The Profitable Mini-Farm – The Wash-Pack Process (E08) (FSFS271)

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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 the wash and pack process over at Roebuck Farm. Jodi shares their packing system, their unique retail ordering system, as well as some efficiency tips on packing and delivery.

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 what’s inside the wash pack process (00:26)
  • Handling the wash-pack process for different crops (01:49)
    • Restaurants get the first dibs on everything (03:33)
    • Taking photos to take orders (04:53)
  • Wash first, dry, then package everything (06:19)
  • How many people are involved in the wash-pack setup? (10:38)
  • Packing for restaurants and retail customers (14:03)
  • The goal of coming home with an empty delivery truck (18:04)
  • What motivates a customer to purchase Roebuck Farm’s produce (19:04)
  • Displaying the retail products himself (21:11)
    • Caring for the produce displays (22:45)
  • Going down the route of salad greens mixed with microgreens (23:23)
    • Getting creative with what they had (26:31)
  • The average ratio of greens to shoots in the leaves and shoots mix (27:49)
    • The more microgreens, the higher the cost of the mix (29:16)
  • Making a thousand dollars an hour on delivery (32:22)
    • Flexible delivery routes to maximize time and stocks (34:53)
  • Efficiency tips for the wash and pack station (38:12)

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[00:00:00] Diego Footer: Welcome to the Profitable Mini Farm. I'm your host, Diego, DIEGO. If you're new here, welcome. Each week, I talk to market farmer Jodi Roebuck from New Zealand about how he runs his profitable mini farm. We get into the nuts and bolts of production, growing in-field, and things like processing off-field, which takes us into today's episode.

[00:00:26] In the two previous episodes, we talked about the wash pack setup. The building that houses the whole operation and the equipment that goes inside of it. Today we're talking about putting all of that equipment to good use. It's all about the wash pack process. How do you get those vegetables that come from the field clean enough to go to customers?

[00:00:50] That's what this one's all about. Stay tuned for that coming up. But before we get into that, a word from today's sponsor, Paperpot Co. Paperpot Co. is also my company, and our goal at Paperpot Co. is to help you plant fast so you can live more. We have time and labor-saving tools like the paper pot transplanter and the Jang Seeder to make your job in the field a little bit easier and a little bit faster so you can get done with those tasks and onto something else.

[00:01:23] Learn more about all the tools that we have to offer Now, let's jump right into it. It's the wash pack setup with Farmer Jodi Roebuck. In a previous episode, we talked about the wash pack setup, all the equipment that's in the wash pack, and now we're gonna talk about the actual pack part of wash pack.

[00:01:49] When it comes to the packing process, can you talk a little bit about how you handle that for different crops?

[00:01:56] Jodi Roebuck: Sure. So the makeup of our business is currently 80% retail and 20% restaurant. So everything is, you know, ready to go, ready to eat, whether it's root vege, everything's washed. And generally, right above the, we've got a stainless steel bench that we do our packaging on.

[00:02:18] We've got calibrated scales that go to the half gram, up to three kilograms, and everything's standardized. So we have a whiteboard above the packing table. And that's where we track our orders. And on the bottom of the whiteboard, we have a little stainless steel slot. It's got marbles inside it, and that's what the restaurant industry used for slotting our orders into to track, you know, as they serve.

[00:02:47] So we kind of stole that idea from the restaurant industry. Screwed that to the bottom of a harvest board and getting my orders in, we have some standing orders with restaurants and then especially as the growing season's on, like we might have one restaurant buying 15 items. So to get my orders in, I do that by phone.

[00:03:09] Sometimes it's text, but if I've got a chef that's buying 15 items, they're likely to miss a crop like bunched coriander, for example. So I have my list written out, and I ring them, and I run through that list and our chefs, kind of the main decisions that go on through packaging and which mixes we're gonna do.

[00:03:33] Jodi Roebuck: Even though restaurants� 20% of our turnover, restaurants have priority, they generally get the highest quality, and they get first dibs on everything. So all my chefs understand that if they want a single item salad, which is 80% of our turnover with them, they need their orders in, at the very latest, before we put our mixes together, so all our restaurant salads are by the half kg.

