Fitting Farming to Your Life with Josh Sattin (FSFS238)

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Episode Summary

Farmer Josh Sattin joins me to talk about how he has modified his farm to fit his lifestyle. We get into some of the things that he has changed on his farm in recent years to make farming easier and more successful.

We also introduce a brand new, free farming course that Josh and I are launching.

Today’s Guest: Josh Sattin

Josh Sattin is a farmer at Sattin Hill Farm in Raleigh, North North Carolina. As an educator and professional videographer, Josh has published hundreds of educational farming videos on his YouTube to help make a difference in the local farming and foodscape.

 Josh Sattin – YouTube | Instagram | Website

In this episode of Farm Small, Farm Smart

  • What Josh is up to in January 2022 (03:35)
  • Why Josh doesn’t farm in the summer (04:30)
  • How Josh molded farming to fit his life (07:15)
  • Choosing to farm part-time (08:51)
  • Designing a life that you want to live (10:17)
  • Defining success for farming (12:25)
  • Why Josh Sattin started farming (14:41)
  • Farming on an eighth of an acre (16:00)
  • Applying what Josh learned about farming over the years (20:05)
    • Drainage (20:48)
    • Streamlining systems (21:42)
    • Controlling growing as much as possible (22:28)
  • Infrastructure required to start farming (24:10)
  • Drawing the line on obsessing over soil (27:22)
  • What the deep compost mulch system is (30:32)
  • Is the deep compost mulch system (32:48)
  • Setting up market streams for a small farm (34:32)
  • How customers feel about Josh not growing in the summer (37:34)
  • Thinking about the income from farming (39:10)
  • The Sattin Hill Market Farming Course, in collaboration with Paperpot Co. (42:10)

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FSFS238 � Josh Sattin

[00:00:00] Diego Footer: Welcome to Farm Small Farm Smart. I'm your host, Diego. DIEGO. Today's episode of Farm Small Farm Smart is brought to you by my company, Paperpot Co., where our goal is to make farming easier with time and labor-saving tools. Learn more about what we have to offer at

[00:00:26] It's been a while since I've done a podcast, it's been a while since I've interviewed a farmer, so today's an exciting day for me because I'm interviewing a farmer who's also a friend and it's also launching off a bigger project.

[00:00:40] Today, I'm talking to farmer in YouTube or Josh Sattin of Sattin hill farm in Raleigh, North Carolina. And today, Josh and I are going to be talking about a few different things, how he got into farming, why he got into farming, and the basics of his farming system.

[00:00:57] And this is all to set the table for a bigger project that Josh and I have been working on because we are releasing a free farming course. If we go back to the early days of my podcast, when I started with Curtis back in 2015, 2016, somewhere in there, one of my thoughts and goals at the time was always to create educational materials to help people get into farming and to help people become better at farming, both by providing them knowledge and inspiration.

[00:01:33] And throughout the years, I think I've done that. But one thing I think people have always looked for and wanted was something strategically laid out something that went from A to Z. It didn't jump around. There was a logical path to it. So that's what I'll be releasing with Josh each week for the next 20 plus weeks, you'll hear a free farming course.

[00:02:00] Josh is the one who's going to be doing the presenting. If you're more of a visual learner, you can watch the video that goes along with this audio on Josh's YouTube channel by clicking the link below, or just go onto YouTube and type in Josh Sattin. And you'll find the Sattin Hill Farming course. If you're not familiar with Josh, who he is and what he does, today's an intro episode to get you up to speed.

[00:02:28] And immediately after this episode, you can listen to module one of the course, that involves setting goals for your farm. After you listen to these episodes, if you want more, you can read the transcripts from these episodes, and you can also get resources from these episodes by using the link below or going to

[00:02:54] Every time Josh releases a module, me and my team are going to put together resources, so if there's questions or things you need to think about, we'll assemble that in a guide. So, for all 20 plus modules, you'll have a whole bunch of PDFs that you can download that go along with the video, this audio, to help you on your farming journey.

[00:03:14] So whether you're new to farming or whether you're just looking to get reinspired or just find out, Hey, how does somebody else farm? I hope you enjoy the next 20 plus weeks of the Sattin Hill Farm Course. So let's get to work and enjoy the next 20 weeks on your farming journey.

[00:03:35] Josh, it�s late January, 2022.We're almost in February. For you as a farmer what's going on this time of year. Is it relaxation time? Is it farm time? What�s it like?

[00:03:46] Josh Sattin: It's pretty balanced right now, Diego. And thanks for having me on the podcast. I am excited to chat. it's kind of balanced. I've actually switched to farming sort of off season.

[00:03:57] I'm not going to be farming in the summer. So this is my season, but I'm in Raleigh, North Carolina, which is in zone 7B and we have pretty mild winters here. So. I'm growing and harvesting every week right now. but the pace is like slowed down significantly because you know, it's wintertime things grow slowly.

[00:04:13] So I'm harvest once a week. I'm planting when I can. I'm not really putting in that many hours right now, once we get closer to spring, things will start ramping up because things will start growing more quickly as I planned for spring crops. But yeah, it's pretty, it's pretty chill right now. Just kind of cruising along.

[00:04:29] Diego Footer: For a veg farmer in north America, kind of unusual to not be farming over the summer months. What was your thought behind? I'm going to stop? Cause I think that's the most productive month, obviously in the field. It's the month. I think it brings in a lot of income for most of the farms. Why no summer farming?

