Selling Vegetables Online and Farm Start Up with Daniel Garcia of Garcia’s Gardens (FSFS129)

 

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            If your local markets are already saturated, you’re going to need to start getting creative—from the places you sell to the products you offer. Today we’re talking to Daniel Garcia to tell us about where he sells his produce and some interesting product ideas that have been a hit with customers.

 

Today’s Guest: Daniel Garcia

            Previously working an office job, Daniel Garcia started his farming career as a hobby gardener. The first time he joined a farmer’s market, he sold out and made $65, but now he’s been more profitable selling online.

 

Relevant Links                                                                                           

             Garcia’s Gardens – Websites | Instagram | Facebook

 

In this episode of Farm Small, Farm Smart

  • Diego introduces the episode’s guest, Daniel Garcia (00:35)  
  • How Daniel got into farming (02:37)
    • Doing something about the food desert situation (05:43)
  • Making the transition from garden to small farm (07:01)
  • More exploratory than a conscious financial decision at first (10:21)
  • When Daniel decided to farm beyond paying for groceries (11:07)
  • Determining what was a successful market stream in Daniel’s area and target number of markets per week (13:15)
  • What it’s like being a farmer doing multiple markets per week (14:14)
  • Establishing presence in a new market and building out a customer base (16:34)
  • Selling produce online and what it’s like (21:50)
  • Product idea: bundling produce for value packs (25:42)
  • A walkthrough of a salsa pack (27:14)
  • Comparing a regular farmer’s market to the online market sales (29:28)
  • How significant the online market as a market stream (31:13)
  • The cumbersome points of selling online (33:08)
  • The difference in terms of service: company A vs. company B (34:02)
  • Will the kits and packs sell as well in farmers’ market, or is it an online thing? (35:45)
  • Would there be any reason not to pursue selling produce online? (37:37)
  • Stability of online sales week to week (40:25)
  • The changes to make in the farm coming into 2018 (41:54)
  • The comforts and anxieties in this stage of Daniel’s farming career (44:50)
  • Using technology and equipment to save yourself time (46:55)
  • Balancing farming and commitments at home (48:06)
  • Defining what success is with the farm (49:42)
  • Where to follow Daniel and Garcia’s Gardens (54:10)

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FSFS129_DanielGarcia

Diego: [00:00:00] If your local markets are crowded and competitive, then you may want to look for another place to sell, but not necessarily another physical place. You might want to consider selling your produce online. That's one of the topics that I'll be talking to Daniel Garcia about in this episode, coming up.

Welcome to the world of farming, small and farming smart. I'm your host, Diego.

One of the trends that you'll see out there in really every industry is moving more and more traditional brick and mortar business online. With Amazon acquiring whole foods and having Amazon fresh. You're now able to buy groceries online. A lot of bigger grocery store chains offer online ordering with outside the store pickup.

But it's not just a game that the big boys can play. There's more and more sites cropping up to allow small farmers to sell their produce online. And while some of those sites have been around for a while, they're starting to gain more and more popularity and get some traction. And the farmer I'm talking to today, Daniel Garcia of Garcia's Gardens in Indianapolis, Indiana has had success selling to local online grocers.

It's a market stream. That's really changed the direction of Daniel's farm. It's given Daniel another Avenue to sell his produce and it's scaled to the point where it's basically replaced a farmer's market day for him. Selling online also provides several advantages for Daniel. It's one way to manage inventory, but as he can aggregate products into packages and make things like a salsa kit or a tomato sauce kit and sell those online something that's a lot harder to do. And maybe not as popular at a farmer's market.

Overall, it's an interesting model. And one that's worked so far for Daniel. He's just a few years into farming and today you'll hear how he started, why he started, how the online aggregators fit into it and where he wants to go with his farm. Because like most of us who take anything on, we often take it on for more than just financial reasons. There's something greater than us that we try and achieve. Daniel will talk about that later in the episode. With that, let's jump right into it. With Daniel Garcia of Garcia's gardens.

All right. So Daniel, a bit on your farm before, it's an urban farm outside of Indianapolis, and I've talked to you a whole bunch in person, but one thing I don't know is, what's your story? How did you get into farming?

