So maybe you’ve been listening to this podcast for a while, and you’re thinking about starting your own farming business. Maybe as a side hustle, maybe as your main hustle. But how exactly do you approach that if you have a family and a full-time, off-farm job?
Today’s show has us talking with dad, husband, filmmaker, and farmer, Rome Julian to share his story about just how he did it.
Today’s Guest: Rome Julian
Rome Julian is a longtime listener of the Farm Small, Farm Smart podcast. He’s a filmmaker who has worked in the film industry for fifteen years before becoming inspired and trying his hand at farming. Now, he has a microgreen urban farm in New Orleans.
Rome Julian – Rome Enterprises Instagram
In this episode of Farm Small, Farm Smart
- The draw into farming (01:50)
- The homegrown food culture in New Orleans, Louisiana (03:25)
- Starting a farming operation in an urban environment (05:00)
- The experience starting up with microgreens from growing to selling (06:50)
- Learning what people like by doing in-store tastings (10:25)
- Choosing what kind of samples to give (12:10)
- Finding out how people eat and translating that into microgreen sales (15:00)
- Profitability in grocery stores, profitability in different market streams (18:50)
- Utilizing the existing the social network as a customer base (23:10)
- Acquiring new restaurant customers and being successful with them (24:15)
- How to approach what kind of varieties to grow (30:00)
- The biggest hurdles in perfecting the set of crops (33:00)
- The microgreens watering system (35:50)
- Viewing the off-farm job in the context of the farm job (38:30)
- Meshing the off-farm life with the farm life (42:50)
- Looking at start-ups thinking there is opportunity (46:45)
- Finding the balance with family, film, and farm (50:50)
- Finding workarounds within the balance (55:10)
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Diego: [00:00:00] You have a job, you have a family, but you want to start up a farm-based enterprise on the side. How do you make time to do it? You hustle.
Today, it's all about the joy of farming and the hustle to make it happen with Rome Julian of Laketilly Acres. Welcome to farm small farm smart. I'm your host Diego, DIEGO.
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Today's episode takes me to the historic city of New Orleans, where I'm talking to farmer Rome Julian of Laketilly Acres. Rome's a longtime listener of the show and he's somebody who's taken a lot of the content on the show and ran with it. Over the past few years, he's started had several successful farm enterprises in an urban context in New Orleans.
It's something that Rome started because he was passionate about it and something that he's grown to love today. Rome's going to talk about how that journey's evolved and how that journey has paralleled the journey that is the rest of his life, because of all he does run a farm enterprise. It isn't the only thing that he does.
He's also a father, a husband, and he has a career that isn't involved in farming. How does he make it work and how does he hold it all together? You'll find out as we get into it with farmer Rome Julian.
Diego: [00:01:57] So Rome, what was it about farming that drew you into it?
Rome Julian: [00:02:00] Wow, that's a good question. I always liked gardening, as a bit of a hobby. And I had a couple of neighbors, actually my next door neighbor, Ms. Carter. She was an avid grower for a while, until she became disabled. And, so in our backyard there was always three garden beds, just always planted with something, whether it was, mustard, greens, or collard greens or something, it was always something growing.
And I always found that fascinating how she did that. So she really doesn't notice, but she inspired me into learning how and wanting to grow food. And from that, I just took it upon myself to. Few different things in the backyard just to see what happened. And I just couldn't stop from there.
It's just been nonstop. I'm always looking to, learn and grow more food from my house. I really don't know how it started, but it's ongoing now and I can't stop it. It's just, that's all I really care about really right now.
Diego: [00:03:09] Yeah, you caught the bug. Like a lot of people listen to this. Like I have in the past, you're calling me and we're talking from New Orleans, Louisiana. You had a neighbor that was growing food. What's the food culture down there. I know it's a big restaurant city, but in terms of like local produce people growing their own food backyard gardens, what's that scene like there.
Rome Julian: [00:03:36] I pay attention to that stuff a lot more. it's there is a community here, small farms and, like backyard gardens but it's very small.
And like you said, as being like a restaurant foodie city, I would think that there will be more farmers growing, more vege and food and, it is it's right on the middle ground of being enough and not being enough. if you get what I mean, it's not enough people, I don't think growing, but there is a community of growers here and there's a bunch of small farms, that started after Katrina which, in the lower ninth ward, in different places where the residents aren't fully back in that community yet. There's several small farms growing small beds and raising a little bit of livestock. That's within the city of New Orleans, right along the outskirts of the city. there's a lot of farming down here.
Diego: [00:04:38] Yeah. And you're within the city. So for your context, it's small scale growing. Can you talk about your farming operation and how you've set it up around the constraints of being in a more urban environment?
Rome Julian: [00:04:51] Yeah, absolutely. I initially started off doing a bit of research into vegetables and what things, and I would want to grow for my community and stumbled across Curtis stone, who just by looking up urban farming on, Google, came across his name and figured out a very important word. That went along with urban farming, which is profitable. So that was another thing for me because living in New Orleans, doing TV and movies, some of that industry was starting to seem like it was fading away because of the tax incentives. So I wanted a backup sort of a plan B if you will, if I can do something I love if the film industry goes away and that was farming would be the next thing I would want to do. And so looking up Curtis stone, I was able to discover profitability in farming and ran across micro greens.
