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114: Jesse Frost | RoughDraft Farmstead |Bowling Green, KY
25th January 2016 • GREEN Organic Garden Podcast • Jackie Marie Beyer
00:00:00 01:05:33

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Jesse and Hannah Frost run the Rough Draft Farmstead in Bowling Green, Kentucky. They are an off-grid, bio-intensive farm striving to be as sustainable as possible—in the way they grow food, raise animals,  consume, and the way they waste. They are committed to never using chemicals of any kind in our gardens, to employing biodynamic principles to encourage diversity, to using non-GMO and local grains for our poultry and livestock, to using organically grown seeds, and to always focusing first on the health and biology of our soil.

Tell us a little about yourself.

Hannah and I, my wife and I are both classic, we didn’t come from agricultural backgrounds. We both come from city suburban backgrounds.

I moved to NYC in the mid ots’ then I took a job at a wineshop. I worked there for several years. We specialized in organic and biodynamic, and sustainably produced  wines. So I kind of stared to really fall in love with those wines and wanted to learn more about them.

I started visiting the tiny vignerons in France and Austria and kind of met these really interesting farmers. They didn’t farm with chemicals, they weren’t what I had originally imagined wine makers to be like, they were really just dirty, big handed farmers and I like them!

That coupled with classic new young farmer, that coupled with Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma you know kind of led into wanting to be a farmer.

I grew up in Kentucky, was living in NY when I was working, and I cam beca to see if I could find a farm in Kentucky I could work at and I found a biodynamic farm called  Bugtussle Farm.

I did an internship there and at the end of that season, the farmers asked me to come back and do another one and I’m glad that I did because in my second season I met Hannah

it was crazy

That’s so romantic!

you tell someone that you knew each

she grew up

Now where’s Hannah from?

she grew up in Kentucky too but in

about 45 minutes away from each other

her background is actually in Art, she studied art in Belmont University in Nashville and spent a year  in Florence studied painting

t moved up to Chicago. After that experience and read the omnivores dilemma

didn’t do a good job with the people

She got really into that, she looked up like I did and found   Bugtussle Farm. too.

The Smith’s who we worked with offered us the property that we now live on and it’s about 71/2 acres. We built a cabin here, we crowd sourced the money here though our blog and indiegogo.

through out cabin for our blog

through 2012 raised enough money here to build a 560 square foot cabin!

Tell me about your first gardening experience?

My first gardening experience was when I was I must have been 11 -12, and my mother and I were living in Chester, Il when her parents were getting really old and we were taking care of them. I remember we had this little garden on the side of the house. I just remember we grew flowers and hot peppers

maybe the hot peppers were ornamental

remember weeding and growing

hot peppers

enjoyed the act of it. Hannah nor i had much agricultural background

Do you guys have brothers and sisters who garden or are you still the only ones?

Still the only ones in the family. My mother she dabbles, she enjoys growing things. My dad likes growing morning glories! Not really.

So now you’re raising kids right?

We have one child, he was born on Christmas eve, right here in the cabin on Christmas Eve and he just turned one.

definitely an interesting experience

like having another livestock, it’s strangely similar, there’s a lot more gravity to it obviously, but strangely similar.

Hopefully he’ll become a gardener too:~)

Hopefully at least he has an appreciation for natural food, and understands the importance of growing your own food.

Of course it’s still way to early, but I tell the listeners a lot and my mom is still like how did my daughter end up with a gardening podcast? but a lot of my guests say I wasn’t interested in growing things or gardening. But then you never know there’s the kid in GMO OMG! 

I remember when I was in first grade you germinate that bean seed, and how fast it would How that fascinating that was!

Shout out to Miss Montana!

What does organic gardening/earth friendly mean to you?

It means a lot, and for me it started out in the wine business, I would tasted these wines and be like why are these so drastically different and so much better then the other ones. What is it?  And after i would talk to all the producers, I realized it’s how they grow it, it’s not how they make it, it’s not how they bottle it, its the way they grow it!

So are you guys growing grapes?

We’re not, we plan on it,

we are still clearing land

the land that we

were dense cedar forests, we moved here because we wanted to be closer to our mentors. but we didn’t get perfect land here, so we’ve had to hack away at it

when we get m

we do make wines out of

our favorite were really black berry wines, blueberry wines.

You can make those really dry, most people get the first impression they’re gonna be sweet.

Good because I don’t like sweet wines!

without getting to

amount of the sugar before fermentation

try to get it to a relative sugar level of 20-21 bricks.

kind of get it in that range you can make a wine that is relatively dry.

What’s a brick?

bricks is the measurement of sugar

how you measure sugar

the degree of sugar measurement. Grapes have kind of a perfect combination, of a bunch of different things. They hit the sweet spot for how sweet they can get.

how sweet they can get

persimmons that get equally sweet, also they have a lot of tannins and things that make a good wine, they’re not quite as juice

persimmons can be on par with a grape wine.