[00:04:02] Jodi Roebuck: So if it's pea shoots, I might have three written up, which means three 500 gram bags. And as the salads are coming off the drying screen, they're all single items. We'll just grab the tab package. Like a pea shoots for restaurant, radish micros for restaurant, mizuna for restaurant. And then I put a line through that on the whiteboard, which means that job's done.

[00:04:28] Jodi Roebuck: So if someone else comes into wash and pack to take over, they can see exactly where we're up to. And that all just goes straight back in the chiller. And once our single items are done for restaurant, then we're considering what single items are we putting into retail and how many of those will I need to be doing?

[00:04:49] Jodi Roebuck: And so I just write a tally of numbers for our different outlets and the way that I understand how many retail salads we're gonna need to do as a single item, my retail stores photograph my fridge every second morning and they just text me a photo of the fridge. They don't have to count numbers.

[00:05:07] Jodi Roebuck: If they tell, like if they told me, fridge is half full. I've got no idea if that means salads out. It's just root veg left. But a photo gives me all the information I need. So the couple of main decisions we're making as we come through packaging is what are the volumes? How many full tubs do we have? And in total, that's gonna be the same number once they're mixed.

[00:05:33] Jodi Roebuck: And what ratio of mixes are we doing? We have one mix that is pea shoots and radish micros. And then the second mix, leaves and shoots, that's pea shoots, radish micros, mizuna lettuce. So single items are finished and packaged. And then we make the call on volumes we're doing for the mix, the leaves and shoots.

[00:05:58] Jodi Roebuck: We've got portable trolleys that come in. We talked about that recently. We set out, we do the mix in clear containers. As soon as that's mixed, we fill the containers up, stand them all on top of each other, back into the chiller, roll out the trolleys, and then we've got free space to set up for packaging.

[00:06:19] Diego Footer: Are you packing concurrently with washing, meaning, when somebody's washing lettuce, is it going onto a drying screen and then somebody's packing? Or do you wash everything, it gets dried, it goes into the cooler, and then at the end, packing's like a separate event?

[00:06:41] Jodi Roebuck: By the time we're ready to do the mix and package, everything that's mixed, that's the majority of our salad.

[00:06:49] Jodi Roebuck: We've already taken stuff as it comes across the drying screen and packaged all the single items. That means we know that all the single salads are ready to go for restaurant and retail, and then we do the mix. Set up, put the mix together, and then all we have to do at the end is package all of our leaves and shoots mix, which is the biggest, is the biggest part of our business year-round.

[00:07:18] Jodi Roebuck: And it's also the biggest volumes that we're doing. So we've combined all of our salads that are left over, and it's always the same ingredients, but the ratios change every harvest, there might be more green lettuce, less red lettuce. There might be very little pea shoots, more red mizuna. As long as we've got a nice balance in the mix between, mainly between color.

[00:07:42] Jodi Roebuck: If the mix is just green, on green, it doesn't look that fancy. So we're trying to balance the red and the green and the ratios is our flexibility. That's what changes each harvest. So, we've already done single salads packaged as somebody's working on the drying screen, the drying screen's right next to the scales and the bagging table.

[00:08:04] Jodi Roebuck: And we've tracked, we've done all those and then we just hit packaging the main mix, the leaves and shoots, the biggest, and we still have restaurants ordering leaves and shoots. We package those 500 grand bags first. We mark that off. And we use a container here called Systema. It's clear so you can see what's in it.

[00:08:27] Jodi Roebuck: And we use them just in the wash and pack for mixing. And then one Systema tub full of salad is 30 retail salads, which are 150 grams. So I know straight away, even before we do the mix, how many full tubs of salad we have as single items. It's the same volume once they're mixed, so I can look at that and go, okay, we've got eight full tubs of mixed salad, 30 bags in each tub.

[00:09:01] Jodi Roebuck: We're gonna have 240 retail salads going today. And then I also know for the supermarket, we barcode the back. So I'll make a call on how many bags I'm doing for the supermarket. We use a printer with�it doesn't have ink in it. It has heat. And I'll preprint roughly the numbers of stickers we need on demand.

[00:09:26] Jodi Roebuck: And our packaging space is tight, but we make it work with wheels and crates. We can have two people filling bags, putting the salad in the bags, and then the next person is sealing the bags, and the next, the fourth person, is branding them with our labels, putting a barcode on the back if that's going to the supermarket.