And that was really the start of it to make Laketilly Acres. Brand was starting with micro greens because they were so profitable. It's so easy. And I wouldn't say easy, but they were way profitable than anything I can think of at the time to just start out. That's kinda how I started with micro greens initially.
Diego: [00:06:22] And with microgreens what was startup like? Did you find. Your market be that grocery stores, farmer's markets, restaurants, receptive to the product. And I talked a lot. People do micros. There's a lot of different stories. Some markets are voracious taken up all the microgreens. They can, other markets are very saturated or there's just not much interest.
What was your experience when you went from growing to trying to sell.
Rome Julian: [00:06:51] It was a Ray of different things. it was mostly receptive because the micros are they're still pretty new to people. And, only, like a trained chef would have for, how they played their food or something would really be into microgreens.
Okay. I think that for the most part, people were willing to give it a try, of a vast majority of my sales initially with people who just wanted to try that model, who didn't even know how to use microgreens and what to put them on or the benefits of eating microgreens. Like they knew none of that, but still was willing to give it a shot.
And I had one chef who told me, it went from, Hey, yeah, I'll give it a try to, Hey man, bring me everything. Good. Grow. And on a weekly basis in our buy just this a little bit, what you gave to me as a sample, I will buy as much as you can bring too. So that was the two extremes and I just went from there.
And, and with that same chef has been, since I started been supplying him every week with microgreens. I've had a good, I've had good and bad experiences with, how microgreens are received, on the grocery store in level. I tried that as well, and I do in store tastings where I just stand there with a couple of trays and give out samples to people in the grocery store shopping.
And that produce manager also allow me to stock microgreens on the shelf, in the cooler, And was able to make a few sales that way. And the problem with that is I ran into spoilage issues in the store that I really couldn't keep up with because they would only buy so many. And if it went bad, then I had to replace it.
And so it was actually not that cost effective for me to be in a grocery store at a mall at that moment, being that small of a scale. so I look at that, in the grocery suspense, grocery store, since as a bit of a failure, but not really because I got the experience of knowing that spoilage and you have to keep up with that.
A little word out there in the grocery stores is a little bit tough to some people, a little bit iffy about trying new things that they're not used to buying all the time. So it was a bit of a sale. I learned a lot doing both grocery store and, farmer's market valued, but, chef deliveries are a big part of the operation right now.
Diego: [00:09:29] In terms of learning what customers like, what did you learn from doing those in store tastings? I've seen you post a lot of pictures about tastings on Instagram in order some of the big takeaways?
Rome Julian: [00:09:41] There's a lot of good, mostly all good, feedback that comes from, giving free samples out to people.
And the most interesting thing is I find that kids who at a young age, like toddlers, would want to try micro greens before some adults. And it's funny because the kid would just grab them and eat them. And it's I noticed it's gotta be. Edible. It's not candy, but edible, let me try it out.
Some more adults will let their kids try it and they won't try it. And that's the opinion of the kid with the thing about the microgreens before they even try it. So I've noticed that it's when it's that new and people don't really understand the benefits and what is a microgreen and how is it a micro broccoli? Like, how's that possible?
Like when it's that new, I think people become a little bit standoffish from it, but for the most part, it's a lot of positive feedback. Like these are delicious. This either they're really good, or the person just completely hates it. And I found that more people love the flavor and the taste or the microgreens more than they hate them. So I get positive feedback, but it's, it's hit or miss sometimes, man, you never know.
Diego: [00:10:58] Yeah. And with the tasting, do you go and hit them with something spicy or do you go with a milder flavor knowing that this is new for a lot of people? Or do you just give them a mix and then how are you, how are they sampling it? Is it just literally, I'm going to try some microgreens opinion of finger or is it pair it with a Cracker or cheese or something like that?
Rome Julian: [00:11:19] At first I used to, when I used to do in-store tastings, I used to, yeah, I'd make it a point to have like crackers and olive oil and like some cheddar cheese.
And I would buy that at the store and just, I would set up a sample tray with all with the stuff on it and it just became a big mess, like a big just drippy, oily, cheesy mess. And I hated it. And I was like, alright, I'm done with all of the fancy stuff, all of the crackers and all of this. Listen, you want to try microgreens, try them raw.
Yeah. So pinch in the finger will do you'll know exactly what you're getting. If you have a pinch, just take them to two fingers and that should give you enough flavor to know if you're into this kind of thing and not in. So I started going that route and just the different varieties. Of course, I would spread it out to where yeah, you'll have some some spicy, a radish or like a mustard, or, we'll go with a sunflower shoot, which is just the nutty, just green flavor and kind of spread it out, different, a different amount of taste pallets if you will. So yeah, the Cress watercress has a little bit of a. I'm more of a, I dunno, it's very pungent.