Who or what inspired you to start using organic techniques?

I guess I jumped ahead with ehe wine story, earlier , because I had seen the outcome of growing organically. was a big part of it for me.

seeing the results,

this family

Smith’s inspired us to see how it was done

how it could also be very fruitful

produce a flavorful high quality food

that was important for us

taking care of the soil, grows good food. If your goal is to grow good food, there’s no reason to grow any other way, you can’t grow good food without growing good soil.

how did you end up doing an internship? Was it the wine thing?

It was really a combination of meeting those farmers and reading the omnivore’s dilemma.

introduced you to the idea that we really don’t know our food. AlsoI have a cooking background, so I have a big interest in food.  I knew at the time you could ferment

curious that you could, and maybe a bit idealistic. of saying screw it, I can make a wine out of everything.  d need grapes

I didn’t know that I could at the time, I just assumed I could

I was somewhat right, luckily.

I wanted to be closer to home, and also so did Hannah, living up in Chicago,

longer drive wanting to be out in the country.

How did you find your internship?

just googling, and also, they were on wwoof at the time

may have gouda it through woof as well.

they had a little video

students at western

Tim Harris he shot a video of them, of a school project.

just a great photographer class,

shot this video

that was one of the things, it’s really kind of easy video to watch, just a couple of minutes long. But they, you get to hear them talk and listening to them talk about their farm and their community and there relationship as

that really spoke to me. When I sent my application to them, I didn’t send it to any others,

didn’t even think about it

I’m glad I did

very much into homesteading, making it a manageable farm, they do rotational grazing with animals, and

Now are you guys’ living off grid?


Do you want to tell us anything about that?

living off grid

it’s not

it funny

we basically

have had to earn with our water system

just enough money to stay off the cabin

It’s a choice. It’s also kind of necessity

didn’t have enough money

that’s what we worked with. We really enjoy it. You’re very physically involved with your day-to-day, your chopping wood, we’re constantly

our water system is cool, we have spring on the lowest part of our property

use a gravity fill pump, a  ram pump,

tank it gravity feeds down to the house

familiar with a rand

water to pump


concept of a water hammer

water travels downhill and it stops really fast and when it stops it has a lot of pressure behind it

forced into a small space

closet full of balloons or something, you open a door and shove a balloon

pops out of a balloon sized hole

water comes down the hill, stops agains and again

the pressure out of the water behind of the spring

so the water hammer idea,

absorbs that water for a second but then when it rebounds it pushes it into a pipe and then up a hill pumps it 100’ elevation in over 400 feet of pipe.

It’s a pretty neat invention.

actually late 1700’s invented went out of vogue when electricity and steam came in, there were more efficient pumps and you didn’t have to fiddle with it

becoming a lot more popular right now.

I wish I would have known about that way back when.

Something to look into, it’s

can irrigate your garden

if you have as spring or a pond you can use any sort of water source that’s consistent and reliable.

our neighbors our mentors have one that feeds their livestock. It goes all over the farm, 160 acre farm

He actually built his own, which isn’t too hard you can build it out of pvc pipe, for like $60.

good youtube videos

Ours is more expensive because if you have a slow flow rate, because our spring isn’t particularly aggressive,

so we had to buy one….

Tell us about something that grew well this year.

Recovered it, was tomatoes, we had a really wet season for tomatoes, nobody had a good season this year. Then it dried up tomatoes we’re kind of done, and I went through and

They were just kind of done producing, they’d been soggy, it had rained. They’d produced enough, it was an ok tomato year,they were starting to siness, we didn’t really want to let them go.

So I just tried it with a rotary plow, went through with a rotary plow must tosses the dirt up, to remound them I guess you could say. You always want to hill up tomatoes as your cultivating them. 

It completely reinvigorated them we had a second full crop of tomatoes.

threw dirt onto the base of the plant

they got frost before they were done producing and that was our first crop of tomatoes. It leans into one of your other questions.

tossed a big mound of dirt

They produced well enough, they were starting to sinesss? We really didn’t want to let them go. If you can imagine a spinning corkscrew. To green mound them. You always want to hill up tomatoes anyway in this case we just tossed a big amount of dirt on them.

put our roots on the stem

This isn’t something that commercial growers would be surprised

a lot of times in commercial grower

in a greenhouse  commercial grower keeps them in pots

continuously pull them down

,then put the roots against the soil and the roots just keep producing and keep producing, but we had this out in the in field in cages, it was nice, it was new thing for us

When you say you cover them with dirt, just the bottom of the plant, leaves?

