Balancing Farm and Family with Derek Amadi (FSFS233)

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As farmers and business owners, it’s easy to get lost in productivity—the need to grow more, sell more, expand the farm, scale operations. 

This episode’s guest, Derek Amadi from Texas, is trying to spend more time with his family, enjoy the experiences of parenting, and pay attention to his farm just enough.

What about you? Spending time on the farm is inevitable, but it’s important to remember to take breaks every now and then and to be grateful for the things we have.

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FSFS232 � Derek Amadi

Diego: [00:00:00] It's easy to fall into that trap of I�ll just work more, I'll do more, but is that work that you're doing actually enough of a leverage point to make a huge difference? So I'm trying to, and given that it's summer and kind of our slowest time, I'm trying to really enjoy life here along the way and not make it all about work in the bottom line.

Derek Amadi: [00:00:26] I completely agree. And I'm actually in the same boat, I would say. Before all the COVID stuff started happening, I was pushing push and trying to, reach the numbers, that I could truly be, excited and happy about. But once all this stuff started happening, I stepped back and I'm just going with the flow.

As long as I can pay my bills, as long as the business is still running. I've been taken off more time. I've been helping out as much as I can with the kiddos and with my wife, yeah, I'm totally in the same boat where huge revenue is not my main concern right now.

So yeah, I agree. I'm in the same spot. The only thing I personally though in struggling a little bit, because before this happened, my wife used to go to work. And now, my wife and the kids are home. So if I am coming in from, being exhausted or tired, I'm usually walking into a little bit of chaos because we have a two and a half year old and then we have an eight month old. Things are never calm. So it's been a little hard to get my mind to relax. But, I will agree that man, just taking time to be with the family has been just awesome.

Diego: [00:01:58] Yeah, that number that you had that would have been exciting, was that a number that you would say you had to get to or one that you just had in your head because you put it there and it was just out there. It didn't really mean anything other than it was a big number?

Derek Amadi: [00:02:14] yeah, a little bit of both. I had the same number in my last year. in all honesty, I'm trying to get to the six figures, like everybody else. But I am primarily a solo operation. So the number I had is from last year and the reason I had it from last year is because I didn't reach it last year because I spent so much time building these high tunnels. So I was like, it's okay. I made enough to where I can carry over and keep this goal for this year. And then, all this COVID stuff started happening. So now I'm just like, man, I'll take it easy. I'll make whatever money I need to make. And, just go with that.

Diego: [00:02:55] what do you think about this idea of a boom bust cycle around COVID? So Dan Barber, the chef. Who is also a big, small farm advocate. He wrote this article that talked about there's potentially a big boom bust as a result of COVID in small scale farming where it's doing well now, but just on the other side of the horizon lies disaster for a lot of small farms and he pins it on lower restaurant demand, harder to get labor, less traffic at places like farmer's markets.

What do you see in your area with your farm, with the COVID effect now, and then that I'm sure you've done well as a result of COVID, but then when that demand backs off and we stay in this more restrictive society for another year, what does that look like for your farm? What do you think about that in Texas?

Derek Amadi: [00:04:06] So one of the reasons why I'm relaxed right now about my finances is because those first few months of the new year went so well and then COVID happened. And then it went even better, that I created a nice little, not a nest egg, but a buffer to be able to relax a little bit more this year, I stopped going to farmer's markets, but if I were to go to the farmer's market, I think, the traffic yes, has diminished somewhat. But the people who are going, they're looking to buy. So I am considering getting back into the market, but right now I just, I haven't needed to, I, I agree with, the article you're talking about.

But I don't think it's a boom bust. I think small farms are more, they should be more resilient than just relying upon a pandemic to, support themselves. So I think we're all going to adapt, or I hope everybody can adapt appropriately. I was actually trying to, right before all this happened, I wanted to quit markets all together.

And only do restaurants and other wholesaling, and then it was amazing how the restaurant just collapsed, you and I feel terrible for them, but they all just immediately stopped ordering. I have some friends where their whole operation was based on selling the chefs.

So I know they have completely adapted and now they're selling to larger wholesale outlets. so for me currently, right now, I am just selling to larger outlets who then resell it as a CSA, box or a pick your own, option. without having to go to the market to hustle, to sell vegetables, but in all honesty right now, I don't think you even need to hustle to sell vegetables because everybody's looking, everyone's looking.

I couldn't believe the amount of calls and messages I got for, people I never heard of who probably never bought any. fresh vegetables. And now all of a sudden they're into the local ag move. They want to support us. But I honestly, and truly believe when if, and when this is over, things are going to go back to people buying from the grocery store or whatever they're used to.

And the demand for local will go back to, whatever plateau we were at that's, my personal feeling.

Diego: [00:06:42] Yeah. So let's say that did happen. Let's say this demand for local that has been spurred by COVID dials itself down in the next three months, what would your business look like? Or how would you have to adapt to that?

Or would you have to adapt or do you think things would just keep rolling as they are now?

Derek Amadi: [00:07:07] I, as I said, I, I. For years. I was actually, I had said, I'm going to stop coming to markets. I'm going to, I don't want to go to farmer's markets anymore. And just every year I would keep going, because it was the easiest thing for me.

and I knew I R I know how to do farmer's markets, but, now with wholesaling, I, it's an easier, drop point. There's no real sale and the demand keeps going up for wholesale. So I'm getting calls from not only a wholesale outlets, but from other farmers who. maybe can't fulfill their orders and they need, help jumping on with them.

So I personally don't think that the wholesale side is going to die down anytime and I really am enjoying other folks selling my vegetables for me. The Saturday morning. Wake-ups all right. Not that was difficult, but I lose a whole day or multiple days. with the setup and harvesting and all that stuff, you lose multiple days with my family.

And now on Saturdays, we wake up and we're having breakfast together. We're enjoying our time. There's no stress, for me to go to the market and make money. I think it's going to be okay. And I think, a wholesale is still a great option and I don't foresee it, evaporating anytime soon.

