The Profitable Mini-Farm – Bed Formation (E04) (FSFS267)

Listen to more episodes of Farm Small Farm Smart

Episode Summary

The Profitable Mini-Farm is a new series hosted by Diego Footer and Jodi Roebuck to take a deep dive into the technicalities of farming—from designing your farm’s layout to crop planning to treating your soil.

In this episode of The Profitable Mini Farm, we’re taking a look at some strategies for bed formation and how to put beds in place. Jodi Roebuck shares how they form their beds in Roebuck Farm, as well as some considerations before diving into the process.   

Today’s Guest: Jodi Roebuck

Jodi Roebuck is the main farmer behind Roebuck Farm and is a John Jeavons alumnus. He has been teaching sustainable bio-intensive growing techniques all over the world for over 20 years with the aim of creating sustainable food systems while bridging the gap between farmers and consumers.

            Roebuck FarmWebsite | Instagram | Facebook

In this episode of Farm Small, Farm Smart

  • Diego introduces the episode on bed formation (01:05)
  • The number of beds based on where you are in your farming career and the land you have available (02:18)
  • Tarping, not tarping, and taking a hybrid approach (04:22)
  • How Roebuck Farm tarps their beds (06:27)
  • Approaching bed formation if planting starts in six weeks (11:43)
  • Can you fast track soil building, or does it really take time? (15:49)
  • Is there any difference between a bed with soil built up for years versus a bed with fast tracked soil? (21:15)
  • A tactile difference between new beds and older beds   (23:10)
  • What’s involved in the process of double digging (26:29)
    • The dream bed forming experiment (32:47)
  • Jodi Roebuck’s thoughts on raised beds (35:12)
  • To add or not to add compost before cover cropping (37:00)
  • The goal of composting (38:31)
  • The debate on broadforking beds on a regular basis (40:31)
  • Jodi Roebuck’s standard ongoing bed prep (45:29)
  • A quick recap on bed prep and bed formation (47:25)
  • Respect the context—a cookie cutter formula won’t work (51:16)

Subscribe to Farm Small Farm Smart in your favorite podcast player:

iTunes | Spotify | PlayerFM

Anything specific You want to hear? Reach Out!

Check Out Time-Saving Farm Tools Over at Paperpot Co.

Want to Buy Time-Saving Farm Tools But You’re All the Way In Australia or New Zealand? Check Out Active Vista!

FSFS267 (TPMF04)

[00:00:00] Diego Footer: Welcome to the Profitable Mini Farm. I'm your host, Diego, DIEGO. If you're new here on the show, each week, farmer Jodi Roebuck and I take a closer look at what makes Jodi's small Market Farm, Roebuck Farm, so successful. We started this show because a lot of people questioned whether or not you could make a living market farming.

[00:00:26] This show serves as a tool to help people farm better. Hopefully make a living doing it, and if you are making a living, hopefully make that living better, whatever that might mean. Maybe you make more money, maybe things become more efficient, maybe life becomes more enjoyable on the farm. The show focuses mostly on production in the field, in the soil parts of farming.

[00:00:52] We will touch on some business things, but most of the business subjects are covered in my show, Carrot Cashflow. If you've never listened to one of those episodes, check it out by just searching for Carrot Cashflow. Today's episode of the Profitable Mini Farm focuses on bed formation. You've now laid out your farm.

[00:01:13] You have a blank slate of land. And it's now time to put the beds in place. How do you go about doing that? There's a lot of strategies for doing it. Jodi's gonna talk about how he does it and how he advises people to do it because there are things to consider. Like what if there was a field there? What if there's a whole bunch of weeds?

[00:01:31] Should you do this slowly? Should you do it quickly? So this one is all about the how and the why of the process of bed formation. Today's episode is brought to you by Paperpot Co. Farm Tools. Paperpot Co is your source for time and labor-saving farm tools from the Paper Pot transplanter to the Jang Seeder.

[00:01:55] Our goal at Paperpot Co. is to help you plant fast so you can live more. Learn how you can become more efficient on your farm with these time and labor saving tools. At With that, let's jump right into it. It's the profitable mini farm bed formation with Jodi Roebuck. Today we're talking bed formation.

[00:02:23] Initial bed formation. I think the temptation for a lot of people, if they have half an acre available, is to go out and lay down half an acre's worth of bed space. How would you talk to someone about how many beds to initially build relative to the amount of land you have while thinking about where you are in your farming career?

[00:02:50] Jodi Roebuck: My kind of influence probably from Curtis especially, would be to initially focus on return on investments. I would be thinking of setting up enough beds for high rotation, that's crops that you're gonna be planting multiple times a year. For us, it's four times a year, and just getting those up and running and just doing as good a job as you can.

[00:03:14] But I would be starting small and looking at your mark as your market stream grows. Being prepared ahead with new beds ready to go, and if you've got time, which is great, I always talk about time as a design tool. If you've got time, you can afford to take the slow approach. So the slow approach for us is, for example, to use the tarping process and time.

[00:03:41] The tarping really works fantastically with heat. So if we are putting down a new field block in winter, we don't have the heat working on our side, whereas in summer, definitely we can kill out, say a pasture, if that's what your starting point is, in probably five weeks to have it, you know, to have that ground clean.

