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125. Community Building Pizza Farm | Bill and Julie Ross | Good Roots Farm and Gardens | Brookings, SD
29th March 2016 • GREEN Organic Garden Podcast • Jackie Marie Beyer
00:00:00 01:16:36

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I am super excited to introduce some new guests that I  think everyone’s  gonna be interested to hear because they have something new at their farm, they have started a Pizza Barn Farm growing nite … ok, I’m just gonna let you explain that. Plus some people might have heard, Mike and I basically fell in love in this place called Ekalaka, MT which is about as far across the state as you can be from her in Eureka, right next to South Dakota border and so coming from Good Roots Farm and Gardens, is Bill and Julie Ross. Their Facebook Page is amazing.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m Julie and I was raised on a farm in Brookings SD, and Bill was raised on a ranch in Wyoming! And farmers and ranchers should be friends you know! So after a career in international development and broadcasting, and quite a few years of ministry, we inherited 40 acres of my family’s farm. When we moved here we thought what are we gonna do?

We started doing some gardening for fun for our own family and sons, we have 4 sons, before we knew it we had all sorts of ideas for how we could use our farm to help build community and use organic practices, so we converted a regular farm to an organic vegetable farm. So that’s what we do and now we’re excited to be expanding to use our vegetables to have a pizza farm here we were can raise almost all of our own ingredeints. And also an event farm where people can have weddings and community events. And we’re just thrilled.

Bill’s a full time farmer! I still have my work at home job, for a little bit longer. But we are thrilled to be in South Dakota where it’s cold in the winter and nice in the summer and continue to build people, planet and profit.

Excellent, I think people are going to be excited to here this, I didn’t mention the events include weddings, do you want to tell listeners a little about that?

When my parents passed away, we had this beautiful 100 year old barn that was falling apart, it was such an anchor on the homestead we really wanted to renovate it. So we are starting to renovate the barn so we can use it for events.

We have a wood fired pizza plan, we have one of our own. We’re have to have a commercial one for the business so we are adding a commercial kitchen adding that to our barn!  The barn is gonna be the focal part of our farm so we can events and dances and upstairs in the loft! And for our stairways as well, it will be an open stairway with cattle panel for our open stairway. WE what to keep it looking really rustic

How big is Brookings? Is it a town? 

We are actually on the eastern side of South Dakota, we’re as far away from Ekalaka as you are. About 25,000 people, plus a 12,000 University population. It’s a small town, but we’re in very good agricultural land.

Our farm is a mile and half from the University, we have students who not only live on the farm with us, have projects on the farm. We have pumpkin projects, biochar and the University wants to do a study on medicinal herbs. We love the fact that we give a lot of tours. We teach people work with our soil to augment it, they come out to see what our bugs are, and it’s just providential that we live next to a University. The thing that is novel about us is we have conventional farming in every direction. There are just a handful of farms that are organic, and we are not certified organic. We were told to avoid all the paperwork, and just do that practically. We make that definitely known! We have  Farmer’s Market and were CSA gardeners. 

Unusual in the way use a lot of , right in the middle of a lot of herbicides and pesticides and of course we don’t use any of those, so we’re pioneers, and a long haul on how to construct a community on better way to live.

I decided that I’m gonna call those some great golden seeds.


Tell me about your first gardening experience?

Bill: I’ll start I grew up in NE Wyoming on a ranch in the Black Hills, my grandfather was the gardener of the region he had a large garden and many of chickens

and I grew up with him on the ranch and I just got naturally indoctrinated. When I was in Jr. high, high school I had a pumpkin patch, was my first experience. When we got married, moved around a little bit, we had a small house with a small yard. We always had a patch garden wherever we lived, before we came back here.

Julie: My first experience would be with flowers. She was a city girl, didn’t even know how to make coffee if you can imagine that.

Anything that came from the ground. Lo


I enjoyed her flowers

wasn’t particularly good or natural, it was really a challenge for her!

I have loved keeping a lot of flowers, so we have

our backyard now is

beautiful flowers and different kinds of pollinator gardens. So now with the expansion into all of the wedding things. I never did much in the way of vegetable gardening. Way to expand the way Bill enjoys.

What does organic gardening/earth friendly mean to you?

Bill: I just naturally have always been a little leary of using extra synthetic chemicals and pesticides or chemicals, reading Mother Earth News and Organic Gardening Magazines. 

mimicking the natural value

high value

as we see more and more results of the damage of synthetic chemicals can do, I think we’re on the right path.