Diego: [00:08:32] How'd you set up the wholesale side of the business? Was that initially somebody on that side calling you, or did you reach out to some companies to try and make that happen?

Derek Amadi: [00:08:44] both, I think when, When I started having such an excess that the market couldn't absorb it. I knew I wanted to shift to the wholesale.

So I was trying to gather as many contacts as I could. I was reaching out to whomever I was in any of my farmer, friends had told me their outlets. I would, reach out. The, it's just been, like that, where, it's been both sides where I'm reaching out and they're reaching out.

So that, it's a great feeling right now because there are actually where we're at. it may seem like there's a lot of farmers, but there's not too many over here. And we ha we're in this huge state. And there are not that many. I know we've seen, an increase or influx of, young quote, unquote young farmers starting up right now.

But I think it takes a while to get to the level to be able to wholesale. smaller avenues or smaller CSA, that's probably, the better options for the new guys starting. One

Diego: [00:09:44] thing we've seen a lot of with COVID here is these businesses that are built upon one leg, meaning restaurants, as you alluded, like they had that leg kicked out from them.

And some of those businesses will never recover. If you're a wholesale only business. How do you view that? Are there layers to wholesale? there could be a wholesale CSA and then there could be a wholesale order that wholesales to grocery stores. Is there a diversity within your wholesale options or are they all selling to the same customer base?

So potentially if COVID, or some other situation comes about that wholesale could go under and then you're left with nothing. how does that look from your point of view?

Derek Amadi: [00:10:35] So right now, there is diversity in the wholesale. it does change with the seasons we're coming up on our true summer season when a lot of people like to take off and relax, which is what I tell everybody to do during August or late July, August, September.

just because of the temperatures we, and the, the humidity that we're dealing with at that point. But right now, there are wholesalers who. They are selling their vegetables as a pick option. You just go on their website and they may pick it, or they have pre bought CSS. there are still groceries stores available to sell to.

I am a part of a co-op that is also doing a, multi-pharma CSA. and we had, record signups this year. And I don't know if it will be record, coming up in the fall season, but I think our numbers will still be large enough to, continue to do that option as the, the pre-order CSA.

I personally am not worried about the leg of wholesale falling out. I know I should plan for it. And if that does happen, then I think I can easily just jump right back into the market game. right now all the markets are open air they're outside. They have all these restrictions and policies in place.

I know that some people may be scared to go out, but. It appears the data's suggesting, being outdoors is a pretty safe. So I went right before I stopped going to the, the farmer's markets. The crowds were great and they were telling everybody, no, go out don't leave your place.

And the Texans, it's hard for Texans to listen to people, tell them what to do. So we were still having great crowds and I can only assume that it was still that way. when I, even though I left, I'm just one little farm. so

Diego: [00:12:37] given that, thinking about your experience over the past few months, do you feel different about small-scale farming than you did pre COVID 19?

Derek Amadi: [00:12:48] not really. I do see that. Yeah, I guess the victory garden is what, is making a comeback. And I do see that there could be possible lanes for education since so many people are, wanting to get back into gardening. I also see there's a possible lane for selling, plant starts.

It's hard to find plants, nowadays, or it's hard to find seeds. I think those are all. options that can be considered. but currently I don't see anything changing. The only thing that I saw change was the demand. and that's pretty much it. So

Diego: [00:13:24] yeah, I think a lot of what you're echoing is a lot of what I would have for my thoughts around the space.

there's obviously going to be businesses that get shaken out as a result of this, that happens in any. Sort of economic downturn. There's a core set of businesses that survive. They're resilient. They adapt well. And then there's businesses that are either poorly run. Maybe they're just an experience.

Maybe they're newer businesses that didn't have an established customer base and those fail, but I don't think that's unique to the whole COVID situation. When you think about the idea of small-scale farming and making a living around it. And I've done a few episodes on that here in 2020. What are your thoughts around that?

Can you make a living doing this?

Derek Amadi: [00:14:14] yes. I think you could totally make a living. but I think sometimes, and I really, I believe you've been doing a great job of giving people real true, non fluff, information on how difficult it is to run a business. and no, I'm just echoing what other people have said, but.

There's business and then there's farm business and it's just all encompassing stress ball. and I do think, I honestly truly believe you can make a living at it. like I said, I'm doing it and I know a few others in my area who were also making it happen. but that doesn't mean we're not stressed.

That doesn't mean we're not tired. It doesn't mean we're not red faced just from, working these long, crazy hours or, Long tedious hours. so yeah, I dunno, I'm not too worried about the small farming movement. I think we're possibly just going to do fine and cruise right through this.

I think more people will get into it and I think if you're not ready, if you're not educated, I think you'll go under just like any other business. But there are avenues to sell and still make money. So I think we'll do fine. I think what you were talking about good businesses and bad businesses, it's so unique right now, because both can go under right now, but you could have done everything right.

And you could be, doing so well. You have a great customer base, all these things and something that you cannot control has happened. And I. It's just crazy when that some people, their whole livelihoods are going out the door and it's sad that I don't want to get into politics, but it's sad that our government is bailing up these massive corporations. And then, all the people are like, what have you been doing?

Diego: [00:16:06] Yeah. what about us? And you're right. there's definitely things that affect good businesses too. and I'm glad you brought that up. For you as a farmer, you've been doing this for a while. How many years? Five years now?

Derek Amadi: [00:16:21] Seven years. Seven years.

Diego: [00:16:22] Okay. Seven years. What today after seven years are some of the most difficult parts of being a small scale farmer, whether that's farm related, growing related, life related. What brings you the most stress in your day?

Derek Amadi: [00:16:41] for me, it's time management. That's why I've always, I reached out to you because you seem like you're the King of time management.

So I reached out to you and, asked for some explanations. I'm still struggling with that, especially now that I got two kids. I'm trying to be a great dad. Any extra time I have is going to them. There's no Derrick time anymore. And I'm honestly okay with that. though, I do think it will take a toll, so hopefully things don't last like this too long, but.

time management has been difficult for me because as a primarily solo operation, getting all these things done, planting, harvesting, weeding, selling all these things, while trying to be a good dad has been a little tricky. I'm not too stressed out though. I am doing the job that I chose to do that I, have made my life, to be.