[00:09:49] Jodi Roebuck: And then everything's standardized going into our delivery crates, which are open on the top, and they have little handles on the side that flip down so the crates can stack inside each other or on top. And then we standardized, too, the 150 gram bag is 15 in a crate, 110 grams bag for the microgreens, there's 30 in a crate.

[00:10:13] Jodi Roebuck: And that's really important that the packaging isn't squashed. It it presents well. And also, when I go on deliveries, we'll come back to this, that I'm not having to count stuff. I'm just counting numbers of crates. I've got to be really accurate on the stock I put into our retail spaces and get the numbers right. Otherwise, we're out on our invoicing.

[00:10:38] Diego Footer: Yeah, I love that tip of just standard packing units. You know, take smaller units, containerize them in a bigger unit, so you're counting less big numbers. I think that's a smart tip there. In terms of your wash pack, I don't think we hit this in a previous episode, but how many people at a given time are involved in the washing and then are those same people, the ones that do the packing?

[00:11:03] Jodi Roebuck: By the time we're packing the retail salads, everyone jumps on that. It really makes the workflow fast. But during a typical harvest, one person will be running the bubbler, spin, and dry, and there might be one person floating that is packaging the single item as they come off the drying screen. And they're also, I guess you could call the person that's doing the first bit of packaging, the single items, they're kind of floating.

[00:11:35] Jodi Roebuck: They'll be doing jobs like taking the containers that have been empty. And have unwashed salad in, taking those containers outside, hitting them with the power washer, bringing them back in, drying the internal, drying the tubs on the inside, ready to support the person that's on the drying screen.

[00:11:57] Jodi Roebuck: As the salad comes off the drying screen, it goes into a clean, dry container. And there could also be another person running the outdoor washroom. They can also be cleaning containers, but they might be working on cleaning root veg, bunching coriander, or still bringing stuff in from the field. So really, two people running a salad wash and pack until it's time to hit packaging.

[00:12:24] Jodi Roebuck: And then everyone, hands on and that just really speeds up getting everything packaged and ready for deliveries. I might also be floating where I'm getting final orders in, that's in the earlier part of the morning. We need our last restaurant orders by 10 o'clock at the latest. Usually, it's the night before.

[00:12:45] Jodi Roebuck: And then I'm also considering, well, do we need to really push this and get me across town before two o'clock? Or other photos that came in of our fridges, they're still relatively stocked. I can go the following morning. Maybe it's raining the next morning, and I'll take that time to go on deliveries.

[00:13:02] Jodi Roebuck: The delivery time is really determined on the volumes in our fridges. We can't afford to have our fridges empty. You know, obviously we're not making turnover if they�re empty, we can't have people coming into our retail stores, especially for our product and have our front of house, our retail shop, you know, the fish shop or the, the butchery.

[00:13:22] Jodi Roebuck: The last thing we want is our store owners to be getting customers coming in and querying, where's Roebuck farm? I come in just for their product, and that's my responsibility, not my store owners�.

[00:13:40] Diego Footer: Yeah. I love that tip of them sending you a photo because it removes any error in communication. The photo won't lie. It'll just, here's what we got. You can look at it where if, yeah, like you said, if we're low on salad mix, maybe that means we're gone. Maybe that means we have a few left, but it doesn't even account for radishes or whatever in there. So I love that little tip.

[00:14:03] Diego Footer: When you go to pack orders for restaurants and retail, there's two ways I could see this being done. One is you pack all salad mix. So you just take all the salad mix you have and you know, okay, all day, meaning all the orders, regardless of who they go to, you have 80 units of salad mix that needs to be packed. So you pack 80 units.

[00:14:28] Diego Footer: And then you have radishes, and you have 50 units all day, and you pack those out. So then at the end, you have a bunch of packed product and then you go to the orders and you say, okay, order one, 20 salad mix, 20 radish. Order two, 20 salad mix, 15 radish. Do you do it that way or do you do where it's, okay, order one, 20 salad mix, 20 radish, you pack those, and then it's the next order and you're working off the unpacked to fulfill those, or do you do something totally different that's neither one of those?

[00:15:06] Jodi Roebuck: If I'm following that right, it's probably neither of those. It's the restaurant orders we're packing to order and then they all go straight in the chiller, but as soon as they packaged, it's not going into a crate, say, for Social Kitchen Restaurant.