[00:04:49] Josh Sattin: It's a decision that's been, I think a few years in the making. First of all, I'm in the south. And for me, the summers are very rough here. They're very humid. They're very hot. And for the chronic crops that I grow, they don't do well in the summertime. And so I've struggled through enough summers where I get poor yields.

[00:05:08] I get pest pressure. I get you know, all those kinds of things that make me not want to farm. Also physically being outside in the summer, now I'm in my early forties, I don't want to physically be out farming in the heat. And so that's another thing that factors into it because here it's over 90 degrees every day, and it's very humid in the summertime.

[00:05:26] And after about 11:30, I really can't be outside. Like I physically have a lot of trouble with it. So for me, it just made more sense and I'm growing a hundred percent under plastic right now in caterpillar tunnels. And so for me, it just made more sense to farm all winter and have really strong spring and then take the summer off.

[00:05:46] Also, my kids are there'll be in middle school next year and they're going from a year round school, which is what's common here in public schools to a traditional calendar. So they'll have the summers off. So I'm like, you know what, while I take the summers off, not stress about growing, hang out with the kids, do more video projects and stuff like that.

[00:06:04] And once I made that decision, it was like a whole load was lifted because last summer was just really brutal on myself and then the farm. So that's kind of the decision I've made. And I also look to farmers further south than me for things that they do. Like Eric Schultz, for example, I know he doesn't farm all summer.

[00:06:21] I've talked to growers in Florida as well, and I think that trend is gonna continue more. And I also have David Williams at Sunset Market Garden. He originally started with just winter farming or not summer farming. And that his motivation there was, he could get to market earlier, have crops when other people didn't have it, things like that.

[00:06:39] But for me, it was I'm selling a restaurant, so. It's kind of, whenever I have it, I can sell it, but I just, it wasn't worth it for me to grow the crops. I want it to grow in the summer in my context here. So that's what led me to my decision.

[00:06:52] Diego Footer: So you've really molded farming to life. And I think a lot of entrepreneurs have trouble doing that. They feel the pressure to forever grow, earn more, expand, and they do it sometimes at the expense of family at the expense of their own health and wellness, their own sanity and the joy of why they started doing it in the first place.

[00:07:15] How have you found your journey of farming in getting to this point where you've adjusted it to say, Hey like farming over the summer hard. And my kids got off this year, like I'm going to take advantage of that. I don't think everybody could pull that trigger.

[00:07:31] Josh Sattin: For me, it's a little bit different because I'm not a full-time farmer. And I think that definitely enters into the equation as well, because I have a balance of both what I do with my time professionally and also income for my family, because I spend a lot of time creating online content.

[00:07:44] Right. I have two YouTube channels. I do other videography work. And so the farm to me is as a part-time job. So it's a part-time income as well. But I think partly is you can't tart thinking about the stuff until you have, like your systems dialed in, your farm is organized. You know how to grow things, you know how to sell things.

[00:08:03] This is, I don't know what season I'm in now that I'm like switching my seasons, but essentially four years ago is when I started farming. So it's been a journey. And for me, make it work. Like I have to make it work otherwise I'm not going to be farming. And I think there's always sacrifices, but it's really easy when you get into this, people just work super hard and burn themselves out quickly.

[00:08:24] And kind of like sitting there with their wheels spinning in the mud sometimes. And you know, one thing is just really trying to get your farm to a place where you can kind of just. You know, kind of coast, like, like I said, like right now, I'm really not working very hard and this is the middle of my season.

[00:08:39] So trying to find that balance is huge. Otherwise, like if we don't find that balance, we're not going to be farming down the road in terms of personally with our families and all the things that go into that.

[00:08:51] Diego Footer: I think there's people out there that might look down on someone who's not farming full time. If somebody chooses the farm part-time, what words of encouragement would you give them to say, Hey, like who cares? What anybody else says?

[00:09:09] Josh Sattin: Yeah. There's been a lot of criticism about that. I made several videos about part-time farming because there's this whole stigma about farmers and farming that you need to like work a million hours and work yourself to death.

[00:09:18] And it's not an all or nothing situation with anything in life. There's you can mix and match things. You can do a little bit of this, a little bit of that. And for some people, they want to stay, maybe they're home Gardner and they want to get into farming. Well, it's like, why don't you get into like some farmsteading?

[00:09:35] Like, why don't you just sell some crops and still have a job? And I think there's a lot of ways that you can do that also because when you're looking to start a business, a farm business, you need capital like we do with any business. And I think if you can do it part-time for a while, see if you like it, take all the money you make from that, and then reinvest it into your cash, into your infrastructure in your business.

[00:09:57] And then maybe in a couple of years of part-time farmer you'll have enough money, and you'll have the sales outlets and all that kind of stuff that will allow you to go full-time if you want or stay part-time. So. There's that stigma. I'm not sure why that's there, but I've just been like, whatever, like do what you want to do and do what makes sense for you. That's the most important thing.

[00:10:17] Diego Footer: That's it, I always been a big proponent of designing a life that you want to live. And you know, there's more and more farmers now like yourself who earn a good amount of money on YouTube, farmers like Curtis and JM, who've done a lot of teaching. Obviously, they earn an income from that.

[00:10:34] And I think there's this, this thought of like, well, you don't make all your money farming regardless of how well somebody has, maybe a spouse earns the predominant family income and it's like, what's going to work best for you. What's gonna work best for your family. And farming doesn't have to be everything.