To be somebody who gets to do whatever they want. time management right now has been the most difficult thing for me. So

Diego: [00:17:46] yeah. one thing that I think a lot of people struggle with is managing family life and farm life would, you could substitute in business life or farm life, but you're a farmer.

So family life and farm life. Managing the two can be very tough. Getting the right balance can be tough. You're somebody who like I, when I started my business, I had kids and then I started a business and I had more kids along the way. You were farming. And then you had kids. What was it like for you in that transition from no kids to having kids while you were doing the farm thing as a self-employed entrepreneur.

Derek Amadi: [00:18:40] So I specifically remember, you talking. One time about, this was before I had kids. You were saying, guys, if you don't have kids and you have all a list of things you want to do, you better get them done because it's the kids arrive.

it's very difficult to, get your list done. And I'm talking about big projects, not little things. I would recommend everybody. If you do not have kids enjoy the time that you have to be able to work, long hours, you don't have to come or if you're tired, you can go lay down and relax.

I would say, enjoy that as much as you can because once the kids happen, there is a buffer where, mama is, pretty much. The sole caretaker of the baby in those first few months, but once that's over, and they're mobile and they're, they need, everything from you. it's been difficult.

I will not lie, but. Farming, and I hope my wife doesn't hear this, but farming was number one, and then, my relationship wasn't number two, but now, my kids are number one. I could care less about farming, or just, any of the things I used to enjoy.

I don't even think about them anymore because I don't always have the capacity in my mind, to let those, let those things float around in there. Cause I'm just constantly worrying about the farm. I'm now not worrying in a bad way. You know what I'm saying though? it's business.

You just, it's always on your mind. you want to be profitable. You want to pay your bills. So those things are always in my mind, but on top of that, it's You're trying to give our me personally, I'm inspired by great fathers. I aspire to be winning and I hope I will. And I hope I am one.

Man, it makes me so emotional when you, when I hear people talk about it, I just heard one of your. Most recent things and you were talking about it. I'm like, damn dude, you're always hitting me in the heart. I had no idea how, Oh, emotional, being a parent B and I had no idea the love that develops just out of nowhere, it's this amazing thing.

And I feel this true responsibility to be a great caretaker, but also spend. any waking hour with these guys? My kids, because when I was a T I used to be a special education teacher, I saw how important, the first, 10, let's just say 10 years of the kiddos lives are. So if I'm not getting to do anything fun right now, that's okay.

Because I know this is just a little blip. In my life. And I know I'm doing the right thing by giving my kids all the attention and all the time that they could want, because I know it's important. And I know, I know I probably, or I know I did want that as a kid, so now. Me as a father, I can improve on whatever happened to us as kids.

And that's my goal. I'm just trying to be a good dad. And if I'm an okay farmer, in the back end, that's great too. But right now my kids are well, my two year old is at this really. It's a fun age, but it's definitely a difficult age, when they're learning boundaries and they're learning their little learning, their voice.

So it, that can be difficult. As I said, when I walk in my house, just to take a break or to come in for the day, I'm usually walking into chaos. So yeah. That can be difficult, but it doesn't mean that my life's not good. It doesn't mean that I'm not happy. It's just, you're doing your best for your kids.

And that really motivates me. So

Diego: [00:22:31] yeah, that transition between work and family life, where you go from the field to the house or the office on property to the house is what I do. And it can be hard. I always think back to when I had a job that ride home was that buffer and everybody bags on commutes, but there is some greatness in a commute because it gives you a hard detach between work and family life, to transition, to zone out, to switch your mind over.

You can listen to something you can just, whatever you're going to do. But you have that transition when you work 10 feet away from where they live and you just walk in and there's that instantaneous transaction or transition. This is where sometimes I get in the most danger and I just, I lose it.

I freak out and I'm not ready to handle it. Cause there is that chaos going on in the house. my wife has adapted to it already that day. Cause she's been in there. And then I come in and I'm like, man, I've just been looking at QuickBooks books for the last two hours, and in somebody's crying and there's a mass I gotta pick up.

it's very hard. So I've tried to ease myself into the transitions and I've also tried to just go in and there's kind of two approaches. If I need to go in quick and get something, I am. that rude person. That's I'm not talking to anybody. I'm not making eye contact. I'm not looking because I'm going in and out.

And I don't want anybody to even think that I'm hanging around because it's too emotionally hard on me to just, they say, Oh, dad, come play with us. And it's not, I can't see you over there. And then if I'm staying in, it's just. Yes. Sometimes that transition is not easy and I don't have a good solution or a way that I adapt to it.

Other than I'm here, I'm in now. I might as well commit to being in and whatever I left behind, but it's a waste of my time. It's a waste of their time. If I'm sitting here stressing about business or thinking about business and they want to play a game, it's I might as well just go back out.

But I made the decision that I was done. I made the decision to come in. So I got to get my mind right here and just be all in for them. Otherwise, why'd you come in the first place and that's hard. I don't think it's ever easy.

Derek Amadi: [00:25:02] Yeah, we, there are times when, if they're here, I will I'll text my wife, Hey, I need to come get water.

I need to come and get this. Can you guys go to the room? So I don't get caught. and I don't mean caught in a bad way, but it's just like what you explained there. Like my daughter's like Publica, can we go outside? Can we do this? Can we. And I almost, I never want to deny her of any time with me, but I'm still running a business.

That's the reality. And my wife and I, we have those discussions, I'm still running a business, but I will give my time to my kid that they asked, but I'm also, I don't know if you've ever done this, but there would be times when I'm reading my kids, my daughter, some books, and I could read the whole book without knowing what the hell I just read.