[00:15:26] Jodi Roebuck: It's just, get it in the bag, get it labeled, put it all in the chiller, deal with it later. And then everything that's left over, we're not packing to order for our retail stores. We're just packing everything we have. And then because we've got four fridges and four stores to fill, I just fill�I have an idea what's going on because of the photo, and also have an idea with what type of sales we have there and the needs of each fridge.

[00:15:58] Jodi Roebuck: So pretty much, we are just packing everything, just, you know, 15 or 30 in a crate. We know how many we're gonna have because we have so many tubs to package of salad. And then once I'm in the truck, the big decisions I'm making are, how much am I gonna stock this fridge today based on, is the fridge hammered?

[00:16:21] Jodi Roebuck: Like, if it's sunny, the fish shop just gets smashed. You know, do the close on Saturday. Are they open seven days? How many customers come through the shop? So pretty much, I'm just deciding on delivery how to stock each fridge. And by having four outlets, that pretty much works out each delivery.

[00:16:43] Jodi Roebuck: By having that optionality between each fridge, I've got fridges stocked, they're full, and I've usually got very little returns, and I come home with no surplus product. Last two weeks have been big harvest, so we, on top of, we harvest twice a week on top of restaurant orders and not including other crops outside of salad.

[00:17:11] Jodi Roebuck: Last week, we did 600 retail salads. We were pretty similar this week. I'm in the south island this weekend with work, so we did a big harvest. I delivered yesterday, which was Thursday, maxed out our fridges. And today's Friday before I get on the airplane, I'm going back across town with my perishables as my priority to cram those into the fridges so that before I leave for two days, fridges are max full.

[00:17:43] Jodi Roebuck: Our root veg, which last for weeks, like three to four weeks, if I can't fit them in, that's fine. I've still got them in back in our chiller, and I can top up on Monday when I'm back. So most of the decisions for stocking orders are really made on the road at the fridge in the stores.

[00:18:04] Diego Footer: Is your goal to come back with an empty truck every time?

[00:18:08] Jodi Roebuck: Yep. Definitely. That's normal. I'd say 80% of the time, that's the scenario. If I come back with�if I've got too much to fit into the fridges�cause the retail, as we go through the week, they get busier and busier and busier. Two of our stores are open seven days, so I have to stock them heavier on the second delivery of the week.

[00:18:33] Jodi Roebuck: Two weeks ago, I had two microgreen bags as returns for the total week, and we just ate them for our lunch, having the multiple fridges is great for us rather than having one outlet to be able to balance that between the fridges. Definitely, we don't wanna be�with the place, we don't want to hold perishables is in our walk-in chiller. We want it to be in the retail space.

[00:19:04] Diego Footer: What do you think motivates a customer to buy product from Roebuck Farm in a store over another product sitting on the shelf?

[00:19:12] Jodi Roebuck: Freshness. Our salad is pretty much same day harvest and delivery. And that's to our advantage, like supply in the supermarket.

[00:19:25] Jodi Roebuck: And so the freshness, we're 10 kilometers away from our outlets. The freshness and the shelf life is the constant feedback we get from people so they know they can buy a salad and it's good, you know, it's good for them for 10 or 12 days.

[00:19:42] I think I mentioned last week, the salads that we eat on the farm are the few salads that come back after they've been in our fridges and if they haven't sold, and that's kind of our feedback loop, If we're eating a salad from day six to day 15, sometimes day 20.

[00:19:56] And it's still mint. We know we're not gonna have any any issues with clients buying a salad that isn't top quality. So obviously, the taste, the taste is good, but it's the shelf life that people�that's our feedback we get from people all the time. And this is another thing we hear all the time.

[00:20:19] Jodi Roebuck: We strive to bring as much value to the businesses we work with. Just being super nice with them, looking after them, giving their staff our returns and the, you know, I was at the supermarket yesterday, and a customer came up to me. And they said, we come to this supermarket, we've changed supermarkets cause you guys are here.

[00:20:42] Jodi Roebuck: And we hear that a lot. And our store owners hear that, too. And so that's part of the value that we bring to the businesses we work with. That's our goal is for people to change where shopping because we're there. And the supermarket's a classic example. That customer brought one salad from us, but they were going around doing their full weekly shop in packs, say about our local supermarket, whereas prior they used to be spending that money elsewhere.

[00:21:11] Diego Footer: Do you manage the shelf yourself? Like you're physically putting the product up on the shelf?