[00:04:03] And then we begin the process of, well, the decisions of do we need to be in here soon. And if that's the case, we put the labor into forming the beds, or if we've got time up our sleeve, we can just run over the surface and begin cover cropping just to put it back to sleep.

[00:04:22] Diego Footer: One thing I've learned talking to you. I don't have any experience with, and I don't know that I've talked to too many growers that have this experience of dealing with the wins that you do from talking to you, Red Path, who make greenhouses and stuff, everything for over there is designed for high wind load. I'm not gonna say over here we don't have wind, but�

[00:04:43] I don't think we have as much wind as you do, so I think a lot of people do go the tarping route cuz it's easy. It's easy, it's passive, it's inexpensive. You preserve all the organic matter and the soil layering. You're not disturbing any of that. The one downfall is depending on what your climate zone is, you may be�

[00:05:09] Maybe in the best case scenario, a really hot area, a few months, in a cooler climate, you may be a full year to go and take stuff out. So you really have to be planning ahead if you're getting into this with a tarp method, and you may have to do some sort of hybrid approach where it's like, okay, I wanna start farming in the very near future in the next month, or, well, my initial beds, I'm gonna have to put those in, quick and dirty, where maybe just tilling whatever's there or get somebody with a bigger tractor to come in and do it.

[00:05:43] In parallel to that, you have a tarp system and then maybe you just come back and fork those initial beds later on and re-tarp them later. But I like that perspective of when do you need this land to work with you, and then have that dictate your approach versus trying to just go in and force it.

[00:06:04] Jodi Roebuck: That's always our kind of response. You know, a very common question we get during our education events is that people just want an answer on how long do I need to tarp for? And we kind of push back on what we've just talked about. Well, when do you need to be in there? What time of year is it? How much above ground plant matter do you need to kill out?

[00:06:27] And so we're in a valley and it's 20 meters above the river and it's a sub soil. They cut the topsoil off in 1975. It's very compact. That's our starting point. Everyone's will be different. And so the last two blocks, I'll talk about the last two blocks that we put in. Our beds are 14 meters long, standard 75 centimeter width.

[00:06:52] There's nine beds in each block. It was pasture. It wasn't a paddock that I was grazing with the sheep. So we did a final graze. We grazed it a bit lower. Then I ran over the top with the lawn mower and really scalped the pasture down to the ground. And then these blocks, first time ever, we got a contractor down the road in with a tractor and we didn't have a power harrow, he just had a standard plow behind.

[00:07:19] This was going into winter, so it was about, for us, it was about July, well, it was winter and we also chose a time when the ground wasn't too wet and I kind of thought, oh, you know, the tractor will come in. It's probably a bit bad. He's gonna do some tillage. He's just gonna smash up the pasture, and then we'll just remedy that in the future.

[00:07:42] And I was thinking he might go 250 mils deep. Our ground�s so compact, he could only skim on the surface with his plow and really bust up the grass crown the top 10 centimeters, and then we just put the tarps back down. So in a field block for us that is nine beds, 14 meters wide, it cost, we actually plowed two fields and the tractor turned all our compost for us, which gave us a jump on the following spring, having compost ready.

[00:08:15] That was about two hours� work, so it cost us $200, and then it was about $200 worth of tarps to cover that ground. So we're $400. We went through the winter tarping that, killing out stuff took a long time. And then we spread organic composted chicken manure. By the time we lifted the tarps, we couldn't recognize any, any plant material.

[00:08:42] It had died. Worms were in there doing some work, and we just used the tilther with the big Nikita drill on the number two, so it's on the power setting and we mixed the chicken manure in with the surface, retaped again for quite some time. And then by, I forget what time of year we are now, but we then lifted the tarps and put in a multi-species cover crop and just put it back to sleep �cuz we didn't need that area yet for our market streams. So we're taking the long game on this.

[00:09:18] Diego Footer: Yeah, I think that's like the dream approach for a lot of people is you have enough land that you can approach it slowly, and I'll say correctly, because nature's doing the work for you, not the tractor work. But once you get that initial stuff out of the way, you can plant a cover crop.

[00:09:40] Let that start working the soil, get all the microbiota, macrobiota and the soil working to build that up. And I think the key consideration is, you know, this kind of goes into a little bit of like holistic management of like, what resources do you have to work with? Maybe it's time. Hmm. Maybe it's money.

[00:10:00] Maybe it's organic matter. Maybe it's labor. How do all those blend together? Because money can mean a lot of things. It could be I have enough money saved up that I don't have to start having this farm carry its own weight income wise yet. It could mean I have enough money to pay the neighbor down the street to come in and do this.

[00:10:21] Could mean I have enough money to come in and compost, layer compost on top of all this. So that's a key consideration. Resources, what do you have to work with? If it's time, well, you can go do the approach you have, if it's, again, abundance of organic matter, like a compost, one thing we're seeing a lot over here in the US is the lasagna style, deep compost mulch systems that people are using where they're even buying now rolls of like flat cardboard.

[00:10:55] Cardboard over a site, pile compost up on top of that, and it's like bam. Instant farm because you've now suppressed all but the hardest to kill weeds. You're not tilling, so you're not bringing up any of the latent weed seeds in the soil, and you have a plantable bed. And I get, there's some debate about whether planning into straight 12 inches of compost is good or not.