[00:10:51] And I think sometimes people are so dogmatic of it has to be the be all end all, but that doesn't work for everybody and everybody's situation. And even diversifying out into some of these other channels, like YouTube or teaching, or an off-farm job like that can just make life more enjoyable for people. And it can actually work better than trying to work that million hours, like you said, on the farm.

[00:11:16] Josh Sattin: Yeah, I agree with that. And it doesn't have to be one of those things. Doesn't have to be YouTube or teaching or whatever. Like you could have a job doing whatever. Like if it's a job that maybe pays really well, but you're not like super into, and then you can put all your passion into farming, that works as well.

[00:11:31] But what I realized for myself was that I think I can have more of an impact into the farming system, into the food system, by helping teach other people. I'm a former educator. I taught high school for five years a few careers ago. And so for me, like I thought like, yeah, people give me that criticism, like, oh, if this is profitable, if you're if you're able to do this, like, why don't you just scale it up?

[00:11:53] Why don't you get employees? Why don't you build the business? And I'm like, it's really simple right now. And I can manage it. And there's just low stress, like it's very low stress for me. And I can spend that time helping other people who want to do this either part-time or full-time. So that's kind of, for me, how I've been justifying it, but you don't need to justify it.

[00:12:10] Like, if it makes sense for your family, Just do that. Like that's, that's, what's important if you enjoy farming, but you don't want to do it full time. That's totally cool.

[00:12:19] Diego Footer: Yeah. One thing I was going to ask you during this interview a little later on, but it fits now is how do you define success when it comes to farming?

[00:12:28] Because it's interesting that you said, Hey, like it's low stress. And I almost look at like, the perfect job is the one that supports the lifestyle you want to live while inducing the least amount of stress possible. Like that's the best combination, the overlap you want that, that part of the Venn diagram for you when it comes to farming? I mean, what's success?

[00:12:48] Josh Sattin: For me, I'll speak generally. And then for me, anytime you're talking about success. You have to figure out what your goals are. Right? So some farmers are donating food. Some farmers are trying to grow what they like to grow and for their family to eat and then sell whatever's extra, right?

[00:13:06] To cover some of the costs. Maybe for me I'm just trying to make some of my family income from farming and I'm not going to like stress and say it has to be a certain number. I don't have that like specific financial goal, but for me, it's about maintaining the farm, bringing food to restaurants every week and using my farm to teach and educate and share what's going on.

[00:13:28] And I think for me, that's a big part of my farm is being able to show people what I'm doing and use it as an example to let people see what works and what doesn't work, and I'm more than happy to�and I have plenty of times showed people what fails on my farm so that when I started farming, there was no content I could find coming out of the south in terms of market gardening or vegetable farming.

[00:13:50] It was all coming from either the Pacific Northwest or the Northeast or Canada. And so for me to be able to put that content out, I think it's really helpful for a lot of growers out there to sort of see what's possible. And I get messages all the time. People say, Hey, I started a small vegetable farm, or I took the leap to selling food.

[00:14:08] I started going to farmer's market this year. Because of like, you know what they've seen me do. And it if anyone seen any of my content before I have a two acre lot in the suburbs and I grow on like an eighth of an acre that's my whole farm. And so it just, it allows people to see that you don't need a ton of space to do this.

[00:14:27] So my that's kind of wrapped up in my success is like, not just the financial stuff, right. There's financial capital and social capital. And they're both important to me. So I don't have like a set goal, but lately it's been, it's been feeling successful, I guess that's what I should say.

[00:14:41] Diego Footer: Has that evolved since when you started? You know, here we are in January 2022, if we go back to when you started farming, like why did you start?

[00:14:48] Josh Sattin: So I was after teaching, I was a professional brewer for five or six years. And after being in that industry for a while, I needed a change and I was kind of looking for something to do. And we stumbled into we bought this property and I was like, oh, we should get some chickens. And we should learn how to grow vegetables and try to like, learn how to do all this stuff and kind of got hooked in a permaculture and that whole world, and was just fascinated by it.

[00:15:14] And I was like, all right, I'm gonna start growing vegetables. So to me, I did some research and I like to research stuff. So I saw, in my opinion, the best vegetable growers were the market gardeners. And so that system made sense to me. I set up my couple of beds and all of a sudden, I planted a whole bunch of stuff and it was like, oh, there's a lot of food.

[00:15:31] Like, there's a lot of food like this. Isn't just like, oh, we have a few heads of lettuce. Like for whatever reason, I was like, let's just fill everything up. I don't know why. And the people started wanting to buy it from me, family friends in the area where like, Hey, we'll buy veggies from you. And I started a box program and it just kind of went on from there. And that's kind of at the time thinking, Hey, this could be something cool. Like, this could be something that I do kind of just happened. That's how I kinda got into it.

[00:15:59] Diego Footer: Your farm�s evolved a lot over the years, just from talking to you, seeing your videos, you're running somebody else's farm for a little while in there. Today, as it sets, you talked about you�re farming on an eighth of an acre. People are listening to this, give them a picture, a mental picture of what is your farm.

[00:16:18] Josh Sattin: Yeah. So this it's been really interesting because this is kind of my third time building a farm in the course of four years. So the farm initially I'll give everyone a little bit of backstory was I'm using no-till practices, deep compost mulch system, market gardening style.