Daniel Garcia: [00:02:51] I've always had some sort of gardening or farming, in my life. In one shape or another. My dad is a farmer he's he grew up in Mexico, farming, corn and beans. And, but I can remember him teaching me how to plant my first tomato plant. Like it was yesterday. We always had a garden growing up and always been interested in plants.

I went to school for biology, which then several research labs. Throughout, while I was going to school and, I've worked at large agricultural companies, and different asset aspects. So I've seen industrial scale agriculture down to, agriculture on a micro farm level. And I've just, I got an opportunity to help with the.

Try to connect people with, different organizations around Indianapolis, that deal with hunger. I got to organize meetings with all these different groups, whether or not it was a Gleaners food bank or Midwest food bank, but I also found a local group of just urban farmers and the more I.

Delved into it. I could, I just found this pretty good network of just people growing on small-scale Anchorage. and that kind of sparked my interest and I had just been going to several enough, trying to do as much research as possible reading Eliot Coleman, and then finding a JM�s book. So after I found all these, started finding all these urban farmers and taking farm tours, we just, for some reason, my garden started to get bigger and bigger.

I think it started at 600 square feet and then doubled the next year. And it just kept growing. yeah, I worked for large scale agriculture, but I wasn't really. in my eyes, I wasn't really having as much impact on our local community, but it just seems like there was so much need within Indianapolis where our farm is actually in the largest food deserts in the United States.

ironically enough. and it's just The disparity between different areas and it's just hard to think about people not having access to food. And if it is, it's just not fresh local food, and it's not organic. a lot of places, it's just a quickie Mart type food, not a lot of, fresh.

Fresh food available. So we really wanted to try to help out in that respects. and I still we're a for-profit farm, so we have to make, we have to support the business first and put, any of our, secondary, goals. In terms of community support. We have to put that second, just because without the, stability of the business, we won't be able to do any of that, community support

Diego: [00:06:28] When you were seeing what was happening locally. Food desert yet. A lot of support for small local farms. You're growing your garden. How did you make that transition from garden to small farm? What was the model or the plan for doing this as a business at that time?

Daniel Garcia: [00:06:51] So the plan was at the time, we were just going to start small, just, on about a quarter of an acre, selling the farmer's markets. Not really serious. or not we're doing it seriously, but we weren't really relying on it for, the majority of our income in that transition. We were thinking, Oh, let's just get our feet wet, stick our toe in the water and see how this is going to go. And then the week that, our first market started, there was a big announcement at my, at the company I worked for.

And they were doing pretty significant layoffs. And I was one of the lucky few who got the layoff. So it was like a pretty, is this coincidence type moment. and we weren't really, not looking back now. We weren't really prepared or. Setting up a market space. we had all the tent and equipment and, my original game plan was just grow the majority of crops, just do a pretty much a shotgun approach to the crop selection.

I think that's what a lot of people do. mainly out of curiosity, I think that's. Why I did it, I've grown pretty much everything on a garden scale that we grew from market, but not at a market garden scale. Our property is about a little over an acre and a half. And I want to say we're almost a half acre and vegetable production now.

We added some beds, this summer and fall, put in a pretty good sized garlic patch year, two rolled around. And I could really tell just from what sold and what didn't, that we spent a lot of time on some of the some crops that we didn't even really make much money off of. So we whittled it down. I think initially we had, it was something ridiculous, like 75 different varieties. your too, I think we went down to about 38, 40 different varieties.

Diego: [00:09:28] So a very similar trend that a lot of people getting into this space follow with just refining more and more down to what works. Knowing that you initially approached it where it didn't idea wasn't to support you full-time in or you're selling at the farmer's market dabbling.

Daniel Garcia: [00:09:52] Yeah, it was really just this really initially to see where this would go more of exploratory, and then help, essentially pay for our groceries. Since we were already had a large farm. Why not make it pay it?

Diego: [00:10:09] At what point did you start to think I could make a living doing this or this could go beyond just paying for groceries?

Daniel Garcia: [00:10:15] That's one. I started reading Eliot Coleman's book. it just seemed Oh, he's got two acres. It seems doable. And then I saw Jam's book and I just took a look at it. The total acreage that he's using the price that he's getting for, crops and production systems and the amount of labor that's involved.