They were just saying on the news just this morning right before our call started that the temperature has risen 2 full degrees. This year, one of the hottest years, one of the most unusual years. I think those chemicals are a little linked to that. 

Who or what inspired you to start using organic techniques?

Those are the two main things…

How did you learn how to garden organically?

I would just say by watching him first, by us experimenting! I like to experiment and think outside the box, and it just became natural, when we learned about the beneficial insects that you can use, again that’s just mimicking nature and finding that balance.


inspired, there were so many internet tools. As Bill was pulling me along to increase my learning curve, there is so much on the internet now, all last winter, he is super focused

He selects something for me to watch on the internet. A piece here, another farm story, another garden story, or little clip or website. That’s how we has introduced me to a lot of the concepts on our farm, when I do the farm tours I own it 100% now! I love to be outdoors and help!

It’s take advantage of all the stories online

Share what you do. Part of our farm community

they have one daughter

how the daughter has her own little garden

every time we profile someone else’s success

It breeds success for a way to think that you eat seasonally locally eat what’s fresh. so everybody wins and we love the fact that we’re a learning farm!

My podcasting group comes from a theory of abundance. The best thing about podcasting to me is that you can do laundry.

Some recent ones

Farmer-to- Farmer Chris Blanchard

Webinar Practical Farmers of Iowa

every Tuesday night… archive

Joel Saletin practitioner from the Modern Farmer

Lexicon of Sustainability is a multifaceted media project, it involves books, videos, these learning curves in living green. They have these  great big posters about 30 of them profile a different I am one of the ambassadors, the curators of the public shows. We have presented a lot of these dynamics of healthy sustainable farming to universities. Your mind will just blow its circuits how much is online and there is to learn.

Tell us about something that grew well this year.

Tomatoes are always working good, eggplants, cumbers, we just had a really good year and the rain came just right, we had adequate rain!

We grow a lot of heirloom products. The vegetables don’t exactly look like the perfect.

Greenhouse Good Roots Farm and Gardens Community Builders

Use a lot of heirloom seeds, we visited on our vacation, last year in Iowa. When we had our kale crop. We stopped at 12 different harvests, so as people learn how to cook with kale. We had an unlimited supply. The last harvest was after Thanksgiving. We extended the last harvest was in January with high tunnel extension. Our carrots, our Kale was still growing.

Kale that was still outside with snow on it.There are certain things we put them in the high tunnel and certain things we put outside so we can maximize our harvest. 

One other thing that we raise that’s a little novel in our area is aronia. The name for it is choke berry not to be confused with coke cherry


6 acres in aronia. We’re going it for commercial sale, very high in anti-occident

banded together with 100 other famers in Iowa and we will all sell our aronia for the same price at the same time.

doesn’t taste good off the vine

learning how to make foods with it and of course huckleberries

plants that are indigenous to our area, that have been under focused in the last century and they have side uses, all sorts of vitamins and cosmetic products and all sorts of food products.

How did you connect with these farmers in Iowa did you goto a conference?

We love to go places and learn. The man who is head of aronia use

looking for a cash crop that was pretty reliable and wouldn’t cost a lot to start, and we learned of him and we went to one of his conferences and learned about the merits of aronia.

So we are one of his producers, we went to one of his weekend trainings

weekend fest that come to, and it’s been a fun thing to hook up with other farmers and

Aronia. It’s interesting that SDU is now working with extension and the got a grant and when we raised our hand  and said we were growing Aronia they were absolutely fascinated. So there were people who come to visit our farm.

any even small garden, it would be good, berry for juices and pies that a small farm can do.


we will have 5 acres

It’s not naturally sweet, so I will often pair it with huckleberries or strawberries. If you freeze the berries, and just use them, or a handful of them in your smothie in the morning.

Where do you get your seeds? Or is it a bush?

We get plants that they propagate down from

quite a few. He was the first Aronia farm, started 15 years ago

see how it goes

harvest potential is to create more money then you would farming with soybeans and corn. I think naturally that’s gonna happen and as people notice that, it’s gonna be the proof of the pudding, that these kinds of cash crops on the side

can be more a better way of making a living then the conventional corn/soybeans that have to have a lot of pesticides, so we’er excited to be pioneers and proof and the pudding.

I’m really interested in aronia because we’ve tried to plant blueberries, and I’m really interested after talking to David Smetterling in Missoula, so we’ve had 20 acres of forestland and so we’ve been focusing on building lawn for years, and converting our forest land to lawn. But I am excited to kind of go the other way a little more with more natural pants that don’t require irrigation. 

