Welcome to the Green Organic Garden. It is Wednesday, December 16, 2020, and I have the most amazing guest on the line, the world renowned gardener, he's going to rock us with his new venture Growers & Co.here today to talk to us isJM Fortier, welcome to the show JM!
Well, it's so exciting. I feel like there's fireworks coming out. Hi. I'm so happy to be there. Oh my goodness. Well, I am so happy to have you here and to talk about everything you have going on your new venture withGrowers & Co. your, I love the t-shirt that says small-scale farmers are changing the world. And I hope we're going to talk about that a little bit today and just, but I do have a ton of new listeners since the last time you were here. So just in case they were like, who is this? I don't know how they could, but if they are, do you, what, tell them a little bit about yourself.
Sure. So, so people call me JM, so I go by JM and I started a small organic farm we're in 2004. So that was a while back. And then that farm, the fame to claim of that farm was that we were farming an acre and a half, which we still do today. And we use no tractor. We use hand tools and then we go to farmer's market and then we have CSA and we deliver it to the local food co-op and we've been able to make a living farming, this small piece of land for, you know, almost two decades now.
And eventually I wrote a book called the market gardener, which described the strategies that we use to make the farm, you know, productive and also financially viable.
And the market gardener is now translated in 10 languages and it's sold over 2000 and 200,000 copies. And a lot of people know me for this, you know, they've read the book and I think it has helped them just figure out proper ways to start a small farm or just like learn new gardening, gardening practices, or learn about tools, new tools that they perhaps didn't know existed and how to use them. And so that was, that was kind of when people started to know a little bit of who I am, because I was promoting the book and people are reading my work.
And so many of my guests who are market gardeners are following your steps. Exactly. And they're talking about their success. I mean, I heard about you from Joyce Pinson back, I think in episode 45. And she was just raving about you back then. And I immediately bought the bucket. My husband has poured through it and just we've put some of the things like he's desperately trying to build a pond and just, we just have a little mini farm. But 200,000 copies! I went to ghostwriter school this summer to learn how to write. I'm trying to write this book called Rockstar Millennial. And he said that like a self-published book usually sells 300 and a traditionally published book sells 2000. You are 100 times at 200,000 and that's because you are changing the world and teaching people, how small farmers should he want to touch on that? How are small farmers changing the world? Small scale farmers.
Yeah. Well, you know, that's wow. I've met, you know, I've been very fortunate because, because of the book, you know, I didn't, first of all, at first I was kind of touring. I was invited to talk about my work and talk about the books. So every time that happens, I go and visit farms and visit farmers. And that was in Canada. Then it was in the US, then it was in Europe. Then it was in Australia and New Zealand and then, you know, Central America. And it's just like all over the place. And then every time I would see farms and farmers, you know, the local food system, it's happening, people in that community are getting together at the farmer's market. They're talking about the local foods.
And the people that are on these farms, they work super hard. It's never easy. Some of them get this discouraged, but they keep that it. And it's just, it's so full of hope. And it's so full of it's. So counter-culture with regards to, you know, you know, big ag and big super stores and Amazon and everything is disconnected from everything.
It's so positive. And then the more of these small farms are out there. The better the community is connecting with these farms. And then it just creates a strong local food scene. And everywhere I've been that I've seen a strong local food scene, it's a happening place on many levels!
And so for me, when I look at environmental disasters and climate change and, and, and corporations, and just the takeover of so many of our common goods for me, the bright hope, you know, the Jedis of this struggle are the farmers that are doing the work!
And, and absolutely, I mean, I, I think I sent you an email about this article I read in Rodale's, we're getting gardening magazine back in 2000 where they talks about the problem is not that we don't have enough food today. It's distributing that food. And that's how small scales farmers can really, I think, make that change because it's the distribution. And with small scale farmers, we don't have to have this giant distribution. We don't have to ship our tomatoes 20,000 miles and pick them before they're ripe and before they have the proper nutritional value, we can, you know, get them from our local farmer.
