Being a Parent and a Farmer (While Starting a Farm) with Justin Logeais (FSFS177)

 

Introduction

In this unique interview, we talk to Justin Logeais – unique because Justin gives full disclosure about a recent traumatic event in his life. Sometimes life can change in an instant, and everything is turned upside down. This very nearly happened to Justin one day when his son was only two years old. He was giving his son a ride on his 1941 Alice Chalmers Model B with a tow-behind corn planter hooked up to it. 

 

“I was backing down a hill with my son Palmer on my leg when the tractor started jack-knifing. I couldn’t break because my hands were full and all I could do was hit the clutch, which caused us to jack-knife faster. When we hit my son flew off and he hit face-first on the corn planter. He was impaled 3” on his head into the planter. I know you aren’t supposed to move an injured person, but he was losing a lot of blood, so I slid his head off the bar and put pressure on the wound as I called 911. After 5 days in the pediatric ICU and 3 more in recovery, he pulled through. I can now say he’s a thriving 4-year-old boy. But for those first 5 days, we really didn’t know if he would live. This was the moment my life changed and was flipped upside down, in an instant.”

 

How did your perspective change after that accident on the farm? (3:33)

It shook me up, I almost killed my son with my own hands. I don’t give him any more rides on equipment. It’s made me think about safety with everything I do. I used to be more fearless in everything I did, more of a daredevil. This accident put things in perspective. One little slip up can kill you or severely injure you. I almost lost my son. 

Up until then, I was trying to get the farm up and working as fast as I could. I still worked a full-time job and my evenings were always spent on the farm. After the accident, I started spending more time with my family. I have another son now and we are pregnant with another one on the way. 

 

How do you balance the start-up phase of farming with spending time with your family? (7:35)

It’s not easy. I’ll let you know when I figure it out. I’m blessed that my wife has a full-time nursing job. I get frustrated sometimes, I’m probably more of a perfectionist than I need to be. But I’m learning to say “that’s good enough”. My customers are happy, and that’s good enough. My goal is not to have a part-time job anymore. I don’t want to have to do the tree-work any more, it’s grueling physical labor and the farming is actually much easier.

I’m afraid if I grow the farm too quickly I won’t be able to keep up with it. I haven’t had to take out debt yet. 

I’ve focused on growing the CSA, getting better at growing vegetables each season. The market co-ordinator here heard I do microgreens and said I should come next season, so I will. I don’t want to get burnt out.

 

What did you do to try and not go crazy during those first two years with all that work? (18:20)

Quit my full-time job! It was 6-8 hours a week just to do my deliveries, split between two evenings, it was horrible. Now that I’ve quit my full-time job it’s 4 hours tops since I do deliveries starting at 11 am, it’s all about the time of the day. I now have a walk-in cooler, which is huge since I can harvest any time of the week. I used Curtis Stone’s plans to build a washing table with the run-off taken away by a sump-pump and that’s so much better now. Having the right infrastructure and changing efficiency has been huge.

 

It’s like you were trading forms of stress when you left that full-time job. Did you start feeling a different kind of stress once you started full-time on the farm? (22:00)

It was hard letting go of all those benefits. We had to switch my wife’s which were worse and more expensive. Honestly, it was one of the best decisions I could’ve made despite those stresses. I felt like I had to do it because I couldn’t find the balance. Especially after the accident. Sometimes I get stressed looking out at the weeds. But my wife tells me, “This is why we moved out here. You’d be a lot more stressed if you looked out at those fields and they were just to hay.” 

As for the kids, they go to daycare Wednesdays and Fridays. Wednesdays are my harvest days. Fridays are for maintenance and upkeep on the farm. Thursdays are for deliveries. If I’m home I’ll watch them. I can’t do farm work and watch them at the same time. With my grandparents around, they watch the kids a couple of days a week. We have a huge support system. I bring them over to my mother’s sometimes. If I didn’t have them I don’t think I could do it.

 

How do you measure progress? (27:45)

In the first three years, I didn’t pay myself. This year I’ve been able to pull more money out so that’s felt good. I’m starting to diversify. Doing eggs, poultry, and microgreens so I can add them to the box when poor weather means I can’t harvest anything. I found out that a chef at a local restaurant was using his CSA box to cook with, so I’m going to start looking to sell to restaurants next year. 

 

If you were to quit your job right now could you make that work? (33:20)

I would make it work. I’d definitely get more aggressive with my marketing. Right now I get frustrated with the farm because of the limited time I have available. There are problem areas of the farm I’d take care of. There are some beds on the lowest part of our slope that won’t grow crops well because they get waterlogged that I’d like to build up. I find when I put our poultry bedding on them with some compost that builds them up enough to get good results. I’ve found that after my son’s accident I’ve learned to let these things go. 

 

Could it have been easier if you’d had the right equipment and the right processes to get started? Something less DIY? (44:30)

It definitely would’ve been nice. Having the wash-pack table and the walk-in cooler. But I wouldn’t get too hung up on that. Do what you can and slowly grow it. I still don’t have everything I need. I had a guy weld me a broad fork that bent in our clay soil. I don’t have a BCS or a paperpot transplanter. I use an Earthway and not a Jang seeder and can make it work.

 

What goals do you have for your 5-year plan? (46:00)

I hope to have a sub-contractor on the farm in the future and to be full time on the farm. To increase my CSA membership. To grow my microgreens sales. To become more efficient. Growing sweet corn and pumpkins probably wasn’t the best use of my land. Perhaps I should purchase those vegetables from other farmer’s to include more in my CSA. I should focus more on high-value crops like carrots. 

 

Conclusion

Justin’s story shows us it isn’t always off to the races with farming, making $350k on an acre right away. It can take a lot of blood, sweat, and tears. Hopefully hearing about his son’s story really came through, and we can take away the importance of spending time with our family even before being a farmer. If you take away anything from this episode, don’t forget, in a second, your life can change. Don’t forget to not take your loved ones for granted.

To follow along with what Justin is doing on his farm you can find him on his Facebook here. You can follow along, or shoot us a message on Instagram @DiegoFooter.

 

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