Like my mind is, like what w what do I need to do tomorrow? what I need to sell, what I need to pick this and that. And I can read a whole book, doing these two thought processes and. Sometimes it's weird. I'm like, man, what was in that book? I don't even know what I just read, but my daughter's sitting there happy next to me.

And I'm not saying that might be the healthiest thing for me, but I, for some reason, my mind to this, to kill two birds with one stone. So

Diego: [00:26:18] yeah, no, I do that same thing and it is amazing. I don't know if that's some crazy human parent trick, but I look at it like that is a win-win because let's be honest.

Like sometimes kids stuff. For an adult after enough time, yeah, it gets boring. You're like, man, I can't do this anymore. Or I'm going to bash my head against the floor. So if you can satisfy them and read something that they want and think about something that you want at the same time, I'll take it.

I'm spending time with them. You're sitting near each other. that's what counts and. I'm not saying that's good all the time. You definitely want to be present. And I think the fact that you've consciously said and out loud said here is Hey, you're trying to be a good dad and be the best dad you can be.

I think that's a huge step. And. Because I'm not sure everybody thinks that of I need to be a good parent. I need to be a good, whatever human. I think some people just roll and just live in the moment and go with it. But once you've consciously sat down and said, I want to be the best dad I can be.

It's going to bleed through subconsciously. You're probably doing a lot more than you give yourself credit for. And you're probably like me where you nitpick. On the 10% of the time where maybe you're not perfect, but 90% of the time you're doing more than the average person would do when you're going above and beyond.

Derek Amadi: [00:27:45] Oh, I hope so, man. I'm my worst critic. so you know, it's good to hear other stuff, but I, one thing people don't tell you or, two things, I guess they don't tell you is parenting can be boring. There are times when. like you said, you were, I'm like, I'm a, some princess I'm having to be some princess.

And my daughter is, whatever. And then I have to transition into another character that she wants me to be, and you're just going and go. And, it's, it can be fun sometimes. And we'll be having a good time, but man, there's some times when you're just sitting around and it's a little boring, nobody tells you that, but the other thing nobody tells you is, or I don't think anyone says it is it's.

Difficult to be a great parent, to not only give the time to them, but to not want to just hand over an electronic device to occupy their time. I saw it as a teacher. and that's why I'm a little bit of worried about America saw how many parents just, and no offense, please. No sense to anybody.

Let me just hand over an electronic device to take care of their kids. And I get it, man. It's parenting is tough to get a break, 30 minutes an hour, whatever it is, I get it. It's so easy to just hand them that, have the stimulation happened right in front of their face. And they're occupied.

They're quiet. They're not all over the place. being a little tornado. So I think it's difficult to be a good parent and I don't think people understand that because we're, we are honestly trying our best to not do any, like phones or tablets. And again, no offense to anybody if you do that.

But I will. And I have no shame put my daughter in front of the TV for maybe 30 minutes, and watch some PBS, 30 minutes seems to be all that she can do for man that 30 minutes of quiet, a quiet body, a quiet mind, man. it's luxurious. And so I get why parents are just now, like here's the phone, here's the tablet, I totally understand it, especially if everybody's overworked and overtired, but for me, I know the importance of well, their development at these young ages.

So there's no way, risk that just to get a little free time or get a little bit of time to relax. I'd much rather. Do my best to engage, do my best to play. right when I walk inside, sweaty or just dripping with sweat, the first thing my daughter says, she doesn't even tell me how usually she just says pop on.

Can we go outside? And I'm like, sometimes in my mind, I'm just like, man, I was just outside all day in the sun and all my daughter wants to do it almost every single day is go outside and play with me. So I'm like, yeah, let's go. And I almost, I never denier unless it's raining or, any crazy weather.

it's hard, dude. it's hard being a good parent, but it's like they say it's incredibly rewarding. and I hope that, it makes me feel good, to, to laugh and play with my kids. It feels good that my daughter wants to be outside on my farm or our farm. She knows the name of our farm.

She's. Tells everybody about it, it just, and it makes me so proud and in all honesty, that's what I did started all this for is for my family first. And then, community second, but now, I'm truly li living in the fruits of my labor. my daughter and I would come outside and we play, she runs to the garden, she eats whatever she wants.

She's mostly vegetarian, which is crazy. Like I try to feed her meat and she usually pushes it away. And. That just makes me feel really good. And and I just want to say, man, you help inspire that in me. And like I said, I'm always looking for good role models for dads. because I think it's truly important when the fathers around or when, the parents are both engaged and they're both, there and present.

Diego: [00:31:42] yeah. And I appreciate that. it's. It's an under discussed thing. I think a lot of times amongst men, I don't think you hear a lot of, Hey, this is what I'm doing. Especially dads or daughters, maybe that's a male female thing, or, they're not into the same things that we were growing up and that's okay.

In a couple of things that you said they're really sparked. Some thoughts. that whole idea of you just come in and they want to do something. One thing I've learned is I don't call it a hack is if I know I have something and I'm really busy and I come in and they asked me to do something, I've gotten to this thing where I'll say yes, but I'm, timestamping it like I'm saying, okay.

Yeah. I can come sit down for a few minutes. That's all. Cause I'm right in the middle of something. And I look at it like it's better to tell them yes. Than to tell them. No, because then they're like all dad's always working, but then I also explain, Hey, I'm busy, I'm working. I only have a few minutes, but I'm gonna spend some time with you.

And that also helps me absolve my own guilt. And then the other thing is, the tablet, TV thing, like I honestly could not do life. And I don't think my wife could either without having technology as a tool in the toolkit for those breaks, when you need a break. I've talked to parents that try and go a hundred percent screen free with young kids.

And they're either not really doing anything like that. They don't run a business. they're totally stay at home. or they are really stressed out like themselves. And I look at it like what's worse for your kids. So what they watch Sesame street or bluey or some show on. Disney plus, or PBS for half an hour or they have to deal with you because you can't get a break and can't get breathing room for a little while.