I will say that it's a little bit more pungent than a broccoli sprout or a brussel sprout microgreen. But I lay all of that out. Pretty much. I try to bring one of each. Different kinds of tastes just to give around about to the customer of these, all the different flavors of microgreens you can have as well. They're not all the same and depending on what you're into, if you�re into spicy then yet we have radish. Awesome. So I give people the options of having micro, I'm sorry, mild, or, spicier.
Diego: [00:13:29] When you're sampling these two people, did you found, did you find that it was effective in terms of translating to a sale? Do you have a sense of how that works?
Rome Julian: [00:13:39] Yeah, because I like to get idea like, just right off the bat, what kind of food that person is into, do they cook a lot or, they go out to eat a lot or. They snack a lot or do they, they bring their lunch to work or what do you, how do you actually eat normally?
I'll try to find that out from a customer and try to direct them in to pair microgreens I will say with different style meals that they would eat. So of course, if you know the sandwich and wrap kind of people that bring like a lunch to work, I would recommend broccoli sprouts or Brussels sprouts, something that can fit in a wrap.
I wouldn't recommend pea shoots for a sandwich necessarily. that is more for a salad or something like that. So I just try to get ideas of how people usually prepare their meals and I'll try to, I'll try to, pairs micro grieves with that. Yes. And sometimes that translates into sales right then on the spot, because I gave them a new idea or they may have thought of something immediately that they can pair the micro grains with that they as part of their regular diet.
I try to, I just try to fish people like to know what people, which ways people like to eat as well. So I can recommend what Michael Gray and I think will go best. What would they do?
Diego: [00:15:08] And you're mentioning a lot of different types of microgreens. One thing I talked to Curtis a lot about in the early episodes were the 80-20. 80% of your sales come from 20% of your products, just focusing on grocery stores, what were your most popular products at grocery stores and what just didn't work in a grocery store in terms of sales, not spoilage.
Rome Julian: [00:15:31] I found that the softer more delicate micro grains have a really their shelf life is not as long as any of the are Hardy or strong with Michael greens. I figured out that every single microgreen, I grow, I wouldn't be able to put in the supermarket if I wanted to because just different logistics of shelf life and condensation. How does that affect a product? And, I guess certain temperatures of which, those microgreens, it's something that I know. I can't bring everything I grow to a grocery store for them to sell.
So it's a really fine line. And that's why I'm not really pushing forward. On the grocery store scale. a lot of people ask me, what can I find? you have microgreens at stores. And I was like, I wish it was that. I wish it was that easy, but it's really not. It takes a lot of work and upkeep and just the proper packaging working with that store to, have your product in the most. Accurate temperature that it can have the longest shelf life. And that's sometimes a battle too on lower shelf, which is not really, it is in the cooler, but not really in the cooler.
That can be a problem because condensation just kills the microgreen. So that was the toughest thing. I had tough as issue I had with, with the grocery store aspect.
Diego: [00:17:09] No. If you figured out the spoilage issue and you solve that, are grocery stores in your area, lucrative enough to pursue them strictly from a it's another way to add sales and increase profitability standpoint, or are you just doing so well in other avenues? Why focused there now?
Rome Julian: [00:17:28] I think, there's definitely opportunities in grocery stores here in new Orleans. there's a lot of co-op style markets and, there is a farmer's market, and the other smaller grocery stores are trying to cater more towards more local and organic veg, being able to supply that more, even Walmart to a degree is trying to get more local veg into that cooler. So there's opportunities. I just don't see myself at that level yet with still having full on job, to be able to keep a little grocery Mart, grocery stores, demand into inventory.
I just honestly don't think I would be able to keep up at this point. but in the future, absolutely. I think there's plenty opportunity there for a grocery store business.
Diego: [00:18:24] So if you throw grocery stores out of the mix, are your main markets then farmer's markets in chefs and chefs, the bigger piece of that pie?
Rome Julian: [00:18:34] Yes. And, fortunately being, in the film industry as well that we have caterers, the catering business is pretty big with all the movie sets and stuff.
So I tend to try to get that as part of my customer base as well. So whatever show I'm working on at the time, I�ll a bring in some samples for whatever chef that is, and those guys have picked some up and, I provide the hardworking crew with great vegetables that's real local and they appreciate that.
So that's another market I have, is the catering aspects, but yes, chefs, there's a, and there's really small restaurants and topless restaurant that I deliver too for a while is small Bates, but is the whole 80 20 thing that small amount of customers ring me, 80% of my business and it's just been working out fine.
And as far as farmer's markets, I attended, I was at one farmer's market, earlier last year and they, it was so it wasn't really laid out for. for marketers, really, it was more to build up the name to their business, which was like a food court restaurant, situation. And they would want to do like a farm in an art market out front of that building.
Just to I'm thinking it was more of a marketing thing for them to say, Hey, Oh, we can do a farmer's market too, but it wasn't really too serious as a farmer's market, but when I had those microgreens on whatever day that was. They did really good. So that's what a lot of people, and I was able to meet chefs through that as well. But a lot of people knew me for being at that one particular market, which really wasn't a good market, but it was good enough for me to start getting my product and my name. Out to customers. It was great, but it's slowly dwindled and then it just faded away. They just stopped doing it.