[00:11:23] but it's probably leans more to better than worse, at least in the beginning, and it gets you rolling. But to do that, you're talking truckloads of compost. So you gotta have access to that. You gotta have the money to pay for that. So that's kind of one fast approach versus a slower approach of cover cropping.

[00:11:43] I mean, if you had to right now look at a new field block and you said, Hey, your spring starts in about a month or so, six weeks, and you knew you had to get that thing in production in six weeks, how would you approach that?

[00:12:01] Jodi Roebuck: I'd be using, what's the word, disturbance. I'd be hitting it multiple times, cultivating the surface to try and kill out the remaining organic matter.

[00:12:12] And I think I'm pretty committed to developing deep living soils and then composting on top, making the beds the ongoing work is very little. So if I didn't have time, And it wasn't summer, so we couldn't use that heat with the tarp to kill stuff out, I'd be putting the labor in, hitting it with a bit of disturbance plow.

[00:12:40] And then coming through, pulling out everything on the surface, the grass crown or the top part of the root system, and I'll just be hitting one bed at a time. That�s labor intensive, Diego, pulling it out. This is how I developed my John Jeavons beds, you know, nearly 20 years ago. I didn't know about tarping then or a tilther or anything, and I would just work that surface and then manually pull out the grass crown.

[00:13:06] P ut all that into the compost, clean the surface, and then begin bed prep in just one bed at a time as we're on top of our production. So I think with the way we've been developing these permanent beds, I'm pretty open that it's labor intensive. And so kind of coming back to setting up these blocks of nine beds.

[00:13:32] One block, let's say it's a hundred dollars for the tractor per block, a hundred dollars of tarp. And once things had killed out, what did we put on? We put five centimeters of composted organic chicken manure, incorporated that in, I forget, I think we put two and a half cubes on each field block. That's another $250.

[00:13:52] We're one, two... We're up to $450 now, and then we'd just started forming beds. So I think if we had to go faster, coming back to your question, I'd be putting even more labor in to manually remove everything that had been loosened at the surface, just to get that bed clean before starting the bed prep and just kind of sticking with the costs.

[00:14:15] So we're at $450 for a field block by the time we've hit it with the tractor. Tarped it and put on chicken, you know, the chicken manure to put it into a cover crop. I know this is the long route. It's about an hour and a half work for two people to surface cultivate with the tilther, broadcast the largest seeds like the grains and field peas.

[00:14:40] And then we just used the tilter to run back over top to bury all that seed with one pass. And then we came back over the top with the five row Jang with mixed seeds in there. That could have been stuff like, uh, field mustard. We did put some more perennials in, like alfalfa and clovers, and then we came back with the six-row seeder at the top.

[00:15:10] So we've just got a fine seed bed on the surface and compaction underneath while we also put daikon in. And then all the small seed varieties in there. We had about 15 varieties in that cover crop. So that's about an hour and a half work. I think it's 1300 square meters, and we put 13 kilogram of seed in and then we do our classic irrigate, cover it with shade net while it germinates.

[00:15:34] By the time the shade net comes off, especially with the grains, you've already got a living ground cover, since for us with our heavy rains, there's no potential for heavy rain to hit be a spoil and to have runoff from there.

[00:15:49] Diego Footer: You know, one thing that's really changed a lot, maybe it hasn't changed, maybe it's just more vocalized through the work of Jesse Frost and other people, is the importance of soil and growing systems.

[00:16:04] When we first started doing the Urban Farmer, you know, back in 2016, we talked about that, there wasn't a lot of podcasts out there at the time and you just didn't hear as much about the soil. A lot more you hear about it now. I think one thing people have is that reverence of the soil. And what I wanna lean on is your experience, cuz you have 20 years of seeing soil being built in different places around the world.

[00:16:34] How much of soil building is a time game and how much can you fast track it? So I tarped an area, put down a bunch of compost. I plant in it. I feel really good because whoa, look at me like all this compost. This soil's great. But it's really day zero on the clock. You know, the second hand is just ticked over from midnight.

[00:17:01] You have 20 years of experience. So compared to the person just starting out, I mean, you're at 12 noon in the day, can you fast track soil building or does it take time?

[00:17:17] Jodi Roebuck: So we've all got our different opinions and this is from my experience. Absolutely. I'm a big believer you can fast track it, but you can't do that to a big area unless you've got the scale and the access to something like a key line plow to deepen your soil without disturbance.

[00:17:38] We don't. So I'm really big, Diego, and it's amazing. You know, we're on a severely compact mountain ash sub-soil with no organic matter. As soon as we prepare that bed with a fork that we've designed, which is like half of a broad fork, you can put your arm in 450 mils deep. That's like a foot and a half, and that's still virgin sub soil.

[00:18:05] And by the time we've got that kind of like a sponge cake consistency, and that's without tillage, that's just by broad forking, basically. And then surface cultivating with the tilther, I'm really big on then bringing in the compost, and incorporating that into the surface and then, so in terms of fast tracking, it's labor intensive, not denying that.

[00:18:26] But it's pretty amazing to see two people jump on some virgin ground, compact as, prep it. We were putting in new beds last autumn, and I had two new guys on the farm, and by the time there were five beds in, two of them were developing a new bed from scratch, finished and planted in two and a half hours, so we're looking at five hours per bed, and it's amazing to see that transformation from total compaction to aeration.