Dolly sheep, they would be a perfect example of an animal you can bring on your farm that eat everything but the berries. There are some really innovative livestock options, to protect the harvest. God has created everything to synergistically work together.

Dolly is just a miniature sheep.

We just got 4 sheep. There just shetlands not miniature.

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

Were gonna be adding some pollinator strips, around the barn and farm to build up the pollinators and beneficial insects. Getting the barn going and pizza wood fired oven going and using most of the ingredients from our farm.

since we do a lot of tours, and weddings and corporate company picnic, we want to ask if we can do of course an age appropriate small tour of the farm so we can increase our education. We’re gonna put a sign on the highway, a lot of people have told us when you do you have a lot of people come and visit. We have a lot of junior farmers, who are kids who love what we do, so we are gonna have them as they can in the summer!

Lots of fun ideas to ease into

begin with the end in mind and let life evolve, we’re excited ourslves to see how the community of believers increases

samples pick out of our garden

We’ve coached some young farmers on how to do high tunnels  how to figure out how to get started. It’s funny we considered at our age, we’re just starting the 60s to flex all sorts of ways…

So I have to ask, do you have some tips for high tunnels? We did our tunnels though NRCS, Andrew Malucelli, he’s already hit the record for all time downloads, like 1300 downloads already, and it was just a couple of weeks ago…

They were helpful  it just took longer for us too, it

almost delayed a year

going with that for 4 years.

I can get out in January and have my hands in the dirt

we’re in Zone4B

we’re gonna extend our growing season

early spring till Christmas

a house within the high tunnel

experiment and innovation for plants that need

people say can I sit in your high tunnel in the winter

gage int he bedroom

tell what the temp is

use our fan

how to be successful

tractor that you have


we have an old

one of the things we could invest

BCS walking tractor for tilling and plowing

fairly expensive

hopefully it’s gonna last my children’s lifetime

our gardening strategy

Market Gardener Book

JM Fortier

if you haven’t heard of him

how you can make a good income on a small acreage with him

walk behind tractor

one problem

with the roots getting eaten with certain plants

need to invest in a million bugs and we solved our problems.

What kind of bugs? Like some kind of bacterial?

Just lady bugs. Problem solved. They’re just a beneficial insect!

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

Mostly things are working gradually, somethings are average. I can’t think of anything that didn’t work. It’s been going really well.

I like that answer! Very inspiring!

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

Greens are good to grow. I would say since we incorporated the High tunnel. I would say with the tomatoes, where you can can control water on them

cucumbers and peppers

eggplants. Just being able to control the environment. It’s really beneficial to work with the high tunnel. This last year we just had too much abundance. But living in a community, where theres’ not a lot of people who go to farmer’s markets. I canned as much as I could, and we ended up giving really quite  bit of produce away to young people who are organically minded. And you can think of that 2 ways as either I gave it all away, or you can can also think of it as seeds planted. I made a lot more friends in the 20 age range, I taught one of them to can.

did some meals together

ebb and flow

WE thought maybe we send some of produce to mind

sell it by honor, where people just leave money and take what you use. That was something really hadn’t anticipated what do you do with a bumper crop? So we’re calling back a little this year and that’s sort of where first got the idea of a pizza farm

other way to use our veg as our community comes in tune with the merits of organic food.

My listeners have heard me talk a lot about AERO, which is this local organizaiton, it stands for Alternative Energy Resource Organization. And they have a cottage foods class coming about that where you use the food you grow, either as pickles or baking breads etc. Encouraging people to do that, that’s a big thing right now,  farmers need more markets to take their produce. Mike and I have struggled with that, getting enough to get going and then not enough to take everywhere. You’re such a natural educator and concerned about teaching people to care for the environment as much as making money! 

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

IDK if I would steer anybody away from anything. Think of ways to adapt, pressing the box going outside the box, thinking

stick with things that work in our zone

can’t grow

an example of my high tunnel, we’re in zone4b, but  I consider it zone 5, and a

inside my tunnel, I already have tomatoes up in growing and flowering (March 7, 2016) and its gonna give my tomatoes a small state so I have tomatoes in May not Aug. So that’s how I think.

We visited a thing years a couple of winters ago, they winter gardening in a big plastic greenhouse, but what they did, they used gutters to collect water, they planted plants in...