So it was good and bad for me because I was still either to acquire customers before it actually stopped. And some of those same customers are still, they still call me to this day and wonder why they don't do the farmer's market. I'm like, I don't know, I have no control over that, but I find that without the farmer's market, I still tend to do pretty well with, just word of mouth and, just people I work with or people in the neighborhood or friends or family.
Diego: [00:21:15] And utilizing your social network. that's a great place to start. And I think for a lot of people who want to get into farming, start doing a new crop or starting from scratch. your existing network is often very supportive and they can be your first customer base. And it sounds like you've really leveraged that.
Rome Julian: [00:21:34] that helped a lot, like having social media now and just being able to take a picture of. Trio microgreens and saying, Hey guys, I got these ready. And then before you know it, my phone's ringing Oh, you have any more left little can I stop by and grab some different? it just helps have being able to put that in for all of your friends and you wouldn't be, you'd be surprised on how many people want to support what you're doing, especially if it's something positive and something that can benefit them as well. Yeah, it's been great.
Diego: [00:22:05] In one of those long-time supporters has been that chef they bought from you early on, he's still buying from you today. When it came to restaurants, how successful have you been acquiring new restaurant customers? And what do you think is really helped or worked when acquiring new restaurant customers?
Rome Julian: [00:22:27] New restaurant customers are pretty tough thing to get into. And I failed miserably at it so many times I've bombed with not getting that client and realizing why afterwards, or it's a little bit too late usually, but, it's just.
Chefs are so finnicky and picky in certain situations, especially here in New Orleans, they have a lot of competition. I don't know how many restaurants there are hidden in the city, but it's a lot. and so they want the best or the most different, or the most difficult thing they want you to try to provide for them.
I realize that with the amount of effort that it's going to take me to please, this one shift who may change his mind the week after, It just didn't benefit me to pursue high end chefs. I'll put it that way. That was the toughest thing for me, because I want it to provide like the high end restaurant.
I wanted to do that initially. And I realized that is hard, man, to please certain chefs and constantly be able to provide a different array of very difficult crops. And, because nobody really, they, the higher end restaurants didn't really want the standard microgreens. and I was watching a episode with Curtis, the day.
But he was talking with a farmer and they talked about macro greens, how calling the micro grains, macro greens, which is a new term, but that's they want them at a certain stage, which may take you longer to produce. Which in turn screws, your turnaround cycle off a little bit.
If you're dealing with certain crops that take way longer than your normal seven to 10 days. So I just found that I, after awhile, just locking down a few chefs, I'm more happier than to have 10 of the bigger name chefs order in smaller quantities. I'd rather have the small group of restaurants that order larger quantities, if that makes sense.
But, it is a tough thing to get into with chefs and being able to please those certain chefs to be able to provide what they want is a bit of a challenge. And I just honestly really haven't had the time to perfect that. I've led a lot of them go by. I put it that way.
Diego: [00:25:12] And for the small group of chefs that you're selling to, what is it that you think has made you successful with them? Is it they like your product? Do they like you now? I'll leave it at that.
Rome Julian: [00:25:25] Yeah. it has a lot to do. Like we always talk about is the story. A lot of people, they like the story of, how late in the egg is started and. The product of course is, hands down the best to have. I'm sure they like the product more than they like me.
I'll put it that way. I could be wrong. I don't know. but yeah, and just being social, sociable with people that kind of helps that people do like you and they trust you. so I feel like, more importantly though, is the consistency maybe. of the quality and quantity. I think that they're most pleased with that, if anything, because, they can always go down to the restaurant Depot or whatever it has.
There's microgreens in their cooler, granted they're from, a little bit of ways away, few States of wig, But those might move easily, but they would rather have, our microgreens be it, whether the quality is better. I think I know the quality is pretty good. Hi is up there and, they just love that I can bring as much as they need.
All the time. And because I've only narrowed it down to just those few, I can densely populate the main, when migraines, as opposed to spread myself out, over 10 or 15 restaurants or whatever. So I think they first and foremost, like the product, I would say the proud of it.
Diego: [00:27:06] To help keep a good product and keep consistency, do you generally stick with set of crops that you grow and that's what you always have, or you have variability week to week, or do you take requests? How do you handle that? Cause there's a lot of righties of microgreen G can grow in a lot of things chefs can ask for, and as you alluded to in the high end chefs, if you take on too much, it can throw off your rotation and you're only growing one tray of this. How have you managed pleasing customers providing consistency and having enough crops while keeping it interesting?
