How many market streams do you have? Do you only sell to restaurants? Or maybe you do CSA’s. Or maybe you’re a regular at the local farmer’s markets. If you’re one of the latter ones, then this episode is worth listening to.
Today we have farmer Justin Gay on the show to talk about how selling to farmer’s markets has done so well for him. We’ll delve into Justin’s market sales strategies of selling both pre-cut and live-cut microgreens and how the pay off has been like for him and his farm.
Today’s Guest: Justin Gay
Farmer Justin Gay is the founder of Seeds of Xanxadu, a multi-location farming operation. Making the most out of the limited space, Justin has maximized his farm’s potential by specializing in microgreens and selling both pre-cut and live-cut produce in several farmer’s markets in Southern California.
In this episode of Farm Small, Farm Smart
- Getting interested in growing food (02:15)
- Why choose and go into microgreens (04:50)
- The struggle from going from hobby to business (06:20)
- Competition for microgreens in his area of Southern California (07:40)
- Strategies to go about microgreens in farmer’s markets (09:30)
- The main points to tackle when communicating about microgreens (11:20)
- Three staple crops for the farmer’s markets and average sales (13:10)
- The logistics behind the microgreen mixes (15:40)
- The logistics behind how live-cut microgreens works (16:50)
- Which sells more, pre-cut or fresh-cut microgreens? (20:10)
- The pros of live-cut microgreens (22:25)
- How many people a farmer’s market booth needs (24:20)
- Keeping trays fresh and the logistics behind the live cut microgreens (26:00)
- Getting the live trays to the market (27:15)
- The impetus behind doing four farmer’s markets (28:00)
- Finding the balance between the farm and the other business (31:15)
- Can the farm support you one hundred percent (34:40)
- Hours per week and getting the most value out of his time (36:50)
- What a struggle was before that is now a lot easier (40:45)
- Things about farming that just became easier through time (43:40)
- From tray to market: efficiencies learned about growing microgreens (45:50)
- The biggest struggles in production and business (48:30)
- What are you most proud of in five years of farming? (51:00)
- The element behind the farm’s success (52:40)
- In a place of contentment (56:50)
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Diego: [00:00:00] What sells better at the farmer's market, precut, prepackaged micro greens or micro greens cut on the spot from a live tray? Find out in this episode with farmer Justin Gaye coming up. Welcome to Farm Small Farm Smart. I'm your host Diego, DIEGO. today's episode of farm. Small farm smart is brought to you by paper podcast.
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Today on the show I'm talking to fellow Southern California native, Justin Gay. Justin's a farmer who started his farm in an urban context. He started that way because that's what he had to do. That's the amount of land that he had available over time. He's put a lot of work into that operation growing micro greens and some field crops. And he's selling all of that product in a number of different farmer's markets here in Southern California.
Farmer's markets are one market stream. That's worked out very well for him. So in this episode, he's going to share some market sales strategies, different things that he and his crew do to help move product. One of those strategies is selling live, cut, micros, something that you might've considered for your farm today.
You're going to hear what goes on into it and what the payoff is like. Let's jump right into it. With farmer, Justin Gay. So Justin, how did you initially get interested in growing food, specifically food for sale? The farming side of things?
Justin Gay: [00:02:23] I started off as just a gardener. It was, something that bit me hard and, My mom, she'd always tell me just growing up, find something that you'd like to do and, and do that. So you'll have to work.
I don't necessarily agree with her on not having the work part, but, I do understand what she was saying. And basically it just I was just spending all my calves on my garden, and over. And it was like, this thing needs to start generating for itself.
And we started off doing the plant starts and I know people would always call you a farmer. I think just about any gardener out there. If you're gardening, they're going to call you a farmer. I, for whatever reason held that word is such high regard. And I was like, I'm not a farmer, I'm a gardener.
Things kind of flipped. But, anyhow, I always wanted to, do food. I just didn't have the space. And, anyhow, we were in the farmer's markets doing the plant start business and I will look over at the produce guys and they were cranking and it was like, yeah, that's where I wanted to be, so that's where I should be. And I jumped on it, started doing microgreens and, there you go. We just started going.
Diego: [00:03:35] With the plants start business. How did that work for you? I think it's a nice little add on for some farms for gardeners. When you started doing that, was there a business there that made sense?
Justin Gay: [00:03:46] You know what, it was just a dream for the most part. It was just, again, a way for me to generate income for my garden. And pretty much that was it. I've always been an entrepreneurial. I had that kind of spirit, that entrepreneurial spirit. This is the third business that I've started.
And, it was just like, all right, let me do this, but I never really, it wasn't something that I was thinking about becoming a rich, it was just a passion that I love to do. And I knew that I needed to support my garden a bit better. That's when we started doing the plant starts for the most part.
Diego: [00:04:17] When you were there seeing the vege vendors really doing well.
At the time, what was it about microgreens that drew you in there? Like why not other crops and what helped you narrow it down?
Justin Gay: [00:04:30] Space, brother. It was straight up space. I had none, absolutely no space. So the microgreen when I learned what I had learned about microgreens years before, to be honest with you from John Kohler, I met, I would watch that dude over and over again. Just for hours a day and he eventually got to I think it was got sprouts and Fordham and, he did this whole thing.
So I was like, okay, this dude's making money off of, microgreens, I really didn't know what they were. I had seen them, like when you went to the Japanese restaurant has sushi or whatever, they're on their own, some of them on the dishes, but for the most part, Yeah, it was just like, I didn't have room.
