In this 120th Episode of the Small Scale Life Podcast, I am had a great conversation with my friend Michael Bell about changes at Dallas Half Acre Farms. Michael has been very busy since our last interview, and we will discuss how he is changing his business from a CSA model (weekly box of a variety of products) to growing salanova salad empires in Dallas, Texas. As we discussed recently with Drew Sample, new opportunities and reality can force change, and you have to be ready to adjust accordingly! Are your ready to change?
“Find something you love to do and do it! Don’t make a plan; just start doing it. Life is too short to do something you hate everyday!”Michael Bell – Small Scale Life Episode 120
To listen to this podcast, please click on the link below or download the mp3:
Supporting Small Scale Life
Some of you have been wondering how you can support Small Scale Life. To support us, why not spend some money on products you will be buying for someone special in your life. Head on over to Small Scale Life’s online store at kit.com/smallscalelife. There you can find all kinds of books, kitchen items, garden items and other things that we use in our Small Scale Life.
Item of the Month: Poor Richards Guide to Retirement
One item I am recommending this month is local author Aaron Clarey’s book titled Poor Richard’s Guide to Retirement. It provides a way forward for everyday Americans by providing practical advice that we are trying to practice at Small Scale Life: reduce expenses, practice essentialism (or minimalism if you prefer) and develop that “side hustle.” Check out the audio book on Audible and attend the car college with me. Again, check out kit.com/smallscalelife for this book and other products.
Introduction – Growing Salanova Salad Empires
As I discussed last week with my interview with Drew Sample from Capital City Greens and The Sample Hour Podcast, we all start a project, a business or our lives with an idea or a goal. We think we have it all figured out, but we learn things as we succeed or fail.
In my experience, we learn a lot more from our failures than successes. After all, if everything was easy and successful, everyone would be doing it.
We need to learn from that experience and change our plan. In this podcast, Michael and I talk about what was working at Dallas Half Acre Farms and what wasn’t. Certainly the Texas summer heat had a huge impact on what Michael was growing on the farm, and he had to make some decisions about what to grow in the future and how to grow it.
Michael had to adapt. Some extra capital injected into the business was just what Michael needed to make some big changes and improvements to his operation.
At the same time, Michael realized that moving away from a CSA model (lots of different crops offered to customers) and growing salanova (a salad green empire plus carrots and heat-resistant cherry tomatoes) was a more profitable model due to less labor and quicker growing cycles. Less labor, quick growing crops and offering a more consistent product means more potential profit to an ever growing market in Dallas, Texas.
Building a Salad Empire – Podcast Topics
In this podcast, Michael and I discussed the following topics:
- Weather and climate in Dallas, Texas
- Heat destroyed crops this summer – farm closed in July and August
- 10-12 Sungold Cherry Tomato plants survived the heat – frost eventually killed the plants
- Watering the Farm
- Watering PVC canes and drip irrigation
- 350 gallon totes supplied water – 4 totes provided water to farm
- Water situation is still a work in progress; working with the City of Dallas and plumbers to get water to the farm
- Angel investor providing capital for improvements
- Grow lights – Bootstrap Farmer
- Big Tunnel (14’x60’ tunnel)
- Smaller Tunnel (14’x40’ tunnel)
- Tunnels helped with frost and kept the salanova alive
- New third tunnel (14’x100’ tunnel) – ordered and being shipped
- Shade cloth in the tunnels in the summer
- Crops – What’s growing at the Farm?
- 1,200 salanova plants in the Small Tunnel
- 1,000 salanova plants in the Big Tunnel
- 800 salanova plants under grow lights
- Growing salanova in seed trays
- Going strictly salad mix (i.e., salanova lettuce)
- 600-700 carrots planted as an add-on to salad mix; easy to grow and can overwinter in the ground
- Local Business – Salad greens for smoothies and vegan lunches
- 85-90 person list of salad mix customers
- Instagram is Michael’s lead generator
- Community and Canning
- Alabama farmer friend – Pickled jalapenos and pickled garlic (selling for $7 per jar); check local laws
- Quest for crunchy pickled jalapeno peppers
- Community building event (on 12/4/18) with farmers and other vendors
- Developing an Urban Farming Guild in Dallas
- Hoping to get Curtis Stone to visit Dallas
- Learning from Curtis would help area urban farmers and market gardeners
- Pivoting Business Model – Building a Salad Empire
- Growing salanova salad mixes
- Tomatoes down the middle of tunnels
- Carrots and onions as add-on products
- Doesn’t farm because of the money, but it doesn’t make sense to grow produce that takes so long to grow and sells for very little return (i.e., zucchini)
- It’s a numbers game; quick growing crops are the way forward
- Labor vs. Return – Labor requirements for lettuce is low and return is high; with other crops, labor requirements are high (i.e., you need to pick every day) and the return is low
- Finding a business model that works with Michael’s time and market
- Make time for things he loves: always working on the farm
- Rabbit control – 3’ chicken wire around tunnels
- Seedlings and Planting Seeds
- Bootstrap Farmer – Grow Lights
- Bootstrap Farmer – 120 cell plug trays (heavy duty plug trays)
- Michael recommends Bootstrap Farmer products; check out products at kit.com/smallscalelife under the gardening tab
- Michael’s Seed Starting Mix – Coir and Magic Worm Casting Mix: 3 red solo cups of coir to 1 red solo cup of worm castings for a seed tray
- Best potting mix Michael has found: 5-6 days faster to get into the ground vs. normal potting mix
- Michael puts worm castings in the ground when he transplants the seedlings
- When plants are done, Michael chops off the plant at the stem. Worm castings and roots remain in the ground (compost in place)
- It’s all about building soil, even in a small garden
- Connect to Michael Bell
Putting It All Together
Thank you, Michael, for being on the Small Scale Life Podcast. We appreciate your time and wish you the best on the farm.
There definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting the same return. That isn’t a winning strategy over time. Whether it is working out, building a business or managing a sports team, there are a number of variables that continually force you to make adjustments.
We have to change to succeed.
Of course, we learn from experience. That is why we say that we need to continue to learn, do, grow and be better everyday. Learn from experience which means putting things into practice and trying. You will grow from your experience and continue to improve at your craft, your skills, your health or whatever you put your mind, heart and soul into in your life.
How about you? Are you ready to make a change? Julie and I will be back soon to talk about how we are changing up somethings and gearing up for a great 2019. I hope you are ready! It’s going to be fun!
To listen to this podcast, please click on the link below or download the mp3.