Rome Julian: [00:27:41] I tend to stick to the same, usually the general same amount of crops. I would, I would only do special requests if I totally saw, I worry. it has to be totally worth it, which it probably won't in this case, because either one, they will want too much and that will take too long. Or I just really don't see a benefit really into growing specialty requested crops in this. It would really have to be worth my while. So I usually stick to, standard, PSU, sunflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli sprouts, kohlrabi, CREs, a good blue kale, or there's a salad bowl, green that I do, stuff that's pretty easy, but.
it has a longer shelf life than if I tried to grow, I don't know, Amaras or chives or celery or something more exotic and it grows better. So I'm able to produce more of those crops. and then I am, the Detroit beets, those are a pain in the neck to grow. And if someone requested that they had to have beets as a microgreen, then I probably won't probably wouldn't deal with that customer too often.
just because of how we change the workflow in the workweek for us in on a tight schedule. I've tried to stick to two more, just regular standard micro green crops. And then when I say regular, just the basic ones, there's not too exotic. It'll take too long to grow. I just find it. It just, it throws everything off when I tried to do that. So I just stick to the standards.
Diego: [00:29:50] With growing micro�s, what has been your biggest hurdle in perfecting these crops?
Rome Julian: [00:29:56] I think the biggest challenge is finding the right time to plant strategic strategically in order to. To keep the cycles of deliveries and harvest is on schedule.
I tend to put it in other words, I tend to fall off my schedule of plant dates and harvest dates because maybe a restaurant was skip a week and not given delivery that week. So I have. extra trades or they may order more than they normally do, and I'm stuck with less trades. So just finding that fine line of having just enough and not too much or not too little is, that's been a little bit of a challenge because I have had in the past, we have to, Turn a restaurant or a client down because not having enough of a certain crop or whatever.
And I know that happens all the time. that's the kind of a standard thing with farming, but that's basically been a big, not a big challenge, but one of my, biggest challenges that in the packaging, absolutely packaging. Just how can I keep these sprouts? These micro greens, fresh and dry.
as long as possible, and that's a bit of a challenge in itself, then working around it and never really get too many complaints about the packaging as well. yeah, so it's a lot of challenges with, certain crops to like some crops mold, way easier, way faster than others. So the amount of water and you have to give that one crop.
As opposed to the rescue craps is you have to keep an eye on that too, where you moved out on it. and it's always the most popular microgreen that will spawn on you to eat the fastest. So it's just, that's been a challenge as well. Keep it in mind how much I'm watering or. lightens not really issue, but the water is a bit of a factor.
Just try not to over water, certain crops and maintaining those, those sprouts throughout those hold seven to 10 days without any, any sagging, any underwater or no Overwatch. So just finding that happy medium with Waterman, I guess that's another challenge.
Diego: [00:32:27] With your system now, are you overhead watering? Little bit of both, depending on the crop?
Rome Julian: [00:32:33] After uncovering, after the three days of covering, I usually let those trays sit for another day or two before water again. Cause it's still pretty watered from, from when our planet. but when I do water, yes I do. and when I learned that, man, it blew my mind.
And I don't know if I was listening to one of your podcasts when. Figured that whole thing out. I heard somebody, maybe it was Chris Thoreau. Somebody talking about bottom tray, water, like pouring the water into the bottom tree instead of all the headwaters. Because initially when I first started, I just used the overhead water, everything, just Hudson sprayer, and spray.
Every single tree. And, although I have a lot of fans and stuff, growing area where I grow is, is still, I was still getting a lot of mold issues and didn't know why until I started bottom feet. All right now it was, and that was a huge thing for me, man. I could not believe the difference in when I started on a bottom feeding as opposed to top feed.
And I was saving a lot of time and I was using a little bit more water, but I was saving a lot of times and I got a much better result feeding. Thank you to your podcast. And I learned so much from listening to this prior cannabis, and I can't say it enough, like I've even, I've been to a point where I've come one little tear dropped out of the corner of my eye.
And one day I was listening to your podcast, driving to work to my, my office phone job. And, I realized, man, wasn't doing this amount of research and putting in the work that he's doing. I don't think I would be as far or know about as many things about farming as I do. There's just no way possible. So I just want to say thank you for everything you do, and everybody that's always on you. It's a big help and it makes a difference.
Diego: [00:34:30] Yeah, you're welcome. I appreciate you saying that. And I'm glad to hear that this content makes an impact and then somebody like yourself takes the content. And makes it their own and runs with it. That's what my goal is not just to put stuff out there as infotainment for people, but for people to grab it and run with it. And you're somebody who has, you work now in the film industry, that's your, I'd say your main hustle from talking to you, but you can correct me if I'm wrong there.
Diego: [00:35:08] How do you view an off farm job with your farming job is the off farm job or sorry. The farming job is the farming job viewed as something that it's a side hustle and adds a little bit of income. There's some passion there. It's fun. Where do you eventually want the side job to become the main thing? Because I know it does provide some insurance.
Like you talked about before, if the film industry goes away or slows down in new Orleans, you have this as a backup. How do you view these?
Rome Julian: [00:35:39] That's and I'm still pretty early in fore, man. I've only started really taking it serious in the last, like two, three years, maybe And I realized that the amount of. time in the hours I do put into filming, that, yeah, there's something that I can do. I figured out that I'd like to do that I love to do actually that benefits not only me and, and me having a sense of doing something positive or something. that can change somebody's life.