And it just seems possible. And then I think it was the second year at the farmer's market. I had all of these colored grains and it was I think it was about September or October sometime. And I called up Derby Simpson because I know he has bacon and bacon it. And I said, Hey, Darby, I don't really know you, but I see her at my market.

how about we run a special where you do some kind of like bacon and collard green sale. And he's I think I'll have a bunch of bacon ends, but then he asked me some questions on how I raised my produce. And I told him we're all chemical free. We're on about a third of an acre. And he's Oh, you mean Curtis stone?

And I was like, who's heard of stone. And he's Oh, you should check them out. It's really good information. And so the next day I, We swapped products and had I had his bacon on display and he had our collard greens on display. And then I think a week or two later, I looked up her to stone and I saw, Oh, I'm not that crazy after all, there's actually people doing this.

Diego: [00:12:09] What have you found successful in your area for your farm in terms of market streams? To move products. If you think about the farm, your farm today, what's your primary market stream and where is most of your product going?

Daniel Garcia: [00:12:29] Our primary market streams are farmer's markets and online sales secondary would be, restaurants and private chefs for farmer's markets.

Diego: [00:12:41] You've done. Quite a bit of farmer's markets in the past. what are you looking to do for 2018 in terms of number of markets per week?

Daniel Garcia: [00:12:51] Last year, we did four markets a week. One of those markets was just once a month on a Sunday. and right now I am thinking one or two markets a week. And if I find somebody, if I can find somebody to, help with harvesting and packing this year, then I'll probably do another market to pay for that person. That's my plan. Now.

Diego: [00:13:22] How was it as a farmer doing multiple markets a week? You're doing it because you have to do it, but does it just become overwhelming just to have, three times a week at a farmer's market plus that one week a month where you're doing four.

Daniel Garcia: [00:13:35] it can be overwhelming. the, whenever I do a Saturday, Sunday market in a row, that's when I'm just, I feel like I have a farmer's market hangover if there's something like that. but it's a great market. We get our name out there. I don't know what other farmer's experiences are, but here in Indianapolis, there'll be say, markets, you make a little bit of income, but it's nothing like the weekend markets, a lot of the weekday markets it's, social capital building, networking, kidding.

You put your ear to the rail to see how the rest of the market vendors are doing. What's been working well for them learning about, different events that are coming up. more of, it's not just I'm selling vegetables. I'm trying to understand the market here locally. so yeah, we did a new Wednesday market last year in a new area for us. It was nice. To see that, to understand what that market looks like. but weekday markets. We really don't make a lot of money. the majority is made on a Saturday and Sunday.

Diego: [00:15:00] It's a new farmer coming onto the scene. Some of the better farmer's markets that you did, how did you establish a presence there and start to build a customer base. I've been to some of the farmer's markets that Darby does, and there's a lot of edge vendors. When you're the newbie on a small land base. How do you come in and start staking some territory in building that out? Because hearing you, that's one of the main contributors of your sales and that's one of the main things that's led towards this farm, providing a full income. How have you been able to build that out?

Daniel Garcia: [00:15:36] I think the first step that we took was just get to know the other farmers at the market. they know what's been going on for 14, 15 years. I remember the first, one of the first farmers I talked with, he'd been going to that market, I think ever since it started.

And I was in his spot from last year and he was just kinda ticked off at me, thinking back at it. But I just, I said, how are you doing, my name's Daniel and shook his hand. And he was just kinda been one of my, to farmer friends and we help each other out. if he's got a surplus of something and I'll try to use my contacts, And if I've got a surplus of something, then you know, he might know something.

but just talking with him, getting a feel for the customers and, understanding, like one of the, I remember one of the first things he told me was just, have you ever thought about specializing in just a few crops? And I think he knew that I didn't know what the heck I was doing when that first year.

and I think that really helped just me sitting down and thinking, okay, yeah, customers are really wanting this and they're not really wanting eggplants, no offense to eggplant. and I think just. Talking like always standing up at your farmer's market booth. it's one thing to just show up, but just always stand up and I don't see enough farmers doing this.

If you just stand up, people just want to come and see what you're doing. this is a, one of my tips, for always standing up is just by. The $50 or $35 anti-fatigue mat, don't get the cheap $10 one from the Chinese tool manufacturer store. Just get a really nice one and you can stand on that thing all market long and especially our markets, our Saturday markets on asphalt.