Yeah, just a few inches, the bottom leaves, if you have the ability of pulling that stem down and press it agains the soil it would have the same or original effect.

Is there something you would do different next year or want to try/new?

I think we’ll do that again this year. We’re excited to experiment a little more with it this year and do it in some different ways.

Tell me about something that didn’t work so well this season.

We planted some daikon radishes, a little bit early in the fall, so it was warm. It ended up being bittersweet

they flowered, sometimes when you do that, we’re down in south more or less. We’er about an hour and half  NE of Nashville, pretty warm

when you get seeds from up north you have to be wary because they could be more geared towards northern growing. We do a sort of forage cover crop

mix of kale, radishes, and daikons,

They ended up flowering really early, which was kind of a mess, because it blocked a lot of sunlight. We ended up giving those seed pods as part of our CSA.

spicy beans

that was fun I wish we would have pickled some and kept some around.


little bittersweet

didn’t really get any icon radishes, wish they would have

essentially the seed pod of the radish, essentially wen it starts to bolt create those brisk seed pods.

if you eat those,

if you get them when they’re green they’re really tasty. They taste those like little bean radishes

they get a little woody if you eat them too late.

when they

Something that you find is easy to grow and is generally successful every-time.

Sweet potatoes work really well in our little part of Kentucky. We can grow them year after year, we’ve always had all sorts of conditions. drought

always produce something great… confident we can always grow well,

clean beds, somewhat weedy beds, dry years, wet years.

Im jealous about that. Can I ask, a lot of people talk about sweet potatoes, I always picture a yam, but these are actual sweet potatoes.

closely related to the morning

golden nugget, our neighbors got it from a  guy who’d

an old heirloom

who had been growing it in our area, the general vicinity for over a hundred years. When you think of  sweet potatoes you think of  heart shaped leaf

They look more like a wild sweet potato. Just the sweets sweet potatoes I’d ever eaten. I didn’t even know that I liked sweet potatoes.

more of a five fingered leaves


I can put sweet potatoes in almost anything! All of a sudden it becomes a hearty dish.

We eat almost always, at least twice a day sometimes 3 times a day especially in the winter.

Something you would steer new gardeners away from that you find is typically challenging to grow in your climate.

blessed to have a really long season

gets hot fast

growing sweet tender fall colder weather crops

if you do

If you have good irrigations time it well, it’s hard to manage

I would hesitate to tell anyone not to try things.

brussels sprouts can be difficult

start it in July

spinach is always a joke in the spring because it gets so hot here fast here. WE have at least several 80º days in March?!

In May and June it gets pretty hot and then it kind of dies down in July, August

a little easier in the fall stuff.

It can get hot pretty fast here and then

Which activity is your least favorite activity to do in the garden.

I think if I had to pick one, it would be to move the fence to mow under it. We have the solar electric fence

it seems really inefficient. I want to just be able to shove it out of the way and just keep going.

It depends , if we’re trying to guard against deer we’ll

height wise it’s 36”

offset another fence, Polywire, to keep the deer out,

It kind of creates a visual effect

that they are not particularly fond of, they have really bad depth perception.

if they can’t tell where one fence ends and another starts

they tend not to jump over it

We have a great pyrenees who runs around, so those are our defense against deer.

What is your favorite activity to do in the garden.

I’m a fan of cultivating. I enjoy using our little collinear hoe, and going in-between the crops. There’s something very meditative about it. I know a lot of people complain about

I really enjoy cultivating, it gives me a lot of time to think about what we’re up to and what we’re going to be doing.

done a lot of no-till

I miss using the hoe

I will go do it on a Saturday night after we get back from market just to kind of ground if I m dead tired.

What is the best gardening advice you have ever received?

Our neighbors have given us so much advice over the years, one of my favorite things and a lot of people will say this.

Just keep planting

It’s sort of the idea in the middle of the summer,w hen your’e wiped out and exhausted and you just can’t imagine putting more stuff in the ground or starting more seeds, it’s just keep planting and everything will be ok.

I know you said it was 7 acres but how much are you farming. 

That’s a good question. The property is 7 and half acres.

Hannah and I have about 3/4 acres cleared

going to grow our entire

sharing our neighbors space, growing on roughly 3 acres. We’re reducing that down by a lot to roughly 3/4 acre but we’re planting a lot more intensively then we plant in the past, were going to more of a past French Parisian style gardening method. It’s really more about planning, double cropping beds, in some places having triple cropping beds and having really strong fast rotations. That’s what were working on this year. The past though years, worked strictly with neighbors, and opened up about 3 acres with them. This year we wanted to try to do it on a smaller scale, behind our house, so we’d be closer to home that would save us time, in travel. Not they’re very far away. Only about 4-12 minutes but when I did a calculations, it added up to about 48 daylight hours and I thought I’d rather...