Like that screen is really that much worse in the whole screen thing. I don't want to go too deep down the rabbit hole, but it's like, they're going to be on screens most of their life. You don't have to delay it that long. So you have the function you have to be present. You have to be sane enough to want to spend time with them, to enjoy spending time with them to be a good parent.

And that's not going to come without breaks of some sort or whether that's telling them no, putting them on a tablet or something else that you can do to give yourself some space. Because if you do try and stay immersed in it, 24 seven. I don't care how strong the strongest person is eventually. Like you're going to snap, you're going to get irritable.

You're going to get angry.

Derek Amadi: [00:34:29] Yeah. so I'll say, all I already said my kid's age, I'm only saying all of this at this current age, I have no idea. Or I do have an idea what things may look like, because I've seen elementary school aged kids, All of this could change and we're willing to adapt.

So like I said, no offense to anybody who does that. our just path right now is just a little bit of screen time and ma, and like I said, that screen time has been magical.

Diego: [00:34:59] yeah. And I'm with you. I don't want to say there's a right way and a wrong way. Other than you have to try, you have to care, but there are a lot of situations out there that.

Just require different handling of it. And each parent has to do what they think is best and what works for them. And I guess the principle I always go at is, as long as you're thinking of the kid, you're trying to put the kid up front, anything else, it is what it is. you do your best around that, moving on from parenting to the farming side of things, this journey over the past seven years, If you are going to start over, are there things you did when you started that you wouldn't do today?

If you start it

Derek Amadi: [00:35:42] over? Yeah. I wish I was different. I wish I had a better start, but I am where I am, so I can't regret it too much, but I did fall into the trap of, the homesteading habits. All sorts of animal, operation. I try in the B so I was originally seduced by Joel.

Salitan like a lot of folks, so I. I was drinking this Kool-Aid and I thought, Oh man, I want to do meat, birds. It seems like it'll be profitable and doable. So I started, the, the broilers and then I moved two layers. I had some pigs and goats just doing the whole mess of just things you should not do.

So I would not recommend that. I actually meet a lot of people who they're like these journey, dirty men type folks where they've worked on so many farms and they're just, all they're doing is getting experience for themselves. And I do like that option, but man, some of these folks have been doing it for, five, maybe five plus years.

And in my honest opinion, I'm like, man, when are you going to start doing your own thing? so I would have liked to have gotten more experience. I did work on a farm, but I only did the summer. I w I would have liked more experience. And in that first year after I quit my teaching job, I had saved up enough money to take a year off to basically teach myself to farm.

so I feel like I've squandered, that first year and the money that I had available at that time that I had saved from my teaching job. in the end it all worked out. I do wish I would've found a. John Martin a little bit earlier, because once I've found him, I stopped my animal operation.

I was doing vegetables at the time and I was like, w this to me is the easiest path forward. I like to grow in vegetables. So when I found market gardening, I went head first into it. And at that time, I guess I think you were talking about it, to not overwhelm yourself with doing too many things.

So that's the time when I just started cutting everything out. it's also the time when I started cleaning up all my, farm hoarding piles. so in the beginning I wouldn't have collected so much crap that I just ended up getting, getting rid of anyways. I don't think people understand.

How, having, just, I don't want to say junk because it wasn't junk, but it was all these things I thought I would eventually need and I never needed them. But man, the power or the shift that happens in your brain, when you start getting rid of all this junk or all this crap is really incredible.

So I, I probably would tell people don't start collecting things. In the beginning as well, unless it's things like key post or, something that can be used on every farm.

Diego: [00:38:45] Yeah. And when you think about the evolving, the evolution of that journey, if you were starting today, one thing people always ask us is how long till I can make this work, how long till I can make it a business, a new farm.

If you were developing new sales channels, where do you think you'd be after one

Derek Amadi: [00:39:08] year a new farm? and there's many variables that come into play. I can only speak for myself in those early years. I, I, I could sell really well or I was doing my best to, market the hell out of things and, just try to gain as many customers as I could.

So I think I could do well, but I don't think I could do anywhere near where I'm at, but that's only because it takes time to develop all the processes and, to have an efficient. farm because in those early days, dude, I was grown in grass that was grown in Bermuda. and I know people do this, but I was Mo in between our Mo and the pathways and the Bermuda was always, infiltrating my crops.

But now, My friends come over and they're like, where's the Bermuda at? but it's taken time to, have a weed free garden. It's taken time to, learn how to harvest, wash, and pack and then, properly store those crops. And then it's also taken time to, learn some of this wholesale game.

Cause with that goes, you need enough. Vegetables out in the garden to be able to do wholesale. So if you're super micro farm, it might not always be the best option, but right now I'm growing so few crops, on a, such a small land base that it is okay for me to do wholesale because right now I only have, I think, four crops growing.

so it's easy to do the wholesale option, but I wouldn't have known that in the beginning. I was trying to grow all sorts of crazy stuff.

Diego: [00:40:48] Yeah, the weed free side of things. What was your path to get there? Bermuda grass is one of those things that's comes up. I see it on a lot of message boards.

Facebook. How do you handle it? How did you go from Bermuda? Creeping into Bermuda free.

Derek Amadi: [00:41:05] So I initially, when I learned about tarping, I went and bought some billboard tarps back. I don't even know when it was 2014 or 2015. I just laid them down during our summer. And that killed the top layer, unfortunately, and into my experience, the.

The Bermuda is very deep rooted. So even though our summer is hot and it'll kill, some perennials and it'll kill grasses and weeds. if it does it didn't get hot enough, in the lower system of the roots and the rhizomes, you're not going to have any success there. It's just going to grow back up.

But what I did was I did two options. I tarped. And then plowed deep with a chisel plow and plowed deep and then bedded and that worked to kill the Bermuda. and then I've also, did the reverse where I plowed and then tarp, and that also worked the thing. People get wronged, I believe is a, they do it at the wrong time.

they don't, you are long, hot summer, in an inappropriate way. I believe because a lot of times people are wanting to grow summer crops. They're wanting to grow tomatoes and cucumbers and okra. but I would, I always tell my friends who were there. Oh man, how do you get rid of the Bermuda?