[00:21:16] Jodi Roebuck: Yep. Yep, I do. All our stores, all our fridges are�sorry, we haven't had to buy any fridges. They've been supplied to us. We just branded them. And so, yeah, I'm the person that is stocking and rotating and you know, I bring salad from the last delivery to the front, and I put the new salad at the back.

[00:21:39] Jodi Roebuck: Don't rotate crops like carrots so much. And that really helps with�that's my goal to have zero returns each week, and that comes by multiple fridges, but also me being the person that chooses, how much am I putting in this fridge? You know, will it sell? You get to really know the shopping patterns and by, especially at the supermarket, too. I get asked by customers a lot of the time.

[00:22:04] Oh are you involved with Roebuck Farm ? And I'm like yeah, you know, I grew this and harvested with my team. They asked me questions like, are you a touring rep? Like, are you stocking for Roebuck Farm nationwide? I'm like, no, we're just local or just at New Plymouth.

[00:22:27] Jodi Roebuck: So in the supermarket, no, but none of the staff from the produce department touche my fridge. I do everything. They don't have to do nothing but send me a photo every few days. I go through the produce department, I stock it. You know, it's that same thing at the farmer's market pile high and watch it fly.

[00:22:45] Jodi Roebuck: If the fridge looks like it's been, you know, it's got hammered, it's slightly, it's low, but there's like salads flipped upside down and left, it looks abandoned, like no one's really caring for it. If I'm across town, I'll pop in and see my fridges. If Tanya, my wife, is shopping in town, or my daughter, who works at the supermarket, picking her up, she'll go check the fridge.

[00:23:08] Jodi Roebuck: And sometimes, it's just rearranging the product that's currently there to make it look like you really care. And even if the dates are three, four days old, just by rearranging the fridge, keeping the appearance up, that really keeps people shopping.

[00:23:23] Diego Footer: In terms of the salad mix, this is something you've talked about briefly in a few episodes, but you've gone to this mix model. I think, you know, Curtis and I might have touched on this in an old urban farmer episode. I don't know that it's ever came up since. What led you to go from selling straight mixed greens to starting to mix in the microgreens and shoots? Why'd you go that route?

[00:23:52] Jodi Roebuck: I guess, going back years, we went through a�winter's always tough here, you know, winter growing is wet and windy, continuous, and sometimes, the wind's real strong. So when we created the leaves and shoots mix and started combining the microgreens in there was, I'd say four years ago, maybe it's a bit more.

[00:24:13] Jodi Roebuck: We went into a winter with a third of our area on with transplanted lettuce on succession. Lettuce takes a long time to grow in winter with us and with the red path closures. Back then, we were using plastic over everything. And even though they're screwed into the ground, they're pretty strong and robust.

[00:24:38] Jodi Roebuck: Once the wind is like, you know, around 60 miles an hour, we had a big wind event, and it was devastating. In 10 minutes, we lost 35 beds of our transplanted lettuce on succession, and we lost it in 10 minutes. The plastic was gone off the farm and the crops, you know, at all the different stages, we lost all that transplanted salad, and that's really when we just locked down on the fast crops.

[00:25:09] Jodi Roebuck: We�ve increased our volumes of radish microgreens indoors, our pea shoots outdoors. And instead of waiting to�it takes seven weeks to grow a lettuce transplant in winter and seven weeks to be able to harvest it. We can do direct seeded mizuna in 45 days in deep winter and in the greenhouse, we can do that in 30 days.

[00:25:31] Jodi Roebuck: So we were forced to rethink how can we get our volumes back on? And so we were just tight for product. That's kind of where I think generally, you know, maybe there's a lot of farmers that in winter they might do a braising mix or something like that, but as soon as the season's back on, they might just be doing cut lettuce.

[00:25:51] Jodi Roebuck: The mix is real popular with people. It's convenient, it's just ready to go. It's got variety and flavor you know, lots of different flavors in there. So we never looked back from there, we're year-round salad max. And I think it would've been that season as well, when we're super tight on a salad in the field, and we had definitely demand for it �cause remember our sales for our fast crops are the same every week of the year.

[00:26:16] Jodi Roebuck: It's obviously different trying to grow them in winter, but we used to like back into doing a couple of random mixes because we just had nothing to offer after weather events. And we would do something like a one-off mix, and we might call it winter.