And when I learned about that, I was like, all right, I put it on the back burner, and then, it hit me again. Oh. And then I heard, of course Jack Spear call, he, I think Luke, he, yeah, he was just like, this is what you do. In all that stuff from when I was watching, John Kohler kind of came back to me and it just was like, Oh wow. And I got his book and ebook and, got after it.
Diego: [00:05:35] Going from somebody who is a gardener over to doing a commercial business where you're selling product, what was the biggest struggle going from hobby to business?
Justin Gay: [00:05:46] It was pretty much the consistency, like when you're guarding. at least I was guarding, my plan when I was a gardener was pretty much just to make sure that I can feed my family about three meals a week.
That was kinda my goal, out of my garden. And I was able to hit that. But at the same time, I wasn't really, depending on that, cops went down or whatever, I can always go to Vaughn's or wherever, And then, when I started doing the actual production for restaurants and for, farmer's markets, it became more of a thing where I was like, okay, dude, you got to stay on top of all this and, make sure that your successions are right.
And, yeah, that was probably the hardest. Probably the hardest part. There's other things in there too. Like the curves of microgreens and, trying to learn what's going to do right in your system and all that kind of good stuff. But for the most part, I would have to say the consistency, probably even the more the succession, consistency and stuff like that came more, when we started going into the field more.
Diego: [00:06:47] How did you find Southern California farmer's markets for micro greens? I know, just being down here, there's a few really big producers of micro greens that have some reach into farmer's markets for you. You're a little bit North of me of it's still in Southern California, where you facing competition at the farmer's market selling micros.
Justin Gay: [00:07:09] No, that the only people that we really went up against, were, Sprouts people that were doing like sprouts, that was pretty much the only thing, that I really had to deal with.
There was a couple, I think there was one. Yeah, they were there. Yeah. I think there still is one other quote, unquote microgreen rower and, two of my farmer's markets now, but. They seem to pull back a little bit off of the micro green things are going their own direction. So to answer your question, not really much, man, to be honest with you, not too much
Diego: [00:07:41] Of all the market streams they have is our farmer's markets the only one. Are you also selling someplace else?
Justin Gay: [00:07:47] Yeah, we sell to restaurants. not too many restaurants though. farmer's markets are pretty much. I think there are over 90% really of, all the business that I do now. I have� I do have one or two restaurants, but now I'm looking a little bit harder at with the whole restaurant and the stores and stuff like that now where I wouldn't, I would really like to get, my, some skin in the game there, so that's yeah, the farmer's markets for now they're the bread and butter.
Diego: [00:08:18] So knowing that their your bread and butter. Now they're working from talking to you offline. You're doing over 120 trays a week.
That's pretty good volume. Sounds like most of that's going to farmer's markets. What do you think has made you successful selling microgreens at a farmer's market? What are some of your strategies for moving?
Justin Gay: [00:08:38] Basically, just getting in there in, for me, people often tell me that I have. I seem to be passionate about it.
And it's true. I love, I love growing stuff, I love going vegetables. micro greens, I've always said, we're just like my gateway crop, if you will. but for the most part, I just really enjoy growing it. So when I'm out there, it's a constant communication with me in the, In the clientele that I have at the farmer's market.
I'm now starting to see a lot more people just showing up sample another thing too. We get one, a lot of samples. And then a lot of education, believe it or not, you have being as vocal. I know that we're supposed to be this Mecca for healthy eating and everybody knows this stuff. And I think that certain parts of California, Southern California, but, in a lot of places that I'm at there is really not.
So we have do a, like a lot of education, and then sampling and talking to people and, over the years, I'm starting to get people now come up and they're like, dude, we came here specifically for you, which even right now, it's weird. It gives me chills, man. It's wow, I can't believe you guys came here for me.
It's just being cool with the people and just putting out there. Of course you want to have your nice looking stand and all that kind of stuff, but I really do think it's, it's a steady communication between you and the person that's in front of you really?
Diego: [00:10:03] What do you find are the main points to convey when talking about microgreens I mentioned this in a past episode with Chris Thoreau, and he would say, initially he would answer with some kind of health questions and then you evolve to they taste good, they're great on a sandwich, they�re great on a salad. How do you communicate?
Justin Gay: [00:10:22] first of all, we will, like I was saying before we, We start off with handing people. all throughout the month. Good. We're handing out sunflower micro grains. and then most people will come back to you either.
This tastes good, or what is it good for? And then based off of that, those questions that they ask, that's what we just get into whatever spill we need to we'll start getting into them more the health thing, or we'll get into more of the culinary thing. Me personally, I got involved in this for culinary in terms of, outside of like the whole gardening bit, but even the gardening, it was, it was a passion for gardening.
But at the same time I like to eat cool food. I like to eat fresh stuff, So it was more of a culinary standpoint. I hit him off a lot with that. I'll talk a lot about what you can do with them. A lot of the recipes that, you can be made with, and then over the time of being in the farmer's market and then getting a lot of attention from the health community, because you really, with microgreens, man, you really attract them.
It's really cool. You really attract a lot of healthy living people and they started teaching me more and making me look into it more. So now it's, it's, I guess it's probably like a 50/50 split about yeah, they taste good and they're good for you type of thing.
Diego: [00:11:38] There's some unfamiliarity there with the customer base, what varieties have you arrived at that are really your steady. Farmer's market products. What do you consistently bring in weekend and week out?