So it's a night and day difference and I tell all the other events and there's one like you guys just get one of these maps. And it just helps you for the rest of the weekend. number one, just always stand up, make your produce display, look as nice as possible. I'm still working around with different configurations of the tables.

tablecloths, let's get some tablecloths to go all the way down. good signage. And then, remember people's names it's kinda nuts when you, or remember what that person got the week before if they come back. and I, there's something about people seeing that you remember them and you've made some kind of connection.

I think that's why people want to. Take the time out of their busy schedule and go to the farmer's market. Yeah. Produce is part of it. But if they're part of this community, essentially I think it's just one of the it's part of the product. Really. And then another thing I try to do is get other market customers to talk to each other.

if they ask, Oh, what's this tax soy idea. Cook that well, I'll just start talking about how I cook it and try to, raise my voice and tell a corny joke a little bit to grab a, another customer that may be eavesdropping. and they may become curious then try to get those people to interact. I think that's just the next level. Farmer's marketing.

Diego: [00:19:41] Oh, I like those tips. it's all comes down to human connection. And in personal connections with all this, but your second biggest market stream is faceless because you started to sell a lot of product through online farmer's markets. Can you talk about what services you sell through and how that's worked for you?

Daniel Garcia: [00:20:05] Yeah. Okay. So we do we sell through to online markets. Everybody has an account online, and then you create your own products, whatever you're going to sell. everything in that market has to be from Indiana and you essentially create your product, upload your picture, and then you have a little paragraph or, an, a title to your product.

And you have an inventory. You just say, every week you go in and update it, update your inventory. So once the ordering period is over, which is like Wednesday at noon, Wednesday noon, you go update your inventory and then it's back online Wednesday at one, 1:00 PM for people to start ordering your next, up to.

And you can go in throughout the. The week. And if you sold some units, you can decrease that. And if you have extra units from somewhere else, increase that. so at, around well, 30 on Wednesday or so, one 30, I got an email with a, essentially a pick ticket that has what people ordered, how many they ordered.

and where their drop off location is. So there's different drop off locations around central Indiana, where people go and pick up their, their orders. and that's all essentially retail facing. There are some wholesale, some people are selling wholesale through there as well. I know there's some hydroponics growers that are selling wholesale and I think maybe an orchard too.

that's mainly retail. one thing that I have done rather than just selling tomatoes in the summertime is I'll put together. Like a salsa pack. So it'll be all the ingredients for salsa and we'll have a recipe and it's I'm half Mexican. So I just, I just put in there, my grandma Mexican grandma salsa recipe, and it's like legit salsa.

How you make it. All fresh ingredients, everything I need, tomato, onion, cilantro, garlic, peppers. And I do, tomato sauce. if you want to make a spaghetti, I'll have a tomato sauce pack and we'll do like a pesto pack. So if people want to make pesto, there'll be, all the ingredients for. Pesto minus the cheese and the pine nuts and olive oil.

Diego: [00:23:06] So you can bundle product and create essentially infinite number of products, which value adds more on. If you say for salsa, you just sold them tomatoes and onions and peppers and garlic.

Daniel Garcia: [00:23:18] Yeah. So I was the reason how I came up with this. And so I was like, okay, there's this whole bladed. And, No, you can order your whole dinner online essentially. Then you get all the ingredients, you can cook them. so we did some research on how they set up their recipes and looked at how they packaged everything and, just saw what there.

The quality of the produce was in there, meal kits. And I thought, Oh yeah, we can do something really easy. That would, that would really be better than what you're getting in the pro with a better than the pros that you're getting in those online mail meal kits. it's all conventional, it's not. Local and the quality is okay. I'm not going to say bad, but it's just, it's like grocery store quality. Maybe. I don't know if you've ever tried those.

Diego: [00:24:26] no. I'm thinking of that. This isn't Sesame intrigue. So can you walk through, let's say a salsa pack. How are you packaging that and what is the customer ultimately getting? So when this pickup service comes on Thursday, I'm assuming they're picking up some vessel that has the salsa pack. They're not aggregating it themselves.

