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272. Start Your Farm for the 21st Century Sustainable Farmer | Plant To Profit | Ellen Polishuk | Washington DC
24th June 2019 • GREEN Organic Garden Podcast • Jackie Marie Beyer
00:00:00 01:04:21

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I am delighted to introduce my amazing guest from Plant to Profit Farm Consulting Ellen Polishuk is here to share her amazing knowledge and story as well as her new book available on amazon or her website!

Start Your Farm: The Authoritative Guide to Becoming a Sustainable 21st Century Farmer

Listen to your first audio book for free by clicking on our audible affiliate link

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Tell us a little about yourself you were telling me today in Washington DC you had snow today.

Yup! as you said, just the end of January having a little bit of snow

raised in the DC Suburbs

55 been here a long time

whole career has been in agriculture

vegetable gardener

part of a farm called Potomac Vegetable Farms 

25 year career there growing and selling organically grown

  • vegetables
  • herbs
  • cut flowers

Tell me about your first gardening experience?

It’s good story everybody has to start somewhere

easiest way to describe it I think I was just born loving plants, they were sort of my sort of pets

as a little child I would collect indoor plants in my room. I got a community garden plot when I was like 8

goes back quite a long time even though I grew up in a cul de sac, the most ideal suburban childhood but somehow

agriculture grabbed me

ended up getting a degree in horticulture in college

not growing up on a a farm.

Do you want to tell listeners what sustainable agriculture maybe means to you did you learn that in horticulture school?

As a young person when I first

15-16-17 years old, luckily I worked on farms, that were quote unquote, “organically”

started getting Organic Gardening magazine like everyone else, 

keep up and see what other people were doing

sustainable ag

organic more specific and legally defined now

  • bigger umbrella
  • terminology
  • organic
  • biodynamic
  • some conservation practices
  • irregular
  • no-till farmer might take part in
  • fairly broad term
  • specific
  • legally

Do you want to tell listeners about your book?

so, the book is written

Forrest Pritchard

grass-based livestock grower

sells in the larger DC market area

our idea

how to grow things

how to grow animals


technical aspects of farming


bugs are

What we felt was missing was a book that helped described the foundational thinking, that goes with the thinking involved with a farm business

Especially for people who are thinking about moving into a farming business

income generating

what things they might want to think about

personal temperaments



think about the business and financial aspects

manage your energy and not burn out

how not to kill relationships when your pressing hard

That area of the business mind is probably the most striking thing

Like I said, I’ve been pouring through JM Fortier’s book. Trying to figure it all out and then he talks about 2 acres which is a lot more then our 1/3 acre. IDK why at this time in my life I’m obsessed with business podcasts which is so opposite when I was in college and you probably couldn’t even get me to go into the business building. But that’s part of my personality too when you talk about temperament. So what else do you see missing?

The biggest thing is the business mind missing in folks that have an impulse to be a grower

not the same thing

at all

need to have both of those combined

in order to run a business to pay the bills to

getting friendly with numbers

can you get friendly

sustainable ag

bring together this ecological balance and all the beauties most of us growers are attracted to

  • being outside
  • touching the sun
  • watching the plants grow
  • nurturing impulse

combine that ecological care

economic stability

having a reasonable head for numbers

how much is it costing us to grow things?

what does my price need to be so I can stay in business

We talk a lot about business mindset

  • roi
  • how to handle your money
  • pretty specific aspects

that’s the main thing

some conversation in there

thinking about your temperament from other angles:

like whether or not you’re a perfectionists?

Perfectionists are not going to find themselves particularly acceptable if you are super detailed oriented, there are not many tasks where you will be recompensed in the market

88% perfect is pretty good

I’m gonna go with it


temperament without withstand things never being done

constant work in process

never finished with anything


  • growing
  • learning
  • more projects
  • more weather


constant growing process

maybe difficult going to bed each night knowing there are lots of things that didn’t

I think this is so fitting, I look at this from a teaching perspective. There’s so many things about my personality that don’t fit a teacher like, repetition, having to do the same schedule exactly the same way every day at the same time. That’s a part of my temperament. I’m a very visual type or person and a visionary, and I’m always looking into the future and the pace of education changes at a snails pace. And then I’m not a perfectionist, I could never get an A no matter how much I studied but I usually got B+s which I thought was pretty good.