Justin Gay: [00:11:54] We carry five different, staple crops. So I bring every week. We guarantee to have a sunflower, the peas, the radish, of course. I think those are like the top three that most microgreen growers have.
And then we jump into a broccoli as well as a cabbage, which I'm not sure is going to be hanging around too much longer the cabbage at least. and then throughout the year, we'll dibble, dabble. Like right now I'm doing a bunch of cilantro, we'll have the amaranth out there as well, play with Sugarbowl, just throughout the year, whatever, like right now is a really cool time to start going. A lot of my chives and stuff like that.
See now for right now, I'm actually, she does, we get done. I'm actually going outside to start, on the greenhouse to, hopefully get some kind of control in the whole system, in terms of climate and be able to carry, be able to play with other things throughout the course of the year, as opposed to just depending on the weather that we have going on here, that's going to allow me to do a lot more throughout the course of the year.
Diego: [00:12:54] Given that you have three main staple crops, sunflower pea radish, you guarantee those every week and you're moving a lot of trays each week at the farmer's market. How big is an average sale?
Justin Gay: [00:13:08] I�d shoot for the five bucks sale every time somebody steps up to my booth. If they walk away with $5. I'm cool with that. hell man, if they walk away with even $3, I'm cool with that. But, I'm starting to find now man, more and more people. Cause we do a mix. Because we, for the most part, our microgreens at our stands, we do a live cut, but we also offer a mix just so people don't have to wait in line and I've been noticing more and more what that makes man people have been grabbing a couple of those.
So we've been doing like a $10 sales $9 sales, a lot more often, which is really cool, it wasn't something that I seen, but�now it's probably about anywhere from five to nine at this point.
Diego: [00:13:53] With your mix, can you talk about the logistics of that? What's in the mix? How are you packaging it? I'm assuming you cut that prior to getting to the market. And then how do you price that based upon weight?
Justin Gay: [00:14:05] We do what we call a market mix. And basically it's just, it's a 3-ounce clam shell. Of all of the micro greens that we have at the time now, or I should say of all the staples. Definitely. I don't put any of the herbs or anything like that in there, just because I don't want anything to be off putting for a little while I was dropping some, I was dropping chives in some, and then the other ones, I, what offers some with chives, I have some without, and we sell those for right about $5 a piece for two for nine.
They're really been man working really well for us. And yeah, we do. We harvest all those, here, lately we've been pulling about 30 pounds of pretty much. 30 pounds of microgreens just that go to that mix alone and moving those within two days. So it's been pretty cool.
Diego: [00:14:54] Yeah, right on. So there's some convenience with the grab and go. They don't have to wait for you to cut. Now, go into the live cut side. There's probably a certain segment of the market that like they're into that. Can you walk through the logistics of how that works? I'm a customer.
I come up to your booth and I want some fresh cut. Microgreens what's it? How's it work.
Justin Gay: [00:15:19] If you are a person that kind of knows what you want. Then you're like, Hey, I just want $5 cup of broccoli. Cause we do it in a $3 cup and we do it in the $5 tough to save time. So we have to wait, anything out I've already pre weighed.
those cups. And I know, just about how much each cup is going to weigh. So like our largest is $3 and then the, I'm sorry, the, our largest of $5 and then our smallest at $3. And, yeah, you just order what it is that you want and we�ll cut it up for you. A lot of times people now are wanting broccoli, straight broccoli.
That's I think after that, Joe Rogan interview, man, with Dr. Rhonda, I think Rhonda, Patrick, I think that's her name, man. Broccoli just went out. They just went through the roof really. Yeah, you'll just ask what it is that you want. And then if you're a person that doesn't know what they want a lot of times, we'll just say, we'll sample the whole entire, everything that's on the table.
Yes. And let you pick from that. And most times people just end up getting everything anyway. So that's why we actually named our mix the market mix because that's what people that gave just wanted everything. So we just put it all together for them.
Diego: [00:16:26] Is each item price to Allah cart. If I just get a cup of sunflower, is that the same price as if I just get a cup of broccoli?
Justin Gay: [00:16:32] Yeah. This is all, it's all the same. It's a, we do the whole, yeah, it's the what? The, basically, like I was saying, it's three for three for five, and then I'm one for three an ounce for three. So now it works.
Diego: [00:16:48] So thinking about how you're selling them. Ounce per ounce, fresh-cut versus pre-cut. Are they the same price?
Justin Gay: [00:16:57] They're the same price. Yeah, the, the precut is it comes out to right about $6 a pound. And then the live cut it comes out to. One is I had it before I was actually a little bit more, especially if you're only getting the answer. But it comes out, I think, right about somewhere 4, something like that. I have to run the number of events, but I think it's something like that somewhere in that area there. but for the most part, if you, so basically the deal is if you get the three ounce cup, you're pretty much the exact same thing is you were getting it in the precut. yeah, right there.
Diego: [00:17:37] Yeah. I'm trying to think about, cause one con I could see some people saying about cutting it.
The market is that's a lot of work. And if you're going to charge the same price for the same amount of work, then it better bring in a lot more volume. So let's just say customer-wise, do you have a sense of, if you have 10 customers come up, how many grabbed the mix? How many are asking for fresh cut out of those 10?