[00:26:31] Jodi Roebuck: And it's really whatever we had. It might be baby rocket mixed with pea shoots and some radish micros with a bit of baby kale in there. And so rather than using�backtracking into the mix because times are tight, we realized way back then that the mix for us gives us optionality. And it gives us consistency.

[00:26:53] Jodi Roebuck: And since that, every year, we have a weather event that's just devastating, but we're switched from plastic on the row covers�on the hoops, to insect netting year-round because they don't take a heavy wind load, and we just do the mix year-round. We won gold medals at the Outstanding Food Producer awards for both our mixes.

[00:27:20] Jodi Roebuck: So for three years, we had, you know, a gold sticker on there. And the leaves and shoots really has become a business in itself, and people are just mad on it. That's our biggest turnover in terms of number of items is the leaves and shoots, and I'd say it's four years, we haven't�it's four years, we've been able to deliver twice a week, year-round, keeping our fridges full.

[00:27:49] Diego Footer: In a typical mix, if you average it out year-round, what percent of a salad mix is greens?

[00:27:58] Jodi Roebuck: So when you say greens, you mean field salad, like Mizuna or lettuce? Yes. Each year, there's less and less lettuce. I'm just really into the six-row seeder for baby leaf drilled.

[00:28:12] Jodi Roebuck: It's just so quick. And the growth rate, we're typically just doing one cut with our baby leaf now cause it's such high quality, and it just flies through the wash and pack and then we terminate and replant with something else. So the ratio, you know, it changes every harvest, but I'd say the bulk of it is baby Mizuna, and we're sowing at real high density, 90 grams to 10 square meter bed, or roughly a hundred square foot bed that's 90 grams of seed cutting it about no bigger than four inch, about 10 centimeters.

[00:28:45] Jodi Roebuck: So everything's baby leaf. It mixes easy. Occasionally, when we're tight in the field, we can increase the microgreens volume in there. But generally, I'd say it's 50% Mizuna, and then the remainder is lettuce, pea shoots, and micros, and those ratios change every harvest. But the Mizuna is a huge part of our business or baby mustard, and we're cutting it so small, it's got no heat in it.

[00:29:16] Diego Footer: I'm trying to think of the economics. So, right, like microgreens are more, I'm not talking about a field growing microgreens, cause I know you grow a lot of pea shoots in the field, but in a greenhouse, microgreens are gonna be more expensive per unit than the same unit of product coming out of the field.

[00:29:38] Diego Footer: Cause there's more labor involved in that unit volume of product. So, the more non-field micros you put in there, the higher the costs on the mix. Right?

[00:29:53] Jodi Roebuck: Yes, although I guess the two places we've continually working on innovation, the place is the microgreens, and I'd like to do a whole webinar on microgreen production and also wash and pack.

[00:30:15] Jodi Roebuck: We've never put our prices up on anything since in six years, but we're producing more product for less labor, and so I think you're dead right, Diego, if we're tight, let's say it�s deep winter, and we're tight in the field, and we've only got one bed of mizuna to cut and you know, we're cutting six meters of pea shoots in the field.

[00:30:43] Jodi Roebuck: We can double up on the micros. We've set that up. We're using the drop seeder to plant the seed. We're using paper pot trays. We're stacking them up to 30 trays high. We've really worked on the efficiencies in the microgreens, so we can afford to use it as a buffer to ride through the short times by lifting our volumes with the microgreen production in the salad, knowing we're not making as much money as if we sell it as a single item in retail or to restaurant.

[00:31:13] Jodi Roebuck: But the numbers are still good. It's 40 cents of seed to seed a tray, and we'll come back to micros in a webinar. It's two minutes of work per tray for one person that's skilled. And with the efficiencies we've designed into this area, it's two minutes to make the seed-raising mix, fill the tray, seed the tray, water it, and stack it.

[00:31:40] Jodi Roebuck: So just to give a bit of perspective, in winter, our micrograms production doubles by weight the field salad that we're doing. It's pretty significant, and I've gotta do a big shout out to Jeremy Mueller from Commonplace Farm. I saw him, he came up with the term microgreens motocross, and we're using the greens harvester freestyle.

[00:32:05] Jodi Roebuck: On a little ramp and using the elevation to cut the microgreens, and we're cutting two trays before we're emptying. We're doing two and a half ton of micros a year, and every year we we're doing that for less and less work. So we've really worked on the efficiencies in there.