Daniel Garcia: [00:24:50] Yeah. So I have everything pre-packed, which is why I need, that's why I'm looking for part-time help this year is to help me with that harvesting and packing.

It does take a little bit of extra time, but it's like. People yet. So when you look at the product, it's just a paper bag that you get from the farmer's market, same paper bag that we use to put our produce in. And then inside you have the full containers that have the tomatoes in it, and then you get a little baggy of the cilantro and.

I think it's two garlic cloves, so we're not even giving a whole head of garlic, two cloves, and peppers. And then we'll do just throw some peppers in there loose, and we'll do this. It's a mild sauce and we'll do three mild peppers or maybe two if it's just Anaheims. So it's a really good way for us to move peppers that.

aren't selling it, the market pepper store pretty well for, I would say at least three weeks, once you get to be about two weeks and you've had to start seeing spots and some of them just got us it's those, but they'll store pretty well in the cold room and they don't lose flavor like tomatoes if you put them in the folder.

Diego: [00:26:24] so these packs is cool. I like the idea of it then it's. Is moving stuff you otherwise might not be able to move. It's adding a little bit of margin. And how is this particular company in terms of rewarding a farmer? And if you compare it against a farmer's market sale, how does it compare when you sell through this online market?

Daniel Garcia: [00:26:45] Okay. so with this online market, there's a annual fee. I think it's like a hundred or $150. and then they take 15% of whatever the, so you'll you say whatever price you want to sell it for, and they'll take 15%, but their 15% comes from an additional, from a 15% of whatever you said it was. So if you said it was going to be $10 for your product, then they'll be selling that product for 1150.

You still get $10, then they get their dollar 50. And the cost is passed on to the consumer essentially to be able to pick up fresh local produce around the city.

Diego: [00:27:37] So you're really in a free market here, pricing your product, just like you would anywhere else against other farmers on the site for the price you need to get. And if a customer decides to buy from you, it's based on prices, based upon what they're reading on your little section of the site, availability, that type of thing. Yeah.

Daniel Garcia: [00:27:58] And I also get farmer's market customers who are like, I'm not going to make it here next week. And so I'll plug the online markets and if you're not going to be here or if you're still in town, you can still find our stuff online.

Diego: [00:28:12] And for being the number two market stream for you guys, how significant is this online thing? I'm assuming this is not just 50 or a hundred dollars a week. there's some serious money that's going into these online platforms.

Daniel Garcia: [00:28:25] I just got into it in September. Okay. So we haven't been in it for a year. It's been almost half a year. initially, like the first week it was like, okay, We make $65. but then after that, once we started doing the kits, sales really picked up. it was better than doing a weekday market. You see where I'm going here? That's why we're thinking. Why should we even do a weekday markets for sure.

Diego: [00:28:58] For sure. it's the advantages are, they come pick it up. You can really harvest to order. So you're not having overage for this. You can combine stuff to get margin and to get rid of product that you otherwise might not be able to sell. And you're naming your price. it's seems

Daniel Garcia: [00:29:17] show the inventory, I think it's working great for us now, but I'm always thinking in the back of my mind, this has gotta be some kind of bubble, I feel like. How long has this been a, how long are these sales gonna continue? I don't know. Maybe it's just going to continue. it's a similar model to Amazon fresh.

some of those like online, but like now you can go to the grocery store and pick up all your, order online and then just pull up in the parking lot, have it all put in your car. You don't even have to go walk through the store now that some of the larger groceries. So everybody's trying to compete here,

Diego: [00:29:58] What are the negatives of it, like from the farmer's side, you're dealing with two of these services. What don't you like? Or what are the cumbersome points of this?

Daniel Garcia: [00:30:07] Okay. So number one, you really lose that one-to-one customer facing relationship. it seems like the. online vendors want to control that, control the message, which is, I completely understand they have their business to run and there's a lot of moving parts, but it's, that's the downside that I see you don't get that you don't get the same opportunity to bill. A relationship with someone that you do at a farmer's market.

Diego: [00:30:49] What about in terms of the services themselves? you're working with two. Are they more or less the same in terms of how they function or do you find that company a to company B, there is some differences and one's better than the other one leads to more sales than the other.