I look at it as I really care about, providing good food for people. I don't know how that came about really well, like in the last and that's what I want to do. So I, I look at my off on job as a means to be able to do the farming thing at this moment. And eventually if I can not work as hard on a movie set and dedicate that effluent in that energy, into growing food for my family and families around me and my community.
Then neck, that's a better payoff. If you see what I'm saying. I love what I do as a, as a camera assistant in the film industry. I love what I do. the amount of hours in the physical neighborhood is it's about what as if I ran a full time farm. So to answer your question, I think, at the end of the day, Eventually it probably wouldn't have had it my way.
I would work on movies for six months a year and I would farm for six months if I had, if I can do it that way, it'll probably margin more towards foreman farming if it really came down to it. I still would like to work in this industry if I could add, in smaller increments than I am now.
I don't want to do the 60-hour weeks for eight months at a time. Okay. I would much rather do, a couple of weeks form the rest of the time. And eventually I would. Retire from this film industry run my phone full time. So I'm building up the retirement plan, if that makes sense.
Diego: [00:38:19] Yeah, it does. And it sounds like it's all good. Like it's enjoyable. You'd like both sides of it, which is a great place to be in. You've found a balance between the two that really works for you. And I think that's somewhat rare. A lot of people, they want to make the farming thing, the fulltime thing, because they hate the current full-time thing.
You don't, you love it. You said you love it. So it's a great position to be in. And it's probably a nice position to be in from the sense of you're not doing either one with stress or resentment. Like you can go in and take time to learn how to farm, learn, how to grow, build the customer base, enjoy it, and do what you need to do at the pace at which it happens versus really trying to accelerate it because you're like, I got to get the hell out of here for this other job.
Rome Julian: [00:39:13] Yeah. And I listened to a lot of your podcast and I hear people say that they were in that position where they, they really ate it there and they got to get out of there. They had to figure out how to get out of it. And my thing is, I'm not really trying to get out of, I'm doing a film making thing, working on TV and movies.
I'm more trying to see how I can make it mesh with, with my farming dreams as well. like I said, I think, in the years to come, that it will transition, and it'll be more on the farm heavy side then. The film industry side and that's, to be honest, I've been doing, I've been in the film business for.
14 years, almost 15 years and not, not regretted one thing, but I always wanted to make sure I was a star, something of my own and having something that if this industry totally went away, that I would have something I can fall back on and. Whether that was a skill or whether it was, open-end some kind of business.
I always just felt that I needed to have that informing just stepped up and just provided that need for me to have something to fall back on. Cause I know, nowadays with Michael Green's, I can sell as many microbreweries as I can. Clint. I know I can do that. if I planted a greenhouse for micro greens, I would probably sell all of them.
Week to week, but because I have the confidence now yeah. Trust in myself to step out there and try and venture. And, and I know you don't really talk about the whole, pastor poultry, aspect of it, but that was another leap of faith I jumped out and just tried it, just to see how that would balance with this.
And if eventually. if I knew I wanted to do walnuts in the future, what it would take and it just changed so much. So I'm really just finding a fine line right now to make these go hand in hand the filming and farming. But yeah, eventually I can see. Me going a little bit more full time with become the fall. Cause that was just, it was just a natural thing for me. It's not nothing I see as a real hurdle, I know that I got you just got to go after. You gotta work really hard and I don't mind working hard. So eventually yeah. I think we'll transition in the farm into full time.
Diego: [00:41:59] Yeah. It's really cool to hear you moving forward with a lot of stuff. And there's a lot of people, that listened to this podcast and the other podcast that I do, and I'm pretty confident that most of those people, they don't know, do anything and that's fine. Maybe they find something else in their life that they want to spend their time on.
But I think a lot of people don't start in this space or start with a business because they get scared to pursue opportunities. They have some fear around failure, whatever ever that might be in their head. You started the microgreens thing on the side. I just started doing pastured, poultry. How do you view startup now in taking on new things? When you think there's an opportunity there?
Rome Julian: [00:42:47] I, I tend now to think about it a little bit more before I just get so gung ho, cause sometimes I'll just man, let me just, I'm gonna just do it. I'm just, I'm doing it. I'm jumping, I'm going and I'll just take off and do something without thinking about it.
and not in a sloppy way, but just sometimes I just do things, but now I'm looking at it like with foreman, like you really have to. Think about and question everything that goes along with, that I do, whether it be, a different crop or livestock or hell mushroom farming, like you need to think about everything that goes along with it instead of just jumping in and do it.
So I try to tell myself that nowadays, and I. I'm trying to think when I try to start up another enterprise within what I'm already doing, that I really think about all aspects and all the people involved and, how does that involve my family and, cause it get trickled down so far. I liked to have more insight and knowledge about the next thing I want to pursue before I started doing it.
So I'm just working on that building something that I can say, I at least thought about it before I tried it. And not just jump head first into an enterprise, just because I think is cool.