[00:32:22] Diego Footer: If you look at your delivery process of taking stuff to stores, taking stuff to the restaurants, one thing you mentioned to me off air was you're trying to make a thousand dollars an hour on delivery. Can you explain what that works out to be like? What does that mean?

[00:32:44] Jodi Roebuck: So, it always sound good when we talk turnover or any farm does, but so that means door to door. So the trucks loaded, and the time that it takes to leave the farm, do my deliveries, and get back. I need to be delivering�well, I am consistently delivering a thousand dollars of product per hour I�m on the road.

[00:33:08] Jodi Roebuck: So in winter, I'm away, two deliveries, two and a half thousand total. That's going to four restaurants and four retail stores. One of those is a supermarket. So I'm delivering to eight places, plus my time on the road and the total turnover value is consistently doing a thousand dollars an hour.

[00:33:34] Jodi Roebuck: And that if I know I'm on those numbers, I know that the business is growing. And we are able to reinvest, and I'm able to pay wages and you know, we're able to keep things rolling. And that, it didn't start like that. I had to buy a new delivery van a couple of years ago, and that has, you know, tinted windows, air conditioning.

[00:34:00] Jodi Roebuck: Before I go on deliveries and sometimes during the packaging process, I'll be on the packaging line with my team, and I'll also just drop out, and I'll have all of my invoices pre-written for restaurant, that includes the price. And then I'll have all of my dockets pre-written for the retail stores. And so it might save, for example, the fish shop, Eggmont Seafoods, the date, and then I've just listed the items I have to take.

[00:34:27] Jodi Roebuck: And then once I hit the store, I'm just logging how many leaves and shoots go in here. How many radish micros go in here? How many carrots, how many roasty bags, how many coriander? And it's just all I need to do at the shop is log the number of items each, each different items going in, and if there's any returns, what's coming out, I give them the docket and back in the van and hit the next store.

[00:34:53] Jodi Roebuck: Usually I have my quickest route around town just from store to store. But things also change. Like we've got one restaurant that close at three o'clock. They're just morning and lunch. I need to be there by three, and the supermarket might be hammered, so I'll be like, right, I'm gonna bypass and get across to them first.

[00:35:14] Jodi Roebuck: Chefs generally need everything by four o'clock for dinner service. And yeah, I just choose, I can change up which shop I'm going to based on, well, maybe I go to a store that sells less items, and I just stock them with what they need, knowing the supermarket's hammered, and I wanna have as much product as I can to stock in there.

[00:35:37] Jodi Roebuck: So I'll hit my other retails first and then go back to the supermarket. And in the truck, everything's got its place. It's got sliding doors on both sides and a rear door. I have a trolley, it's just like a frame with wheels that I stack everything on to go in and out of the stores. And, you know, in summer, one of our restaurants, I'll be having like five crates of product going in.

[00:36:02] Jodi Roebuck: Some of the other stores, retail stores. I might be going in with four to five crates on the trolley, and then the supermarket. Generally, I can get about eight crates on there. It's like two foot taller than me. I'm gonna make a double crate for the supermarket. Sometimes I'm going in twice to the supermarket.

[00:36:18] Jodi Roebuck: So the last two harvest this week at the supermarket, I've been stocking about 10 crates of product each time. We�ve got a double fridge there. And so yeah, everything's got its place. We've got retail, the supermarket, they've got different sides on the truck. And root veg at the bottom. Heavy vegetables on the bottom, salad on top, and then the restaurant orders, they're in the back of the truck.

[00:36:42] Jodi Roebuck: And the after we've packaged all the retail salads, job�s done, we�re finished. Finally got everything packaged and in crates. We then pull out all of our restaurant orders, which are not yet correlated, and we've got green painter�s tape on dispenser right everywhere through the washroom. We just lay out crates.

[00:37:06] Jodi Roebuck: We tape and name the restaurant on the front of each crate. And based on our harvest order, we put together the restaurant orders so that we know nothing's missing. We haven't forgotten anything, and we haven't made a mistake in putting the orders together. Occasionally, like once or twice a year, we catch ourselves out at this time when we're putting together the restaurant orders, and we're like, okay we've done too many leaves and shoots and we didn't bag up enough mizuna.