Daniel Garcia: [00:31:04] Okay. So the company that picks up my sales are not as good. And I think that's just partly due to marketing budgets. but the online markets that I have to deliver to those sales are better. And the online markets that I delivered to that I have to bring the produce to, they charge more. So it's yeah, they're charging more.

But I'm selling more. And I have heard it from other farmers and I've had similar experiences where a customer will come back and say, I paid X number of dollars for this product. I thought it would get more and they don't understand, or they're not, they don't know how much we have to pay for that service. It's not the same as the farmer's market.

Diego: [00:32:04] So the customers they're paying you for the product, plus they're paying for the service to get them the product.

Daniel Garcia: [00:32:11] Yeah. And they're thinking, at least for my mindset, I feel like they're just thinking I'm paying just for the product. I'm not paying for the service. You know what I mean?

Diego: [00:32:22] Yeah. Definitely. With the kits, that's something I find interesting. Do you think that a salsa kit or a pesto kit or tomato sauce kit works at a actual in-person physical market or is this an online thing?

Daniel Garcia: [00:32:39] Yeah, it works way better online. I've sold the kits at farmer's markets and I, I just don't clear as many. and are you going to advertise them to my newsletter? we have kits, but. I feel like it's mainly the online customer bases at once the kits, because already they're not going to the market that tells me they're already strapped for time. And if they can get it in a kit and they've got everything they need, they've got the recipe, they've got all the ingredients, they just have, if it's also secure, they just have to make the tacos or get the nachos.

So I think it's a time, how people want to allocate their time. I think online, they're really just thinking about that time aspect of how long is this going to take me? But whereas the farmer's market people, they just want to hang out. Like I'll get, I have customers that have never bought anything from me.

At the farmer's market, but they just want to talk about gardening or they want to talk about the different vegetables. They're just like, this stuff, what's the name. They don't even want to buy anything. what's that, think of that in terms of the time, the weight, the means in which you want to spend your time, it's a completely different crowd

Diego: [00:34:12] hearing the online sales model. it's something that I think. It's going to be around a while. I guess it comes down to who is going to be around awhile, like in terms of what services and this space do it. But I feel like it's a nice option for people to have. And if you're talking to another farmer and they're in st. Louis or Biloxi, Mississippi, would there be any reason not to pursue these types of things?

Daniel Garcia: [00:34:43] I would definitely do it. Take advantage of any market you can, the market's always changing. The worst thing you can do is just stagnate at your current market. Even if your market is currently doing well, you still have to explore. It's just so amorphous, but yeah, I would definitely try it.

One of, at one, I guess another con would be inventory management becomes a little more challenging because now we have an inventory set up at one online market. Inventory set up at another online market inventory set up for a restaurant customers and inventory set up for farmer's market customers. So that's one of the things on my list.

This winter is to develop a little bit more, better, a little bit better inventory management system. and I there's some. A little bit of computer programming to be done, but I think people have already done it and I just need to apply it towards a market garden. whenever I put product in the cooler it's Wade and I just enter that information into a database and whenever I take it out and I've subtracted from the database, and I think that's the next step.

For restaurant sales is because if I can give access to chefs, all of my inventory, it just click a link on their smartphones and they can see, Oh, you've got a couple hundred pounds of greens. Okay. I'll take 10 pounds. you've got 50 pounds of carrots. Okay. I'll take 20 pounds. They don't have to worry about coming back and saying, Oh, there's.

No, I really would like to have, 10 pounds more of whatever that product is still be able to see how much inventory is, that we have available. I think that's the, that's going to be the next step towards, helping out the restaurant sales.

Diego: [00:36:50] So all this goes into, you gotta be pretty dynamic in terms of forecasting sales. Yeah. Keeping track of inventory backing up so you know what to have in the field when, because you're balancing all these market streams out. if you think about the online sales, do you find that they're pretty stable week to week? Are they all over the board, which I imagine could make, feel the plan,

Daniel Garcia: [00:37:18] from what I see. I feel like the online sites only I've only been in there since September, but I say the same trends that I do at the farmer's market. once you hit labor day at the farmer's market sales trends down, and that's the same kind of trend that I saw going into the winter, online sales started to trend down.