Diego: [00:44:20] You're in the film industry. So it's I think of this is, you're saying that I'm thinking of like a stunt man versus drunken bridge jumping. So a lot of people will. A lot of people won't do anything. So they just stand on the side and they're watching this and then you get the people, maybe this is people just starting out and they're like the drunken bridge jumper. I'm just going to jump off this, whatever's below, great. It happens, it happens.
I'm going for it where the stuntman is I'm going to jump. I know I'm going to jump. I've jumped a lot in the past, I'm really going to think about this and engineer this so I can control as much risk when I do jump as possible. But the jump is happening, I just want it to be a safe jump.
Rome Julian: [00:44:58] Exactly. That's a good analogy, a good way to, because yeah, that's safe that some guy's gonna, everything is safe before he jumped. Like he will, he won't jump in this email a hundred percent that all aspects, if he did fall and get hurt, make sure that there's an ambulance there waiting, we don't have to call when there's already one there waiting to take me away, Retard and soup or whatever the case may be. any safety, any, and all safety precautions are already thought about before he takes that job. And, yeah, that's exactly, I'm still on looking at for him and now, because it affects everybody around me. and I have kids, I have two kids and my wife and, a lot of what I do form wise affects.
Their lives so much that I have to think about every single thing, every crop every year, chicken, every egg, I have to think about how that affects. yeah, I would say I'm starting to fall back and put some thought into. A lot of ideas that are I just have that are come up with a lot.
Diego: [00:46:08] How do you find balancing that all out? It sounds like the film industry can be very. fits and starts like you take on a project you're on a filming project and they can probably be crazy hours for a lot of days in a row, maybe weeks in a row. And then you're doing farming on the side, on top of that. And then you have a family also, there's really three balls. You're juggling there. you only have 24 hours in a day. You only have seven days in a week. How have you found trying to make those three parts? Co-exist.
Rome Julian: [00:46:39] It's been very challenging. I would, without having that, I'm a good wife and, she's really, the only reason I'm able to make all of this work hand in hand is just having her there to have my back on a lot of situations.
the balance is crazy. And people ask me that all the time, they like it. They'll see me, on the film set and they like, man, aren't you a farmer. Like I see all these pictures you have, all these micro greens and veggies and chickens and how the hell are you working on a set right now, if you have all of that stuff going on and I'm like, I'm making it work because I figured that part out how.
How to make, how to have dedicated time prior to going to work and dedicated time after leaving work, no matter how many hours I've worked, I have to dedicate time to the farm and dream as well. So that whole balance and juggling, with the kids, a full time job and, As up until last week and having livestock, it's just, it's very, I'm gonna say I'll be honest.
It's difficult, but doable. And I'm finding it that, one day something might I take the good with, I take a lot of the bad with the good as well. So if I don't come around to the crop in time or notice that something isn't right with something before too long, because I'm working so many hours and I have to let, I have to let it go and start over and learn from that mistake and how to balance the time differently to make sure that doesn't happen again.
if I have to miss a delivery or reschedule a delivery, because I didn't know that I was working until Saturday morning at 8:00 AM overnight, I worked overnight, so I can't make Saturday. So I just learned that, at any given time something can change, whether it's within the crop or whether it's in my normal everyday life and just making that those quit would, thought out decisions on how to go about finishing or completing whatever projects I have going on along with work and kids.
Diego: [00:48:58] It's a tricky subject to describe. And it's, I think it would be a different struggle for everybody. Like one thing I really struggle with as I look at this as like my main thing now, and when I want to do something else, in addition to this and give my family the time I need, I often find like I have to rush that other thing, they call that the third wheel on it.
And I find myself trying to do something that should take an hour if I was going to do it perfectly and do it right. And I'm trying to do it in 30 minutes and I'm rushing on it just to try and get it done. And when it comes to farming and doing business on the side, you'll have people, like maybe a Salitan would suggest, Hey, go at it full time, give it your all.
So you can put everything into it because when you're working full time and starting the farm on the side, the full time job takes precedence and you're not leaving as much time to do the other thing as you might need. Do you find yourself in that position, do you find that between family and. The film work that when it comes time to do the farming thing, you�re constrained, or have you found a way just to balance it out and make it work? It sounds when a crop goes bad, when you have to miss a delivery, it is what it is and you found a work around?
Rome Julian: [00:50:25] Yeah. That's the constant is that it's always, you always going to have to figure out a workaround around something. so having. Was a 60 hour a week job. It's Ooh, how do you do anything related to farming?
Like how is that possible? yeah, you have to, get six hours of sleep and not eat. you have to get a little bit earlier than you normally would. sometimes you have to go to bed a little bit earlier than you normally would. To get, just to get a head start or stand up late, or I would even admit this I have in the past, not just blew by going to sleep, forget sleep.
There's no way I'm going to sleep. If I've got to get, I have to get this done. It's so much reliant on this. Or whether all this energy was put into this. This project for nothing depends on whether I go to sleep for six hours or not, or stay up an extra four hours. Normally. You see what I'm saying?