How do you do this? Okay. Just take the summer off or put this, plot, take it out of, rotation for now, use the tarp effectively to kill, your top layer. And then when fall comes around, you'll be ready to go. And that'll last for as long, For him forever, as long as you keep it from creeping in the sides.

So my whole. Growing areas now is lined by landscape fabric. And man, it's amazing that Bermuda can grow over it, that it could grow over the tarps. any plastic it'll grow over it, just searching for another place to put roots. And it, if you're not careful that Bermuda will grow straight on top of that plastic and just start matting it, and then you'll never see that plastic.

Ever again, it'll start popping holes in it. It's really a resilient little, not a little, but it's a resilient grass that I think you really have to take the time and effectively, get rid of it. Because I don't know if you've ever tried to pull Bermuda grass. It's not fun. so I always tell people just slow down, covered up, for at least for the summer season.

And then, you'll be so much happier when that stuff has gone. To me, weeds are nothing compared to, the Bermuda grass. So I T I personally took the time I listened to Joe Martin. He said the tarps. So I did that. And, I'm still, benefiting from that time. cause that was in the beginning, I was still trying to figure out my bed system.

I was still trying to figure out how to, lay everything out. So it was perfect for me to just lay out these tarps and let them do the work while I figured it out. but I did have a tractor, a large tractor at that time. And, I was able to plow it. It was a 50 horse, diesel tractor, and I was able to get deep enough, to expose, the roots, that could be sometimes 18 inches, deep or maybe even further.

I, yeah, I plowed in, I tarped or I talked and I plowed.

Diego: [00:44:37] So when it starts coming back in through the edges now as it just cut it back, what's the strategy there.

Derek Amadi: [00:44:43] so I'm old, like crazy now. so when it starts creeping over, I'm just coming by with my mower and it rides over the edge of the landscape fabric and it sucks up, these long strands of Bermuda that are trying to traverse the, the fabric.

It sucks it up and he cuts it. So that doesn't stop it. It's growing. It grows underneath the fabric as well. but the important thing to do is just once it, if it gets all the way underneath your fabric and it reaches, the nice dirt where you're growing, that's when I'll start pooling, but that has not happened so far management over the top has, has effectively controlled it from coming underneath the, the fabric.


Diego: [00:45:24] yeah, one of those things, I think a lot of people are probably glad that they don't have to deal with. weed, pressure's a huge thing. I think it taps a lot of farmers into submission. What about blown in weeds or infield weeds? Not the Bermuda. Do you have any trouble with that? And if so, how'd you get a hand on that over the years?

Derek Amadi: [00:45:43] yes. and I don't, this will all tie in, but I. I know, and it, and I know this goes against all, most of the small farm movement, but I'm trying to decrease the diversity on my farm. And what I mean by that is I am mowing. Everything pretty frequently. My whole 10 acres I'm mowing. So that's what that's doing is only allowing, grasses to be around.

There's no, I don't have fissile out there. I don't have, the pig weed. I don't have, sunflower, there's all these random weeds that not only do they blow in and seeds. And a lot of people don't know is the O and R we have perennial night shades here. Most of these crops, they Harbor not only disease, but they are passed, but they Harbor disease that can then affect your crops, which is what I'm dealing right now.

So I've been trying. To strictly manage my, everything around my greenhouses. So I, right now it looks like a park. I wish I could have people over right now. I could show, how nice it looks right now. And I think as of now, it's pretty much working except for, I do have, aphids coming in.

And I discovered that the ACEs can pick up a disease from some of the perennial nightshades we have here. And guess what, dude, I see those nightshades everywhere. So it's just a battle of that. I think. Will continue to happen. But I do think cleaning up my farm and mowing frequently has helped with a test.

But not only that, I used to post a lot about rattlesnakes. I don't know if you ever saw any, but, the previous years I was getting close last year, I had 17 rattlesnakes. I caught, the year before that I think it was like 20. The thing, w what I'm talking about getting rid of some of the diversity is when I am mowing the grass low, that is getting rid of the habitat for all the mice and the rats.

We have these huge, like New York size rats, the ones that eat pizza, we have those out in the field, and sometimes I can't believe their size, but. I'm trying to eliminate their habitat, which then gets rid of, the rattlesnakes that are seeking, their food. They're smelling them, they're kissing them and they're just, cruising around.

so the, I haven't seen any this year just from mowing, and cleaning up my property. So yeah,

Diego: [00:48:19] that's actually one of the things that's always held me back from ever. Seriously, considering a move to Texas is man, I got little kids. I don't want to buy a bunch of land and have rattlesnakes around.

Cause I have seen your posts of where you've almost stepped on them in the tunnels and things like that. And so I liked that idea of mowing to know that. All right, you're moving them a little further out. You're pushing the perimeter.

Derek Amadi: [00:48:41] Yeah. And, as much freedom as I give my mobile little kid, I'm hovering and I'm scanning.

I'm like the Terminator always just scanning the ground, for any of those diamond shapes. But we actually have four or five venomous snakes here in Texas, but luckily the only ones I see are the rattlesnakes. Unfortunately, they are stopped. They're not rattling as much as they used to.

Because the pig pressure, hog wild hog pressure, but, I, and I tell this to people all the time. I have touched them with my hand. I've stepped on them, both on accident and knock on wood. They have never tried to strike me. all they have ever done is just sit in their, their little coil position trying to hide.

And I think that's their adaptation from these hogs. Cause the hugs will smell them and then they'll, they'll eat them. So they're instead of rattling, they're just. They have the defense mechanism now of just being silent. So again, knock on wood, but I have touched them with my hand. I have stepped on them and they have never.

Never ever tried to strike me. I'm the only one I've had strike was a huge, I would say maybe seven foot rattlesnake that was in the chicken area. So it was being harassed by the chickens and it was already, in an agitated state and it was ready to go to battle. but other than that, they've all been, peaceful and resting actually.