Now there's been a couple bumps up here and there, like lead ran us special with them. One of the online markets, for carrots. Cause we had a bunch of carrots. I think we just, it's just every now and then we'll get blips of higher sales, but it's been trending down and I'm pretty sure it's the same at a market cycle that we see for farmer's markets.

Diego: [00:38:10] with these new online markets becoming potentially more and more of your farm this year, what types of changes are you making, going into 2018? And we're talking here in January. Is there stuff that you really want to get better at this year or change around that you think will make a significant difference to the farm either in terms of workload or profitability?

Daniel Garcia: [00:38:36] So getting better on cultivation. that's one thing, another thing that I'm currently doing now is I'm putting, I'm trying to standardize everything. So with the microgreens, I don't want to have to worry about weighing so many seeds portray. So I've got that, or, graduated plastic beakers, and you put in however much see that you want to.

However much weight of seed you want to put on a tray? Let's say I was just doing beats, beat microgreens today because I'm pushing some beat microgreens for Valentine's day. so rather than having to weigh out those seeds every time I just have a cup with a line on it. And it's essentially a calibrated measuring device.

That's just about, I think it was 70. Grams of seed. I, dumped it in the cup and weighed it three times just to see approximately where it was just trying to standardize that process. So I don't have to worry about weighing anything. I just need the cups, fill up the cup, spread it on the tray, trying to make it as easy as possible for someone to come in and learn how to work through some of these steps as easily as possible.

Another thing we're doing is upgrading some of our tools and get rid, getting rid of the older tools. I just got the new rake from earth tools. That's in the heartburn book and it's I just shoot myself. I didn't have this rate earlier. I just bought a landscaping rake from. A local place. And I thought, Oh, this rate's gonna last me forever, but it's at least twice the weight. And then you go and look at this new rake and it's just, I could work with this thing all day. I'm going to grow less crops. I'm going to cut out, some of the one-offs and fancier stuff for those trying to do play Tonia. And it's a nice to try, but it's harder to sell, and our find the right people. just trying to reduce the overall workload. That's kinda what I'm really trying to do.

Diego: [00:40:48] So continuous improvement with everything that you're doing and making use of what you have and at this stage of your farming career, do you feel comfortable with things? There's not as much maybe worry as there was when you started and you feel like there's a system and it's working and there's a longer-term future.

Daniel Garcia: [00:41:13] I definitely see the longer-term future here. I'm still a little bit worried, but it's a lot easier now to see all of the things I didn't really need to do starting out like. We got the paper pot transplants or last year. that thing has just been unbelievable. and I, I'm not like, two years ago I was, I would get done with work and my wife would go to bed, go to work and I would just be, dead tired. And I just didn't want to do that to my kids. I'm just like, I want to be present. Not only physically, emotionally. and that was one of the driving factors for getting the paper pot, transplanter. And it's just been, you can transplant so many things in minutes and you're done. You just got to go water it. whereas prior to that, hand transplants in green onions. Lettuce. And it would just take all day for a few beds. Yeah, you can do it. You can, John Henry your way through it, but man, it's so much easier to stand up and just full pull the transplanter.

Diego: [00:42:38] So between the paper pot and that two-wheel tractor, when you get that dialed in. Then you'll have mechanized, a lot of your labor on the farm. And you're about my age. You're not a young guy, I'm not a young guy. this is one concern of a vegetable growing. As you get older is there's a physical aspect to this. And if you can use tools or technology to make your life easier and save time. Like for people that have kids, that's the V another thing that I think is huge. And you mentioned that of just. Having that extra time.

Daniel Garcia: [00:43:15] Yeah. And it's not just the time, but the extra time, you're not just physically exhausted, you're tired. You had a pretty good workout for the day, but you're not just a slug on the couch. you actually can run around with your kids and play tag with them and go climb trees with them,

Diego: [00:43:35] Do you have set work hours on the farm?

Daniel Garcia: [00:43:37] No. We don't really have set work hours.

Diego: [00:43:41] How have you found balancing out farming? it's literally in your backyard with home commitments inside the home commitments. I'll say

Daniel Garcia: [00:43:52] like I'm working on the set hours. I'm definitely working less hours now. Like I definitely work less hours last year than the previous year.

