174: Shaun Keesee on Bio-intensive Farming.
A beginner’s experience converting to larger scale organic farming.
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Shaun has an upstart one-acre mini-farm called BioManna Farms in Warrenton, NC. On his farm he grows using a combination of conventional and bio-intensive techniques, slowly moving towards a completely organic set up and is growing in all four seasons, with majority of production coming during the typical growing season. He is planning to expand to three acres in the future, and into other ventures to diversify, such as beekeeping, vermicomposting, and nursery growing. Shaun is in the process of starting a CSA, has taken agricultural entrepreneurship classes at his local community college, and has secured three local restaurants to buy his produce.
In this podcast: Greg talks to a newer farmer in Shaun who is having some success using biointensive farming techniques. Shaun shares how he reclaimed the land his family was leasing out to a hay farmer and starting growing crops to sell to markets and restaurants. He is applying the skills he has learned through his reading, internet and agriculture courses at his local college. His interest in organic farming is taking root in his community and he is gladly sharing a few tips here.
Listen in and learn about:
- The early interest and research he did that got him interested in organic farming
- The lack of organic farming in his county
- Why he named his farm
- What he is growing on the farm
- How he got interested in entrepreneurial agriculture
- The weather issues that he works with in North Carolina and some of the diverse changes they experience
- Bio-intensive farming – with plant spacing and depth of loosened soil
- Decreased spacing to create a microclimate in the plant bed
- How it is easier to manage up front
- Companion planting and allowing nature to do its thing
- Diversity in nature being replicated on the form
- With biointensive farming it is inviting nature to participate
- What he did before he started farming
- Why he made the change from going to school and waiting tables to go back to growing on his small family farm that was leased to another farmer
- The realization that the hay the other farmer was growing was not sustainable
- His desire to avoid a high level of mechanization
- The challenges he was facing converting from conventional to organic farming
- Why he is concentrating on the soil
As well as:
- His failure – During this growing season he planted too many tomatoes without securing buyers and they all came ready at the same time, so he worked harder to find new buyers
- His success – Securing the restaurants and making those connections
- His drive – Trying to create his own small niche in his area
- His advice – Try to find buyers before you start growing
Shaun’s Book recommendations:
John Jeavons How to Grow More Vegetables, Eighth Edition: (and Fruits, Nuts, Berries, Grains, and Other Crops) Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You … (And Fruits, Nuts, Berries, Grains,)
How to reach Shaun:
Facebook: Biomanna farms