I wouldn't, I don't think I have. Or I don't think I had that many rattlesnakes. I know it appears like I had a lot, but I'm always outside every single day. I'm always looking for them just to be on the safe side. So I think that is why I see so, so many or it appears, I see so many and I don't care and I don't kill them, which is another thing people give me shit for.


Diego: [00:50:36] yeah. maybe that's good karma. They're spreading the word. Hey, this guy's a friendly.

Derek Amadi: [00:50:41] I think so, dude,

Diego: [00:50:43] we have a mirror in sin, Diego, but just where I'm at, like the microclimate. Fortunately I've never seen one here. We have King snakes, which also are, I don't know if they're predatory, but they are a competitor of rattlesnakes.

I have seen those. They don't seem to bother humans so much, but glad I don't have the rattlesnakes.

One thing you're also dealing with there in Texas is that extreme heat over that long summer beneficial that killed Bermuda grass under a tarp. Not always so good for the crops that you're trying to grow. So I know one of the things from following you on Instagram that you've done over the recent past and you are doing now is you started to put more and more crops under shade cloth.

Can you talk about why you started doing that?

Derek Amadi: [00:51:47] Initially, when I was working in the summer here, just thinking man, it is so hot and I can't. I can't always get my schedule to be where I work in the morning, or I work in the evening. There's some times where I just had to work, in the heat of the day.

So I initially thought Oh man, I want to try shading. One of my, plots. So I went online and I saw, different designs or I've seen the flat where people just have posts and it's like sitting flat above them. I knew I didn't want that cause I wanted a little more space and I didn't really want to have to dig 30 or posts and, get them in the ground.

So I had these, greenhouse frames that I was not using. So I initially just, put some up and I put the shade up and not only was it nice to work under, he'd extended some of the crops I was growing. summer lettuce. I haven't really been doing that anymore, but, some of the lettuce, the rugala just all these things just really liked.

it didn't seem like at the time I was using 50%. And, it seemed like some of the leafy green crops, they liked it. But, when I threw it over the night shades, 50 seemed to be too much. So ever since then, I've gone to 30%, but I also want to say, the reason why I started, now everything's covered.

it's mostly not nuts. yes, because it cools the soil. Yes. Because it makes it much nicer for as humans to work under. But the ability of the knitted shade cloth to stop bad weather is really has been beneficial. And puts me at ease. cause we have these crazy storms now where, hail is frequent.

So I had a crazy hail storm last year. It shredded everything like literally shredded everything. but the one spot that had shade, it nothing happened. So ever since that point. I all I R I knew I wanted to cover everything just to hedge against mother nature, as much as we're, being hippies and trying to work with her and helping her and doing all these great things for she's coming for us every single day.

So I just wanted more protection. And in that regard, the protection has been fantastic. We had a hailstorm the other night, nothing happened. and I could relax, whereas other storm, or in previous years when the storms came. Oh man. I was a nervous wreck. I'd be up all night, checking the radar and like looking outside and just Oh man, what happened?

what happened to my crops? but now, I'm just like, Oh, the shades up. It'll be all right. that's to me, that's one of the best things. I see people doing the little tunnels, to me that just seems so much work you're putting in these little tunnels. You're shading them, then you're taking off the shade.

You're putting it back on. I just wanted something that I could throw up. It stayed there. And, like I said, not only does it offer protection, but man, it is so much nicer for humans to work in those environments. And I'll say, every, I've done it on all my vegetables. they all appear anecdotally to really enjoy it.

I, it's hard to say whether I'm getting increased production, but just, the physical appearance of the plants and the fruits, or, whatever those leaves they look great. so I personally, I recommend it to everybody and what I don't think, people don't always realize is you don't need a crazy structure.

to hold the shade cloth because it's poorest, wind gets through a rain, gets through. So I actually have two, or I have one greenhouse that I split into two. So it's nine posts or nine hoops each that now. So now I have shade, cloth covering. Two areas, using that greenhouse frame. And, I don't know if people know that they can do that.

you only need about nine, eight to eight hoops to hold a 30 by 96 shade cloth. So that's what I'm doing right now.

Diego: [00:56:07] Outside of okra. All of your field crops are under shade right now, unless they're under plastic.

Derek Amadi: [00:56:12] Yep.

Diego: [00:56:13] Do you have a sense of how much cooler it is under the shade cloth versus not?

Derek Amadi: [00:56:18] I was actually thinking about this.

It does appear, I don't always get my thermometer out in check, but, it does appear we're at, five to 10 degrees cooler under. But keep in mind when we're at 110 or 105. and the, due points are high. There's no air the air mass around us. It doesn't really, it's ineffective basically.

it's just, it just gets too hot. So going forward, you're

Diego: [00:56:49] pretty set on 30% covering all field crops for Texas. When would you put these on what time of the year and when you'd take them off?

Derek Amadi: [00:56:58] It depends on if you have plastic or if you don't have plastic. I started putting, throwing the shades on, I think in April, just cause it was getting so hot in the tunnels.

but if there's no plastic, you can w R I waited till, the storm season really kicked in. right now I did an experiment with a 50% shade over peppers. And they did like it, but as I wrote you, they are so incredibly tall now, that, I'm running out of posts to hold these guys.

So I think they stretched too much. whereas another area that I have shaded with 30%, the same. Same pepper, same style, same planting, everything. they're not, they're not super stretched. They're not, so tall that I'm worried about the posts.

Diego: [00:57:50] Shay Kloss, obviously porous. How does it handle the wind in those big storms?

You get a lot of wild flapping or does the wind go through it? Pretty good on 30%, which, that's not that dense of a shade cloth. So how does that handle the

Derek Amadi: [00:58:03] wind? 30 and 50, they handle it great. They just, they do flap. I will say, there are times when I'm a little rinky dinky and I it's only being held down with baling twine, the red baling twine.

