walking around the farm and seeing the cows and eating the food and all that stuff. And we just sort of complained how come this isn’t done this way everywhere? And you know my answer to them is well the models that we give are going to be the models that we support. And so, you might not really think about it so much when you’re buying you know a pound of ground beef or you’re buying some cauliflower or whatnot, but every dollar that you spend is a vote. And you’re voting for which models that you want to see more of.

Paul Kaiser: Exactly.

Adam Taggart: And I think that for everybody who is listening to this and is you know inspired by this and would love to work with providers in their area that grow this way or whatnot, vote with your dollars rather than go to the big grocery store. This is the type of model you want to see, find people that are doing this or doing what’s as close to this as possible in your area and support that with your dollars. It’s the only way that this is going to grow in the long run.

Elizabeth Kaiser: Yeah, and also with working with smaller farmers you actually get to have a dialog.

Adam Taggart: Exactly.

Elizabeth Kaiser: Why do you do tillage or whatever you want to bring to the table there?

Adam Taggart: All right, well Paul and Elizabeth I want to thank you again. It’s been another fantastic conversation. For everybody listening if you want to learn more about the Kaiser’s and about their approach, their website for their farm is SingingFrogsFarm.com.

Elizabeth Kaiser: You got it.

Adam Taggart: Great and I presume on there you mentioned it was on EventBrite, but I presume on your site you’ve got information about the workshops for folks that want to go there.

Elizabeth Kaiser: We do.

Adam Taggart: Excellent. And if you want to meet the Kaisers in person please come to the Peak Prosperity seminar the last weekend in April of 2019. Again, you’ll get a chance to hear from them again in a bit more detail, to walk their farm, but actually just get to talk to them in person, as you can tell I’m sure just from hearing them audio wise, they’re fantastic people. Very warm hearted and very approachable. With that guys, I will see you in April.

Elizabeth Kaiser: Fantastic, we’re looking forward to it. It will be fun.

Paul Kaiser: Thank you so much, appreciate it.

Adam Taggart: All right guys.

About the Guest
Singing Frogs Farm

Singing Frogs Farm (Farmers Paul & Elizabeth Kaiser) is a unique, no-till, ecologically beneficial, highly intensive vegetable farm in Sonoma County. Through our innovative systems including no-till soil management we have more than tripled the organic matter in our soil (which means more nutrient dense food for you!) - all while producing over five times the state average of crops per acre and while bringing back tremendous, healthy populations of pollinators, beneficial insects and vertebrates (our natural pest control).  Not only do we use less water to produce our vegetables because of our soil organic matter, we also use NO sprays of any kind, not even organic sprays, and our awesome crew of year-round employees (not seasonal) have job security. http://www.singingfrogsfarm.com/

Related content
» More

6 Comments

  • Mon, Jan 07, 2019 - 6:25pm

    #1
    kathyschutt11@gmail.com

    [email protected]

    Status Member (Offline)

    Joined: Apr 28 2017

    Posts: 0

    Getting the minerals you need

    I agree that Singing Frogs’ approach is good overall and is a model we should strongly consider and adapt for where we live.  However, one very important aspect of soils for human health that I don’t see them addressing is making sure that their soils and/or compost have all of the minerals that humans need for complete nutrition.  This is also needed for the production of livestock products, like milk, meat and eggs, that humans eat.  Soils that livestock pastures and feeds are grown on also need the complete set of minerals.  
    Every part of the country has a different set of minerals in their soils, based on the base geology and past farm practices.  Maybe the Singing Frog location DOES have the complete set of minerals, as explained by Albrecht, Astera, Solomon and others, and so they don’t need to address a deficiency.  But many other places are missing in important minerals.  If the ingredients into the composting process include plants grown on mineral deficient soils, the compost cannot bring the needed minerals into the soil.  Complete soil mineral tests are needed to know what is missing, that go way beyond the typical NPK analysis. Once missing minerals are identified, organically certified/approved sources can be added to compost or sprinkled directly on top of the garden soil in the correct amounts to fix the deficiency over a couple or more years.  
    Well growing plants may not show the presence of missing minerals needed for human or livestock consumbers of the plants.  But, they can seriously affect the health of livestock and people, if not supplied to the soil, or through direct dietary supplements.  Sometimes livestock producers provide supplements to their stock and allow their manure to supply the missing minerals to the soil.  Tests are needed to assure that the right amount of minerals of the right type are moving into the soil.  Too much can be just as bad as too little.    
    To be truly nutrient dense, the soils and the plants must have a complete set of needed nutritional minerals.  Deep humus cannot bring in minerals that are not present in some portion of the soil, even with the help of fungi and other soil life.    It’s a VERY important component to get right.  The Intelligent Gardener by Steve Solomon does a great job of explaining this in an easy to understand way for practical use.  

