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Succession Lettuce Interview 287 with Ray Tyler | Rose Creek Farms | Tennessee
6th October 2019 • GREEN Organic Garden Podcast • Jackie Marie Beyer
00:00:00 01:10:22

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Thursday, March 28, 2019!

It is a pleasure to be here!

Thanks for dealing with my tech problems gla we were able to connect!

Back in the spring of 2009, my wife asked me to plant a small garden so she could can some salsa for the winter.

Laid off- started farming with a tractor on 2 acres (terribly!), got into chickens, laying hens, pigs, and even a few cows.

And after a radical diet and lifestyle change that followed our Daughter health crisis we started to consume large amounts of Vegetables, a lot less meat and in the fall of 2015 we made a leap of faith to sell our meat business, stop using a tractor, and farm using only one acre. Our farming friends thought we were insane, but we were pretty certain that focusing on just produce would allow us to master the lettuce crop in 2016. We had lettuce for sale every week that season! We were so thrilled to discover that we tripled our income on half the amount of land that year! Excited and inspired, we knew we were heading in the right direction. By focusing on creating better growing systems in our produce operation, changing our farm practices, we now have year round production, a near weed free farm (which makes me thrilled nearly every day) and being really aggressive and creative about our sales outlets for our area, we have been able to live a sustainable and enjoyable life, rarely working in the fields more that 8 hours, which was one of our top goals!

wife ashley – 5 kids

1981

Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Ray Tyler with my wife Ashley of Rose Creek farms down here in Selma TN

Between Memphis and Nashville

Mississippi border

Kind of in the edge of that zone 7-zone 8

depends on what kind of year we are having

trying to grow as much food as we can on one acre

Battling the pests that never seem to die and the endless weeds thanks to the humidity

raising 6 young at the same time! And having a blast!

Wow you must have had a new baby!

7 month old baby to 10 years old so there is never a dull moment!

How great is that? These kids being raised amongst others by a garden like this!

as they get older

we don’t make them work on the farm

We know a lot of children who were forced to work who hate it

all do the house chores dishes

farm

they only work if they want to and we pay them for it

It’s created a very healthy environment

They look at the farm as a very positive aspect of their life

fortunate

every year they want to make more money

do more things

so it’s a kind of tremendous joy

So we are homeschooling as well so they are always with us.

Now do you have animals too?

When we first started 10 years ago, we had this dream of farming full time. When we first got started, for the first few years the farm was absolute chaos! 

We’re trying to

  • start a business
  • farming things in the south
  • raising children

It’s a pretty tough market

east coast

west coast

local food

pretty tough gig!

theres not a lot of information on small scale farms in the south so we were really carving out this farm from not a lot of info we could find anyways.

We were on 2 acres

  • 2-3k chickens
  • 300 turkeys
  • 50-60 hogs
  • cows at one point
  • 2 acres of produce with the tractor

we were

starting

I’ll bet you learned a lot.

We learned a ton! so much!

we learned just a ton!

we got at this point at 2015

when a lot of people start farming or gardening, thinkingwe have this idea of we want to have time we wnat to go out work the land of our family

Get out of the rat race and the 9-5 grind and we wanted to farm to escape that

Fast forward a few years and I was finding I had less time for my family before I started farming then after

In 2015 we had this wakeup call, February 2015

greenhouses packed of transplants for production

big batch of broilers on order

My wife came home with my daughter and said are you ready for life to change?

I said don’t be silly we’re farmers, nothing new around here

Can I just back up, your baby daughter?

Some back story, we sent our daughter to a dentist, they saw something funky to gums and it came back positive for carcenoma, and she was 6 years old! 

It was a big deal, and a tough time to put the farm on hold

spring

tough time to do that

best thing that ever happened to us

believe it or not

organic farmers

worst eaters of all

on the road

deliveries

not spending as much time as you would like cooking your food

So our  health was terrible!

gaining weight

ailments

so what it did basically we had to take a step way back and reevaluate everything we were doing and the children, we had 4 at the time

With all the chaos that comes with 

all those animals

driving to market

and all that time we were taking her to the hospital

our daughter is cancer free just so you know, we thank God every day for her life!

at that season ~ we were like, what we want at the end of the day

you can have a farm and houses and land and cars what is important is that at the end of the day we are surrounded by the ones we love and they love us

we stressed for the rest of our life would be based on time with our family and brought everything back through this lens that looked like 

if this takes away time from our end goal

  • healthy family
  • home school them
  • time
  • trips
  • experiences

If it takes away from any of that we have to reevaluate if that’s what were supposed to be doing at this time.

we questioned should we keep farming? This is a big deal if there were a few weeks of her to live. 