[00:16:33] So 30 inch beds and usually 50 feet long. And I think the first iteration my farm had. I had an almost 30 beds. I also had some chickens. I was raising for eggs. I'm kind of doing a little bit of everything. A lot of microgreens, too, kind of like when I started, it was like, there's all these cool enterprises I wanted to play with and figure out what worked and what didn't work.

[00:16:52] And it was too much at the time. It was just like, I was kind of being pulled all over the place and nothing was like really thriving. It was kind of just doing everything at the same time. And then after two years, I got offered an opportunity to run Raleigh city farm, which is a non-profit farm in downtown Raleigh.

[00:17:07] It's been in existence for a long time. I had really been mismanaged for many years and I got brought in to manage the farm, but basically, we rebuilt the whole farm from scratch, and it was incredibly satisfying and a lot of hard work and it was all volunteer labor except for myself and the director, everyone else was volunteer.

[00:17:25] So it was really an education-based volunteer kind of thing. And that's when COVID hit. And so the plans there really shifted because I was going to use that situation there to educate and hold courses and workshops, and really be, kind of be like a gathering spot for growers in the Southeast to get together and do workshops and lectures and just people hanging out.

[00:17:46] Like I really wanted it to be that. And I think. Yeah. When we met, Diego, it was like right before COVID I was like, yeah, it's gonna be this awesome thing. And it was just getting started. And so after a year there, it was not the right place for me anymore. And when I came back home, rebuilt the farm I use all the experience I've had in the last three years of farming, and now rebuilt the farm from scratch because I had wiped all the beds clean and turned it back into grass.

[00:18:13] So I built three now have three, 100 foot farmer's friend caterpillar tunnels. So I'm growing a hundred percent undercover. And for me that has been absolute game changing because I don't have to stress about heavy rains, which is a big problem for us here in the south. Like, we'll get three inches of rain in a couple hours and all of a sudden, all of your beautiful soil is washed away.

[00:18:33] it's in my backyard. So it's got a little bit of a slope to it, which makes it challenging. I have, in addition to those three tunnels, I have a really nice nursery greenhouse that I do all my starts in. And that's pretty much it. My wash pack is in my garage. It's really a suburban farm.

[00:18:51] And as I said, like, I'm still doing the same 30 inch by 50 foot bed system. Some of the stuff that's really great about my farm is the systems I have in place that I've learned is like, it's really important to just streamline everything. Like I have multiple zone overhead and drip irrigation and all my tunnels.

[00:19:07] I have a really nice composting setup. Everything's well mulched, like there's no crap laying around. Everything's organized. My tools are like right next to my tunnels. I've just set it up in a way that is successful. And I want to spend as little time as possible farming. Not because I don't like doing it, but like, I don't want to waste time doing that where it could be doing something else, like working on video projects or hanging out my family.

[00:19:29] So that's kind of what the farm looks like. And it's hard because when you grow under plastic, aesthetically, it looks awful. Like you see just three big, four, four greenhouses out in my backyard now versus like open beds. But when you have that control of the weather and temperature to some extent, you get a lot more success and I've had way bigger yields and way more predictable results than I ever had before.

[00:19:53] So that's kind of what my farm looks like now. It's very, very simple. I don't have any animals here anymore, and I'm just trying to, like, I only grow four things at a time. So it's pretty simple.

[00:20:05] Diego Footer: Yeah. I mean, you're in one of the situations that I love talking to people about is I started here with not much experience.

[00:20:12] Then I did a whole bunch of stuff, and I started a new farm here with a lot more experience. When you rebuilt the farm for the final time at your place, you added tunnels. Were there any other big things that you said, okay, I've learned a lot over the past few years. Wouldn't have, I don't want to make those mistakes.

[00:20:35] I'm starting this farm essentially from scratch. These are things I think are essential to success based upon how I want to farm today. You know, meaning like my lifestyle.

[00:20:48] Josh Sattin: So the, one of the biggest things that people often overlook is drainage. And I talked about this a lot because it can really screw up your farm.

[00:20:57] And I've talked to a lot of farmers. I've done a lot of consulting with farmers, too. And I that's a big topic. I always talk about people don't think about it. They're like, oh, I'm just going to put down soil and build deep compost beds and we'll be off the races. And I'm like, if you don't figure out where the water is going to go, it's going to take all of your soil with you.

[00:21:13] And San Diego is a very different story. You know, Southern California than here, where we get like, Crazy rainstorms. And it's something that we really thought through. So before we built the tunnels, we planned out where they were going to go. We put ditches in that were off contour so that when it rained, all of the water would drain away as quickly as possible.

[00:21:33] And that has been huge. So that's one thing that I've learned just from farming on two different properties, that that's a huge concern. And another thing is just setting up systems and really streamlining, not just. How you flip beds, how you transplant, how you harvest, where the tools get stored, like everything just has its place.

[00:21:55] And this also came into effect big time when I was at the non-profit farm because I was training farmers. And so I needed to have all the systems just dialed in because I just wanted to make sure that like, everything was as simple as possible for them. If it was like, if we can get rid of a tool, if we can standardize things.

[00:22:12] Like, for example, like the gritter, right. So very simple tool, but like adding that into the mix, when you have volunteers, it's like, okay, go plant lettuce, grab the four by gritter. Put it in there. You're good to go. Like there's no like question mark, like just planted the plants that way. Another thing was having as much control as possible.

[00:22:31] So tunnels, I mentioned irrigation. I have drip and overhead in multiple zones and just making the farm just like easy, like everything should be near each other. don't have a lot of clutter laying around it, like nice big pathways that are mulched, like around my tunnels and near the compost bins.