And. Definitely less than the first year. I can remember, the first farmer's market I ever did, it was just, I think I said till 2:00 AM getting all of the supplies ready and, we made a sign. we actually don't even use anymore. but we had, we made. I think it was like $65. We sold out of everything and I was jumping for joy because, we sold out, but it's just now it's 15, 20 times that it's just like with, I don't know, maybe three quarters of the effort.

We're not staying up till two o'clock in the morning. we might get up at. Four o'clock three 30, four o'clock in the morning to finish some stuff up. But I mean that it's just getting the right tools and not just the right tools, but having the right processes, right practices.

Diego: [00:45:06] How do you measure success now? So maybe initially the hurdle is this has to be a full-time income. Now that you're there. What do you view as this is a success for me on the farm?

Daniel Garcia: [00:45:23] I don't really know if it's, I think as long as everyone's happy or, has the capacity to be happy. I think that's really a key, I think being able to. Spend time with my kids. So prior to, farming farmer, I was working in a cubicle and then it was just, regular nine to five, nine to six or whatever. And for some reason, sitting in the cubicle, like this is exhausting, you wouldn't think so. And at the end of the day, you're just like, what was the point of that?

Just sitting in a cubicle. and I think it's just really, it's like my goals now, apart from just maintaining a business that stays float is having more time with my family. we took, let's see. So we took two weeks off, around Christmas and new year's. And then I took another week off in September.

we took Memorial day weekend and a couple other weekends. I think we probably took a month off and I've been taking, I wouldn't say I'm taking all my Sunday off, but it's more of planning. That's not a lot of, hope. That's not a lot of work in the garden usually. I thought every day, but I've been taking a lot more time off.

That's one big change that I saw last year. it'd be took more than a month off if they hit for vacation. that was, that didn't happen two years ago. And, another thing is just being able to talk with other growers and learn from them. And there's something about that. Just talking with other growers that, you just, you can find relatable more, a lot of people don't understand everything that goes into raising a head of lettuce or.

worrying about how well the products in your hot high tunnel are going to be. It's just kinda, I don't know. I think my big, really, what I want to do this year is network with a lot more growers and just get a better, understanding of the local food system. I've been talking with some folks about, I don't know what, starting up like a food co-op where people can buy like a freemium wholesale.

but I think really it's the next step is just to be involved with other growers. I think that's really critical for success longterm. I, I think it's really easy for us to say, at least for me anyway, I probably could do, I can do this whole garden by myself. And, but it's a lot of work that doesn't have to be done by just yourself.

I think networking with other growers and helping other people out. And I think that's just kinda. The next step. that's just like really important for success.

Diego: [00:48:57] Will you start to move from, this is what I need to, this is what, something bigger than just me needs. And I think everybody has their own areas that they want to follow. Or maybe that's food deserts. Maybe that's, co-ops, maybe that's advancing technology and you're going in those directions. As needed as the poll is there, but I want to thank you for coming on and taking the time to share your story and share what you're doing for people that want to follow along more with what's happening on your urban farm, outside Indianapolis, where the best places to go.

Daniel Garcia: [00:49:34]

so we post a lot of stuff on Instagram. Farsi has gardens. Our website it's Garcia's gardens.com. That kind of has a list of the markets that we do. And some restaurants that we sell to those are the places we are

there.

Diego: [00:49:56] You have it. Daniel Garcia of Garcia's gardens. One key point that I think Daniel made in this episode. And one that really resonated with me was one that came right at the end. At the end of the day, when you're done with your work, you want to be able to go into your house or wherever you go at night and spend some time either with yourself or with the people that you love and care about and be not just physically present, but also mentally present.

And getting to that point when you're an entrepreneur, isn't always easy. It's something that you have to make a specific choice to achieve. Not something that you'll just arrive at between selling online, rearranging his workspace and using time-saving tools. Those are just some of the ways that Daniel's found to manage his hours and his stress on his farm.

So at the end of the day, he can go in and be a dad, something that's probably more important to him at the end of the day than being a farmer for more information on Daniel, be sure to check out some links to his farm in the description for this episode, right there on your phone, or however, you're listening to this podcast episode.

Thanks for listening today. Next week, I'll be back with another small scale farmer making a go of it. Between now and then keep a hustling and crushing it and stay tuned for another episode where it's all about farming, small and farming smarter.

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