Justin Gay: [00:18:02] Man you believe, man, the fresh-cut is one of the biggest draws I think that I ever could have imagined to be honest with you, we're like Benihana out there, man. It draws a lot of people in, so believe it or not more people actually ask for the live cut stuff than actually will grab the grab and go. Those don't get me wrong. We always sell out all the grab and goes, but there's a lot of people that actually want it right there in front of them. You can sit here and tell them, man, Hey, I just harvested these last night. I guarantee you for a week, the same exact amount of time. I'll guarantee you this fresh one and still, I'm like, no, dude, we want the live cut stuff. There you go.
Diego: [00:18:44] Yay. If they want it, they're asking for it. Give it to them.
Justin Gay: [00:18:47] Give it to �em, man. Yeah.
Diego: [00:18:48] You logistically do you find that's a lot more extra work or do you have it down at this point where getting these cuts, cutting and filling these cups for people? It's not that big of a deal.
Justin Gay: [00:19:00] No, it's not that big of a deal anymore. Look at it is like either I'm going to be packaging it here, which we already do. For that 30 pounds, that's already taken us about what a little over an hour for one person, maybe two. So I could, if we had to sit here and harvest them all here, either here, I'm going to harvest them there.
And now I'm not worried about putting them in a clamshell as far as I'm concerned and putting things in a clamshell, the pain in the butt to get it, all nice without a product hanging off of the sides and all that kind of stuff. Now we're just dumping them in a bag. So on, ultimately in terms of the amount of money I might be saved, labor, I think it's a little bit better doing that at the market, to be honest with you.
Diego: [00:19:43] it's a really good point. Cause you're right. You're cutting and packaging somewhere. And if you're cutting in front of the customer, the way I see it's accomplishing a few things. One, the customer is creating that image in their mind of, okay, this is fresh because I'm seeing it cut in front of me. I'm seeing how it was grown.
Like I get the whole picture. I don't have to do any mental imagination here. I see it. And you also get the benefit of being able to converse with the customer while you cut it. So it keeps them at the booth a little longer, which may potentially slow down the transaction.
But if you're using that time to educate them, build some rapport with them that is now value. Adding that time where otherwise you're just listened to a podcast or something on Spotify.
Justin Gay: [00:20:34] Yeah, what's wild. Now Diego too is like more and more of our customers are educating other customers. So even though I'm cutting and I may not be able to talk to �em, the conversation for the person that I'm actually filling the order for at that moment, that person will now turn to a potential buyer and start selling them as I'm cutting.
It's the weirdest thing, man. Like it's just, it all just works. Like a customer will totally make sales for you. I should put half these customers on some kind of commission man, because they made more sales for me than I could ever imagine. It's so cool.
I'm just cutting and they're talking, they'd be, and every once in a while you might have to egg on the conversation, Hey, what are you going to do with these? And you start that. And then the other person that's a potential buyer will hear that. And then they start asking questions and this is game on. Then, next thing you know, they're coming up, they're gonna grab like a $5 mix or, a couple of market mixes because, and off they go, so it's really cool.
Diego: [00:21:37] On a given day. How many transactions do you think you'd do?
Justin Gay: [00:21:40] That's a good question. I have no idea.
Diego: [00:21:42] I asked because I'm wondering like, can you man a booth by yourself given the volume that you're doing, or do you have you and somebody else there to help speed things along?
Justin Gay: [00:21:54] For farmer's markets, three of the four we can do with just one person the larger market, which is our long beach market. You have to have at least two people in order to make your work. and in that market, we're, I've tried different enterprises there and I'm doing like a juicing enterprise within that market within the booth.
So now I have, four people. Five people, including myself. I have a real odd situation that goes on. And in one of those, I shouldn't say it's odd. It's actually really cool a situation that, is going in my larger market. But you to answer your question. In terms of the micro greens for your larger booths or your busier markets, you're going to want at least two people there. Again, we're still really heavy on the sample. So while somebody is cutting, you have somebody else drawn them in, if for whatever reason, we get along mind, which happens more and more. Now you need to have that second person there to help fill that order as well.
Diego: [00:22:52] Working these markets in California. I know in some places regulations can be tight. The fact that you're cutting food, does it fall under prepared food or are you okay cutting it.
Justin Gay: [00:23:04] Cool. We're good. I've had the health department come out and nobody's ever said a word to me. It's totally fine. I haven't no nothing. That's indifferent.
Diego: [00:23:14] So with cutting at a booth down here in California, I mean taught most of the year. There's an intense sun. How are you keeping trays fresh? And how do you manage the logistics of like here's a display tray and that trays only for display on the table. And then I keep my product tray he's somewhere else, or what are the logistics of actually doing the cut?
Justin Gay: [00:23:39] Yeah, there's no display. all the trays are up for grabs. and basically, even though it's hotter here, it's way better to actually, for me to read, bringing the Leica. I much rather bring the live cut trays during the hottest part of the year, because I can keep them alive by just watering. it's real easy.
the it's the stuff like the fresh head stuff or the precut stuff. That's the stuff that ends up going down a lot more. Because of the sun. then of course, you throw up your shade covers, throw up your canopies. I'm sorry, not just your kind of, into your canopies, stuff like that to help block the shade. But yeah, for the most part, I've never really had a problem. with any of the live cut trays at all, you can just make sure that we water them pretty well the night before the market. So when we take them to the market, they're not too wet. And, yeah. And then we just go.
Diego: [00:24:26] One of the things that Chris mentioned that they had trouble with when they were dealing with live cuts.