[00:19:01] And then I'm a big fan of bringing in your fertility, your compost, and your amendments on top, incorporating that with the tilther and then you can be direct seeding and planting like the same day. Obviously, you can't do that to a large area, but that's our kind of the slow game we play. So we put in nine beds last autumn, and we probably did that in about three weeks of just whenever we're on top of our production and our job list.

[00:19:28] Well go and do some bed prep and those beds now. So we were March, April, May, June, July, August, six months on going through winter. We're on our third crop in there. And uh, so my take on it cuz rewinding, we did about 10 years of cover cropping. And growing that through to maturity.

[00:19:54] So like it was, you know, we're growing the carbon crops, AKA John Jeavons. Just my thoughts on it, and I'm from, you know, especially on our soil, we're a farm the most is if you release the compaction, you allow the roots to go down without any, you know, restriction and you can get some root roots down really deep in that first cover crop process straight away.

[00:20:21] The classics like daikon, rye, it's the more variety, the better. But from what I've seen is in a very compact soil, we are not seeing the roots able to go down so deep, so quick without that intervention earlier on. I kind of like Joel Salatin�s saying of, um, the process of nature is disturbance. And that could be an event like a landslide or tillage with a tractor, anything followed by rest.

[00:20:53] And then that is what we see the succession. And I totally see that in the pastural setting, too. Like be a ground that's left or is disturbed. It's the rest period that brings the diversity. We've got 16 species in our pasture, and we never planted any of it. And it was, it was that high density grazing with the look.

[00:21:15] Diego Footer: So your newest beds running through that process, how much does that soil differ from your oldest beds? I guess what I'm really getting at, at the core is, do you see a big difference between the beds that have been treated this way the longest with the beds that have been treated this way the shortest?

[00:21:39] Jodi Roebuck: In terms of the ongoing prep? No. It's the ongoing bed prep. No, I don't. It's very low cardio, just to basically to broadfork a bed, whether it's a bed that's only, you've only got one crop planted. Let's say you've done a bed of lettuce and you're in a brand new bed, and then it's time to prep it again, or a bed of carrots or whatever.

[00:22:01] It's the same work, and it's the same effort. We get the same results. But what we're seeing with the older beds, definitely, you know, they've been composted for years and years and years and other fertility added and they've a lot more history with your crop rotations in there as well. So we feel with the new beds, we have a bit of a time up our sleeve with being able to not follow so tightly.

[00:22:28] Our crop rotation, we can get away with just about growing anything for the first couple of seasons in those beds. We could go carrots followed by carrots for an example. Whereas our older beds, we tend to stick to the crop rotation a lot more. And just generally our new beds. We try to build up the organic matter to get them into production like our older beds.

[00:22:50] So a new bed, we'll try and compost that twice a year. Our older existing beds, we're generally composting them once a year and then so we're focus on the new beds to try and bring the production up to match the beds that are older and have had, you know, a lot more love given to them.

[00:23:10] Diego Footer: What about just in terms of visuals and tactile stuff? Can you, you know, if you brought me on the farm, I've never seen it in person and you didn't tell me which bed was the oldest and which bed was the newest, and you said, Hey, here, here's a shovel. Go out and tell me what the oldest bed is and tell me which the newest bed is. And I could walk around all your beds and dig around, put my hands in 'em, look at the soil. Would I notice a difference between oldest and newest?

[00:23:43] Jodi Roebuck: For sure. And I think the way to really get your iron on that Diego is just putting your hand into each bed, pushing your hand down, and feeling how much resistance is there. And then holding, forming the soil, and then seeing how, what the crumb looks like as you open it again with your hand.

[00:24:01] You definitely, you feel the difference and you also visually see it. So with our crop rotation, I can just see where a bed's at by its color, and also can feel by putting my hand in, how much resistance is there, what's the crumb? And also what was the crop performance like on the last crop? And that's kind of how I work with my crop rotation.

[00:24:26] I treat each bed as what others would maybe consider a field block. So my crop rotation is bed by bed, and I'm just reading again by that visual sign. You can see, has it been composted, has it had worm castings? And you can see what that bed's been doing in the past. And that's kind of how we choose where are we gonna put composts that we do have, that's really, which beds will get it rather than just going around the clock each season.

[00:24:58] Like, we'll compost it here now next, compost there. So we're treating, uh, one bed each time we're replanting. So visual and feeling.

[00:25:08] Diego Footer: Yes, definitely a long-term approach. Like there's no need to build 100 year soil on day one. It's like businesses, too, you know, people want to operate, like name your farmer's farm who's been farming for 10 years or 15 years, and they wanna emulate everything that that person's doing on day one.

[00:25:31] Like it's just not realistic. So, start off with what you have, with what you can. In this case, we've talked two approaches. One, a more manual to get the land set up. One, a more passive that involves tarps. It could involve that, followed by cover cropping. So now we have this bear patch of land out there. I need to make beds. What�s your process?

[00:25:55] Jodi Roebuck: Our process, I guess you could say is maybe unique. You know, looking at the classic 30 inch beds. And the BCS process of forming beds. So we don't have a BCS, so we kind of rewinding 20 years ago, it was a double dig and that's pretty labor intensive.

[00:26:17] Diego Footer: For people that don't know what double digging is, explain what it is in a nutshell in what you think the actual benefit is. Like, is it worth it?