[00:22:47] Like I have a lot of mulch down, so. yeah, that those are some of the things that I've really been working on. There's some stuff this year that I'm going to try to push more towards, but those are the big things is systems and drainage and controlling what as much as you can.

[00:23:06] Diego Footer: Yeah. Like you know, take control back. And anytime you can take control back when it comes to farming. It's good. I mean, because you're up against so much that you can't control with mother nature, pest disease, weather, all that other stuff. So pull back as much control as you have. Thinking about the infrastructure have it's pretty low key, caterpillar tunnels, not the most expensive thing out there compared to really high tech high tunnels that people can get into.

[00:23:30] And I'm curious on your thoughts on this. There's kind of two sides. There's like people who want to absolutely bootstrap a farm and like not spend any money and like, get it started. And then there's people who have, are spending they retire from some other career and they have tons and tons of money and they start up with this really high tech farm with a whole bunch.

[00:23:51] And I think that the lot of equipment side intimidates people because they think, oh, I don't have that much money. I can't do all that. The bootstrap side it's like, you got to have the right systems to get success. Like you said, with tunnels, you can get better yield. You can control more. You're not going to bootstrap a tunnel.

[00:24:10] What are your thoughts on somebody new getting into farming and what infrastructure is required? Like a realistic view of that. Like, Hey, like here's what it's going to take. Like sure. You can, you can go to either extreme, but if you want to do well, you probably got to be something like this.

[00:24:29] Josh Sattin: Yes, this is, I love this conversation. So I, depending where you are, of course, like, I don't necessarily think, like in certain contexts you need to have caterpillar tunnels, but in a lot of places, I think it's crucial. I think the best ways to invest your money when you get started is tunnels and soil. Everything else doesn't really matter to me.

[00:24:47] I spend�when I built a new tunnel, so I started with two and I just added a third one a couple months ago. You know, you buy a caterpillar tunnel for two grand. You buy soil. And irrigation, I get to about $3,000 per tunnel. And if you think about a bed of lettuce can yield, you�

[00:25:07] Six to $800 in one bed. Right? So to me, it's like, okay, that thing's paid for in like just a handful of bed flips. You know, if you're really, if you're really cruising now, when you first start, you're going to get like a third of that probably than what you think you're going to get. But to me, the best investments are tunnels and soil.

[00:25:25] To me, that's like the most important. My tools. I've eliminated tools. I've tried to eliminate a tool like every year. So to me, a lot of that fancy stuff like it's like, do you need a I I'm a tilther. Like, no, you don't need a tilther. Like, I love my tilther, but like, do you need it? No. Like, I think you need a broad fork is good.

[00:25:46] You need a good rake, right? Like some of the basics that you need. I think a Jang seeder is, I think is non-negotiable. I think that's something that you need to have as someone who's direct seeding anything. There's a couple of big purchases, but generally it's like invest in soil and tunnels and have a good wash station because if you're doing greens at all, especially like, if you don't have a good setup for that, you're going to waste so much time.

[00:26:10] You're not going to make any money and just be killing yourself, trying to get your stuff processed. So focus on systems, learn how to grow food and can get whatever you can control as much as possible. So to me, it's always, in my area here, it's it's, as I said, like tunnels and soil. And if you can't develop soil yourself by cover crops, making your own compost, like buy compost, like I bought a six 90 yards of compost in the last like, year.

[00:26:39] Like, I'm going to pay the money for that because to me, like the soil is the most important thing. So that's something I really truly invested in the tunnels will protect the soil, so it doesn't wash away. And you can maintain that. So I know I didn't really talk much about soil health already in this podcast, but yeah, the soil is one of the most important things, if not the most important thing.

[00:27:01] Diego Footer: We gotta be careful given the soil nerds a blank check to improve their soil. Like where, where do you think the limit is? Cause I'm there, man. Like I want to go supermarket sweep down the aisle and just take like all the cool soil amendments and get them all. And I don't disagree with you at all, that soil's fundamentally important where where's the practical place to start because I mean, it's real easy to get focused.

[00:27:28] On soil when you're in the business to grow crops and lose sight of, Hey, like there's a lot of other parts of this business and sure. Soil is a pillar. It's the foundation that helps us do what we do, but we're not soil growers at the end of the day, like we're plant growers. And I know that, Hey, you grow good soil to grow the plant.

[00:27:50] But like, I think you get what I'm saying. Like where do you draw the limit of not obsessing so much on your soil?

[00:27:56] Josh Sattin: So there's a lot of approaches here, but when you're in a small scale, Like you don't have time and space to be cover cropping. Like I am not, I might cover crop some of my beds the summer when I'm not growing in the summer, but I'm not like using one of my beds or 10 of my beds to cover crop.

[00:28:11] Like I don't have time for that. Right. Like I need to produce as much food as possible. So for me, like I'm going to pay to bring in what I need. Right. So when I built my beds, I was lucky enough that my local composting facility, they do a mixture of half leaf mold and half compost, which is amazing for starting beds because when you're doing deep compost mulch system or most people, I don't know, these terms get tossed around all the time, but like no-till sort of style, I call it deep compost mulch system or no dig or whatever.

[00:28:40] When you're putting down a whole bunch of material, is that when you buy just straight compost, like way too nutritious. It is way too high in nutrients and minerals and cause it's used as an amendment, not as a soil. So I am lucky that I was able to build my beds with that mixture and it's been awesome.