Now this is bike based is getting live trays to the market. For you, how have you managed getting the trays from where you grow them to the market? So they show up in presentable condition, but also a condition that makes it easy for you to cut.
Justin Gay: [00:24:47] Right now, we recently got a van a couple months back.
Which has made life easier. Oh my God. Before that I was pumping, were taking everything in my little element, man. That was rough. but yeah. So now in the van, we have shelving and stuff like that there, so that's, it's pretty much easy.
Diego: [00:25:08] Now you're doing quite a few markets. Four markets. Has that been out of necessity or has that been. Because there's also like a desire to grow the business. In other words, sometimes people need a certain amount of money to come out of a business. And the only way they're going to get that to work is I have to do a bunch of markets, but if you have a really good market, say long beach or.
Some of the other Primo, California markets like that one market could carry your business, but if you want to grow your business bigger, so say you could hire somebody or build new infrastructure, you do other markets. What was the catalyst to decide or what was the impetus behind deciding we're going to do four markets.
Justin Gay: [00:25:53] basically I just wanted to grow the business. that's really all it really came down to. I never, you always have a goal that you want to reach. but for the most part, it was just you wanting to grow it. I never felt like I had to do it. in fact, we had rents for markets.
I was running four markets a couple years back. Like almost like when we came out the gate, I actually just did a video about this, but it's weird. Like when we first started, actually even now, because we're doing microgreens I think, and because we are rare, you get a lot of people hitting you up, out here, Hey, do you want to do my market?
Do you want to do my market? And, at the beginning it was like, yeah, man. Yeah. I was just freaking, just gung ho and four markets at the beginning proved to be a bit much. And so I, scaled it back and, we were only doing two markets and, I've learned within those two markets, I can almost generate the same amount in terms of dollars, with those two markets as I could with those four.
Especially when you start factoring in, fiber and all that kind of stuff. and then it just got to a point where it was like, all right, I think I've maximize these markets, at least with microgreens. I still see where even now I still see where I can push them a little bit harder to, keep on.
Making my markets that I have now bigger. but then it was like, okay, I can do this. I'm generating enough trays a week to make this work. And then also, we had the cut stuff that actually helps up. I'm sorry. The, the stuff off of the field that helps supplement a lot.
But then, it was just like, I can do it. So might as well do it, I guess that's pretty much how it all came down. It's yeah, this is what you want to do, man. Just keep on pumping and let's see what the, see what happens.
Diego: [00:27:45] And from talking to you offline, you work. As a farming thing, it's a split income. You have another job, and then you have the farm and the farm is a substantial contributor to your income. Pays the mortgage, pays a lot of the bills.
Do you want to get to the place where you can walk away from the other hustle and just do the farming thing? Or are you okay with the balance?
Justin Gay: [00:28:10] You know what, man, I would love to do more of just the forming thing. Cause this is where my passion�s at, you know? My other businesses is sound, I'm a sound engineer, production sound engineer.
And that was something that I was really passionate about before, I shouldn't say I wasn't nearly as passionate about sound as I am about farming and gardening and stuff, but at the same time, I don't know that I would really want to give it up completely because I get to see a lot of cool stuff, man, so I don't know that I would want to, you take it out completely.
Although I wouldn't mind downloading it back a little bit more. like right now I go out, my goal is to go out only about 10 times a month, for sound and I've actually. Them starting to flirt with, I'm even doing my best to cut that in half. And I think if I can tell them maybe five, five, six times a month going out for sound.
I think that would be pretty cool. And I would like to just do the rest on the plot. yeah, I really like being one it's at my house, so that's cool, right? But yeah, I really liked just being here and just being in the soil, man. Yeah, I think that's just where I'm supposed to be.
Diego: [00:29:18] It's really cool to hear that you've reached this point of positive optionality. Like the outside job, you don't hate it. You like it, you enjoy doing it. And the farm's doing well enough that it can provide a substantial amount of the income that you need to survive. So you can pick and choose what you want to do at this point.
Justin Gay: [00:29:40] Yeah, man, that part right there is one of the coolest things in the world cause even like in this more so from the sound of point of view or it's like where you get called for these jobs, in the beginning, anything else you've got to go out. It may not be the best job in the world. You may not, I don't know. It might be some low-budget feature. That's not paying that well, but dude, you got bills to pay.
So you got to go out and do it, now because I have the farm and I'm doing this year on the plot, man. I can just tell people no, nah, I don't need to go out right now. I'm not desperate for anything, I'm not desperate to make the money. I know that I'm going to be able to make it here so that really man that's God, it's awesome. It's just. Yeah, it's a really cool thing.
Now I can pick and choose if they say, Hey, man, you want to go to Dubai next week? It was like, as long as I'm not gone for too long, I can make it work. Or, I can go do a really cool feature, or not necessarily featured, but I can just go out.
sometimes I get to go out and go to other forums, especially when I'm doing stuff like for like lifestyle type, networks or whatever, you can go out and just do stuff with other forums, which is awesome all the time. Just to do that. I've gotten to meet a lot of cool people through doing and that are farming.
So that's, it's pretty rad. So yeah, that's been good. It's been really good
Diego: [00:31:05] where you're at currently in your business doing the 120 to 150 trays a week. If you. Lost the sound thing tomorrow. Could the current business support you given the customer base in the market streams you have right now?