[00:26:29] Jodi Roebuck: The double dig process is outlined in how to grow more vegetables, and so you really, you are removing a trench of topsoil with a spade, and then you get into the sub-soil and into the bottom trench with a fork, and you loosen the bottom strata, and then you moved backwards down the bed, and you take the top soil.

[00:26:53] From the next trench, and you move that forward onto the subs soil of just loosened, and then you repeat your fork. So you're basically removing the topsoil to fork the sub-soil and putting the top soil back. And I'll be honest, it's a lot of work and there's a real skill to doing it, like with aikido, so you're not ruining your back.

[00:27:14] And also so there is a less disturbance on the soil. I'm not saying it's not disturbance, but it can be done badly or done well. And so that's how we formed our first 50 beds and without the tarping process �cause I've never even heard of it back then. So, you know, this is 2005, we're developing these beds. Moving forward as we expanded with the market garden.

[00:27:40] After Curtis and Jean Martin's visit, we jumped to the 30 inch wide bed. We developed a fork that's about 350 mills deep, and basically, we're mimicking what you do in the bottom trench of the double dig with the fork. It's just a levering on the fork. There's no flipping of the soil. We are just working from the surface, down.

[00:28:03] We're able to go deeper with the fork, and the fork is half the width of a 30-inch bed, and we're just standing on top and levering or aerating the soil and working backwards. So the difference, the main change we made with our bed pre, Diego, as we expanded, was to not double dig, but to work from the ground down a lot deeper.

[00:28:29] And this, there's a ton of resistance on the fork, um, when you first start. But once you pop it open, and you start working backwards, the first rip, if you wanna call it that, on a brand new bed, that's where all the work is and the majority of the time, So I think before I jump into that bed prep, I'd just quickly like to talk on how we mark out beds.

[00:28:51] So we talked in a previous episode about getting electric fence and some electric fence standards and marking out your field block. And then we mark out each bed and the path, and then I get a classic, like an all steel standard fork and where the edge of the bed meets the path. I make a rip with the fork, not a spade.

[00:29:16] Cause it gets stuck and I basically make a, it's like a serrated rip right around the edge of the bed. And we only ever do that once at the start of forming a new bed. And then I stand up on top of the fork with the handle facing forwards and I'll just use my, I'm standing right up on top of the foot plate, and I leave my hands forward and backwards.

[00:29:42] And that helps the tines of the fork to penetrate full depth. And then we start pulling that backwards, and you're popping the soil or releasing the compaction. So we call that the first rip, and that's the big one where you wanna get as deep as possible and do the best job you can on that first pass.

[00:30:03] Diego Footer: So those initial beds you're laying, you lay them out, here's where they're gonna be. And we talked about orientation in previous episodes, but that first bed formation is really just loosening the soil that's there using a tool that you have. Maybe that's a BCS, maybe that's a broad fork. Maybe that's a Roebuck fork, which you use, and then that's your basic step to prep the soil within the bed areas itself.

[00:30:35] Jodi Roebuck: Yep. And after the first rip, you've still got kind of, we're a very compact soil. We've still got big, big clumps, so we then run over the surface with the tilther on the power setting. You know, the number two on the big drill, reshape the bed with our rake and then we repeat the process with the fork again.

[00:30:57] But the second pass is twice as fast and half the work. And then again, we just repeat that process. Fork, tilther, reshaped with a rake. And, colleagues that I've trained, three are south of us, they're developing new, new beds in two passes with the fork, but that's on a, I'd say a much better soil than we are starting with on our compact sub soil.

[00:31:22] We are to get the bed to a point where it's got lift in it and it's friable and ready to be composted, or it's finished. Or you could, even if you didn't have compost, basically for the surface to be�or the whole bed to be like looking like a seed bed. For us, we've, it's four passes, but each pass gets quicker and the last two passes, you don't have to be standing up on top of the fork.

[00:31:49] Um, we kind of use a wide rocking stance. It's like a, the lunge in Pilates and the fork on a low angle. So each pass gets quicker and you see the improvement in the soil structure building. And then when the bed's shaped, then I'd like to put the compost on top, incorporate that any amendments based on your soil test.

[00:32:12] And it's like a living sponge cake. And it's a, it's pretty, um, I kind of take it for granted, I guess, but people that come to the farm and form new beds with us, they're just blown away at the transformation. Yeah, it's labor intensive, but every new bed we have at 14 meters long, each time we plant it, we're harvesting $400.

[00:32:33] And we're growing it four times a year. So every time we develop one new beds, we're adding $1,600 of turnover to the farm for the year. That's my motivation. Money. But that's a reward for the hard work.

[00:32:47] Diego Footer: Totally. I mean, it's a good way to look at it because you've, you quantify going in, that's what any manufacturing company would do.

[00:32:56] If I add on a new line to produce widget A, I'm gonna only do that if I know, well, that new line is gonna generate this much revenue and this much profit. I don't know that every farm knows, like, how much does each bed generate on average? And it's a really good thing to know. You know, one interesting experiment would be something along the lines of, here's a new bed, and I'm gonna do it like the easiest, fastest, cheapest approach.

[00:33:29] And I'll just hit it with a BCS if I have one, throw a little fertilizer down to amend it. Boom. I'm on my way. Grow out some crops in that, track what that does over time. Approach two is like, okay, well I'll invest in that soil longer term. I'll put a bunch of compost on. You know, you soil test it, you amend it accordingly.