And it's building that community and talking about hope like Mandy Gerth talked about hope, you know, she was like, it's us crazy farmers, but it's also the crazy customers who come and support us and building those communities. And she follows your practices. You know, she has the BCS tractor and they have the same bros and the same length. And like, those are some of the, you are talking about that, like some of the cause that's one of the things that I think I've heard a lot of the people talk about. Like, you have like a, a standard link row, right. And like a size of a bed and specific walking polices, you walk in places you, you plant and don't plant, am I right?
Yeah. So when, when we, when we started our farm, we didn't want to use a tractor. Not because we didn't like tractors, although we don't really, we're not tractor people, but because we had, you know, under two acres to farm. And so what we tried to do was maximize, you know, square footage so that everything would be planted. And when you're a mechanized farmer, a lot of the space is for, you know, turning at the end of the row and just attractors. They, they end up eating a lot of space in this spacings between each row is really wide because you're cultivating tools are, you know, adapted for larger scale production.
And when I started farming, a lot of the small-scale farmers were kind of using tractor scale techniques on small acreage. And it just, it wasn't a good fit.
So what we did was maximize we started to, first of all, we adopted a permanent bed strategy. So like most home gardeners, you know, we have permanent beds and then we don't plow chisel and remake them every year. We just we've made them once we've hilled them. And then we're just cultivating on those beds, but the beds are 30 inch wide. And the pathways where we walk. So we don't trample the beds. They're 18 inch wide, which is a 48 inch center to center bed, four feet center to center bed.
And that has become a standard that we use and a standard that all thousands of market gardeners are using now. And within the 30 inches, which is really the bed where we plant, we really use close spacings. So we'll, we'll go from 12 two to one 12 to down to one row for the different crops. You know, radishes is going to be 12 rows on 30 inch. Beans is going to be one row, but, and then you have cauliflowers, all the different crops have a different grid pattern, but it's all on 30 inches. So that creates somewhat of a, how can I say, like a parameter to, from which to work with.
We've created like a constraint, which is the bed with, and then we've worked inside that constraint. And we quickly figured out how to optimize production in that 30 inch bed.
And, and then the tools, the proper tools, the broad fork, the wheel hose, the cultivated POWs, the wire weeders, the seeders... All, all tools that are really, you know, hand push or handmade or made for humans. And in that bed that has become kind of our whole ecosystem to operate from which, and then listening to me talking like this, it sounds very esoteric, but it's not. It's just like, instead of doing whatever we have, you know, we have guidelines of, okay, so this is the bandwidth, this is the spacing for this crop.
This is the seeder for exactly the perfect density for that. This is the, we used to cultivate this crop and we've standardized a lot of things.
And, and when I published my book, you know, a lot of people adopted these standards. So now most, most market gardeners are working in:
You know, we haven't invented anything. And there were people doing the same thing before us, for sure. But I think my, my book and my work has popularized it, if I can say that.
But did you invent the wire weeder thing or like, didn't you say there were two new tools that you designed that were coming out?
Yeah. Like when you talked, when we started the podcast together, you talked aboutGrowers & Co. andGrowers & Co. is where now I, you know, we do, you know, I am the editor of a bi-yearly magazine where we talk about small-scale farming change in world, people that are doing it, why it's important and just like gardeners and chefs, and just so many people involved. And we tell their stories, and it's such a beautiful work! I'm inviting all your listeners to, to check it out. It's, you know, the Growers Magazine, it's at Growers & Co.and it's, it's amazing. It's amazing. It's amazing. But it's also a farm where, and tool company, where all the designs that I wanted to do are now available, because you were talking about the wire weeders, we're talking about other tools.
These are all tools that have been around. I've seen them in Europe, Eliot Coleman, who was really my mentor and somebody that I really like, you know, he gave me prototypes for those wire weeders that he messed with and that he found in Switzerland, like 30 years ago. And, and so I, I just, at one point with Growers, I now have a business that can, you know, make the tools and, and, you know, ideally make it profitable enough so that we can make more tools and just make new designs and better serve mostly home gardeners. Also with these tools that are professionally made, but that are, you know, you can't find in hardware stores or they're not available.