[00:28:56] I also have no problem paying for dry amendments and using those on every bed flip. I'm adding a little bit of compost and some amendments. it's one of those things where you can spend all the time and energy you want bringing materials and composts and stuff yourself, and doing cover crops. And for you to like do all that stuff, you need to have a lot of equipment.

[00:29:15] You probably need to have a tractor to move material around. You have to figure out how to get that material to your property. Market gardening in general is an export game. Like we're just constantly sending stuff off our farm. And so for us, like we need to bring stuff into the farm to make up for that.

[00:29:29] And I just pay for it because my time is worth so much. And like I'm not as good of a composter as the guys I buy compost from. So like I'll just buy it from them, so I think the things that I focus on is bringing in as much organic merit as possible. I focus on all the things to create living soil, right?

[00:29:47] Keep the ground covered, keep the ground planted, disturb as little as possible and create diversity. And those are the four things that I try to follow as much as possible to create living soil. And when I have that, and I'm constantly feeding the soil with amendments and compost and keeping biology going by having plants growing.

[00:30:04] That's when the soil just takes off. Like even now I'm about a year into some of my beds at the farm here and the school is just incredible. And so that's kind of my approach is that you can treat your soil well and still be harvesting off of it, but you have to feed it like all the time and just take care of it.

[00:30:20] So I hope I answer your question, Diego, but it's yeah. It's kind of a mixture of all those things so that you can still have high output at the same time of keeping your soul happy.

[00:30:30] Diego Footer: Right. I like it. And deep compost mulch. Just give people a brief overview of what that is. I know people are gonna be curious.

[00:30:39] Josh Sattin: Yeah. So basically, you just add a crapload of soil and grow in that. And so what happens is when you put down a whole bunch of material, what it does is you have instant beds, essentially because you put down so much material, but you're also using so much compost or so much soil that it acts as a mulch on the surface.

[00:30:58] And so you don't have the weed pressure that you would normally, and then we're not going to go through until, so when you till you bring weed seeds up to the surface and they germinate and you know, you get a whole flush of weeds. So that's why you see on. Tillage farms, tractor farms that come through and they, they tear up the soil after they're there.

[00:31:13] They're ready to, right before they're gonna plant, they plant everything. And then three weeks later, they have a huge flush of weeds because they brought all those weeds up to the surface. So to get started with this process, generally, tarping is the best method to kill everything that's growing. And then you lay down a bunch of material and there's a lot of different options for that basic lasagna beds is kind of the most common way.

[00:31:31] So you can layer. carbon layer with compost, or you can do multiple layers. So for me, I use cardboard because there's plenty of cardboard around here being close to a city, and then I buy my compost. But you could use straw if that's available. I know, like when I went to go visit Jared at Jarrettsville food, like he did some great examples of just using straw and compost.

[00:31:51] But the best thing to do is, as I said, like do all that work up front by killing everything layering on a thick layer of soil. As I said, for me, leaf mold is a great mix with commercial compost, and then you have soil you can plant in. Now it's tricky because for me, like I have solid clay soil here, like the red, like you can make a, you can make like a pot out of the soil I have here.

[00:32:13] It's that hard. So there, you have to be a little bit mindful again about drainage because if you laid out a bunch of materials, the water's going to go through that really nicely, but then it's going to not penetrate the subsoil. So you can't grow all the crops you want right away, like good luck trying to grow carrots and four inches of compost.

[00:32:29] Like it's not going to work if you have really hard soil underneath. So there's a lot of things that you have to think about when you are using deep compost mulch system, but that's the idea. You put down a bunch of material and you can get started with that. And that acts as a mulch to the ground below to try to keep the weeds off the bed.

[00:32:48] Diego Footer: You're doing it. You think it's a practical system for market farmers to use that type of system?

[00:32:54] Josh Sattin: Yeah, it's great. I mean, you can get started really quickly and have big yields. There's a lot of, as I said, there's a lot of things to consider. The biggest one is getting material because that's not available everywhere.

[00:33:06] And so getting compost in a lot of places is really hard and getting good compost ones. It's not, it doesn't have any residual herbicides and pesticides. It's free of weed seeds. Um you know, that's the thing that people have trouble with in a lot of places, they can't get good compost. So the system doesn't work for everybody.

[00:33:24] If you can't get the materials. It is also expensive. But we talked about earlier, how I think. that's a very valuable resource to be adding to your farm. And that's why I really do like investing money is in the soil. And then the other part is how to protect the soil and keep it on your property. So there's a lot of things to consider, but yeah, I've seen this method on even large scale farms.

[00:33:46] There's guys doing this on big acreage. it is possible. but you have to think about it differently, but yeah, I mean, once you get really, it's a great way to infuse a lot of organic matter and get the soil life and soil biology started and grow really healthy vegetables. I think it really leads itself to the kind of farming that I do, which is I use zero pesticides, herbicides, insecticides. I don't use any of that stuff. and you know, focus on soil. That's kind of the approach, but it's a quick way to get started with for sure.

[00:34:16] Diego Footer: You know, being part-time growing on only an eighth of an acre, there's probably others that want to do that because maybe like you talked about earlier, they have an off-farm job and they do this on weekends.

[00:34:27] They do this at night and there are maybe they're like split time. How easy is it do you think to set up market streams with this small of a farm? You know, I think people assume if I'm going to sell the restaurants or go to a farmer's market, you need a lot of land. Cause obviously you want consistent product your customers expect a certain amount of product all the time.