[00:33:52] You go a little lighter on the initial work, deeper tillage, so there's more money into that bed. Then you grow that out. I mean, that would be the dream experiment, right? You find out what does wuick and dirty, give you in revenue. What does very intensive give you in revenue? And you go from there. But then you think also, hey, this is a long-term game, and any money you spend on day one is really you're hoping is gonna pay you back in 20 years down the line. Continue to pay you back.

[00:34:23] Jodi Roebuck: Just one other thought too is um, are you on your forever farm? This land you own? You have that security or are you on a lease? And that absolutely is gonna be a different, you're gonna tackle it differently. I'm not gonna take on a lease or franchise Roebuck farm, for example, take on a 10 year lease and do what I've done on our home farm on anyone else's land.

[00:34:48] So, you know, I'd be taking the quick and dirty approach if it was on someone else's land knowing I was there for five or 10 years. Our farm, I hope to farm into my old age. So we're expanding slowly. We've got about three, just over three quarters of an acre of flat land, and then there's no more so as we expand, we're just doing it the best job we can, and we've got time up a sleeve, but it's not always like that.

[00:35:12] Diego Footer: What are your thoughts on raised beds?

[00:35:15] Jodi Roebuck: Our beds only sit out the ground about 10 centimeters for where all the beds are, where all the pubs are, and then we use the fork to make that rip around the edge. Actually prior, sorry. I'll just backtrack. Before setting out the interior ribbons, which is basically your path lines up and down, you've just got the ribbon right around your field block.

[00:35:41] We hit the surface with the tilther, and that could be BCS, with your power harrow, just at the surface. So we've loosened the top five centimeters. Then we run the electric fence all the way around, up and down, so you can see all your path layout and your beds. Before we rip the edge of the bed for the first and only time, so we don't have the BCS, but we get the rake upside down and we push the soil that is on the surface where the paths are onto where the beds will be.

[00:36:15] And then now the paths are compact, slightly lower, and that path soil is pushed up onto the beds. So a different approach, but similar technique than what the BCS would do. And then we begin the bed formation. So yes, we're taking the path, the surface soil on the path, putting that onto the bed, where the beds are gonna be formed initially.

[00:36:34] And the raised beds. The raised beds, I really like them. Though ours are only about 10, 15 centimeters high. And then the wet climate, the path lets the excess water out. And by deepening our soils, our beds are about 450 mills deep. Uh, we've got some pretty amazing infiltration. We've measured it with integrous soils, which is how you know timing, how much water soaks in, how quick.

[00:37:00] Diego Footer: Maybe you hit this, and I might have just missed it. But I think you're saying along the way you're adding compost a little bit, five centimeters throughout the year, I'm assuming on bed crop turnovers. Are you adding it on when you first form that bed, if you're, whether or not you're cover cropping?

[00:37:24] Jodi Roebuck: Not usually before cover cropping. We might put some amendments or composted chicken manure.

[00:37:31] Usually, we are composting for the first time on a new bed as soon as we've finished the initial bed prep, which is usually one bed at a time. See, we're trying to prioritize to have compost ready for new beds, especially because we're in a subs soil. So this season our new greenhouse is going in.

[00:37:52] It'll take all summer to build it. We build the greenhouse on virgin ground, but we'll have tarps down to kill out the pasture. As soon as the greenhouse structure is up, possibly even before it's skinned, we'll lift the tarps, start that process of marking out the beds, ripping them, you know, doing the bed prep initial.

[00:38:12] And so we're working on composting now to have that compost ready. So as soon as our new greenhouse bed�s operational, we've got the compost to start applying straight away on top. And we try to compost a new bed every, uh, twice a year just to get it up and running.

[00:38:31] Diego Footer: What's your goal for compost? I know that's kind of maybe a silly question on the surface.

[00:38:36] But there, I think there are a lot of ways people can look at compost. One, it it's just adding organic matter to a soil that's lacking in organic matter. Another goal is it's helping you build soil vertically if you have harder soils or a hard pan, adding compost just gives your roots that much more bonus room to grow.

[00:38:58] It's a nutrient additive. In some situations, I could consider it a mulch to help hold water in the sub soil. How do you view it?

[00:39:06] Jodi Roebuck: I think a goal of compost is to have enough really ahead. All the time and to take the labor out of it so we don't have, our farm design is so tight. Tiny paths, hardly any access.

[00:39:24] We bring compost onto the beds with wheelbarrows, and we've just changed our composting up. So we've been making it by hand, turning it by hand, keeping it tarped once the heat's gone so it doesn't get saturated with our rainfall. But I've got a new neighbor who has a Bobcat. I looked at purchasing one and the price is horrendous to be using it whatever.

[00:39:49] Once a fortnight to turn compost. My new neighbor, Diego's got a bobcat that I can borrow. So we're gonna start turning our compost with the Bobcat and we're composting in long windrows and we've made compost from our own resources for a long time. I'm working with a company at the moment.

[00:40:09] To make constructed compost for us. So they're just combining the materials and delivering it and then we are gonna do the aging, the management, and the turning. So yeah, hat. Our goal is to get as much labor out of the, remove the labor from the process of doing it all by hand and manually.