Justin Gay: [00:31:21] Not a hundred percent, not a hundred percent almost. I'm almost there. And I think that probably to answer one of your past questions, that's probably my goal is to get it to where it can support me a hundred percent not saying that I would only ride with that, but it would be nice for it just to.
You know it, and that's all I would have to really rely on, but right now, no, I do still have to go out for time to time. It's just not nearly as much as what I used to. I was what I used to do. So that's pretty cool. Cause like the sound thing, man, like they give you a call, like the other day we were supposed to hook up, and I get a call and it's alright, I, that would've had a cake and it's You're gone all day.
Sometimes I can be going for an hour or two, but for the most part, you're looking at a 10 to 12-hour day. it takes up a lot of time. That part about it. That's what, that's the part that sucks the most to me,
Diego: [00:32:14] given that you can get these calls, it sounds like somewhat out of the blue for the sound job and they can be of unknown length.
Where you could have these really long days, how have you made it? So the micro green operation can flex and flow around that?
Justin Gay: [00:32:33] That was an assistant. I had to get an assistant and unfortunately I had to probably get my assistant before I needed an assistant. To be honest with you because of that, because, for the most part, I'm on a call.
That was pretty much the, if you're gonna, what your culture now, that was the, that was the, the factor that allows this thing to go is by having somebody else here around that I can train and say, okay, you need to do this day, this, that day and so on and so forth and make sure that things are being handled while I'm not here.
Diego: [00:33:08] If you look at your hours, your assistant�s hours, including market time of any markets you guys participate in, how many hours do you think you're at a week?
Justin Gay: [00:33:19] My assistant, he normally works. He was right about, close to the like 20 hours a week. Maybe a little bit more sometime I'm out there now because he came, I don't have to do nearly as much.
So I think I'm probably at probably closer to 30 to 40 hour day myself. I mean we can myself, although, from listening to you, you're your podcast, man. I gotta thank you so much for that. I really started to dial back. A lot of more for me time in trying to open stuff up a little bit more. So I've been able to give him a little bit more responsibility.
So I'm thinking like it's probably, yeah, it's probably for myself anywhere from 30 to 40 and he's probably on a really busy week, probably 30.
Diego: [00:34:07] It's funny because when you're talking about hiring an assistant. I could hear it in your voice. And you're saying I probably hired him sooner than I needed him.
And I�as somebody who has a business. I look at that as damn, that's a good problem to have, because I think a lot of people err on the other side and they hire somebody too late. And I that's me talking to me there and it can just be a lot more stressful. And it's harder to hire somebody when you're busier, because you're just busy to start.
So I liked the idea of, if you think the business is going to grow, if the numbers are there preemptively getting somebody on board because it frees you up to do. The higher value things, at least that's how I see it. given that you have an assistant, if you remove your need to do the sound stuff, are there parts of the business that you reserve for you because they lead more towards adding value?
Justin Gay: [00:35:05] Oh, yeah, of course. yeah. Yeah. just me going out, getting more, like I was saying before, doing my best to get more restaurants, getting more customers outside of the farmer's market, that's pretty much, we all know, The assistance. And even I've had a couple of paths assistance as well.
That, they still gave me a call and be like, Hey Justin, some check out this place. I gave him a card and that kinda stuff. and then I have another guy that he just works at the market with me. and he's really vocal in that as well, where he's Hey, here's a store that you should go check out.
in terms of the crop rotation, especially when it comes to the stuff on the plot, that's still me. I still need to make sure that stuff's all being managed. a lot of the insects in, pest control, that's still me. we management, that's just just in the system now.
let's just integrated in. but yeah, so for the most part, I still deal with most of the big stuff and, all the books and all that kind of stuff. but for the most part I've been able to, get, I've been able to get, my assistant to handle a lot of microgreen tasks, as well as, a lot of the other things, being able to seed. And then some of the smaller stuff on the plot, which has been really nice to know. Yeah.
Diego: [00:36:13] One thing you mentioned to me when you reached out via email was. Eventually, it all clicked. You got three or four years into this, and a lot of pieces started to come together. When things did solidify and you reached that point. What were some of the biggest changes you noticed on the farm or within the business that just really stand out as man, I struggled with this early on or I couldn't figure this out. And then I did, and now it's been so much easier
Justin Gay: [00:36:41] time is what get man, all of a sudden I looked up and I just had.
Dang time on my hands. I was like due to redone. so like the washing became easier. Oh my God. The post harvesting just became so much easier. And then, but I had to contribute all that to, understanding how to grow a successful crop. That looked good. That wasn't going to create a bottleneck in the wash.
that's that was the key. As soon as that stuff started clicking for me, Oh, okay, you need to, cover, like need to make sure that you have more insect netting up here. So you don't get this type of bug this time of year or knowing that this type of book was going to show up this time of year.
like we get, I don't know if you guys get them down there. I'm actually, I'm sure you do, but the , that will just decimate, Any kind of mustard or ruble a crop. And I battled that thing for years, man. so this year, what we did was I just ran from him. and actually I just stopped to be honest with you.
I stopped growing, any mustard or a rubella, in the summer. And we moved over to the new house and I started growing it there, for the spring. And I started noticing him coming on and then eventually I've learned that, okay, I can purge this. I can purge out the plot by growing lettuce here, which is, something that people are buying anyway, growing lettuce here and other crops that they don't want it.