There is nothing worse for a parent to be faced with the thought for losing a child and we are thankful we did’t have to do that. But we realized that life is precious, every moment is fleeting, you never know if tomorrow or today is our last day.

At the end of that season we basically got rid of our animals and changed  our diet for her

  • no pork
  • vegetable based diet
  • to help her recover from cancer
  • less meat
  • more produce

looking at  raising the animals, if processing them was no longer bringing us joy so we imagined  what life would be like for us without the livestock portion of our business

life would be good if we 

  • didn’t have to feed the pigs
  • take care of all these turkeys

sold the livestock

We’d been growing on 2 acres

Had all the tractor equipment where I had no idea

sold all the equipment

went down to one acre

knew I had a big market for lettuce

developing on how to have it year round

never really had the time to give the proper attention to this crop

focus her in the south

lettuce needed to be planted

cultivated

time and attention that it needed

all the animals

one acre

Really focused on 10-15 crops

tripled our gross on the vegetable side of business on 1/2 the amount of land for probably 

working

2016 commitment we were only going to work 8 hours a day

I wanted to be home for suppers, put them to bed, and to have that quality time in the evening.

How were able to do that? Did you hire help? Farmer only working 8 hours a day during the season? Maybe in Tennessee your in season all year?

In Tennessee, three’s this time in August its so hot, other then greens there’s not a whole lot going on, everything’s just done.

how we did that

We already had some accounts that we had been working on for 5 years

we were very deliberate what we were going to grow

growing is the easy part

selling is the hard part

sales

records

what we knew we could sell

80 varieties of vegetables we cut out all that waste and we grew the probably 10-20 crops we knew we could sell at that time of year

Simplified everything!

another thing we did

we still o to this day at certain times of year

what killed us wheat

wheat acropolis down here in the

Invested in like $2000 of landscape fabric.

automated

10 hours of cultivation

for the season

landscape fabrics

  • laid out the fabric
  • plant
  • set up automatic water
  • next thing you do is harvest and sell
  • eliminated hundreds of hours

Eliminated hundreds of hours on watering and and cultivation

changed everything! 

Streamlined our whole process,there’s a lot more complicaterd but aht’s the basic thing

knowing we were only growing

I did spend $1500 various educational consulting for my business

I want to make this thing happen this year, I could figure this out but that investment in the education really helped combined with my experience

Can I just ask, did you take a class or invest in a mentor? REad books?

A number of things:

I did a series of phone conversations with Curtis Stone

He took a look at our farm, he didn’t really tell us what to do but asked us some questions of, have you considered this?

I already knew what to do, but having that sounding board really helped a lot

Then I did another series of consulting, be cause me and my wife farm together

farming with a partner

that was really the biggest thing

interseeding thing

At the end of 2015 I hired JM to come down to my farm, I ended up selling tickets for that event, because it is pretty expensive so I sold tickets for that event which sold out in a short amount of time

idea to give me some tips on my farm but since I spent so much time organizing this event, we became great friends, but I didn’t get the consulting I was planning. Doing workshops on a farm is a tremendous amount of work. So it was a mixture of all that

It wasn’t as much what we did as what we did not do. When you drop a pretty large animal business, it opens up a tremendous amount of time. 

Having that other business took up a lot of brain wave, like where’s this going to be sold so I was able to put time towards my produce production.

And when you go from two acres to one acre it just makes things Very very simple

When you go from chaos to order it makes things very easy to metabolize

how all this was going to work

I had 5 years experience before . It was just taking out the fat and really leaning being deliberate about what you are going to grow and getting some other help looking at the whole system!

You have no idea how fascinating this is to us. My husband and I are drooling over this place in Maine that is 175 acres of woods with 13 acres of farmland, with 2 homes, we are in just 20 acres. It’s like less then 60 miles from Johnny’s selected seeds in Maine. It’s got a house that needs a ton of work, I feel like the house could be an awesome education center. I just can’t imagine what it would take. My husband grew up on 1200 acres and we’re just so boxed in here. I keep asking the realtor aren’t there any records, that’s what I feel like what we need to do, is to offer a farmer in the local area that cuold pay...

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