    Login or Register to post comments

  • Mon, Jan 07, 2019 - 8:52pm

    #2

    debu

    Status Bronze Member (Online)

    Joined: Aug 16 2009

    Posts: 36

    Mineral Deficiencies in the Garden

    Reading Solomon’s book will certainly change the way you think about mineral levels in your garden. Liebig’s law of the minimum comes up and makes a lot of intuitive sense even to someone like me who is most definitely not of a scientific bent.
    Remedying low mineral levels can be quite simple and inexpensive to do. In my case, a soil test showed deficiencies in magnesium and boron. As it turned out, a solution of Epsom salt for the former and Borax for the latter was all that was required to get things in balance. Some calculations were involved but it was a snap really.

    Login or Register to post comments

  • Tue, Jan 08, 2019 - 7:42am

    #3

    dcm

    Status Bronze Member (Offline)

    Joined: Apr 14 2009

    Posts: 106

    No Till with Toby

    Toby was a great guest on this site and a great permaculture leader – an author of one of my favorite books on the subject. He wrote more than one piece on soil health
    http://tobyhemenway.com/1404-who-does-what-in-the-soil/
     
     

    Login or Register to post comments

  • Tue, Jan 08, 2019 - 12:29pm

    Reply to #3

    Waterdog14

    Status Member (Offline)

    Joined: Jan 18 2014

    Posts: 125

    Ship production?

    Elizabeth Kaiser wrote:

    …one of our more recent enterprises has been doing ship production in our greenhouses in the winter…

    Could you clarify “ship production”.  Or was that a typo?
     

    Login or Register to post comments

  • Tue, Jan 08, 2019 - 12:57pm

    Reply to #3

    Adam Taggart

    Status Platinum Member (Offline)

    Joined: May 25 2009

    Posts: 2500

    "Shoot" production

    Waterdog14 wrote:

    Could you clarify “ship production”.  Or was that a typo?

    Yep, that’s a typo in the transcript. Elizabeth actually said “shoot” production. As in microgreens grown indoors.
    Here’s an example (not from SFF):

    Take your farm to the next level – the basement

    Courtesy of Wally S., Wally’s Urban Market Garden, Saskatoon, SK
    Now that there are some seasoned SPIN farmers out there, I’m seeing lots of plans for taking their operations to the next level. Many involve expanding their land base or investing in season extension. Both are good ideas. But accomplishing them the traditional way – by acquiring more land or investing in complicated structures – makes it harder and more expensive than it needs to be.
    A few years ago when I wanted to expand my operation, I headed to the basement. The investment was under $1,000, and included some shelving and lights. Since I am already spending to heat that room, the overhead is just the cost of lights, which is minimal. Bottom line: you don’t need to invest in a new structure, or find space for it.
    SPIN photo grow table shoots
    Right now in one of my basement grow rooms I have 50 trays of  pea and micro greens, with turn around of less than two weeks. I will also be growing live garlic in containers, starting this week, in another grow room. Bedding plants are scheduled for next month. Other possibilities for indoor grow room production are fresh herbs, something I will try soon.
    My basement grow room now adds $10,000+ to my bottom line, and supports a year round operation in zone 3 Canada. Being an urban farmer, I also appreciate its discretion. In my neighborhood, a 50 foot high tunnel in the backyard would not go unnoticed. Using underutilized residential spaces I already have is an easier option.
    This type of indoor setup allows you to grow consistent volumes of crops year round, regardless of whether you are having a hot summer, or a cold, hard winter. Being able to provide steady supply locks in restaurant customers. Year round restaurant orders of indoor crops of say, $200 per week, means an extra $10,000 per year, with minimal time and labor. That can pay a lot of bills, making your farmers market and CSA sales even more profitable.
    So those wanting to take their SPIN farm to the next level should think about heading to the basement or den or any other underutilized space in their home, and keep their commute time to 0.

     

    Login or Register to post comments

  • Wed, Jan 09, 2019 - 5:44am

    #4

    robshepler

    Status Bronze Member (Offline)

    Joined: Apr 16 2010

    Posts: 111

    Rockstars of small ag!

    Great stuff, thanks.

    Login or Register to post comments

Login or Register to post comments