I can purge it. the Grotta boat took off then right after that. Yeah. I was actually able to put the ruble up in the Mizunos cover him up, make sure the Brugada book get in and yeah, they were gone. We were just cooking, we got hit was a new thing. We're freaking cutworms so that's my new, nemesis, but, Yeah, it was pretty much that Diego is pretty much being able to cut out the bottlenecks, knowing that the weeds were going to come.
trying to just be a little bit more preemptive on my side, knowing that this is the time of year that this is going to hit. So make sure that this is ready. So this doesn't become a problem. Really? Yeah.
Diego: [00:38:54] What about from an, say a business logistics standpoint, was there anything there that. Just clicked as you got more seasoned from knowing how to pick a better farmer's market to assessing the customer. I'm just throwing stuff out there.
Justin Gay: [00:39:10] The farmer's market thing that. That kind of just, it just rolled in. I, to be honest with you, I don't think that I really did anything differently, or I don't think that we do anything deleted than we have done from the beginning when it comes to the farmer's markets.
But what I'm like, I was touching on earlier. What became easier is that I don't, I guess our name started going a little bit bigger. and so people started coming to us. So making the cells became a lot easier at that point. No, it was a really at first, like when I first started, I was nervous about putting any assistant in the farmer's market.
just because I'm like, Oh dude, are they going to be able to sell it? And, or just, I actually need go back a little bit. I was nervous as a split. Anybody that didn't work on the plot in the farmer's market, I came with a really big step, fast rule. That if you are going to work in one of our boots, you need to least know what's going on here to actually what it takes to get from seed to the trays in the market.
and I think that knowledge that my assistants were able to gather. from being on the plot really helped a lot in terms of being able to sell. Cause now it's just it's always consistent. I can almost tell you for week to week. Give me one second. I think the, I think it is, yeah, so week to week it's I can almost tell you exactly the amount, That we're going to, that we're going to make, which is really cool.
And that's from a farmer's market, it's really consistent, man. It's really cool.
Diego: [00:40:47] From just a productivity standpoint, you mentioned wow, look at all this time we have. Can you walk through your process of harvesting? Microgreens the ones you do put into your mix. How do you take them from tray to mix?
And what have you learned just to make that process faster, smoother, save
Justin Gay: [00:41:05] time. First off, we got the, the quick stand attachment for a quick cut. That saves tons of time right there. then yeah, from that point, especially with the cellphone, but so far, it's probably your biggest, the biggest problem.
if you want to call it that because of all the shell removals. so just knowing. Knowing that during the time, like certain times a year that okay. If I, okay, let me stick it out like this, like in the summer. the shells of the sunflower, they were just falling off. Just falling off as they grew.
So that made it a lot easier in the wash. Cause now all we have to do for the most part is just dump them in and make sure whatever shells were there or off. so that made it a lot easier. Now going into the winter and fall now going up and you start to actually cool down I've we've always dialed back.
The day, thus making the amount, the data maturity a little bit longer, just giving them more time to actually grow. and then, from that the shells just fall off. so that's been really cool and really helpful there. I'm actually hoping that my bubblers gotta be hearing a new nation.
That's going to make things even faster, but yeah, it's been just like that kind of stuff. Really? The tray, the quality of the tray, making sure that you kinda mold, outbreaks. one of back when we first started, I didn't know, the different. I the different challenges, I should say, when it comes to going, microgreens, just like how this, like microgreens are dying and some, a Trey, because maybe you didn't water it well enough or whatever the case is.
Now you have to sit up here and try to weed out all these dead ones, that kind of stuff like that. yeah, it's just that kind of knowing, learning throughout the years, mainly for the cell tower, to be honest with you, The amount that it's going to take. When you, before you go to the wash, what is it going to take to make that wash, if you will. I hope that makes sense.
Diego: [00:43:11] For sure. So it's like continuous evolvement with things and knowing that what are some of the biggest struggles you have on the farm now, either on the production side or on the business side?
Justin Gay: [00:43:23] The biggest thing that I say now, Really for production is an infection, even micro, to be honest with you microgreens are relatively contained.
They're the biggest part with the microgreens that I have to say probably to seed lots, being able to get, a good seed in here, and making sure that, we're testing those seeds and making sure that those seeds are going to provide us with a good quality crop. That's probably been.
one of the biggest challenges, just learning that, but then the other, the biggest production challenge that we have now is again, just, Chile with different paths. Like I just said a minute ago, like we're dealing with these cut words. Like we have a cutworm infestation that is gnarly. now that is cooling down, they've slowed down quite a bit, wanting to run something organic, not wanting to spray, Could even it's weird, like as a gardener, I always took a lot of pride in not spray anything in there for years the years, that actually sounded like I've been doing microgreens just forever.
but, for a couple of the first years there actually probably this last year, it was like, I was taking a lot of pride in just not spraying anything on the field. Like we never spray, we never do this. Not even organic. But now it's at a point where it's alright dude, you are doing this.
You do have people depending on you. no, you do. you need to do something, just getting more into a whole biological warfare out there now. Like I actually, I have a bunch of, parasitic, wasp. I'm getting ready to release. Although again, like I said, I don't think I'm going to do it just yet.
Even though we're still getting into the. We still get into the eighties at, during the day, but at night we're dipping into the fifties around here, which, for the cutworms that large, it doesn't really, it doesn't like it that cold, so they've slowed down a bit. So now it's, it feels like it's low key, smooth sailing, if you will.