These are, you know, these are specifically tailored to our needs as market gardeners. And, and, you know, the broad fork is probably the most popular one that people know home gardeners know about the broadfork, but, you know, the one that we make is the one, and I've been using the brought forks for 20 years. And for me, there's a difference between one and the other. They're not all the same. They're not all created equal. And so I'm kind of a geek that way. And so all the tools with Growers now are really the tools that, that I've designed and that I love.
And it's so true. Like I just happened to stumble upon a broad fork on Amazon once for $99. And I can't even believe I hesitated and I have not, and I love our broad form, but it has fallen apart twice. We've had to like put it back together. And then I love that yours has wooden handles. And you were saying that makes it light. It makes a beautiful construct. Like, there's definitely, I can't wait til we get one because I want one down in our mini farm. And then I want one close to the house in our home gardens. Like we can definitely use too. And my husband turned she's entire, the last two years in a row. He has turned the entire mini farm, which is like, I don't know, a 10th of an acre and not quite equipped with the broad fork.
Like we bought a rototiller and a tractor and he hasn't used either one of them. He just uses that broad fork. And I just, I just think it's invaluable. And I think the one you have built is, again, like you said, I love that as wouldn't handles, it's beautiful. And, but also like the space between the, the metal and everything about it. It's hard to imagine someone can be so passionate about a broadfork, but it's so true. Like it's so handy. It does such a great job.
Well, you know what, it's the name of my farm is broad fork farm. It's in French, Les Grelinette, which is the original inventor of the broad fork in France. But, you know, it's the broad fork for me symbolizes a lot of things. You know, it, it, it's definitely about taking care of the soil because unlike a rotor tiller, which you'd be kind of, you know, plowing and kind of like messing all the, you know, all, all the ecosystem that's in the soil and it's all layered and there's there fun guy, and there's all these different microbiome that we don't know about. We can't see, but they're there, it's an ecosystem. And then when you, when you go with a rotor tiller, you, you're kind of just like destroying the whole soil structure.
You're just kind of messing it up all the, all the life that's in the soil, it gets kind of like, it's like an earthquake. It's like an earthquake, a tornado and a fire at the same time. It's like complete destruction of the universe. And so that's what, that's what, you know, really that's what a rotor tiller does. It looks great. You know, you have the soil that's really nice and really brown, and we're accustomed to kind of feeling that that's the soil that we want, but it's, it's really when you, when you look at it and when you study soil systems and, and you study the effect of, of different tools on soils, we know it's, it's, it's, it's confirmed a hundred percent that no till systems are, are better for the soil and in the long-term more productive because it goes, when you wrote her till it's like, it's like blowing on a fire, you get a hard flame.
You know, a lot of, a lot of the mineralization happens. It's the soil becomes active, but you're depleting the, the humans that's in the soil, you're kind of depleting the organic matter, slow. You're kind of burning it up. So all of this, to say that the broad fork, it allows you to make sure that your soil is loose and deep without destroying it without inverting the layers. And so that's why this tool for me, it's not just any other tool. It's a very, it's very symbolic of how we want to be cultivating the soils and how we want to be producing food and, you know, grown with care and by people who care doing the extra effort to make it really, you know, really profound.
And so the broad fork for me is that, and so to have, but then, you know, we're also commercial, you know, we need to get things done on the farm. We have an eight to five and we have, you know, 300 people that we're feeding and we have kids and it's just like, you know, we want things to, to happen. So a broad fork for me, needs to be, you know, the right way, not too heavy, not too light. It needs to be, it needs to not break. So I can use it for many, many years and this kind of same ethos that I have for the fork I have for, you know, the oscillating hose, that way I use the cultivating, the wiggle wire hose I have for the wire weeder I have for all the hose that...