[00:34:51] And if you just don't grow enough lettuce, like they got to go to somebody who can, how do you, how do you find a customer base for this kind of smaller, more niche farm?

[00:35:02] Josh Sattin: So there's a lot of different sales outlets. I'd say selling retail is going to be really hard Sunday. Like a supermarket is gonna be really hard with a small scale cause they're going to want like a par every week of something.

[00:35:13] So that's going to be hard, I think. And also when you're selling wholesale like that the price is going to be much lower. So it's going to be harder to clear the profit you need based on a smaller acre. So I think it's really hard to do retail. I think CSA is not a good model for small farms. You need a much larger farm because you have to grow vegetables that have lower value so that you can have those in the boxes, and you have to grow a much wider variety of crops.

[00:35:38] So you can have six to 10 different crops every week for your customers. So if you have a small farm, it's really hard to grow a large variety. So I think it really comes down to the last two, which are basically. You know, doing farmer's markets, which I think is the best way to get started because you can literally just show up with whatever you have and try to sell it.

[00:35:55] And you're not like stress, like, oh, I didn't have lettuce this week, but you have three other things. So you bring those, I think that's the lowest hanging fruit there. Like if you or setting up a little farm stand table outside of an event, or something like that, that's community focused some more roadside stand or something that where you can just roll up with what you have and you're good.

[00:36:15] I'm selling to restaurants only, which can be tricky because most restaurants do pretty much. The same thing every week, for the most part, unless they're seasonal items. Like I have certain restaurants, they say, I want 12 pounds of lettuce every week. And every week they order 12 pounds of lettuce. So I kind of want to have that.

[00:36:31] Otherwise they're not going to be happy with me. You know, over time we build these relationships with chefs and restaurant people, and they understand more of the small-scale seasonality, and they realize how good the food is and they want to support you. Then it becomes a different game because it's not a game, but a different thing because.

[00:36:50] Really working with them and getting the restaurant what they need. So there's a lot more discussion with that. Like if we get a cold snap and it's like 15 degrees every day and I, and I texted my chef, I'm like, I'm sorry, my kale looks terrible this week. They're like, I get it. It's cold outside. Like they understand that because they're willing to work with local farmers.

[00:37:08] So it's tricky though. I think when you try to go to restaurants, you need to have a little bit more consistent production and succession planning to go to them with certain crops, if it's just seasonal and you say, Hey, I'm only gonna have this for three weeks and they understand that, but something that's consistent like lettuce or carrots or whatever you're growing regularly.

[00:37:26] I think that's where that gets a little harder. So when you first start, I think the sort of farmer's market, or farm stand approach is where it's at.

[00:37:34] Diego Footer: For you shutting down over the summer. How do you think your customers feel about that?

[00:37:41] Josh Sattin: So I've talked to them about it. And this is finding a lot of people ask me this question.

[00:37:44] I'm like, what are your, what are you going to lose customers? And you know what, I didn't farm for a year when I went to Raleigh city, I mean, I was farming, but I closed my farm for a year when I went to go to Raleigh city farm and run their farm. And you know what, when I was ready to go back to my farm, they gone pack back in touch with my chefs.

[00:37:59] And most of them were like, let's do it whenever you're ready, just let me know. So, as I said, like it's about those relationships. And as I like, even the summer, I had much slower yields and I had to stop bringing food to a bunch of restaurants. I reached back out to them again and not all of them came back right away.

[00:38:16] Pretty over time. They're like, oh yeah, yeah. Yeah. All right. So then a couple weeks, couple months later, they're like ordering for me again. So it's really about building those relationships. Yeah. Communicating really well with your customers and say, Hey, I'm not going to have this during this time. I need to let you know that now so that you can plan around that.

[00:38:32] And if they really like you and value relationship and what you bring to them, and that's important. And if I lose a customer, too, I'll find another one. You know, like there's so many, there's such a demand for this in my area that. You just figure it out. it's one of those things that there's gonna be sacrifices. And if I have to make a sacrifice to lose a customer to during the summer, then that's what happens.

[00:38:56] Diego Footer: Sure, sure. I think a lot of people like the model you're farming, it it'll resonate with them because it's not, it's less intimidating. I'll say that some of the big farms you see out there and there, I don't think there's anything wrong with that.

[00:39:10] One other thing that I think people think about when they get into farming is�and I don't want to downplay it, but like you have a lot of farms out there, oh, look how much money I can make on an acre. And that's great because it shows what's possible. And I, and I've talked to enough farmers to know you can make hundreds of thousands of dollars on an acre.

[00:39:30] Like that's not a BS number and there's a significant profit in that. So that's good because that means you could make a good living farming if you want to go that route. But the bad thing about those numbers when people see them is like, they either expected like on day one or it's intimidating because they say, oh, I can't get to that.

[00:39:54] What are your thoughts on, like, how would you get somebody to think about farming and the income that comes from it?

[00:40:07] Josh Sattin: Yeah. People see those numbers and they want to get there. I. You know, I said earlier, I think you should expect about a third of what you think you should be able to get on a certain amount of acreage or beds.

[00:40:17] Because when you first start growing, you're going to have a lot of mistakes and your soul is not going to be there and you don't know what you're doing most of the time, this will be a lot of crop failures. So I think that's a realistic approach. Also remember that those farms have a lot of people that work there.