I really, I really, say that, with some caution because You know what nature's going to throw at you next,
Diego: [00:45:27] Sure. And it sounds like you're battling through it. You're overcoming looking back over the past five years with this business, what are you most proud of?
Justin Gay: [00:45:36] Being here for five years, man?
And then one in man, just the fact that we are, it's like a symbiotic relationship, between customers. And myself, of course, being able to make a living. and I guess expand on that a little bit. Like we'll have customers come up to come into the booth and literally cry.
Dude, you have no idea. Like we have, we've had cancer survivors. We've had, People that were battling all kinds of just different elements that were like duty sure. Greens that got me through eight years or greens that I just couldn't wait to get back to you, dude. again, chills man. It's wow.
I'd never knew that. We would be helping people, man. So it's awesome. It's just dude, we're helping people. I got a roof over my head. No, I'm not in lack of anything, but she has are cool. my kids are damn they�re grown now, so they need to be cool. My assistant's cool. Everybody's cool, and we're doing a good thing. Like I can look at myself in the mirror and be like, yeah. Yeah!
Diego: [00:46:51] It's really cool to hear and thinking of where you're at. What would you say has made you successful? I look at what you're doing and I consider you a success. It sounds like you're living the life you want. You have a nice blend of career.
You're at a place you want to be, what's made you, or what's allowed you to get here. What have you done?
Justin Gay: [00:47:13] I just followed my passion. I just followed it really.
Diego: [00:47:20] Why are you here? you're thankful you're here for five years. A lot of people don't make it to your five. they're out quickly for whatever is not a fit business.
Doesn't work, they can't make it work. How have you channeled that passion using business skills to last as long? what have you, do you think you've done that? Maybe other people?
Justin Gay: [00:47:43] I think that I've just. For the most part, maybe other people haven't done that maybe. I've done. It was one didn't quit when things got hard, I expected things to get hard.
and I was cool with the struggle. Like I always say, I do yoga almost like every morning or whatever. But there's a certain point where you've got to be able to enjoy the stretch. You got to be able to enjoy that struggle and look at your dark, almost same positive attitude as you would delight in.
Just know that, it's all a part of it. The struggle is what you want almost to make you that much better in grow yourself and grow what it is that you. Want to achieve that much better. You got to go through those things and being able to enjoy that struggle. I think it's been probably my biggest, key to success, really.
I just enjoy, I enjoy the good times and I enjoy the bad times and that's pretty much it, man. I think that's pretty much it.
Diego: [00:48:54] What was it like one of the hardest times during one of those struggles where you just want to quit?
Justin Gay: [00:49:01] A crop of arugula that was coming on. Perfect. you gotta have, you're like looking at this bed, it's gotta be at least a 20-pound bed, at least.
And then you go out there and decimated by cut warm or whatever that kind of stuff makes you want to quit. or Jeez, or when you, it's mostly crop failure, or if you got a bad batch of micro greens, For one week in whatever, and you're like, dude, what did I do wrong? I can't figure this crap out.
Why is this happening? and yeah, that kind of stuff will make you definitely want to throw in the towel, especially when you're like, dude, I could be out working set right now making X amount of money. In X amount of time and being absolutely cool. But then again, it's just that thing. It's that gardening mentality.
I think, you garden, you get down, it's like one of those things it's alright, here's a problem. How do I make that work? like the whole permaculture standpoint, like how can I make this. This negative into a positive, how can I learn from this or apply what it is that I'm learning to make sure that it never happens again?
That's probably, the best way to really describe it, but yet when you have prop failures, yeah, man, that's when you want to quit, that's when you want throw in the towel, when things aren't going the way that you suspect them to go.
Diego: [00:50:23] You're somebody who's clearly passionate about this stuff and I can hear it in your voice. I think a lot of the US, it's bigger, better. Like it's a growth mentality. If you just stayed where you're at, the business didn't grow, you did some farming, you did the sound thing. Would you be happy? Would you be content like, this works?
Justin Gay: [00:50:51] Sure. I've got everything that I asked for, at this point, to be honest with you now, I'm, I'm at a point now where it's okay, what more do you want?
What's the next step? you've got the house, you got the business, you got, you got, like you said, I have everything I want. So yeah, if you were to like somebody who's like, all right, Justin, you're done. This is where you stick. Then I'm like, cool. Inevitably I'll probably figure out something else. In terms of the whole farming and gardening stuff, I would be happy.
Diego: [00:51:26] So you've graduated past the point of you got all the stuff you need now it's about fulfillment and just enjoying your time while you pay for what you have to pay for.
Justin Gay: [00:51:36] Exactly. Yeah. It's pretty much just that, yeah, I really don't. There's really not much more than I can ask for now. Don't get me wrong. I do want to keep on growing it and growing it just because it's just ingrained in me. But yeah, I'm grateful for what I got. it's awesome.
Diego: [00:52:01] I love it. And for people that want to follow along with all the awesomeness that's happening where are the best places they can go to stay up on top of everything you're doing?
Justin Gay: [00:52:11] Instagram, YouTube.
Diego: [00:52:18] There, you have it. Farmer Justin Gay of the Seeds of Xanadu. If you want to follow along with Justin, check him out on Instagram at the Seeds of Xanadu. I've linked to that in the show notes. If you want to touch base with me regarding this episode or leave a comment on this episode. Hit me up on Instagram at Diego footer, and just find the post relevant to this episode and leave a comment there.
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