[00:40:31] Diego Footer: What are your thoughts on the importance of broad forking or using another fork. This is a debatable topic that I see a lot of people go back and forth on that beneficial, I think most people agree at the beginning cuz it loosens up the soil that was potentially hard. The need to do it on an ongoing basis is where I think question comes in, because people who say you do say, well, it's an agricultural soil.

[00:41:07] You're walking on those beds some, you're standing on 'em. You know, rain's hitting 'em. They're collapsing some, they're not planted out every single day of the year. So there's some compaction just naturally happening. On the other side of the argument, you have people saying, well, there's plant roots in there.

[00:41:24] There's animal life and forms of worms and other biology in the soil keeping that soil loosened. So, there's no need to broad fork once you have a loose enough soil, where do you fall on that spectrum?

[00:41:40] Jodi Roebuck: I'm definitely on the spectrum, Diego. So remember, we've got 2.3 meters of rain and we're on a sub soil. Really quickly, I'm not a soil scientist, but the soils I've seen around the world that return to compaction just by themselves overnight tend to be super high in magnesium. And I can see these soils, John Jeavons� soil is a classic example.

[00:42:11] Sometimes it's the red clays that I see. Another sign is if it's wet, and you're walking up and down the paths, and you walk out the garden, and you've got like two inches caked to the bottom of your boots, that's a sign too that your saw wants to hold back tight all by itself. So we don't have a soil like that, but we do have heavy rain.

[00:42:37] Right now, late winter, we've got the whole farm covered. If it's not a tarp, intensive living plants, a 70% shade net over germinating seed or an insect net. We come into trouble with the heavy rains, you know, public enemy number one�s bare soil. So in my crop rotation, every time I flip a bed, you know you harvest something, the first thing I do is just push my hand into the bed and feel what's the compaction like.

[00:43:04] I don't just prep a bed because every bed has to be prepped every time. I'm checking in with what's the bed telling me. What do I need out of it next? And if we've done a bit of carrots for us, they take 90 days, the chances are, that bed's gonna be a lot heavier. Because it's just had three months of rain on it.

[00:43:26] Although our carrots, you know, we plant them in intensive. So I've been experimenting the last couple of seasons with doing less bed prep, and we do generally do quick crops, but you know, carrots and�are our longest field crops. We are definitely, if we've got good weather, the moisture�s, it's not too wet.

[00:43:48] When we do the bed prep, we won't fork if it is. What I'm seeing is I'm able to do multiple fast crops with no bed prep as long as I'm still seeing really good germination and crop growth. Generally, if it's been a longer season crop, we will do the bed prep. As soon as we see compaction, we'll do the bed prep again. As soon as we see the soil not looking like chocolate cake, you know, it's looking lighter brown.

[00:44:15] We'll also do bed prep and compost. And also we don't stand on our beds at all, ever. Not even broad forking. We've created them to be soft. It's not even comfortable standing on the beds, and we just don't wanna undo the work of creating that soil structure that we've, you know, worked so hard with.

[00:44:32] Diego Footer: Alright, I like that answer. So it's not, there's no gospel there. It's observe what you have and make a decision based on what you see. And if you think your particular soil and your conditions at given time requires it to be loosened, then you loosen. If you don't notice that, then you don't loosen it. It's not, well, I must do it every time.

[00:44:59] And that's another thing, right? Like, how many people are potentially wasting so much labor by having some of these processes in place that they might not need to be doing because they wrote them down thinking, Hey, this is good to do, instead of saying, does this need to be done this time or not?

[00:45:21] Jodi Roebuck: Yeah. And you know, David, my employee, he's built, he's developed some really, really good skills.

[00:45:26] He's been with us a year and a half and our standard ongoing bed prep, Diego is, fork, tilther, I�d say, fork the bed. If you are applying any compost amendments, then that goes on top. Tilther that in. And then we use a 35-centimeter wolf garten rake. And after using the tilter, we actually rake the top of the bed.

[00:45:49] That gives a beautiful lift to it and it also shapes the bed. Our beds, when we're finished prepping them, look like you've gone over the top with the BCS, power harrow. Just set. Set up high. You know, our beds look like they've been done with a BCS although were doing them by hand and with the rake upside down, we stand across one bed over.

[00:46:13] Cause the beds do spread a little bit. But I really like the wolf garden rake. If you turn it upside down. The curvature on the times, we just push across the path, and we create a little 45 edge on the outside of the bed, and we just always finish by pushing the edges back in, so the beds remain exactly where we formed them.

[00:46:33] The first time we opened that ground and then it's also nice having compact paths and then let's say aerated soil right to the edge of the bed. So we we're planting out super wide and intensive on our beds. And then with the, the closures we use from Red Path, they push in really nice. Just down the side of that rip we made.

[00:46:56] After we had our electric fences out on the first time we made the bed. So it's pretty easy to set up our hoops, and I think that's one thing you have to consider if you start using the Red Path hoops. Can you put, just push 'em into the ground? Cause you really need to be able to push 'em in.

[00:47:12] You can't be, I don't think there's enough time to start making, getting a hammer in a stake to make a hole for each one to be able to push them in. It's about seven minutes to put up an insect net, a hoop and an insect net on a 14 meter bed.

[00:47:25] Diego Footer: So that that takes us to the end of the process. Beds are now laid out, so just to recap, and you can fill in any gaps if I miss anything. Prep the soil based upon how quickly you'd need that soil to be ready. Quick method or a longer method. Longer being something like tarps, a quicker method, something that requires either more labor or more equipment, line out the beds using electric fence or some other type of string line.

