442: Emily Heller on Growing Food for Locals and Small Restaurants.
Living the good life while selling from a small farm.
Tempe, Arizona grower Emily is a student of Mother Nature’s. Since moving to Arizona in 1998, she’s been growing food and studying the low-desert seasons as a backyard gardener. A former journalist, she shifted gears in 2014 and became a master gardener — then completed beginning farmer programs in Maricopa and Pinal counties.
She went on to sell her produce at farmers markets through the local growers’ co-op, Community Exchange. Now she leases farmland in Queen Creek, has scaled up production and has her own booth at Uptown Farmers Market in Phoenix. The name of her farming adventure is Bene Vivendo. That translates from Latin to “the good life.”
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In This Podcast:
How does one become a farmer when you haven’t gone to school for agriculture? Emily Heller did just that using local education programs and opportunities. Here, she discusses successful selling as a small space producer, parameters for success in gardening, and some of her best practices. She also speaks to the emotional journey of farming and how to handle the imperfections and challenges. Emily also shares how to educate customers at Farmers Markets and build repeat clients.
Listen in and learn about:
- Why Emily left journalism and changed careers to farming
- Classes and beginning farmer programs
- Selling at a farmer’s market
- How you can be a tiny producer with 300 square feet, and still play a role in the local food movement>
- Parameters for success in gardening
- The imperfection and yearly challenges even if you grow the same crop
- Adapting best practices to make them your own
- Proper watering for success
- The learning curve of gardening and planting calendars
- Building healthy soil
- Why to give plants the space they need instead of crowding them
- Building repeat customers with consistency
As well as:
Her failure – Learning how to handle “Pest Pressure” when bugs find your garden or crop.
Her success – Being able to sell her crops to local people and building return customers./p>
Her drive – Her curious nature and her customers.>
Her advice – Keep smiling, there are lessons to be learned, and also signs of encouragement along the way.
Emily’s Book recommendations:
The Market Gardener: A Successful Grower’s Handbook for Small-Scale Organic Farming by Jean-Martin Fortier
How to reach Emily:
Thank you to LaCrosse Boots for sponsoring this episode
LaCrosse Boots – The go-to boots for big tasks!
Note: You can also find these books mentioned above at one of our favorite local independent bookstores and have the satisfaction of knowing you are supporting a small business.
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I so appreciate Emily’s testimony of being a woman grower, contributing to the local food economy at the level that she is able. I am also trying to do the same, starting small and hopefully some day scaling up a bit if the market demands it. Thank you Emily!