My big question is last summer we found a business that said they would take everything we would grow but I started looking at my kale etc and was thinking other people might not like my kale with little insect holes in it that don’t bother me.

we don’t specifically make any kind of quality standard

I’m happy to parse that out with you now.

And maybe down the line we’re gonna figure that out.

Let’s just say that probably at this moment in time there’s the most capacity for  regular person or consumer to handle imperfection

movement and talked about on TV, written in the paper

less then perfect vegetables

more robust in Europe but coming into the US

more organized recognition

cosmetic standards usually has to do with this 

pepper has this funny shape

doesn’t mean is it going to rot but more of a cosmetic standard

shape and color

doesn’t fit in the box with the other ones

positive awareness

  • lets loosen that up
  • let’s not throw those things away
  • make sure somebody gets to eat them

good news aspects

When it comes to bugs I think there is 0 tolerance

people don’t like bugs at all

it freaks them out

there is no respite and no place to hide

exchange a product that has bugs in it.

I know. It makes me laugh I remember when mike would enter the fair they would want everything to be the same size. Like 5 potatoes or 4 tomatoes on a vine all the same size.

I think that’s an interesting point that your making, its a good point that 

there is a difference between feeding yourselves and your standards are going to be lower then what’s ok in the market place

in the market place there’s a big difference 

At the farmer’s market you can get away with lots of imperfection, people sort of expect it

They’re standing there and they know what their weather is like

what their garden is

chard missing

get into the wholesale setting

sell to someone who’s going to resell

It’s interesting when we went to Young’s Farm, we were looking at the peach trees and he was saying that the peaches just weren’t ever good enough to sell, but they could sell peach pies. Like 5000 of them!

don’t have a lot of experience in the restaurant selling business

determine where ever piece was going to go

would send the worst looking stuff to a restaurant

gonna wash it and cutting it up and cook

perfect place

restaurants to taken up that mantle

thats our role to take

I’d like to spend some time talking about

What resources do you have to bear

When you talk about a farm organism?

Things cost money

building up a set of tools


things cost money

you need to have either time or money or both

what I find in my consulting business and teaching business

come across folks who have neither one

in a sense like this

someone writes to me

I’m on this family land

I got it for free

  • I have no other job
  • have to get money off this piece

They send me this soil test

soil is broken and it takes time for soil to heal

for free


not ready to create your amazing living right off the bat

You can heal and fix things

if you have time

3-5 years you can bring that soil alive doing good practices 

or if you have a huge budget

bring 50 tons of compost

JM Fortier

liquid fertility

foliar sprays

buy microbial inoculants

I used to work for a printer he had a triangle on his wall: 


I thought you were going to talk about tools, as far as labor how long it takes mike to weed his minifarm with his cultivator hoe. But I feel like you just dropped a ton of golden seeds about things I have never thought of.

I always tell people, go ahead and quit your day job, but get a night job. We delivered the paper that was helped me get my podcast off the ground. People always say to me you’ve been doing this for 4 years why aren’t you making money but it takes a long time to get an online business off the ground.I feel like I grow in leaps and bounds.

on target with what I am trying to talk about

closely related

said a different way

read books like JM Fortier’s book and say I’m gonna do that but then they don’t buy the 50 tons of compost.

think they are going to plant intensively and all these plants and their soil resource isn’t ready and they don’t get very good crops

be careful about following the advice or a book or something you have read

if you don’t understand how that person is building a whole system

some part is successful

JM Fortier style

you have to do do 50 tons of compost over and over and over again

that’s his system. If you want the results of his system you have to put it to work.

Not to say anything negative his book is amazing very inspiring.

That’s like I was looking for a job online customer service and I was reading people’s terms and conditions for refunds, and it was like can you prove you did this, this, and this.

I’m glad you brought that up, because that’s another thing

somehow people think that faming doesn’t require practice and it isn’t a profession especially people who aren’t even gardeners think