And just knowing when that has to happen has been the biggest challenge because yes, I'm putting myself at risk. With, not getting enough sleep or, maybe not having the most adequate diet at that moment, for that day, I whatever I gotta do, man, I'm willing to do whatever I have to make sure without risking anyone else's or my, my health or my, I forget the words.
my physical beings, I, I try to do as much as possibly can. I possibly can within the 24 hours I'm given every day. So I let some days bleed over into nights and the days and whatever the case may be. I just try to stay focused on pretty much on when. Things, or it is it's prime as far as with the awful on job, I try to make sure I'm there every day.
That's the key part. So if I gotta run out, plantain, if I wanted to plant five trees and micro greens and I only get to three, you never tried to sort that forth when I'd be late for work. I wouldn't start that for micro green tree. I just have to figure out another time to squeeze that in.
To be able to keep up with, what I'm doing. So it's kinda, it's very challenging. It's got is really tough moments, but for the most part, I've been able to just. Continue to make things happen. And a lot of it has to do with the motivation I get from other farms and from like the work that you do, and I keep saying it, but the work that you do and other farmers and other, Richard Perkins and I look at these guys and I'm like, man, like these guys are doing or putting in the amount of work and doing whatever they need to do and still have time.
To make a YouTube video to make, to help me. They make they taking time out of, they kinda just move their chickens, goats, pigs, and not filmed it to show me how not to do a role. No, they took the time to still make that happen along with all the other stuff that they do. And so it's really, I look at all those guys, even Curtis man, Curtis, shout out to Curtis, amazing individual to be able to provide, not only all of the good food, he does have time to make videos, to help them guys like me who are trying to figure this thing out, and nobody's perfect, but everybody is.
If you want to do this, I just get inspired so much. I see. And other people that said, yes, tough, this is not, it is not easy. If you work in all form on phone, whatever it is, and you want to do this, you have to, and looking at these guys and, listening to the podcasts that you have, all of that, it just, it makes me.
Feeling that I can continue to do it. And that's the main reason I keep telling myself I can do it because I'm seeing it happen. these guys are doing it. I'm going to provide that for months from my community here in new Orleans. I want to have Wallace. I want to have they're eating fresh and not worry about different.
Things, when it comes to their food, I want them to have that same feeling. So I don't know. It's I get all amped up, but man, I get so, so motivated, just listening to other farmers and see other farmers doing what I aspire to.
Diego: [00:55:08] Yeah. You can hear it in your voice. And you said back there, like you're trying to figure it out. I think you have figured it out. You're doing it. You're taking the content that other people are putting out there and you are running with it and making it your own and providing local, fresh food to your community in New Orleans.
For people that want to follow along with everything that you're doing, where can they follow Rome Julian and Laketilly Acres?
Rome Julian: [00:55:37] We have an Instagram account, which is Laketilly Acres. Also Rome Enterprise, Rome, enterprise, all one word is another, there's more of my personal, but it has a lot of farm stuff on that as well. We're also on Facebook as Laketilly Acres as well.
Diego: [00:55:56] Yeah. Be sure to link to all that so people can follow along and check you out. Thanks for taking the time on a Monday to share your story and inspire other people to follow in your footsteps and get out there and do it.
Rome Julian: [00:56:09] Man, Diego, thank you so much for having me. It's a real pleasure, real thankful, man. I�m thankful, man, so thankful for what you do. So keep it up. I appreciate it.
Diego: [00:56:24] There you have it. Rome Julian of Laketilly Acres. If you want to follow along with everything that Rome's doing, be sure to check him out on Instagram at Lake Tilly acres, which I've linked to below in the show notes for this episode.
I really want to thank Rome for coming on today and sharing his story. I think it's an inspirational story. One of the things I love best about doing this show is talking to me. People who take what they have here on this show, make it their own and run with it. I think those stories are super inspirational and that's exactly what Rome has done.
He's taken things that he's learned through this show and other sources, and he's ran with it. He's made it his own. He's adapted it to his life and it's working for him. If you're somebody who's listened to this show and you've taken some of the inspiration from this show and you've ran with it, I'd love to feature you on a future show.
So send me an email. Diego at paper, pot.co, and maybe I can work your story into a future episode. One thing I have found in the past when I put this call out is people say, Oh, why would you want to talk to me? And know, you've talked to Curtis, you've talked to Jim, you talked to Ben Hartman. Those guys are so far ahead of what I'm doing.
What else could I offer? And my answer is always the same. You can offer your story. And your story will help someone. And your story will resonate with someone own who you are own, what you're doing and be proud of it. Whether you're doing five trays of micro greens a week or 250 trays of microgreens a week, that's better than doing zero micrograins a week as we start to close out 2018.
Take some time to think back on 2018 and what it was like, and take some time to sell it, break that for you, Pat yourself on the back, be proud of where you have came from. It's really easy to forget it. And it's really easy to think that you're not anywhere when you try and compare yourself to some of the other bigger name farmers out there.
But if you've started you're somewhere and you're much further ahead. And then somebody who hasn't started so own it. Thanks for listening until next time. Be nice. Be thankful and do the work.
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