I don't know what strength that is, but that is good. That's been good enough, holding it in 30 to 50 mile an hour winds with no problems. So it's, to me it's much less scarier. Having a shade cloth in the plastic. Cause every time there's heavy winds on the plastic, I got to go close the tunnels and I stress a little bit listening to the structure's just, makes the noise that metal makes when it, when it's moving.

But the areas that have the shade, or just shade, no plastic, the wind, it's just going in and out. I will say also with heavy downpours, it dissipates the size of the water droplets. So you're not all you also, you don't have this crazy splash up. And, all your plants don't fall over from, being bombarded by heavy rain of it.

It turns it into the Amazon rainforest. It looks like a big misc, happening in there when there's heavy rain. wind hail rain it's man. It's, I'm happy about it. And I would recommend it for everyone else.

Diego: [00:59:25] Yeah. I know from just looking at shades cloth on a small scale, it's not the cheapest thing to go out and buy.

Have you found a good supplier to get 30% in those big sheets for a reasonable price?

Derek Amadi: [00:59:36] No, I usually just wait till I see 'em. Like one of the larger stores they'll offer, a 10% discount. And I'll usually I would jump on those. but what you gotta figure is the time that you will be using it, let's say you want to be a farmer for 10 years.

I just, divided out into 10 years. So if it seems like $500 is a lot, you divide that end of 10 years and it's almost negligible, but then you're also protecting your thousands. Thousands of dollars worth of crops. 500 to, a couple thousand. To last 10 to 20 years, protecting your crops, giving you increased bigger and production.

it's all, a win. In my opinion,

Diego: [01:00:21] we use it exclusively as a roof. Like you don't have to wrap it down the sides of the greenhouse and go all the way to the ground, or maybe you do on the South side. Is that something you do or. Do you just keep it up top?

Derek Amadi: [01:00:33] So I lean them to the West. So the Eastern side is a little bit higher than the Western side, just because.

At a certain point, we're getting so many hours of light. It's so hot. and all I'm trying to do is block that the West, sun, which is, it seems like it's in the sky forever during the summer. So they are a roof that are slanted to the side. You don't need to have them all the way down. As I said, you can secure them with eyebolts or you can secure them with wiggle wire.

there's, multiple ways to do it. And I know it seems expensive, but think about the crops you could be saving and, increasing your production. cause I've read multiple studies. That, there are certain crops that will benefit from the shade. it's just this all encompassing thing that I really think people should look at, but again, like for a larger scale farm that might be difficult and might not be cost-effective, but on the small scale where you can make one purchase and it lasts a very long time.

Yeah. It makes sense.

Diego: [01:01:38] if you look at it against a Caterpillar tunnel or a full line greenhouse, it's obviously going to be a lot cheaper. If you look at it against the labor involved of putting up a bed by bed system, obviously easier there. So if somebody did have trouble. I'm thinking with any sort of crop.

that could be tomatoes that aren't setting fruit because it's too hot. It could be greens that are just bolting or, they're having trouble establishing or they're going bitter. This makes a lot of sense. even on a home scale, I'm thinking about this and that makes a lot of sense for me.

Cause I have stuff that just burns up really quick. You get a hot day, you can't be on top of the watering just anecdotally. Do you notice the plants look

Derek Amadi: [01:02:23] different? I wish I could say I've done experiments. So all I can say is my observations of every day. and yes, I think that the plants like it and I'll say actually at first blocked, I bought this little, hoophouse that I, I've been to all the hoops.

I did all that stuff in the very beginning and back in 2014, that was growing tomatoes in there. and somehow, random seeds will find their way into your beds. So I had these three beets that were growing in that little hoop house. next to the tomatoes and they were the most like magical looking beats I had ever seen the leaves were perfect.

There was no blemishes, no bugs. So that right there was enough for me to be like, Oh man, it's these little beats like it, then I think everything like it, I just, natural deduction. So I went that route and I do believe that the plants, are enjoying it. sometimes I look at our trees around here and I just think man, I don't know how they're alive during the hundred degree weather when the sun is just constantly beating down on them.

and I feel the same way with our annual, vegetable production. So I don't want the sun beating down on my stuff. so yeah, it's worked. Oh, and I'll say with the Caterpillar tunnels or greenhouse frame. As I said earlier, you, you don't have to use the whole, all the hoops. You can divide it out and cover more space.

Because it's not going to blow away. the shade cloth won't blow away. So you can buy one, tunnel, one little tunnel or whatever they're called, and you could split that and do 10, 12 foot spacing in between each hoop. And that is good enough to hold the shade. two spots that I have, I barely pounded in the ground post and they're still up.

I've had 70 mile an hour winds. the only thing that they do, because I didn't secure them properly is they like they'll move, to the North or to the South, depending on the crazy wind, but they've never been lifted. So that's a benefit to, of the, of, if you have some sort of structure, you can.

It doesn't need to be completely secured, like a greenhouse plastic

Diego: [01:04:35] going forward. Do you think this is just standard protocol for you?

Derek Amadi: [01:04:38] A hundred percent? I do. now I'm going to be doing it every year. I am looking to expand, I'm a little worried that maybe my, how do I say this? I don't know.

Having a small market garden will be enough. So I'm actually looking to expand, to the back, my back acreage that I just had cleared. but there's no way I could, there's no way in my mind that currently that I'm thinking that I'll ever be able to cover that acreage. because it's, two to three acres, but if I had the money, if I had the resources, I would cover everything.


Diego: [01:05:15] right on, man. I want to thank you for coming on and sharing knowledge and experience about being a dad, being a farmer and everything that you're doing down in Texas, for people that want to follow along with everything that you're doing, where's the best place to go.

Derek Amadi: [01:05:31] Instagram, Marty acres farm. On Instagram. I used to have a Facebook. I don't really use it. So I guess Instagram would be the best spot I'm dabbling in, just easy, random YouTube videos, but nothing crazy. I don't always like to be on camera, so you hardly will ever see me. but yeah, Instagram, I guess is the best place.

I like going on there and seeing what all the other, my other local farmers are doing or buddies. so yeah, that's where I'm at.


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