[00:37:37] Jodi Roebuck: So we've just got the numbers wrong. At that point, one of our restaurants, they buy all our single items and mixed salad, and they're real flexible with how they use the salads. We can say, right? We're just gonna switch out their standing order �cause they'll be good with that. And so, prior to this, I used to just get on the road and deal with it on the road.

[00:37:57] Jodi Roebuck: So I like to feel real fresh when I go on deliveries. I like to be able to you know, be upbeat with the people I'm working with, keep them engaged, and I need to get back to the farm to work with my team and to get stuff replanted.

[00:38:12] Diego Footer: What about in terms of other wash pack tips? So getting this product ready for order to go out for delivery. Any other tips in just making things go smooth, keeping it efficient? Obviously, faster is better when you have labor involved, to some degree. But what are your tips in general for just getting through the pack side of wash pack?

[00:38:35] Jodi Roebuck: The alleyway where the packing table is, goes behind the walk-in chiller, and at the end of the packing table, we have a door that takes us through to the tool shed.

[00:38:46] Jodi Roebuck: The tool shed, we're always working on making sure that nothing touches the ground. That's the whole wash and pack. Actually, nothing touches the ground. Everything's on the wall and has a place so it knows where to be returned. So as you come through that door, we have bulk supply for our packaging.

[00:39:06] Jodi Roebuck: And that's everything from bags, labels for the printer, tape for the tape dispenser, and that's the bulk inventory. And then immediately, underneath the packing table, in sealed containers, we have the immediately supply, the inventory. So if we run outta something, we've got it on hand. And then with the trolleys and the crates, we use, I call it twin towers.

[00:39:30] Jodi Roebuck: We're packaging into these crates and stacking, moving it over onto a base, you know, onto a trolley and just stacking each crate up as we go. And we might do all the barcoded items for the supermarket. And that's a big tower. We push that along. From underneath the packing table, I've got more crates on wheels and we continue.

[00:39:55] Jodi Roebuck: So I've got the crate right at my hip, and I can constantly bring a crate up on top to keep it at a comfortable working height. And we are doing, I'd say you were able to put together like 16 crates of packaged product before, �cause our packing space is tight, but we make it work with the wheels and going vertical.

[00:40:20] Jodi Roebuck: Before I need to say to my crew who are still putting salad in bags, excuse me, can I just roll these past, and I'll just roll a tower of salad to them. They put it in the chiller and then we set back up and we keep going. And just one other little comment, the two people working. Or it could be one, but the person, when there's two people working, bagging the salad, they stand either side of the tub of salad at just above hip height, and as they start getting low on that tub, the person on the outside drops out.

[00:40:56] Jodi Roebuck: They go, they go straight back in the chiller, they bring up the next tub, and the second person lifts up the empty tub, and they just switch over. So we do a lot of teamwork making this tight space work by just supporting the worker next to you and their role. If the table starts getting full of bags that are full of salad in the open, one person that's been bagging salad, they'll jump over and help the next person to get them sealed, get them labeled, and get 'em back off the table to clear that space.

[00:41:26] Jodi Roebuck: So we're not filling bags, coming back and branding. We are constantly moving product across the table and into the crates to free up that space. And I think, last comment, if I'm doing this all by myself for some reason, rather than putting the salad in the bag, sealing it, branding it, and putting it in the crate, I'll lock down on one job.

[00:41:52] Jodi Roebuck: Because you can keep your eye on it a lot. There's too much going on to bag the salad, seal it, label it, stick it in the crate. So I'll just bag, I'll fill the bags, then I'll jump. I might have 20 on the table, seal the bags. Then I'll brand them and then I'll get 'em in the crate and get another empty crate ready.

[00:42:11] Jodi Roebuck: I just find it easier to do that little repetitive motions, rather than try and break it up and do like five jobs, back to the start again.

[00:42:23] Diego Footer: There you have it, Jodi Roebuck from Roebuck Farm. If you wanna follow along with everything that Jodi's doing, be sure to check him out on Instagram at Roebuck Farm. Which I've also linked to below. If you wanna follow along with everything that we're doing at Paperpot Co, you can follow us on Instagram at Paperpot Co.

[00:42:42] Diego Footer: Or visit us at Thanks for listening to this episode more next week with Jodi. But until then, be nice, be thankful, and do the work.

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