[00:40:32] It's not one dude in his backyard. Clear in 300,000 an acre, right? That's a much larger operation with many employees with multiple sales outlets and a staff, and that's a much more complicated business and operation. So I think you have to put that in perspective as well. And I think I see a lot of times farms expand too quickly because they're selling out of everything and they just keep building beds, keep building beds.

[00:40:58] And all of a sudden they're like, okay, I need three employees. And then are they making more money at that point? Like, are they actually netting more money at that? I don't know, but I, I, I suspect a lot of times, they're not until they get to a much larger size and then you have a much more complicated farm.

[00:41:12] So it's back to the, we said before about like the stigma about part-time farming or making this much money. It's what makes sense for you, Diego. Like what are your goals? You know what I mean? And, and keep that in perspective. I think that's really important to think about because we all compare ourselves to everyone.

[00:41:28] When we go on social media or on YouTube or other farmers like. They're in different contexts, they have different sales outlets. They're charging different prices. The cost of labor is different. They have different kinds of labor. There's so many variables out there, and these are guys like those farms that you're referencing.

[00:41:45] These guys have been farming for 10, 15 years. A lot of them and really know what they're doing. And these are like their outliers and it is what's possible, but most of us are not at that level. So just keep that in mind.

[00:41:58] Diego Footer: Yeah. Yeah, no, I think it's great. I love your approach to farming. And one thing you've stressed since they want, as you want, and to try and find a way to help educate people, bring community together get knowledge like this on there.

[00:42:10] You started putting YouTube videos out because there wasn't videos of people farming in your area. Well, one thing we've collaborated on is to put together the Sattin Hill Market Farming Course, a series of videos that'll air for free on your YouTube channel for the next 20 odd weeks. Can you talk a little bit about I mean, we know why we've put this project together, but what does this mean to you to have this be out there?

[00:42:37] Josh Sattin: Well, Diego, first of all, I can't thank you enough for wanting to take interest in this project. It just means so much to me. And I know the whole farming community is going to. Be so appreciative of our work on this, because there's a lot of courses out there and I'm not going to say mine is better or worse than anybody's.

[00:42:54] it's just, I've been thinking about doing this for awhile. And one thing I've really struggled with is that if you put this much time into something, you kind of want to get paid for it. Right. So that's been my struggle when people have been asking me for years now, when are you going out with a book when you come over the course, like, when are these things happening?

[00:43:14] And I'm like, I don't want to charge for this content. And so that's been my big hangup. Like if I spend this much time putting something together, like it's really hard for me not to charge for it because I put so much time in and I don't want to create a paywall because I think this information needs to be out there for free and it needs to be accessible because if we're going to make a difference in the food system, we need to have as many people learning how to do this as possible.

[00:43:36] And for me, like if I'm going to. I don't know a certain amount of money for a course. Like when I rather that person get that course for free and then put that money into a caterpillar tunnels and soil, right? Like the things that are most valuable to the farmer. So this is where our relationship and our collaboration on this.

[00:43:54] This is so important. And most of what I've experienced and learned and taught is on my YouTube channel already. But in the nature of YouTube, It's so scattered and it's really hard if you're just like, Hey, I want to learn how to farm this year. Okay. Go watch my 250 videos. And maybe there's a little bit of snippet in each of these blogs that you're going to take away.

[00:44:15] What we're going to do is we're going to consolidate all that information down to about 20 videos and make it really clear and concise and basically packaged together. Everything that I've learned and experienced and know about farming and all my systems that I've put in place to run a small market garden that we've, we've been talking about there during this entire podcast, but basically a way that people can just watch it and get the information as quickly as possible and make as clear as possible.

[00:44:41] I have a set like a background in high school education. I did that for five years. So for me, teaching is like right up my alley. Absolutely love it. And I'm so excited too. You know, to collaborate with you on this and make this possible so that this can just be out there and as a resource for everybody. So I'm really pumped.

[00:44:59] Diego Footer: Yeah, I'm really excited to play a part in making this happen. For people that want to see the course, they can check it out on Josh's YouTube channel. I'll link to that below. Or you can just go on YouTube type in Sattin Hill or Josh Sattin, SATTIN. And you'll be able to find the course, but again, it's completely free, A to Z.

[00:45:18] I think it's going to be revolutionary to offer something like that. And I'm pretty excited to see the after effect, all the ripples that come out from kind of throwing the stone into the YouTube pond. So it's exciting to see, thanks so much for doing it, Josh. I really appreciate it.

[00:45:35] Josh Sattin: likewise, Diego I, as I said, I can't believe I'm going to be doing this and being able to share with everybody because they said, I've been asking, I've been asked about this a lot and I'm just like, I don't want to charge for it.

[00:45:45] I don't want to charge for it. So we figured out a way to just give it away for free and just put it out there. So hopefully. It will help a lot of people, either getting into this or maybe missed a few things here and there and I'll just, I'm gonna dump all everything That's in my brain into the course.

[00:46:03] Diego Footer: There you have it, farmer Josh Sattin of Sattin hill farm. If you want to learn more about the free farm course that Josh and I are offering, use the link below or visit At that link is also where you'll be able to find resources for each of the course modules as they're published every Thursday for the next 20 plus weeks.

[00:46:30] If you like this idea of a free course, let me know, shoot me an email I'd love to hear your thoughts. Thanks for listening. And until next time, be nice. Be thankful and do the work.


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