[00:47:55] Initially, work the beds with a tool that you have, like a broad fork. Amend if, get a soil test, amend if needed, rake it out, plant, and you're on your way.

[00:48:09] Jodi Roebuck: Yep. I think the only thing I'd like to just add in with the initial process and tarping, and cover cropping, Diego is same thing. So now imagine you've got a beautiful cover crop, lots of diversity on there, and you're ready to terminate it.

[00:48:27] Uh, same thing. You've got a lot of choices. Are you just gonna crimp that crop, which means laying it down. And that's as simple as two people standing on a board and just laying it all down. You could bring your herbivores in. And they could, if you put 'em in high density, they'll eat some of that.

[00:48:48] But the time you put the animals in the more, the more they'll trample down to the ground. So if you're leaving your crop there, it's key to have ground contact with your crops. It needs to be laid over and touching the ground before you retarp or you've done a beautiful cover crop, but now you've got a, suddenly you've got a new market streamer turn up and you need to be growing in there.

[00:49:11] That's when we to speed the process up and I'm doing, I'm about to do that with a overwintered cover crop now. We haven't formed the beds yet. It's mainly daikon and mixed grains. I put a triangle blade on my weed eater or line trimmer, I'm not sure what you might call it in the US and my user about to start laming, and so every morning I cut a section of the cover crop right at ground level.

[00:49:38] And then I take that to the fence we've had, we have eight wires on our fence, and I lay out the cover crop on the other side of the fence. So the sheep have to put their head through so that they utilize the cover crop, and they eat it all. And then we're left with just a tiny bit of stubble on the ground, and I can then hit that with a tilther, tarp it, hope hopefully we get some spring sunshine, kill out that stubble, and then be straight into bed forming.

[00:50:04] So usually we are developing new beds in autumn seems to be the time of the farm on the farm when we're ahead of our game and we set them up for winter growing. But this season I think we're gonna be putting in another block and nine beds during spring. We've got a cover crop that we need to remove, and we need to kill out.

[00:50:27] Anything left as fast as possible, I could bring a tractor back in to hit it, but I'm probably not going to. I wanna continue with the good work we've started in there. And so just to finish off with this, this next block, we're about to form beds, let's say in 10 weeks� time. We've cover cropped that for two years now, so it's had four cover crops on, and I'd like to say, the crops, the plants have done the work, and we're gonna have this beautiful, deep living soil, but our subsoil�s so compact.

[00:50:59] The plants would've done some good work. But we're gonna see a huge transformation in that soil as we intervene with manual labor, you know, deep deepening the soil with fork.

[00:51:10] Diego Footer: All right. I think that's it. That was a really good one. Is there anything we missed that you need to hit on?

[00:51:16] Jodi Roebuck: No, uh, just a random comment. It was a surprise to me 2016 when Curtis and JM came, but they were the rock stars. I was pretty nervous. Remember at that time, Curtis was leasing land and the first visit when Curtis came, I just had 50 John Jeavons beds, a rake and a fork. And I was doing cover crops and seed crops.

[00:51:41] And, Curtis liked the fact that we were doing education at home, and we had one site, whereas he, you know, he was working on multiple sites, he totally made that work. And interesting comment. John Martin commented that he'd never seen soil like that. And so I think it's, no disrespect to JM, we all love his support and the work that he does for everyone.

[00:52:02] But, um, it is a combo of what we're doing is my background with John Jeavons mixed with the modern contemporary market gardening, and we've all got our own style. And I think coming back to some comments you made earlier, Diego, that's just be careful that you don't take on a cookie cutter or a. I do it like this because someone else does it like that.

[00:52:27] What I really enjoy about traveling and visiting farms is every place is so unique. Everybody has their own style, and it's really great to acknowledge that and to see it for what it is that we've all got our own context. We've all got our own lives going on, and we're all very different.

[00:52:46] Diego Footer: Well, that's it, right? Like. You can share your insight, but it's everybody's job to take what they hear you say and run it through their own filter. Yeah. And come out with a system that's gonna work for them. If somebody in anywhere just copies what you do, odds are it's not gonna work. Because something's different in their life, in their situation, in their biome than it is with yours.

[00:53:20] And I think that's where a lot of people really get upset with, with people like JM and Curtis and stuff like that is like, oh, this system doesn't work. And they're right. It doesn't work for everybody exactly as it works for somebody else. Just like a lot of careers or ways to make an income. You can't just copy somebody in the field and expect it to work exactly the same as you as it would for them or.

[00:53:55] Nobody would be successful cuz everybody would be successful. There you have it. Bed formation with Farmer Jodi Roebuck. Thanks for listening to this one. If you wanna learn more about everything that Jodi's doing on his farm, be sure to check him out using the link below. If you enjoyed this episode, can you do me a favor and leave a review?

[00:54:18] iTunes. Just stop what you're doing right now and scroll over and leave a review. I know it sounds trivial. I know it sounds like it doesn't matter, but it actually matters quite a bit. So if you like this show and all the other shows that we're doing, Pause for a minute, leave a review. It really, really matters.

[00:54:39] Thanks again, and until next time, be nice. Be thankful and do the work.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *