To bring in the new year, the first episode of 2022 is a great one. Today, I’m interviewing KC Cattle Company CEO and Owner, Patrick Montgomery. Before starting KC Cattle Co, Patrick spent time as an Army Ranger. Many of the members of the KC Cattle Co family are veterans and have brought what they learned in the service to the company that specializes in wagyu beef. In our chat today, Patrick and I will chat about how he started KCCC, what makes Wagyu so wonderful, how their hotdog was voted “Best Hotdog in the WORLD“, and how they deliver straight to consumers.
This is a fun one! And check out Patrick and KC Cattle Company at the links below.
In case you didn’t see our post on social media, there will be a slight change to the posting on content on the Farm Traveler podcast channel. But don’t fret, it’s nothing major!
Podcasting has been an amazing hobby that I am now able to turn into a side hustle. I am now producing a few other Ag-related shows, more info on those soon! But, to help with not getting overworked and also balancing my day job and a master program I’m taking, we will be changing up the scheduling of FT content.
Every other Tuesday, you’ll be getting new podcast episodes.
Canada, a neighbor to the North is home to countless amazing farmers, ranchers, and restaurants. Our guest today is Rheannon Green from Alberta on a Plate, which Canada, a neighbor to the North is home to countless amazing farmers, ranchers, and restaurants. Our guest today is Rheannon Green from Alberta on a Plate, which is dedicated to celebrating farmers and restaurants throughout the province. What was first inspired by Alberta Farm Days has transformed into a huge resource for farmers, consumers, and restaurant owners who all want to support local food. Check them out at the links below.
Have you ever been to a flower farm? I sure haven’t! It’s an often overlooked part of the agriculture industry, but flowers are a huge part of horticulture and account for billions of dollars every ear across the US. Today on the show, I’m interviewing Sarah Shoffner with Sweet Thistle Farms, a cut flower and pumpkin farm in the Central Valley in California. In our interview, Sarah and I chat about her background, how she grows flowers and pumpkins, the fall rush with customers, and a loooot more!
Can we fix our food supply chain? Yes, we can! And companies like SIMPLi are going to be at the front of that fight. Today, I’m joined with Matt Cohen, co-founder of a company called SIMPLi that is revolutionizing the food supply chain. Learn more how Matt and everyone at SIMPLi are working directly with farmers to bring better products to consumers while also helping those farmers as much as possible.
SIMPLi, an ingredients company whose mission is to bring the best, most nutritious and delicious single-origin ingredients (quinoa, extra virgin olive oil, beans, etc.) from around the world to your kitchen.
SIMPLi, an ingredients company whose mission is to bring the best, most nutritious, and delicious single-origin ingredients (quinoa, extra virgin olive oil, beans, etc.) from around the world to your kitchen.
Eliminate fraudulent activity in the supply chain + create sourcing transparency on a global level. Food fraud is estimated to cost the industry between $30-40 billion per year. By working directly with growing communities in Peru and Greece to consolidate all the middle parties (co-ops, broker, exporter, importer, distributor, etc.), they have been able to create a fully vertical supply chain for getting products from farms to consumers, preventing 100% fraudulent supply chain activity.
Combat climate change. Agriculture emits an estimated 10.5% of greenhouse gases. SIMPLi’s partners use regenerative organic farming in order to grow the most nutritious ingredients possible and to minimize the harmful effects that conventional agriculture has on our environment. Simpli has helped 560 farmers and 1,060 acres transition from traditional to regenerative organic working farms.
Supporting global farming communities. After harvest, ingredients will touch about seven steps in the supply chain before landing in the hands of a business or consumers. These middle players can trigger a number of transaction fees, taking money directly away from farmers. Because of SIMPLi’s simple supply chain of “Farmer – SIMPLi – You”, they are able to pay above market price and improve the livelihoods of their farmers.
Have you ever heard of something called “Milo”? I sure haven’t. I apparently do know it’s more common name, which you’ll find out soon in today’s episode!
Today’s guest is Dan Sell, aka FarmerDan, who grows wheat and milo in Texas. Dan and I chat about his background, how he built an awesome following on social media, his future plans, and much more! I had a blast chatting with Dan so I definitely think you’ll enjoy this episode! And don’t forget to check out Dan’s content below.
Let’s talk about ranching. Specifically, what ranchers are doing to set themselves apart as well as improve both their enjoyment with work and profit of the business. My guest today is Jared Luhman from the Herd Quitter Podcast. Jared is a busy man with a day job, ranching job, AND a cool podcast focused on, you guessed it, ranching! The Herd Quitter Podcast is all about learning from ranchers around the world that are thinking outside the box and going new and exciting things to both help their businesses turn a profit as well as increase their happiness on the job. In our interview today, Jared and I talk about the biggest lessons he has learned, stories of ranches diversifying to the extreme and being super successful, and how it’s important to shift the business even when you think you can’t.
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Trevor: All right. Well, Jared lumen welcome the farm traveler podcast, man. How are you doing?
Jared: Oh, I’m doing great. Thank you so much. Yeah. Happy to be here, dude.
Trevor: Yeah. I’m excited to chat with you. You’re a fellow podcast or you’ve got a cool podcast called the herd quitter. Um, so I always like to geek out with fellow like ag pod-casters and stuffed it. I mean yeah. They figure out what your, what your niche is, how your podcasting journey is and all that stuff. So, yeah. Uh, before we kinda dive in about your podcasts, kind of tell us a little bit about yourself, kind of your.
Jared: Sure. Yeah, no, I, I would love to it’s it is fun to talk to other podcasters. I I’ve had conversations with people and stuff on the side just to like, yeah. The, the nitty-gritty things of how they’re doing, what they’re doing. So I’m excited to get into that. But, um, my, my background, so I grew up right here. This, the house I live in is my, it was my grandfather’s house and our family has been here on this land. For quite a while. Um, the farm we’re on, we got in the 1960s and our family has been farming on this street, [00:01:00] uh, for over a century. So I’ve been in farming. My family has been in farming and agriculture for quite a while. Um, we. Weren’t always kind of doing what we’re doing now. I would say my grandfather was a fairly progressive kind of a conventional commodity based farmer. He was farming like a thousand acres, 140 beef cows milk and nearly 200 cows and a couple of hundred sheep back in like the seventies, which was wild for its time. Like very progressive and big. And we had, uh, a foreign exchange student who actually came to our farm back then in, in. The late eighties, I want to say, or something like that. Uh, the mid, mid eighties who was at our place and just flat out told my dad and my grandpa, uh, you guys are doing this all wrong. Like why, why are you working so hard? You, you should, you know, you’re 15 years behind us over in New Zealand. Um, and so. My grandpa, you know, could have easily taken offense to that. But instead of taking offense, he actually sent my dad kind of encouraged my dad to go over to New Zealand and learn [00:02:00] what he was talking about. So my dad went over to New Zealand, worked on a gray grazing based dairy and another grazing based beef and sheep station. And that’s kind of changed the trajectory of our family farm for. You know, for decades now. And he came back home and started a grazing based farm. And, and today now that I could spare you all the details of the 30 year transition to where we are now, but now, uh, we’re. Uh, primarily pasture based operation. We raised red, it registered red Angus beef cattle. Uh, we sell seed stock or bulls through Farrow cattle company. My wife and I own, uh, uh, the grass fed cattle company, which is kind of our direct marketing enterprise for our farm. And we market pasture chicken that we raised on our farm and grass fed beef, and then pastured pork. We get from another farm. Um, and that’s kind of what my wife and I have been doing to kind of add on enterprises to our farm and add profitability and also to, you know, really, it’s just a lot of fun to be able to connect [00:03:00] with consumers. It’s gosh, some of the, the relationships we’ve developed with our consumers has been a blast. So. Um, yeah, that’s fun. And then in addition to the farm, which keeps me pretty busy, I also work for the sustainable farming association of Minnesota as their soil health lead. So I do a lot of consulting and networking with farmers all across the state of Minnesota to help educate farmers on soil health and, and how they can use and implement soil health principles within their own context and on their farm. And then, uh, yeah, I think that’s most of it, our farm, our marketing enterprise, the podcast and the soil health or the soil health lead for the sustainable farming associate.
Trevor: So a little bit going on, it sounds like just a little bit.
Jared: Yeah. Yeah. We stay busy, but it’s all, it’s all, you know, the cool thing about it is that I love everything I do. And there’s a lot of truth to the statement. I mean, it’s cliche, but if you work, if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life. And so I definitely stay busy, but if I enjoy every bit of [00:04:00] it, then it’s pretty.
Trevor: Well, that’s good. And kind of going back to that soil health. I mean, if you’re, I feel like if you’re, um, doing like rotational grazing and just grass fed beef, I mean, your soil health is going to be like the most important thing you’ve got to pay attention to.
Jared: Yeah. And that’s a big reason why we kind of have been transitioning to the grass-based agriculture. Um, I, there in that long history of our farm, my dad went home. I’ll kind of briefly summarize it. My dad started a farm of his own, uh, doing a grazing dairy. And then in early 2000, when my grandpa was ready to back out of the home farm, we came to where we are now in the home farm. And he stopped doing the grazing dairy. We still had beef cattle, but we started organic crop farming and. Over 20 years of doing that, our family, my dad taught my grandpa or my grandpa taught my dad. My dad taught me always. We want to leave the land in better condition than we found it. And with all of the tillage that was required to manage weeds in that organic cropping system, we didn’t feel that we were advancing our soil health [00:05:00] in the direction that we wanted to go. And so that’s really in the. Five years we’ve started. And in the last two to three years, we’ve really started to accelerate this transition to a hundred percent perennial pasture based farm. Um, for that reason that you just mentioned of, you know, wanting to improve, improve our soil health and we’ve, while we’ve been. For many decades. Anyway, it’s been kind of on the side, like on the grazing acres, not so much on the tillable acres, but we’ve seen the benefits of it. I mean, just production increases, erosion decreases, you know, just soil seems healthier, more green, lush, plants, more everything. And we wanted. Continue to grow that across our farm. And so, yeah, we’ve made this transition now to where, with the exception of one farm that’s down the road, that we haven’t figured out how to get cattle there. Uh, we, we rent it and we’re not sure about installing the infrastructure to make it grazing with the exception of that. And now the whole farm. Perennial pasture, [00:06:00] and we’re really excited about it and what it can do. It’s a lot of fun to it. It definitely, I always joke. It was kind of odd. I grew up wanting to be a crop farmer. I loved sitting in a tractor and when I was in high school, it was probably easier because when something broke down, I’d just be like, Hey dad, you know, I’m gonna head out with the friends you fix this. Let me know when you want me to sit in the tractor again. But when I got home to farm full-time and then when something broke, it was no longer. I’d call him dad. And he would be like, well, fix it. You’re working for the farm. So fix it. And all of a sudden, uh, cattle seemed a little more appealing to me and that along with other reasons, we really do enjoy grazing in livestock. And so it more aligned with all of our goals.
Trevor: That’s awesome. And so kind of, I guess this kind of involves your podcast a little bit, but kind of that enjoyment, I mean, with your podcast, herd quitter, you’re kind of talking with ranchers, um, That are at, they’re doing a really good job. It seems like of being both profitable [00:07:00] and enjoyment, like enjoying what they’re doing. And so how hard is that? I mean, from, from your perspective, how hard is it to not only like turn a profit with. But also to enjoy it where you don’t get burned out. So how hard is that?
Jared: Yeah, no, that’s, that’s a good question. It is a challenge. Um, you know, it’s interesting because as we made this transition to more grazing, the problem that we saw was not that the income wasn’t there to sustain both my dad and myself on our farm. The problem was there all sudden there wasn’t enough labor or there was enough work for the labor we had. We, we had. I like to joke that kit feral got me fired kind of in this philosophy of low input ranching, all of a sudden, Alison I wasn’t necessary anymore. So it increased our lifestyle to the point where we really, that didn’t really make sense for me to be around here. Cause the life, you know, there wasn’t there wasn’t enough work and that’s kind of what led me off to do some of these other things, you know, the job and the podcast, uh, came have come since that transition. But it can be a challenge to, [00:08:00] to do so many things. And I would say that it’s, it’s a challenge that I fight with today yet is that I have this desire to always do more and do more that I enjoy. Um, but especially since the birth of our baby boy, Colton, back in June, I’m realizing that there’s more to life than work and, and, and that the work side of, you know, this maybe isn’t the most sustainable long-term and that, uh, you need. And the limits, I guess I need to learn to say no better. So you’re right. It’s a real challenge.
Trevor: Um, yeah, that’s awesome. I mean, not only you got the business, you got the job, the day job, the podcast, also a dad. So that’s, that’s probably a little bit hectic. I can imagine juggling all that stuff.
Jared: Yeah. Some days get wild, but I’ve got an amazing supportive wife. Who’s an amazing mother and partner in all of these things as well. Uh, with the exception of the podcast, she helps in the farm. She helps in our she’s very, uh, vital in our marketing enterprise. So definitely not a solo act.
Trevor: No, I believe you. Yeah. And I mean, kind of relating to the whole podcast thing. I mean, I think it is definitely a struggle, like turning a profit and also enjoying it. Like I started this podcast, I think, like I was telling you earlier, like two and a half years ago. And I think after two and a half years, we’re like $25. Profit this month so far, like, or no of the year, which isn’t bad. And so we’re getting there and I’m also like enjoying it, but I mean, sometimes you get burnt out and you like compare yourself to other podcasts out there. And so I think you just gotta focus on like being better than you were last month and just kind of enjoying it. So, but, but I mean, again, this is just like a small, small hobby, I guess. So there’s not as much.
Jared: Yeah. And with the podcast, I don’t know how you, you know, how you started, but I started thinking this may or may never be profitable. I don’t know. But I saw it almost the biggest part of it was like, Hey, this is a great excuse to call a lot of people that would have thought it was weird if I called them otherwise, you know, if I call up some of my kids [00:10:00] out of the blue and said, Hey, can I ask you some questions? Y, who are you? Why? No, by instead I say, Hey, I’ve got this podcast. I’d love to interview you. And they’re like, oh, sure. Yeah, I’d be happy to do it. So it’s an excuse to get, to meet people and build a network that I wouldn’t have otherwise had, whether it was profitable or not. It was a heck of a lot better, more affordable education than I ever could have gotten through university and other things. Yeah,
Trevor: that’s a good point. I mean, cause yeah, it is weird if you call them out of the blue and they’re like, first off, who are you a, why should I talk to you? And you’re like, Hey, I’ve got a podcast. Like I, as well as my listeners want to learn from you. So let’s chat a little bit. So that’s such a good point.
Jared: That’s funny. Yeah. I figured that, you know, for, for them it’s like, yeah, they get to share whatever they’re doing. And it’s probably like. I mean, like when you reached out and stuff, it’s like, yeah, I’d be honored to talk about what I’ve learned, whether I have anything to share really or not. You know what I mean? So, yeah, it definitely makes a little bit easier. The approach to some of these pretty incredible people who have some pretty incredible.
Trevor: Yeah, that’s true. [00:11:00] So going off of that, your podcast heard quitter, um, your tagline is awesome. It’s about farmers and ranchers that do things differently that are going outside the norm, trying to turn a profit, trying to be different. And so what I mean, what have been the biggest takeaway so far from doing your podcast? Like what have been the biggest lessons you’ve learned? And I mean, I know there’s a bunch. Um, so what are, what have kind of been the biggest takeaways?
Jared: Yeah. Yeah. So like, you kind of mentioned the name, the herd quitter podcast, and that phrase, it wasn’t my own. It came from kit, uh, who we raised bulls for and stuff like, and I talked to him and. The idea of this herd quitter, for those of your listeners who have cattle, is we probably all, they’ve probably all moved this group of cows and there’s the one cow that’s fighting her way back, you know, trying to go the other direction and just drives you nuts. Um, but she’s, she’s that herd quitter cow. And at first, at first glance, you think that’s pretty, just an annoying animal. You really don’t want her there, but if you really think that. Of this herd of [00:12:00] whatever 200 cows, 500, whatever it is, that is the only cow who’s thinking for themselves and like truly thinking for themselves and doing their own thing. And you gotta respect that really. I mean, that’s, that’s pretty neat. And so that was my goal out of this is just to interview people. Are not afraid to be like that cow and think for themselves, even if the people pushing them in the other direction, don’t like it, even if all the cows are pushing by her, you know, pushing her the other direction, you know, they’re thinking for themselves. And so your question of like, what have I learned? It’s been really like, just thinking of all the interviews, kind of a common thread that I would say with everyone is like true intentionality with every decision they make. I would say it’s probably one of the bigger ones. Like they’re not, they’re running their business. They’re not letting their business run them. They’re not just doing what they’ve always done because they’ve always done it. They’re intentional about every decision does, does in the question, thinks they look at what their dad and grandfather didn’t say. Does this make [00:13:00] sense? Look, let’s look at current market conditions. Look, look, let’s look at our context. What are our resources? What are our advantages and disadvantages and does doing that make sense? Not because the neighbor does it or my grandfather did it, but does it make sense today? A lot of them maybe found that certain things didn’t make sense. And then the thing that kind of goes along with that intentionality is then the ability to act, you know, the ability to, to do something different, to seek out something different. And you know, I’d say, so it’s kind of an overarching theme mindset. I mean, it’s all over. Uh, very little of it has to do with what we’re doing day in and day out. It’s it’s the, the mental ballad battle to be willing to think differently and then act differently. If you find that maybe what you had been doing doesn’t make sense. Trevor: Um, yeah, so I’ve heard from a lot of like old, old school farmers that, I mean, quote unquote, they do it just because this is kind of the way it’s always been done. So do you think that’s [00:14:00] kind of like an old school rationale?
Jared: Yeah. You know, and it’s so circle, you know, every, every farm probably does things for their own reasons. So I never liked don’t want to paint with a broad brush and say, everybody does it for one reason, but I do think there is, you know, there’s definitely something to tradition and doing, you know what, we’ve always what we’ve always done and maybe not even doing it intentionally because that’s what they’ve always done, but just not even recognizing that there’s a different way to do it. Um, I mean, I think a lot of us in this. Like a credit to the industry are incredibly hard workers and they spend a lot of time working in the business day in and day out. And so they never have the time to think to work on the business. I think this is that’s kind of the work, what we versus what would be like working in the business versus working on the business, kind of goes through the ranching for profit, I think has kind of who came up with that. But, um, If you don’t have time to really think about it at all, because you’re spending [00:15:00] all your time doing your job, your, your, the daily jobs and stuff, you’ll never be able to make a change. And so, you know, I can’t say if the true source or the root cause of, of not changing is because it’s just like a desire to do what we’ve always done, or just like a lack of time to think differently or something. But, uh, you know, that’s, that’s a good question because if we could figure out what the, the, the challenge is, the reason why. We’ll never change or won’t change people don’t change. You know, we could address it and make some pretty big changes pretty quick. But the, the ag industry, they say changes one funeral at a time, which is kind of maybe the, a little bit of a sad statement and stuff is that a lot of times it takes a generation, the net, you know, passing to let the next generation have the ability to start doing things, to do.
Trevor: I haven’t heard that, but that does make a lot of sense. I quote, um, yeah, I mean, you brought up something like ranching is such a 24 7 job. I mean, if you find out that there is a different way of doing it, I mean, that’s going to be stressful. That’s going to take you so [00:16:00] much time to implement those changes. I’m sure. And so, I mean, that’s, I mean, like you said, it’s probably a reason why a lot of people didn’t change. Like it was just so much that they had to do to get to that step.
Jared: Yeah. Yeah. You know, a lot of the things that. The w we talk about that the guests that I’ve had arm talk about are our ideas that just to a person who’s done it one way or more of the conventional way, their whole life. And then for generations seem ridiculous. I mean, for one, for example, To Kevin May and June. We’ll just take that as an example, uh, CA calving in may and June is what we recommend for multiple reasons. I mean, you’re aligning your you’re calving season, w which is the time when a cow needs the highest nutrient requirement with when the environment produces the most, the highest availability of high quality nutritious feed. In spring, we have the spring flush of grass and abundance of grass when the cow needs it, it makes sense to me, but a lot of people’s mindset is. Uh, we’re trying to sell pounds, total pounds [00:17:00] of meat. And the earlier that I can have a calf, the longer that a calf has to grow during the year, the more pounds I’ll have to sell them a fall when we sell meat. Um, that, so for them to think I’m going to move my cabin back to three, four months. Is mind blowing. I mean, just, just, it’s just a challenging, a lot of these things, maybe aren’t even infrastructure changes or, you know, work changes. It’s, it’s mental barriers to thinking, you know? Okay. That maybe could make sense. Um, that’s one example. There’s so many that could make sense to like another example. People, a lot of times will have their cattle and pastors spread all over the countryside. Or if they’ve got, you know, say a thousand acres, they’ll have them broken out into 150 200 acre paddocks and have a group of cattle. Each paddock and they spend all day checking every group, checking every water. When in reality, they, they could just put them all in one group and move them daily. But the, the idea is if I had all these cattle in the group and I have to move, I have to move cattle every day. That sounds ridiculous. Why would I move cattle every day? Instead they just [00:18:00] spend all day going and checking 10 different groups every day. And so not only then does that benefit end up reducing workload by moving them in one group, um, versus checking 10 groups. There’s tremendous land and soil and grasp, uh, production benefits that come along with moving cattle more regularly. And so I do think that, you know, a big part of it is just that some of them, some of the practices that some of the folks that come on, my podcast that I’ve talked to, it’s just so contradictory or counterintuitive to the production model that they’ve been doing. That it’s almost the barriers, just, you know, mental, you know, we can’t do that. That doesn’t make any sense. It won’t work here.
Trevor: Hmm. That’s interesting. Yeah. Um, yeah. So talking about your guests and it, it was funny. I had no clue you’d bring them up, but actually listened to your episode with kit Pharaoh, talking about building a network, kind of the importance of that. And so, I mean, you you’ve interviewed a bunch of people around the U S around Australia and stuff like that. So when you’re talking to them, what are kind of some of the [00:19:00] biggest struggles that all of these ranchers are facing, whether it’s environmental factors, market factors would have kind of been. I guess the most common struggles that they faced.
Jared: Uh, that’s a, that’s a good question. It’s probably one that I need to focus more on. I’ll be honest. It’s as probably to the wrong side of my, my podcast is that I focus on the things that they’re doing well, and I need to focus more on their struggles. Cause that’s where we all need. We can learn from the most, um, you know, it, it seems like the majority of the things that they’re struggling with or. Things that they were struggling with. I keep going back to this mental challenge for the longest time. A lot of these folks will just have thought that something different wasn’t possible and they find out after practicing or trying a little thing that it was. But as far as challenges for the whole, you know, the whole industry that a lot of these guests faced at one point probably a big one is the cost of production. I mean, in agriculture, [00:20:00] I don’t know that. Like looked at the cost of a tractor recently or something or a combine. I mean, it’s skyrocketed, it’s wild. I mean, I was just watching a YouTube video the other day of a, and this is a grain farm. They had five S seven 90 combines and the person was talking about the value of it. And I was just doing the math in that field. That farmer had three and a half million dollars tied up in just combines and corn. Alone, just in that, in that field. And that’s, you know, the cost of production is, is wild. And so if you are in a business model, which the majority of agriculture and the majority of ranchers are in have a high input system. Um, where you, your thought is based around selling as many pounds as possible. Um, the only way I can do that is by, you know, high inputs, high expenses, you know, that’s a tough game to win because you’re competing against people who have way more and kind of can, can compete on scales of efficiency that I can never dream of, you know, on my farm where now we got little over 200 cows and there are people. 20,010, 2000 cows for me to compete with them, you know, to own the same equipment, to feed my cows as them. It doesn’t make sense. Um, I, I shouldn’t try and compete with them on a cost of production, battle and stuff. So that’s kind of why a lot of my producer, the guests I have on are focusing more on low input, high profit, as opposed to high input high production, which may or may not lead to profit. Um, So, yeah, that’s probably the biggest one and this model that we face or that we’re trying to implement in that most of my guests are trying to implement as mimicking nature with. It’s not it’s it’s dependent. Do you mean really your only cost of mimicking nature then is your land cost and your labor costs. You don’t have to worry about, you know, any other equipment and stuff. And so when we just get out of the, the rat race of trying to compete with some of these other guys kind of, I guess [00:22:00] another challenge you could say would be that kind of keeping up with the Jones’s mindset, looking at the neighbors and what they have and what they. They do and trying to compete. That’s that’s not worth it. Like you had mentioned about podcasts too. I mean, same thing. Looking at the next person’s podcast, I’ll never be a Joe Rogan. I know that. I don’t even know how many podcasts listeners he’s got, but, uh, I don’t even bother. It’s not worth it.
Trevor: Some of the millions, um, so going, going back to, um, your guests, so getting off of their struggles would have been like, what are some things that they’re succeeding at? I mean, what are some things that have been like super remarkable to learn that they’re doing that they’re doing differently that have maybe helped, I don’t know, maybe save their bids.
Jared: Yeah. Yeah, for sure. Uh, so I mean, kind of the, and I don’t know how specific you want me to get into the ranching, you know, kind of business and stuff. They’re very simple changes that all stem back to a simple mindset change, first of all, but. You know, a big one calving window, like I [00:23:00] said, I mean the simple thing of changing their calving window back allows them to reduce their winter feed costs tremendously. Um, it also reduces their labor inputs. I mean, when you can, in January and February, first of all, you need to have building infrastructure, especially up here in the Midwest, I’m in Minnesota. Uh, you have to have infrastructure to keep them warm and to keep those cabs warm. And, uh, and, and so that’s expensive. Plus there’s more cabin troubles in barns and in winter and stuff than there is out in pasture when they can kind of cab naturally and everything. And so people check their cows for calving and their heifers for calves every couple hours. And that’s labor intensive and stressful. When I came home to farm, we were actually calving in March and I think it was. Partially joking, mostly true, uh, that I would put on my winter weight all winter, and I would lose about 15 pounds in about six days of calving season, because it is so labor intensive and hard work. Um, you know, so that’s a big one. Um, another guest that, well, a couple of guests I’ve had on Wally Olson and Doug Ferguson have been their topic, uh, has been really popular with a lot of my listeners of sell by mark. Which is kind of just a different view on marketing. A lot of people in, in agriculture, in the, in the feedlot business or in the cattle feeding business, focusing on, uh, buying at a certain time at a certain way and selling at a certain time at a certain weight, everything is a very calendar-based, you know, strict strategy. It’s very systematic and the same thing happens every time. And what they’re doing is, is just. The opposite. They’re saying I’m not going to buy based on a certain desire if everybody’s buying on the same thing, that animal based on simple economics is going to be higher value overvalued. When more people are interested in something at the same time, it becomes overvalued. And so what they’re saying is they buy the undervalued animal that not as many people want, bring them to, uh, you know, cheaply on grass, bring them to a weight that they’re all of a sudden overvalued and sell them. It doesn’t matter if it’s. Two weeks or two months later. And doesn’t matter if it’s January or March there, they’re always trading cattle [00:25:00] and just managing, buying the undervalued and selling the overvalued, as opposed to just buying and selling based on a calendar and a pre conceived plan or existing strategy. And that, that philosophy I’m pretty excited to go. I’m going to be going to one of the classes of these folks here in a month or so to try and learn more about it because it, it really. Um, pretty unique and innovative thinking in this and it kind of goes, they both learned it from bud Williams is the kind of the originator of that idea. Um, but that, you know, that’s a. Another thing. And then these things can also be applied to cow calf production as well. You know, with cows, each cow has a depreciation schedule. They’re worth more at certain times and certain ages than they are at other certain times at certain ages. And so being intentional again, back to that intentionality about buying cows at certain times when they might be undervalued and selling them at certain times when they’re overvalued, before they begin to go down in value again, There’s there’s just, you know, [00:26:00] I, I’m just fascinated when I talk to these people about how much they think about business in ways that I’ve never even thought about. It’s like, I thought we’re just out here to move cows and build fence and they’re like, no, no, no. You mean, that’s the $15 an hour, $20 an hour jobs. The money is made in the desk at the desk, thinking about what you’re doing and being intentional and just, I’m just blown away by the intentionality of some of these folks thinking, you know, it’s, it’s.
Trevor: Yeah. I haven’t heard of methods like that before, but I mean, it seems so different, but I feel like things like this might be the future where you gotta be intentional about when you’re going to breed your cows, when they’re going to give birth, when you’re going to sell them. Instead of just kind of like, like you said earlier, kind of going with the flow and just doing what is normal and what’s expected really. I mean, so it has a lot of that been successes of trial and error, or have there been like, I don’t know, some studies that people have been focusing on and practicing those studies and going.
Jared: Yeah. I mean, it’s cool because I get to talk to some of these people that are kind of coming up with some of these ideas, like kit feral, for example, is kind of the original herd quitter. As far as this whole cow calf philosophy of low input cows, smaller frame, moderate frame cows, and we get to talk to him. And so there’s some people who like I get to talk to who have suffered through the. Learning process those early stages of developing the philosophies in the first place. And they probably had more failures than a lot of us latecomers who get to benefit from the many years of experience, trial and error, uh, that, that those folks had. So some of my guests are early. Early adopters. And, and some of them are people like myself who listened to a podcast and think that’s an awesome idea. I’m going to try it. And hopefully, you know, podcasts like mine can help them have some resources to try it in a way that won’t be a total failure, um, because they get to learn from somebody else’s failures.
Trevor: That’s awesome. Yeah. I mean, I feel like going back to the podcast thing, I feel like my. Lessons that I’ve learned have been from my own failures and then kind of learning from people along the way. I mean, and even so I taught high school ag for two years too. And I feel like some of the biggest lessons I had there were through my own failures and kind of learning them and fixing them. So it kind of goes back to that like diagram, you always see where it’s like, oh, people think success is a straight line when your reality it’s like all over the place. So you’re failing, succeeding, failing, succeeding. And so you’re never actually like improving unless you’re tracking. And failing every now and then. So, but I feel like that’s every industry or every discipline or every job, but I think it’s always interesting to watch people do it, um, in the farming and ranching industry, because I mean, they’re failing their businesses depending on it. And so hopefully those are going to be little failures along. Jared: Yeah. And that’s, that’s a big, I think that’s a big part you asked about like w why some of these things don’t necessarily happen more something. And some of the challenges is there’s like this business is [00:29:00] very slim margin business, and there may not be a lot of room for error and trial and error. Um, so yeah, that, that’s a good point, but I don’t know who says it or how even the quote goes or something it’s like, but yeah, if, if a person never fails, they, they’re not someone to look up to. It means they haven’t tried enough or something, you know, Yeah, paraphrasing or something like that. I don’t look to the people who’ve never failed. That doesn’t really say much to me. It just says they’re really good at staying comfortable,
Trevor: saying comfortable, being uncomfortable
Jared: and being failing and all that. Yeah. I appreciate you being an ag teacher too. My wife and I just got back from national FFA convention and yeah. Ag ag programs were huge for us. Appreciate that. Oh, yeah, absolutely.
Trevor: Yeah. Thank you. Yeah. I had a blast. I only taught for two years in Daytona and I mean, I was in an ag program in high school when I was a state officer down here in Florida. And so went to, um, national convention twice, super fun. I was, I think, six rows away from Mike Rowe and he was giving like the, um, he was speaking at national. That was awesome. We
Jared: all went out whenever micro came out, I think at that convention, but I don’t, I don’t think I got that close.
Trevor: That’s awesome. Yeah. I don’t know if he’s been back. I hope he does, but I mean, I honestly can’t tell you how many ag classrooms I’ve been in, where the teacher’s out and they’re playing dirty jobs and it’s always like a good educational episode. Everybody loves it. I mean, it’s, it’s such a cool concept and
Jared: everybody loves one. Yeah, no doubt. No, that
Trevor: does it. So, all right. So some of your other episodes have talked about like ranchers kind of diversifying their operation, whether it’s with like agritourism or even like opening hunting leases on their ranch, which is such a good idea. And so what are some other, maybe some uncommon ways farmers are kind of
Jared: diversifying. Yeah. Oh, that’s a, that’s a good question. This is one of my favorite interviews was Jerry . And I don’t know [00:31:00] if you’ve listened to that one or not. Uh, in North Dakota, his family, like he had three sons, I think that came home and this was one of my early ones. So I’m going to be, I may or may not be wrong on some of this, but he said, you know, each of them. Come up with something, bring some value back to this because it brings some value value back to this ranch, because there may not be room for you otherwise, and stuff. And so, um, they, they came back in and he talked about how I think. The first son said, well, we’ve been giving away hunting in this ranch for years. Let’s let’s, uh, let’s start selling this, you know, make some money on this. And so they started just leasing it out. Well, then they said, you know, rather than leasing out, let’s do a full like outfitting business. So they started doing that. And then they said, we’ve got all these houses that used to be employed. But nobody wants to live in the rural country anymore. So they’re just sitting empty. Let’s turn these into like lodges and start leasing this out. And then another son came back and turned the barns into like an event center and another son made a brewery. And so they’re just doing so much stuff. And now they’re direct marketing meat. They’re doing events, they’re doing lodging and outfitting and it’s just like mind blowing. And I think that’s so cool. You know, and his kind of key was like, come up with what your unfair advantages. And that’s what I’ve been trying to do here on our farm. And he said, you know, we’re, we’re our, our context, our resources. We’ve got this vast amount of open Prairie land. That’s great hunting ground. We’re 45 minutes from an airport and a big city, you know, this, this is something that we can tap into. And so they did, and we’re trying to figure out the same thing at our. You know, what can we use, but some other to answer your question, cool. Diversifications that people have done that I’ve heard about is, um, there’s an individual in Northeast, Minnesota that, that. Just does kind of lodging as well. They built a year to actually at their place, uh, shout out to farm. Yeah. They built a, uh, and they have another house as well that they rent out and it’s like, that’s awesome. I mean, they have a beautiful area. They’re in a very, like, they recognize that they’re up by Duluth and the north shore of lake superior, like a very tourist popular tourist location. They said, why not take advantage of this? And so they did, I mean, know your area, know your, your. W w what, what can you take advantage of in your region and stuff? And, um, I mean, We’re just lucky on this in agriculture, kind of a land-based industry to have unique things, to be able to do with the resources. People can come up with creative ways to utilize the resources that, you know, a standard, you know, person who owns a downtown building may, may never be able to do with their real estate resource. And so. You know, if we can think creatively it’s, there’s the opportunities out there are endless and I’ll have to think more intentionally on some of the, or think some more on what, uh, what some of the people have done on the guests, guests on the podcast. But that Jerry Dolan one jumps out to me immediately because they took, they didn’t, they weren’t settled with one, they just kept on going,
Trevor: oh, they hit the ground running. I mean, a brewery, a lodging and [00:34:00] outfitting thing. I mean, that’s awesome. I mean, you, you don’t hear about that many. Um, I guess business ideas happening at a ranch, usually it’s like one or two, but I mean, that’s awesome. They kind of hit the ground running there.
Jared: Yeah. Yeah. And it’s like kind of a necessity too. I mean, how many, fortunately. They were able to do that because a lot of ranches can’t sustain three children coming back and that’s a, that’s about true. That’s an awesome opportunity, but it’s also a pretty big challenge to make a ranch that’s profitable enough to sustain three separate families. Plus the older generation four separate families on one land base, they had to come up with something differently and prop to them for being able to. Yeah, that’s not
Trevor: bad. And I’ve heard of so many, um, ranches going direct to consumers. There’s a ranch here that we’ve been, that we’ve had on the show, Boyd farms fresh, um, in Florida. And they have been selling direct to farmers a lot more, thanks to the pandemic. And it’s great. They go to all these farmer’s markets, they sell their meat right out of a refrigerator truck, and you can buy. [00:35:00] High quality meat. Usually some of the best cuts on a cow that you usually can’t get for that sort of price. I mean, you go to like a Publix or Walmart or somewhere, you can’t get the kind of cuts that they have. And so it’s cool that a lot of ranches have started selling more than.
Jared: Yeah, I love it. I mean, yeah. You kind of asked the question earlier about what are some of the challenges that some of these people are facing and a big one is like the commodity market. I mean, we’re competing against people. Even the commodity markets goal is to buy product as cheap as possible. And generally the big operations can produce product cheaper than we can. And if we’re trying to compete with them on a commodity. Uh, you know, we really can’t. And so to your point about this awesome thing that’s happening in the last year, especially if more farmers doing direct marketing, that’s incredible. I love, I love seeing that because it’s, it’s people finding a way to adapt. People thinking, you know, maybe this isn’t a good long-term solution for me to continue to try and compete with these big operations on a commodity market. How can I [00:36:00] adapt to that and still do what I love of raising livestock and they’re doing it by going direct to the consumer. There’s, they’re selling more than just meat. They’re selling their name, they’re selling their relationship. They’re selling their farm. Uh, that’s what we do on our farm. Encourage and invite people to come visit it and experience it. It’s part of our kind of mission and goals of, we want people to have a connection to their food that they would never get by shopping at Walmart, you know? And so I love that there are more people doing direct marketing it’s, it’s exciting to me, and it should be exciting to the consumer because they get to experience food and a whole new.
Trevor: Oh, yeah. I mean, you literally get to see like the people that are making your food, where it’s grown. I mean, especially if they visit your farm, like you’re talking about like doing, um, agritourism. I mean, I think that’s so fun. Like you can literally go there and you can say, Hey, that guy was going to be a steak that I’m going to eat, and it’s a couple of months, like you can, you can connect them. And, and I think that the closer the farmer and the consumer are like the healthier both are going to be. I mean, you can take out that middleman. So it’s going to be cheaper. It’s going to be healthier for [00:37:00] you. It’s you’re probably going to eat less processed stuff if you know where your farmer is and if you’re like, you know, buying produce or something from like a farmer’s market or something. I mean, I think it’s a winning idea. So it’s kind of been this, I guess, a success thanks to the pandemic. Like, because there’s been this necessity of like pitch of pivoting a little bit. And so I think it’s been kind of like a win-win
Jared: for them. Yeah. Oh, totally. And I, like you said, like you could point out a cow and say, that’ll be a steak. I’ll share just a brief story that I once made the mistake of not knowing my audience or my customer wants it. There was an animal that was just giving us trouble loading on a trailer for some reason, just it happens every now and then nothing uncommon or whatever. And I made the comment to the person. Yeah. I said, Hey, your beef was dropped off at the butcher this morning. We barely got it on the trailer, but we got it on the trailer. And she was like, she knew, he knew like that. She was just like, and it was like heartbroken that she thought the animal knew what was happening and where it was going. And I was like, oh, I got to keep my mouth shut. So yeah. I scared her a little bit broke her heart, I think. But yeah. Know your audience know who’s interested in knowing exactly what their stake will be. Cause some people don’t want to look at that cute calf and know there’ll be eating it next fall.
Trevor: Yeah. That’s true. That’s funny though. I mean, that’s one of those things where you’re like, oh my bad.
Jared: Yes. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Yeah.
Trevor: That’s so funny. So I know, I know something going on now is like this whole push for sustainability. So like sustainability paying closer attention to our environment. So have you learned a whole lot of what ranchers are trying to do? And I know like crop rotation and there’s a bunch of stuff, ranchers that are doing the tech to kind of address sustainability that normal, like consumers don’t know about. And so what have you noticed, like kind of interviewing all these people? Are there any. Very successful sustainability practices going on.
Jared: Yeah. So I could list practices all day. Cause like there’s so many ways that people are doing this. I’m not, but I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the [00:39:00] soil health principles, if you’ve ever heard of those or are not. Um, gay brown is kind of an originator of this idea of the soil health principles. And I just was interviewing someone else earlier today for my podcast who rattled through them like a pro. And I told him whenever I try to rattle through them, I’ll butcher it completely. And I know I’ll forget what. But I’ll give it a shot. Um, the principles are diversify, you know, as much diversification as possible diversification of plant species, animal species, wildlife species, maybe. Had diversity monocultures are not diversity, so increased diversity. That’s the number one soil health principle. And in any order of these might be, uh, minimize disturbance, disturbance, both tillage, chemically, you know, minimizing disturbance in, in, in any way that you can. Um, because. Wasn’t disturbed by a big plow regularly or chemical and stuff, uh, green and growing plant as much of the year as possible. This one’s really cool because one of the best things that we can do for our soil is build carbon, build organic matter in the soil. And we build organic matter through [00:40:00] photosynthesis. The more plants that are growing the longer they’re growing and photosynthesizing, they’re pumping carbon into the soil. That’s great. It’s advantageous, you know, let’s do as much of that as possible. So, so that’s, that’s one. Uh, now here’s where I, I know the fifth one livestock integration, because when you look back at nature and stuff, bison, elk, mule, deer birds were an integral part of nature and wildlife. And so livestock integration was the other one. Um, and I knew the fourth one, I’m going to totally forget which I knew I would and stuff, but these principles. Uh, you, you kind of asked about print practices, uh, you know, a practice, like for example, no, till may or may not work on one farm versus another. Um, but a principle like minimize disturbance, if that’s the principal, you know how we apply that in any farm can be different or integrate livestock can be different on every farm. And so all of these principles need to be applied within the context of an individual’s farm. Uh, if that makes sense, and these are kind of the things that I work with. When I, when I, uh, go for my job for the soil health or the sustainable farming association, that soil health lead is I go to farms and I say, here’s these principles that are proven to improve soil. Um, let’s figure out within your, your context on your farm and your given environment, how we can apply these principles as best as possible. Um, Yeah. And I, and I just looked up on my phone here to see what the other principal was. Cause it was bugging me and that’s just keeping the soil covered. Um, whenever there’s exposed soil, I mean, there’s research out there that shows when soil temperatures hit like a hundred, 120 degrees or something, biology starts dying and it’s dead. Biology likes temperatures like we do in the seventies and eighties and stuff. And so we need to keep our soil covered to protect it from the sun and the heat, as well as from wind erosion and rain erosion. That’s pretty neat too. I have a little thermal thermometer kind of gun thing that they, you know, check your temperatures with and stuff, but, uh, uh, if you do. Just pointed at the soil surface when it’s shaded [00:42:00] by grass or something growing, you know, if the air temperature is 80 degrees, that soil temperature might be 70 degrees. But even if the air temperature is 80 degrees exposed soil, the soil temperature might be 110 degrees. It can be way hotter than air temperature. And so we it’s so important to keep soil covered. Those are the five soil health principles and how people are applying them all across the farmer or across the country are different everywhere. You know, people are playing, doing no till strip till in wetter areas so that they can still do a little bit of tillage to dry out the soil. But they’re using that, uh, in, in agriculture and grazing, you know, rotational grazing as a way of keeping soil covered and keeping plants growing and integrating livestock. I mean, cover crops. There there’s ton of different ways that we’re practicing, implementing these principles, but those five prints. Applied within your context is the main way that we can build soil. And it is pretty cool to see some of the impacts. I mean, in our farm, on our farm and in our state here in Minnesota this year, we had one of the driest years, since a lot of people talk about 1988, the drought of [00:43:00] 1988. And. I was fortunate to be able to get out on farms all around the state and see people who are implementing certain principles that by no means made us, you know, immune to drought, but made resilience to drought. And we, a lot of individuals fared better than their neighbors because of certain management practices that they’ve had. And it was really, you know, an awful. Experience. I mean, it was depressing sometimes to see this drought impact people. I mean, it was pretty sad, but then to see at least that some people fared a little better than others by implementing different practices. It was really.
Trevor: I bet it was. And I think that point that livestock management is a part of the solution is really important that a lot of people aren’t paying attention to. Um, I saw a study a few years ago. I can’t remember what it was, but I’ll have to look it up, but basically I think he was in the UK. Um, they compared grassland, that was just grasping. At, with grassland that had livestock on it, it was like rotationally graze. The livestock grassland captured countless, like so much more carbon than the regular grassland. And they’re like, this is obvious. Like we need to kind of have livestock working in. W with the soil to help produce or to help combat sustainability and stuff like that. But you have a lot of these people that are like anti livestock and they say livestock is causing it when they are literally part of the solution. I mean, you look back. I think like 100 years of robot, like 3 billion bison in the United States or something like Jared: that. Yeah.
Trevor: They were never the cause of climate change. I mean, nobody ever said that. I mean, but I think to say that livestock needs to be stopped, which w like a lot of opponents are saying is absurd because they are definitely part of the solution, which I think is very, very interesting. And I think more and more people need to realize.
Jared: Exactly. I mean, you’re so right. And I just kind of a neat thing that we’ve seen on our farm as we’ve [00:45:00] solely picked up, you know, another farm or something in 2014, we got an 80 acre farm down the road that was in CRP for 15 years conservation reserve program. It sat idle in grass for 15 years, essentially. Biologically dead. I mean, that soil was, there was nothing there. Grass would hardly grow once we got in livestock on it and started implementing some of these, you know, these, these, uh, practices and principles, um, that farm is now way more productive. I mean, so it’s awesome. And to your point about like being able to sequester more carbon when grass is just, it grows up, I mean, cool. Season grass is the done. Grass species now in the upper Midwest and stuff way up here. There’s a lot of cool season grasses that grow really fast in may and June. And if you don’t do anything with it, they’ll grow up. They’ll go to seed, they’ll get mature and they’ll die. And then they’ll lay flat and smother out future growth. So there’s really no more. Growing green and growing plants the rest of the year. And those green and growing plants are what’s photosynthesizing and [00:46:00] capturing carbon. And so an animal comes through and kind of acts as like a pruning tool, sets it back and keeps it vegetative and keeps it growing and allows that plant to continue to photosynthesize throughout the whole summer. And you can, you can have a plant photosynthesizing. Pretty much, as soon as the ground thaws out, it’s amazing how quick some of this grass starts to bring it up and growing until well into the fall. We’re still photosynthesizing today out at our farm and stuff here, even though the, you know, the nights are cold and, and so, yeah, livestock are incredibly important to that process. Yeah. Appreciate you saying that, sharing that if you knew where that study was, you should, I’d be curious to read it.
Trevor: Yeah, I need to find it. Um, there’s an author that has a book out. I think it’s called. Oh gosh. What is it? Sustainable dish, sacred cow, sacred cows. Name of the book.
Jared: I have listened to part of the audio book, but I’ve not finished it. Okay. Yeah.
Trevor: I mean, not that put you on the spot. So I bought it months ago. I still have not read it. I really need to read it because I want to have her on the podcast. Um, but she really talks about it. How like livestock and ranching [00:47:00] cows are literally the answer to help the food system to help the planet. And it’s not the main cause. And so I think that’s super. Important and, um, yeah, I mean, she had, there’s a, there’s a documentary out and I think almost had Ron Swanson, but the guy that plays Ron Swanson in parks and recreation narrated it, Nick Offerman, he narrated it. Oh, that’s nice. Yeah. That’s why I want to watch it just to hear his voice.
Jared: Yeah. Yeah. Right. I, uh, I haven’t, I think, yeah, there was supposed to be a documentary that went along with the book and I have not seen it, so I’ll have to look for it.
Trevor: I haven’t, I don’t know what it’s not, I don’t think it’s on Amazon or Netflix or it’s probably on one of those obscure documentary places or something.
Trevor: awesome. So what’s the future of the podcast? What’s the future of herd quitter? I mean, obviously you wanna interview more ranchers out there to kind of see how they’re quote unquote quitting the, her and doing something different. So it’s.
Jared: Yeah. I mean, it kind of just like you saying, carrying on hope, hope to keep interviewing more people. What I would like to do that, I mean, challenged I’m [00:48:00] challenged in the amount of time that I have is, is build a more engaged following listening. You know, I I’d like to get more engaged on social media, start getting more. Listener questions, stuff like that. So that I can ask specifically, you know, if I have a guest lined up for two weeks from now, I’ll put out what do you want to hear from them? Kind of a thing or something like that. I’ve just been so limited in time that I haven’t been able to really do that. I’m not sure if that’s something you do or not, but yeah. I struggle with that, but that, that for sure, I want to get more of what my listeners want. I like to joke sometimes that this is my podcast. I’m asking the questions I want to learn, but it is important to me too, for the listeners that we get, get them, uh, the, in their questions answered as well. And hopefully just continue to grow it and have more people learning. I mean really what the goal of it was is to share what I mean, these people I’m interviewing are finding extreme success in their businesses, by doing some of these things. I mean, really big success and the story of ranching across the country. Right now, there’s a lot of pretty [00:49:00] gloomy stories and stuff that people, people need, some something to change. And I’m just hoping that this gets out there. It gets in front of them. They can take a listen to some people and maybe learn something different and change, turn their story around. And so that. They have a better life and future generations on their ranch might have a better life that, that maybe wouldn’t have been possible if they didn’t. So that’s, that’s the goal. We’ll see where, where it goes.
Trevor: Well, so spring boarding off of that a little bit, I mean, obviously if somebody wants to learn more about ranching and how to diversify their operation, I mean, obviously listen to their herd quitter podcast. Um, but what are some other resources out there that you might recommend? Um, maybe somebody like somebody like kit Farrow or somebody else, what are some resources you would advise people to use?
Jared: Yeah. So the podcast or kit Pharaoh, Pharaoh cattle.com is a great resource. There’s blogs and things out there that that kit Feroz shares all the time. It’s Farrow cattle.com. He’s got a newsletter that goes out once a week. And if you buy a bull, you get on his discussion group, which is an [00:50:00] amazing resource of thousands of people across the country who have bought bulls, who are just constantly cheering. Asking questions, sharing ideas from a wealth of knowledge of ranchers all around the country. So that’s, that’s one. Um, as far as books and things like two books come to my mind is my favorite books. And one of them is dirt to soil. By gay brown, gay brown has an amazing story. Uh, in North Dakota of going through four years of total failure, crop failure and things that forced him to look at things differently. I mean, he had hail, hail drought hail or something like that. And just right after he bought a farm, total crop failures and stuff, and it forced him to do things differently. And he is now one of the biggest names and kind of regenerative ag and sustainability. And it talks more about those soil health principles that I addressed earlier. And then my favorite book now, after reading it is the turnaround a ranchers story by. Dave Pratt. That’s like a business book that has so much great knowledge packed into a book. That’s just totally [00:51:00] readable. I mean, I, I read through that love and it tells it and kind of a story format of a ranch family. Learn this at helping another family who’s needing the help. And so it tells it in a format that’s very readable, but it’s great content and a, and a great book. So I would check out those books for sure. Um, podcast, the working cows podcast is a great one. Um, I love clay Connery and what he’s doing in his podcast. He’s kind of one of the big reasons that got me to do a podcast in the first place. So, uh, I would recommend that as well.
Trevor: Nice. I am going to add them on here. Making some notes, those sound like really good books. I have heard of the working cows podcast. I haven’t listened to it, but I’ve heard a lot
Jared: of really good things. Okay. Yeah, totally great. One clay does a great job. Um, and yeah, it was funny when I first learned what podcasts were I remember is at a wedding and somebody said, oh, you can do the podcasts. You should listen to podcasts. Like from that, that day, I just like searched. I got a podcast app and I started searching [00:52:00] cows, cattle, ranches, like trying to get as much cattle podcasts and working cows is one of the first ones I found. I’ve been listening to it ever since. Just, just great, great podcasts. That’s awesome.
Trevor: I’ve found it. There’s a lot of, um, there’s a lot of great ag and farming podcasts out there, but a lot of them are super focused on one particular topic. And that’s phenomenal. I mean, like if you’re a dairy ranch or if you’re a dairy farmer or, um, like a beef cattle ranger, like there are numerous podcasts out there specifically for you. Um,
Jared: It’s cool. Cause I didn’t know, like, I didn’t know how many listens I’d have no idea how many listeners, the working cows podcasts get and stuff, but he’s doing it still after a few years. So I was just like, you know, I dunno. I mean, if I get 10 listeners, is it worth it? I mean, is it a hundred lists? I don’t know how many listeners I have to make a do worth, but it’s pretty actually cool. How many people out there, you know, will listen to such a specific podcast? Like you say, cause they are very specific. I mean, my audience is very limited. I’m not going to get someone from the city other than my aunt in Rochester. Shout out to [00:53:00] Cindy. She still listens to these. I appreciate that. Uh, yeah. Uh, not many folks are going to listen to this who aren’t involved in the industry. That’s. Um,
Trevor: yeah, I mean, and that’s just the way it is. I mean, I feel like there’s a lot of people that, I mean, they find the podcast, they hook onto it and they just want to listen to it over and over again, like learn some stuff about ranching or about farming or about networking or whatever. I mean, yeah. I feel like only few people can pull off the broad podcast ones like a Joe Rogan, but because they already know. That exposure really? And so they don’t have to be super focused. I mean, they can cover basically whatever they want and they’ll get
Jared: millions of downloads. But yeah, that is what it is.
Trevor: t’s been the weirdest thing like the past year. I think our downloads have been down just a little bit, but word of mouth and feedback from friends and family and random people on the internet has gone up. And so I’m like, this is weird, but I like, I like it. Like, this is good. Like we were getting like a decent number of downloads and we weren’t getting like any feedback or anything, but now I’m like, this is weird, unexpected, but great. So you never know what to expect on this. Podcast world journey
Jared: for sure. Well, I don’t know where you were before versus now in your skill, but you’re very talented guests or interviewer so far. So probably quality has gotten to the point where you get lots of good comments. So keep it up. Well, thank you.
Trevor: I appreciate it. Yeah. I, in the beginning, I would always like, after a guest would say something, I would always be like, oh, that’s really cool. That was like my word filler. And so now anytime I do an interview, I have like notes pulled up and I have it highlighted, do not say that’s really. And so it’s all I guess, adapting and learning to do the good things and not to do the bad things, but you definitely learned through doing.
Jared: Yeah. And that’s the beauty of editing is I edit out a lot of my filler words. I ended up the guests as much as I can to it, but I ended out my own. So I don’t sound like I’m saying the same thing over and over again, because I’m the same boat, same boat here. So
Trevor: do you, do you find it painful to listen to [00:55:00] yourself while you’re editing? Because I, I can never listen to myself in the edit. I’m like, God, just, just keep talking. Like it’s, it’s not painful, but it’s just like
Jared: annoying. I would say the only reason it’s not as, because I’m listening, like, did I make myself sound stupid in this statement? Like, that’s what I’m listening for. I try to try to do my best to pull that out. So
Trevor: Hey, there go. I mean, every, usually during an interview, if I’m interviewing somebody that’s not on podcasts a lot, I’m like, Hey, the, the podcast is made in the edit. Don’t worry. If you mess up, I can edit it out. I will probably mess up. Um, but yeah, the worst edit though, I had to do, I, it was like the first one of the first 10 episodes. I think I had this farmer in south Florida. Um, and he was starting a tractor mid-sentence and I love sharing the story because he was starting it. And I couldn’t hear a word that he said, and I was like, dude, can you redo that please? And so I had to go back and edit it out.
Jared:Cause it was, it was hilarious or like not do field work while we’re doing a podcast, please.It was so funny.
Trevor: I had, I mean, it’s funny what you’ll get, you’ll hear dogs in the background and sometimes, or you’ll hear people in the background, you’ll hear a fan or phones going off all the time. You just, you honestly never know what you’re going to get. It’s it’s pretty bad. Have you had any, any happenings
Jared: like that? Just earlier today? I was my wife and I. Yeah in the hospital, actually the last couple of days for my, my son and we were out late and I ran to my mom’s house to do this podcast recording with somebody that I’ve been really excited to interview, but had been putting out, trying to been struggled to get scheduled for months. And so I was like not missing this random, my mom’s house. And then in the middle of that, my stepdad came home and his dogs were barking and he walked in and like started tromping through the living room and started doing dishes. And it was like, you could hear it all on my end. Luckily I can edit out my style. Yeah. So. 39 episodes or whatever. And I, I still can’t, uh, instill can’t do unwell yet, I guess, but I did get home for this one. So you don’t have to deal with those issues. There you go. Hey,
Trevor: it happens. It’s all struggle. All struggle. I mean, [00:57:00] that always just makes the episodes
Jared: more. You. Yeah. Yeah. I agree. Hopefully the listeners agree.
Trevor: I mean, as long as I listen to a degree, that’s good. If they don’t, then that could be no bueno we’re there. This has been awesome, man. Chatting with you learn about all that you do about the herd quitter podcast. Um, if people want to follow you follow the podcast, obviously it’s herd quitter. It’s on, um, apple podcasts. It’s on Google. It’s on Spotify and a bunch of other podcasts Jared: players. Yup, yup. Yup. It should be everywhere. Most people listen. So. It’s like, well,
Trevor: where, where else can they go to kind of follow you guys and see what you guys are
Jared: doing? Yeah. I heard quitter podcast.com or heard quitter podcast on Facebook, Instagram, or you can follow me Jared lumen on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. Um, I kind of link through all those things as well, but yeah.
Trevor: Deal. All right. Well, Jared, I appreciate it, man. Good luck with the podcast. Oh, and also I forgot to mention this. I absolutely love your logo. I think it’s awesome. The bowl, the very simple [00:58:00] text herd quitter with the microphone in it. It’s, it’s a beautiful, simplistic logo. And I think there aren’t nearly as many podcasts out there with a really good logo
Jared: and here’s just one of them. So I appreciate that. Thanks so much. I had a great, great person put that together and stuff, but thank you. Thank you so much,
Moomers Handmade Ice Cream is home to the best ice cream in Michigan and I can attest to that! It’s also approved by the President of the United States! Today on the show, I chat with Jon Plummer about his family dairy business, how it started, and how they do everything on-site in terms of milking cows, processing the milk, and selling it or turning it into some great ice cream.
Our guest today is meant scientist, Diana Clark from Certified Angus Beef. Diana knows all things Angus Beef, why the brand was started, what makes Angus beef so good, and how our meat supply chain was impacted due to Covid. This was a super fun interview and if you’d like to learn more, be sure to check out the Meat Speak podcast by Certified Angus Beef! It features Diana and a few others from the brand as they educate people more about the amazing qualities of Angus.
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Trevor: All right. Well, Diana Clark, welcome to the farm traveler podcast.
Diana: Excellent. How about yourself? Trevor: doing well. So I’m excited to chat with you. I love learning more and more about meat science and butchery. So before we dive into that, kind of tell us a little bit about yourself and kind of how you got to what you’re doing
Diana: Yeah, so, um, I actually grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. Uh, didn’t really have much background in meat or animal science or anything like that. Um, I wanted to become a vet, so I went to the university of Illinois. Animal science there and slowly get immersed into agriculture, uh, while I was there and, uh, I started working at the meat lab when I was a sophomore, just to make money and help pay for school. And then I won’t be whole found this career in meat science. Um, I got hooked on pretty quick. We actually have a meat judging program. Not many people probably really know about it, but a lot of universities, especially your land grant universities, [00:01:00] um, we’ll have meat judging teams that will go around and compete. And essentially you place value on carcasses from most valuable to least valuable. You have to write reasons. But the greatest part about it is really get introduced to the whole meat industry, um, from just people within it. And then also peers that will be in it later. I just developed some great friends through that, uh, through that process and everything. Um, so that really got me hooked into meat science, and then. Became more and more interested and went on. And I got my masters in meat science as well. I had did a few internships with Sarah Lilly, um, under the Hillshire farm brand, which is now known by Tyson. Um, and then my husband and I moved out to Ohio. He also has a PhD in meat science. I have my masters, he has a PhD. But we talk a lot about me as
Trevor: soon as I can imagine. Yeah.
Diana: And, uh, so I started off working at a veal packing plant in Creston, Ohio. I was there for [00:02:00] probably about four months before a position opened up at a certified Angus beef. And then I started working there in 2015. So I’ve been there since, and I love it. And each and every day, uh, it’s a lot of fun. Essentially what we get to do here is we do a lot of hands-on education. So we’ll. Distributors chefs, um, even some just consumers come in and show them where different cuts are on the carcass and how to break things down. And then we also have six chefs on staff and they’ll go ahead and cook up all those cuts. So that way they can get experiences of different muscles textures. And just seeing those light bulb moments is phenomenal. One when people walk in. So it’s just really neat to have. See the whole industry through and
Trevor:No, I can imagine. So I taught high school ag in two years in Daytona and the first competition we covered was meet ID actually. And it was so fun the first time it was the first competition and we did. [00:03:00] And so it was really cool actually teaching them, showing them the different cuts of meat and stuff like that. And we actually went to Gainesville and did the state competition and it was super fun. And of course they were in the meat locker the whole time and they were super cold, but, uh, they had a blast. We didn’t place very high, but we learned a lot and it was so.
Diana: That’s all that matters. It is. So like, it’s just so neat that experience. We, I coached a, uh, a four H meat judging team here in Ohio. And then I also coached one in Illinois. Um, and coming up with the little ways for people to remember that cuts of meat, you’re like, oh yeah, that one looks like Pac-Man that one, you just have those things engraved in your head then for the rest of your life. The store at the grocery and you’re just like, oh, oh look, look, there’s a Pac-Man steak right there. Tick. Okay. I got that.
Trevor: Yeah, that’s awesome. So now anytime my wife goes to get meat from Publix or wherever, um, she’s always making sure that we get something that’s well marbled and it’s got some good quality to it. So that’s pretty cool. [00:04:00] Um, and, uh, yeah, you’ve been doing something on your Instagram, which has really neat where you showcase different cuts of. Um, and usually they’re like some lesser known cuts and I think I’m like, oh, for 10 on guessing all of them, which hopefully I get better at that. But, um, what kind of inspired you to do that? Because it’s been really, that’s been really fun to kind of follow Diana: just all, uh, COVID inspiration. Um, I was sitting there thinking about. What, what did people ask most of when we have people in the back and I’m breaking down sides of beef, what do they ask the most of? And 90% of the time they’re back there. Can you show me this cut or, Hey, have you heard of this? Cut. They want to know more about the cuts. So I thought. I think it’d be fun for people just to guess what cut it is. Um, and just put something up there and then the next day, just give them a little bit of education behind it. So that way they can kind of play a game and keep challenging themselves. And it is it’s fun just to see people’s answers. Cause sometimes like, oh, I totally can see why you think that. [00:05:00] And that gives you some culinary inspiration at the same time when you’re looking at it like, oh, we probably could use utilize that in a different way. Um, but then also to me, one of the neatest parts. That this is the beauty of Instagram is being able to connect with everyone through the world. So it’s not just that small niche. So I put something up and you get responses of, well, this is what we call it in Argentina. Well, this is what we call it in Japan. This is what we call. So. Cool for me to learn and see all these different names of cuts throughout the world, and then how they utilize it in their cuisine. And you’re instantly connected. Uh, and that’s, that’s always the fun part of, of having that, that education. But. Goes both ways. It’s just not on, on my end, preaching out. I receive a lot from people. And so that’s the fun part when people plug into it too.
Trevor: Pretty cool perspective. So are there any other types of meat, like maybe a T-bone steak where we treat it really well here, but in other countries, maybe they don’t care.[00:06:00]
Diana: Well, it’s more than that. So they’ll, it’s more that they won’t have it. It’s not as utilized. Um, because if you think about just even from how fortunate we are in terms of refrigeration and everything like that. Well, a lot of times it’s, well, we don’t have that capability in this country. So we’re going to have these large hunks of meat that rockabilly going to cover in salt to try to preserve them. And we have to slice it really thin. So they still will use like kind of your middle meats. I feel like our go-to they’re great. But then it’s all of those other cuts, like you think about, and, uh, Japan like a shabu, shabu, just the thinly sliced, because I want to make sure that the meat’s cooked all the way in thoroughly, even down in south America, you have a lot of things that are cut really thin on the bias because they want to make sure it’s well done just from a food safety standpoint. Well, we really don’t have to worry about that. So we try to use these in different ways. We usually cook them way under them, what they would. And, um, but I think just getting that culinary inspiration and you see some of the acidity that [00:07:00] they add into their dishes too, just to help with that is, is really neat to see. And also I’ve noticed there’s a ton of. Meet education going on, someone just reached out to me from Argentina. That’s doing a butcher school within Argentina, and they’re trying to train up, get people more involved and engaged in this career because they’re realizing it’s that dying art, but they still have. Uh, there was someone in the middle east that was just talking to me about that too, that she’s doing the same thing, trying to educate and get people more involved in cutting because there, so few of those people out there, uh, so just seeing the need globally is really awesome. And knowing that you have that trade, that can be really useful. And I think there’s a lot of people out there that can cut meat. They just don’t know that there’s very few of them that can, so it’s, it’s fun just seeing that kind of.
Trevor: Oh, that’s awesome. So, man, I can’t remember his name, but we had on somebody a few months ago or I think last year and he does butchery, which I think specifically for hogs. And so [00:08:00] he goes to those locations and he butchers them on site and kind of holds a class to kind of show the cuts and all that stuff. Uh, which is really neat because there really aren’t that many butchers as are. Whereas there were in years past. I mean, it’s kind of like, um, a career field that nobody’s really interested in anymore. Yeah.
Diana: It’s funny that you say that too. So we have neighbors down the road, um, being that we’re transplants from Illinois to Ohio, we don’t have family around here. Uh, but our neighbors were fortunate enough to invite us over. They do this every year where they’ll, they’ll bring in a few hogs that kind of the surrounding families want and they’ll butcher them all. And. They’ll cut them apart. And they’ve set up this whole system where they have basically this small room that you could pretty much fit a table and they put air conditioners in to cool it down. They’ll have about like eight people in there. Cutting. And then you transfer the meat down to the basement and they have a group of people making sausages, and then people packaging steaks. It’s like this whole process and there’s usually [00:09:00] five or six families that are. But then afterwards you distribute out the meat and you guys are pretty much set on pork for the year. So it’s, it’s really neat because that’s how it used to be done. Like they used to go around and help each other out, but it’s a great way just to get people involved with each other, um, and just help them want each other out. So that’s, I always, I love seeing. Those things go on. And as long as it’s done, like in a, in a safe way, of course, that’s always the concern when you see that happening. But seeing that they’ve taken the time to, to know the ins and outs behind it is a lot of fun.
Trevor: So we’ve got some friends of friends that went in, um, with some other friends and bought a cow and processed it. And they got so much meat that they basically had to buy a separate freezer because they had so much, which is so cool. And I want to do that one day because it’s such a great way. I mean, you know exactly where that meats coming from, you know, exactly how that cow processed. And, um, I mean, it’s such a, win-win, you’re getting so much me too at a lower cost than you might get at a grocery store for [00:10:00] buying
Diana: that much. The, the one neat thing. I think seeing the processes kind of understanding that too, because so my, my husband is from a small town and oblong, Illinois, not there’s I think 1600 people there I’m from Chicago suburbs. So my family doesn’t really understand. Process at all. Um, but my dad, at one point he did want to buy a steer from my, my husband’s family. So he did, and I told them like, okay, you’re gonna need to make sure you have freezer space. And so he said, okay. And then I’m like, you’re gonna know you’re going to have a lot of ground beef. Like a lot of ground beef is going to come off this animal. And so we, we go through the process and I was telling him like, okay, so this, this animal was like 1200 pounds. Like. But then once you get to the hot carcass weighed. So once the head hoes hide and viscera or guts have all been removed, now we’re down to like 800 pounds, and now we’re going to process that. And now we’re going to be down to like 350 to 400 pounds. And out [00:11:00] of that, you’re going to have about 10 to 12 revise. You’ll have about 10 strip steaks. And then depending on who’s cutting it, how many sirloin steaks you might have 10 to 15, and then you’re going to have a lot of rows. And you’ll have some, you’ll have about four Tenderloin steaks, and then you’re going to have a lot of ground beef. Like it, you need to realize this is, this is one of it. That’s true. And cause I think it’s understanding a lot. Like you’ll see cars are priced sexual. We get insides of beef here at the culinary center. We pay two, $2 and 50 cents per pound for a whole side. So it’s usually for a side of me is around a thousand to $1,200. Okay. But then from there we process it and you only get so few steaks until you go to the grocery store and you think, man, that’s a sticker shock, especially now. I mean, prices are extremely high, but yeah, they still are trying to utilize though the rest of that entire carcass. [00:12:00] For us, we don’t save w we don’t have the stomach or anything like that, but even at the packing plants, they’re utilizing every single piece of that. So you think about how many restaurants have ribeye on the menu? Great. But how many restaurants have your, uh, lifter meat on the menu? Or how many restaurants have your tri tip on the menu? It’s okay. There’s not as many there too. That’s that’s the beauty of, of the beef system in general is that we find homes for everything. I think it’s fun that to be able to go through that experience, to see the process, because you learn so much in it, I think everyone should be able to do that. That’s why we have that here breaking the animal apart. So you could see where everything is, but by being able to have beef at the grocery store available to us, 24 7 is just phenomenal to be able to have that quality and you get what you want, what you know, you’re going to eat. Right. All right. We’re going to try to take down this round roast again tonight because that’s all we have left in the [00:13:00] freezer and it’s kind of going through all that. And it it’s comical because even here we utilize all of our, our meat and we usually usually we’ll send it to like our chefs. We’ll use it for, for groups coming in for lunches or dinners or what’s. But then the rest of it, we have internally, we can give it to staff for a suggested donation price. Cause since we’re not inspected, we can’t actually sell the meat. But then we utilize that to go back to some of our, um, kind of our, uh, helping other farmers and ranchers. We have a few things that we do that just able to give aid out when needed. Um, so we use that internally, but the middle meats, those steaks will sell first before. And then usually we have some of your round cuts or your Chuck cuts that are left. But to me, those are the hidden gems like that. No one really truly knows about. And I think it’s that the confusion from a consumer of, I really don’t know what to do with it. It’s like, it’s, it’s easy. I mean, [00:14:00] and people will ask me like salt and pepper and grill it 90% of the time. That’s all you need to do or throw it in a Crock-Pot low and slow, depending on how big it is. Though that to me is where more education can be driven to get people, to get some of these lower end cuts to utilize because there’s still phenomenal eating experiences. I mean, especially here at certified Angus beef, we have a lot of high quality meat coming through. You don’t have to pay as much for them. And regardless of you’re buying them here, if you’re buying them at a grocery store where you’re getting them, and that’s even some of the conversations that we have with chefs too, we want you to really utilize the whole animal, not just these middle meats, because, and if you do utilize a Hawaiian. That is going to drive the value of certified Angus beef. That’s going to drive the value of the Angus animal. And then it’s going to go back to that farmer and rancher, the Angus cattleman, because that’s who we are at certified Angus beef. We are actually owned by the American Angus association. Um, and that that’s made up of just farmers and ranchers that pay their [00:15:00] dues every, every year. And so that way it’s going to drive the demand back to them. And they’re going to have a more profitable animal to keep trying to make that certified Angus beef marking it, continue to drive the quality of animal in general, which is, I think that’s one of the neatest parts about this company. That we’re working for that, that local person. Um, even though it’s still just, it’s big beef system, it’s still goes through the whole beef system, but we’re really driving it back to whoever has Angus cattle, because even, I mean, to be quite honest, to any, anyone who has black hided animals, because it’s driving the value behind it because people are looking for that higher quality.
Trevor: Yeah. So people hear that term, um, a hundred percent certified Angus beef and know that it’s got better marbling, better flavor and stuff like that. So really, I mean, what kind of sets those Angus cows apart to where, you know, there’s so much prestige behind the.
Diana: Yeah. So it’s really neat the way, the way the company started. So we actually had, um, there’s an Angus [00:16:00] farmer that, uh, went out to dinner in Chicago. He had a terrible steak, but on the menu it said it was Angus. And he was really upset because he’s like, I raised these Angus animals and this is what people are eating. And I think that it’s Angus beef. This is not. So he wrote into the American Angus association and said, this is what we need to do in order to make sure that the Angus name is known for known and well liked. Um, and so the American Angus association said, okay, let’s try this. Um, and so they actually got Mick Colvin, um, who lived in west Salem, Ohio. And that’s why we are in Wooster, Ohio right now is because of where. To Mick, you’re going to have this up and try to start a branded beef program, which never existed before that. So Cisco, like, all right, good luck. Bye. See you later. Um, but he, he actually got to go in and the main reason why was he was able to work with a meat scientist, Dr. Bob van Saburn from Ohio state. I actually should say V. Ohio state since I’m in the state of Ohio. Gosh. Yeah. [00:17:00] Um, they play the Ohio state fight song. At the Cleveland Indians baseball game. I don’t, I never understand that. Yeah, I don’t get it. I don’t get it. I’m still trying to understand that. But anyways, um, so he contacted Dr. Bob Vince Tavern to say, Hey, we need to do something to make sure that the meat that people are getting is high. And so the beauty with Angus animals is that they’re already high quality animals in general. I mean, they’re just known to be one they’re genetically they’re good mothers. So they’re, they’re very good at producing other cattle. And then also just being able to feed and grow and everything. So from a producer standpoint, Angus cattle, or. Then from you look from a carcass trait standpoint, they really typically have more marbling in them. I mean, they just always have, and you we’ve tried to select for this over years. So now we’re getting these higher genetics or better genetics, I should say, within the cattle that are producing more marbling within them as well. [00:18:00] So then that’s like the live side of things, but then we look at the carcass. Okay. Now we can say that. Angus cattle. And that’s great because then it does drive the demand for Angus cattle. However, within that group of Angus, I mean, even if you look at, at, I, I think about English massive, so I have an English massive dog. You have a wide array of English. Massive. Usually English masters are really big animals. Um, they’re kind of bold and, and rough. Well, my English math massive is only 110 pounds. So. Uh, although it sounds big to some people that’s very light for a Mastiff. Um, she has long hair doesn’t look like your typical Mastiff would, uh, but she is technically pure bread. I mean, she is a hundred percent massive English master, so it’s kind of the same concept with Angus cattle. You can have these Angus cattle that yeah, they are angry. But they might’ve not gotten the best nutrition or they [00:19:00] might not have the best genetics. So from an eating quality standpoint, they’re still not back. And so that’s where they want it to say, okay, now we need to make sure the dots are connected all the way through the system. So they focus on from the live standpoint, predominantly black hided. And essentially that means the entire body is black. If it has a little white on its face or on its, uh, hubs, then it’s okay. Um, but everything else has to be. So you can have some heterogeneity in there. You can have some mixed breeds because we know commercial herds exist. And that’s really the number one thing. That’s driving that beef industry. So we need to make sure that we play into that, but now let’s look at the carcass itself because that’s where the true quality is going to lie in that carcass. And so we’ll look at the marbling. We want to make sure that it has enough marbling, that a consumer is going to notice a difference. And then we also want to make sure the animals younger so less than 30 months. Because the older an animal gets the tougher that meat’s going to be. So we [00:20:00] try to look at those, those things essentially to give that tenderness, juiciness, and flavor, everything that a consumer wants to have in order to have a great tasting steak. So that’s kind of our goal. But then we have seven other specifications that we’ll look at some other parameters. So some of them, we call the chef specs because they look at sizing having consistent revise, sizing, little back fat, having a consistent, hot carcass weight, just to keep the animals more consistent because then they’re easier to work with. But then also you don’t get excessive and fat. There’s not a lot of waste in terms of the production standpoint. So it keeps them the more cost-effective as. You don’t have to worry about all that trim work. And then you’ll have some things that can happen in animals, like a capillary rupture or dark cutter, or the shape of the revisers simply is kind of narrow and long. It just doesn’t look good. We want to get those out. So kind of there the oddballs in the industry, but they still exist. [00:21:00] And we just don’t want those to be in that certified Angus beef box. So once we go through that process and actually USDA greater is going to evaluate the animal to make sure that it falls into that category. Um, it could then be labeled certified Angus beef. So you being a person that would go to a grocery store. And they could go and see that logo, that certified Angus beef logo and say, that’s what I’m going to get, because all of that guesswork at the end of does it have enough marbling? Is it going to be tender? How that’s all done for you already? So it’s making sure that that consumer is going to get the best product that they can find at the store at that time. So that’s kind of our goal behind that. And doing so it’s going to drive back since we are certified Angus beef, it drives back, oh, that consumer sees Angus and they perceive it as high quality. So it’s going to drive that back, that demand for the Angus animal, which is going to help our farmers and ranchers get more profit for their animal to,
Trevor: yeah. And there’s [00:22:00] only really two breeds that kind of have that prestige it’s Angus and Wagyu, which is totally like a different, um, yeah, exactly. So have y’all tested any.
Diana: We’ve uh, looked at different stuff and it’s, it’s, it’s definitely it’s its own breed for sure. Um, Um, beauty’s in it, the marbling, and it is phenomenal without a doubt, definitely a heavy marble the animals. The hard part is to, from an efficiency standpoint, they take a lot longer to reach that end point. So that’s going to be more days on feed, longer production. Which is going to be hard for that producer, but that’s, I mean, that’s what you pay for with the wagon. I mean, you’re paying for the extra days on feed, the more food for the animals. You’re paying a little bit more for that trim work that they have to do at the processing level. So there’s all those things that are going to, and that’s why you have those drastic price, price differences between your certified Angus beef and your Wagyu. Not saying that why it wouldn’t be a phenomenal experience because it would be from an [00:23:00] eating quality standpoint. But to be honest, I can only have. A couple of bites of the steak, and then I’m, I’m pretty much out because just usually fat overload. Um, but it’s still, it’s one of those things. It’s like, well, I tried it like, it was it’s, it’s neat to have that experience and those deaf, those animals have been bred to be that heavy marbles, uh, types. You just see again, going into those genetics that playing through for sure. And you’re starting to see more of your. Wagyu cross, um, out there in the market. And there’s still a little debate on how profitable that is, but the beauty of it, those animals would be black hided. So they still can fall into that certified Angus beef brand and still drive the demand for those Angus genetics that are within the animal as Trevor: well. Gotcha. And before I forget about it, there’s black Angus and red Angus, right? So is there really any difference there between kind of.
Diana: No, that’s the hard part. So we are the only country that Inc that makes certified Angus beef black [00:24:00] and the red Angus association. So we have American Angus association and the red Angus association where we’re two separate entities, although they’re the same come from the same breed and everything. I mean, really they’re very similar of everything. Simply their hide color, um, where you could actually have two black animals that, um, actually have a red calf that is very possible. Uh, Because we are the American Angus association and we live in the United States. We really do focus only on our black Angus cattle. Um, and to be honest, there’s fewer of the red Angus too. Um, they can still fall into other programs like you have your certified Herford, um, that would actually capture those as well. Um, but it’s just, just a smaller pool of cattle, but they still do have very, uh, similar genetics. Gotcha. Trevor: Yeah, I’ve always wondered if there’s like a difference between the taste of the two. I mean, black and red.
Diana: Now I will say the beauty, um, beauty about the American Angus association. So they’ve been at this for years, [00:25:00] um, and they are definitely a group. I’d say that’s, uh, pretty, pretty dominant for their breed. Like they, they will do anything to make sure that the breed is going to stand out and be better, uh, to the point where I remember when I was in graduate school. There was a genetic disease that was found within the Angus genetic. So essentially to be, to be registered, you send in a blood sample that makes sure that you are in fact Angus type. Um, so they found that this disease and they said, okay, um, this is okay. Like you can keep it going in the Angus herd, however it’s going to cause some defects download. And so the American Angus association, they really could have just said, all right, whatever, we’re just going to leave it as is. It’s going to cause a little few bumps in the road, but it’s not going to be, it’s not going to be a major deal. Just be a minor deal. But them being who they are, they said, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. We want to make sure that this breed is the best. So we’re going to go ahead and we’re getting, [00:26:00] remove anyone that basically had that genetic defect in their line. They no longer could be considered registered Angus. Which takes an animal. Like if you think a bowl that originally was registered in his bowl had so much value to them and now just drops it to hardly anything because he no longer is registered Angus animal. And so it had a lot of their people that are within the association, very upset that they did. But they did it to better the Angus genetics. They did it to improve the herd moving forward. And those are decisions that they continue to make each and every day and know that they’re not going to be favorable decisions by the association or by all of the farmers and ranchers, but they know that it’s going to improve the herd quality. And that’s their goal. And that’s one thing that the Angus association has been doing before any other breed association out there. So they’re definitely further along, I’d say on that genetic pool probably than any other breed. Um, and it’s awesome to see that [00:27:00] quality. On the meat side, because you’re seeing these extremely high quality animals continue to come through. And it’s because they’ve been so diligent at making sure they have the best genetics within. And
Trevor: so from your perspective, I’ve always heard a lot of things about grain finished beef and grass-finished beef, and I’ve heard. Like grain finished results in a butter, your flavor, and grass-finished is kind of like a healthier, I guess, less fattier flavor. And so have you seen any real differences there between grass-finished or grain finished beef? Like, um, does one have more marbling or is one going to be a little bit better tasting than the other? Uh, what have you, what have you.
Diana: Yeah. So the biggest thing is usually your grain finished cattle are going to have higher quality. They’re going to have more marbling just simply from the nutrition that the animal is getting. Now, the biggest thing to remember is all animals will eat grass. Pretty much their entire life. Um, they have to, to help develop their rumen. Even when those grain finished animals are in the feed yard, they’re still eating some type of [00:28:00] forage, just mixed into their diet. Um, it’s not going to be just pure court and they have a nutritionist that will balance all that out your grass-finished animals since they don’t have as much starch or those carbohydrates in their diet. Uh, they’re going to tend to be. Uh, so that’s going to give you, uh, it’s almost to me a game year type tastes that some people will notice, um, that, and that’s really going to be your major differences between the two, uh, That’s why the grain finished animal is more favorable to the consumer one, because they’re used to that, that palette, but also it’s simply just tastes better. Now. I definitely have seen some grass-finished animals that do have marbling. It is, is possible. I’m not saying that it’s not, but it takes longer for those animals to reach that end point in order to get that marbling. Um, so again, you’re going to have more days on. Um, it’s not going to be as sustainable as you would have your, your grain finished beef, which is kind of contradictory to what a lot of [00:29:00] people think. Um, but it it’s the truth, uh, but just kind of, that’s why you have some of those differences. Overall is many are going to have more marbling or higher quality within your grain finished animal, um, versus your grass.
Trevor: Yeah, that’s something I need to do. I want to do like a taste test between them and kind of figure out what are the differences between grain fed and grass-finished
Diana: we did them here a lot of really. Yeah. And it, most, it’s actually pretty great. Cause most chefs will say that they have it on their. Pretty much just for the consumer that they don’t like grain they’re grass-finished beef. They’re like, I really don’t want to have that. I I’d prefer not to like, because honestly we go and buy some grass-finished beef from there’s a butcher shop up the road that has it. And we just cook them side by side to our certified Angus beef. And they’re like, yeah, I know it’s on the menu. We really just do it for the consumer. I don’t like grass-finished beef. I’m like, oh, well, okay. Trevor: That’s crazy. I mean, consumer demand basically drives everything, whatever the chefs want or [00:30:00] whatever the consumer wants. I mean, that’s, what’s going to be in the grocery store. I mean, the consumer is super powerful Diana: and that’s what always kills me. Cause, uh, the consumer will think like, All of the food industry is out to get them. Like we’re trying to hurt them. We’re going to poison them with whatever we’re giving them. It’s like, no, you’re driving the demand for like our process. So we don’t want to hurt you because if you died, like you wouldn’t have anyone consuming our products. So no, that doesn’t make any sense. And really, we just want to make sure that you’re having the best experience and that’s with the entire, like when I worked at Sara Lee with Hillshire farm, Uh, I, so many consumers will think that the processed meats are so bad for you. They’re not, they’re not bad for you at all. I mean, they have salt in them, but it’s, I mean, as long as you’re not consuming an entire thing of lunch meat every single day, then you really should be okay. Uh, it’s, it’s healthy for you. This is good stuff. We’re not going to try to hurt you, but we want to make sure that you enjoy the products, even though there’s some things that are on the back that are chemicals, that you [00:31:00] might not fully understand. It’s really just to make sure that the product tastes. And it’s safe for you to eat. I mean, that’s, that’s really the goal behind producing anything. Um, but it’s, it’s always just kind of comes back to, oh, they’re trying to get me. I’m like, no, no, no, no, no. This is like the safest food system in the world that we have here. You need to be confident in that.
Trevor: Oh yeah. And I mean, here in the U S we have the safest, most abundant food supply that we’ve ever seen in. If consumers don’t want something, then farmers aren’t going to grow it. I mean, that’s why. Um, consumers wanted organic produce and then farmers started growing more and more organic stuff to kind of fit those needs because that’s how powerful the consumer
Diana: is. And you even look at it. I remember this was way back when, but there was a kind of a big push against no caffeine and people didn’t want coffee anymore. Coffee. All of a sudden it was really bad for you. And it actually caused countries in south America to really plummet because we stopped buying coffee beans in, and it’s amazing of how many.[00:32:00] I mean power. We truly have just by personal preferences like that. And then it, but again, like you said, I mean, people will switch our practices to make sure that we provide for that consumer without a doubt. Trevor: Yeah. I feel like the biggest problem is that people are forgetting about moderation. Just like with, with coffee. I mean, if you had 20, 30 cups of coffee a day, like you’re going to have some caffeine problems there. I mean, for sure. But, um, I mean the same thing. If you ate beef with every meal, you probably have some health issues. And just like, if you ate apples, like nothing but apples, you’d probably have those same problems or different problems. I mean, it’s all about moderation and having like some. Um, I don’t know, personal responsibility with, um, with your diet and kind of making sure you’re having a healthy diet and you’re eating what you’re Diana: supposed to. I completely agree. And it’s so funny that you even said apples. We actually had a, um, a friend of ours in graduate school, like one day he came in and we’re sitting down and he literally had an entire bag of apples.[00:33:00] And we look at him, we’re like, what are you doing? And he’s like, well, you know, the apple peel, it’s got the. Enzyme in it. That’s really good. It helps speed up your metabolism and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, and all this stuff. And he’s going on and on like, okay, but how much sugar is in the rest of that apple? Like you consume just those, I guarantee you going out of your sugar range that you need to have for the day. That’s probably not the greatest thing from a calorie standpoint, maybe you eat an apple to get that enzyme, and then maybe it has some vegetables and some. To balance the whole meal. It was just, it is people just get so stuck in the groove of, this is what we’re going to do. It’s like now you gotta think of the big picture. And that even goes back to. When we talk about grain, finished beef, you, same thing with the nutritionist, balancing that diet for the animal. They’re not just going to give them all corn because they know that it’s not healthy. They need to make sure that it’s balanced all the way through so that they get all of the nutritional requirements that they need in order to grow [00:34:00] efficiently. So that’s the kind of that big myth that they’re just kind of pumping them full of grain. It’s like, no, no, no. That’s not how this works. If, if we only all had nutrition, Working on our meals. I can only imagine what they would tell me about my diet. Trevor: Yeah, same, same. They probably tell me to leave it all the Cheetos. Yeah. I feel like that’s something, a lot of people don’t realize is that, um, I mean, there are nutritionists on a farm that are making sure the cows are eating what they’re supposed to, chickens, whatever livestock. I mean, if the livestock isn’t within a certain weight range, like if they’re too big or too small, I mean, they’re not going to. Nearly as profitable. So you’ve got to kind of reign in what they’re eating and make sure that they are kind of between the goalposts in terms of weight, Diana: without a doubt. Yeah.
Trevor: So I feel like we could keep talking about this for a while, but, um, I know COVID is still a thing, right? Uh, or early 20, 20, we had a whole issue with the F with the food supply chain. And so, I mean, what really happened there with, um, kind of the meat processing? Like, [00:35:00] did we lose workers? Why did they shut down so much? Because I know that was a huge issue, um, about, I don’t know, over a year ago when all that. Diana: Yeah. So again, that was all consumer demand, consumer scare that kind of drove that. So if you even look at some of the pricing that happened or the market, right, right. When COVID started. So people, I mean, toilet paper and everything, people started buying stuff like crazy. Well, they did that in the meat department. I mean, they just bought and bought and bought, tore out everything. So that way really our demand SkyRide. And so now we’re trying to get cattle processed faster, uh, to get the, those meats net. And then it started to die down a little bit, but at the same time, so that set consumer demand and consumers actually remained elevated in buying meat in general, especially beef. They just wanted more meat because I think they give us kind of that mentality. Well, we need to have some in the freezer, so we’re always just going to buy a little bit of extra. Um, so it’s [00:36:00] remained elevated. So because it remained elevated in the grocery stores. To keep that supply going. Fortunately slash unfortunately at the beginning, our food service, all of our restaurants and everything they were closed. So we were able to kind of switch over that supply from food service over into retail. The only issue is sometimes we have some more of those food service cuts versus retail cuts. So we had to balance that out a little bit, but ground beef was a big seller. So a lot of things probably got ground up and thrown into. Um, so now we have food service come back on and they’re wanting some of this meat that now the retail sector was taking in. So now we have more demand on both sides. And so it’s trying to make sure that we get that demand. But at the same time, your packing plants are still battling with COVID. So they’re still traveling to have people wear a face mask. They have to stand further apart than what they did before. Meaning they’re going to have to decrease [00:37:00] your, your line. So slow down that line to make the process happen still efficiently, but it’s not going to be as fast as what it was so that we have those things moving through slowly. And now you’re having people that are getting sick or maybe not coming to work or I’ve found different jobs. And so they’re starting to battle. I mean, still labor for them is the number one issue. They don’t have enough people coming in consistently in order to get things processed. So if you put kind of a hold on all that up front, that of course that trickle-down is going to be a lot harder. And so we’re still seeing extremely high meat prices, uh, compared to any other time. And it’s not just meat is the sad part. I mean, it’s, it’s everything. Everything is really high. Just from transportation standpoint. We don’t have enough of that going on right now in the United States and in the world to be, should be exact. I mean, the, in terms of freight, um, and just flight and everything is just completely slowed down. And so that’s jumping prices up. [00:38:00] Um, so, but you’re still continuing to see those effects from COVID. Uh, we did have a little bit of a low, but now as we go back into the holiday season, you see certain prices start to go up again, especially your ribbon, your Tenderloin, but that being said, there’s still plenty of other cuts that are going to remain low on that. Um, one great value cut to buy right now would be a strip loin or to even buy closer to the holidays. So a lot of people will go to your classic bros for Christmas. Um, but really that strip is the exact same muscle as your rib that longest Mr. Sy and can handle just as well prepared as kind of your quote unquote prime rib. You could still do the same cooking techniques to it. And it’s going to be a fraction of the cost of what that ribeye or Tenderloin would be. So it’s kind of driving the demand to some of those other cuts to make sure that people are still satisfied and can utilize them pretty easily.
Trevor: Crazy. Yeah. I remember hearing, um, some people saying like, oh, we have a beef. [00:39:00] And I was like, no, we don’t really have a beef shortage. It’s that we’re having like problems, um, processing it all. And I mean, that’s just huge, a huge problem there. And then even whatever that all was going on. I remember seeing pictures of like Publix Walmart, different supermarkets, and, um, when people were actually, when they were buying their meat, they were buying all sorts of stuff like beef, chicken, and pork. But they weren’t buying that, um, alternative meats, like beyond meat and all that stuff, which I thought was pretty interesting. Yes,
Diana: I actually did. I love seeing that. It’s like, oh yeah, wait, no, there they’re still fully stocked. It’s like, okay, now we know where the true protein lies right here. Trevor: Yeah, that’s true. So, uh, yeah, I’ve tried the beyond meat burger a few months. And it was okay. Like, it wasn’t the greatest thing in the world, but you could tell it definitely wasn’t there yet, like in terms of flavor and texture and all that good stuff. And it’s really fascinating that people just kind of think it, it just kind of appears there, but there’s so many [00:40:00] random ingredients in there, like soybean oil and stuff like that. I mean, like it’s like beets kind of give it, um, kinda make it bleed, quote unquote. And so it’s interesting that some people think it’s not super Diana: processed. Yeah. And it always blows my mind. It’s like the sector of the people. It’s like the people that are reading the beyond burger are so like, oh, I want minimal processed and everything like that. I’m like, okay, that’s probably the most processed thing that you can have, like disco cut a cauliflower steak or something. If you want to have vegetables in your diet. I, I don’t understand it. I have had it before plain. Like I never have had it actually as a burger. And it just it’s. Yeah, like you said, the texture’s really different. I hate, I hate that they try to look like a burger. I’m like, okay, if you really don’t want to eat meat, Why are you trying to imitate the way meat looks like, just make it a different shape or something like that? I just, yeah, it, it blows my mind,
Trevor: but yeah, like a broccoli leaf or
Diana: something. Yeah. Right. [00:41:00] If I am not going to judge anyone, I mean, if you, if you like to eat them, that’s totally fine. And that’s, that’s kind of. Fortunate enough to have those choices, but I just don’t like them. I’m not a fan. Yeah.
Trevor: We’ve got a lot of choices. Yeah. So I, I saw one, it was like an imitation imitation chicken sausage, and I was like, nothing of that sounds appetizing. So I’m good. I’ve had, um, a cauliflower steak before and it was actually really good. Like it was crunchy. Diana: It was really, really good. I really am a fan. I mean, you get a good char on that, on the grill, a lot of salt and pepper. I, I, I mean, I’m, I’m a vegetable. I really am a meat and vegetable person, so I could eat any vegetable without a problem. I’m not going to hate it, but that’s why I’m like, I don’t understand why we have to process it to seed it the way it is. It’s delicious how it comes. Out of the ground and everything. So just have it that way. That’s the way it’s supposed to
Trevor: Oh yeah, the simpler the better. So, um, we’ve actually kind of befriended a company here in Florida called Boyd farms fresh, [00:42:00] and they are a ranch that sells direct to consumers. So they started going to farmer’s markets and starting selling direct and we’ve bought a bunch of stuff from them. Like we bought a hanger steak. That was super good. I mean, you can’t find that at Publix. Uh, so what do you think about those smaller scale operations? Kind of like that, that are starting to. Deliver direct to consumers and that can even provide like better cuts or high quality, less available cuts straight to consumers. Like, do you think that’s kind of a win-win there?
Diana: I mean, there’s definitely there’s benefits in it too. Like regardless, I, I think you need everything in the beef system. I think you need to have the. Overall arching the, I call it the big beef businesses, um, just, just to get the demand out, to get it to grocery stores, to be able to provide, but there are some smaller places. I mean, even we, we will work with, uh, bullying ads packing here in Ashland, Ohio. I mean, they only harvest about a hundred to 150 head of cattle a week. Um, so they’re not going to be able to get it, to get their meat out [00:43:00] too far, but they also can’t fabricate it down to. Like a bunch of small retail cuts and get it all tray ready and have your stakes. Perfect. And everything like that. It’s we take bigger hunks of meat and break it down and utilize it that way. So you have some benefits on both ends, but that, that connection to be able to utilize the whole animal, I will have to say that the probably their larger scale packing plants are much better. Utilizing the entire thing, because they have customers that they can find homes for the stomach, for the tongue, for the checkmate and all that, all those kind of off-cuts. But you still have kind of that smaller processor that he has the ability to get you some of those kind of off the, off the chart cuts like your hanger steak. Well, there’s only one of those per animal. So those are pretty much utilized by the food service industry really quickly in big industry, because there’s not many of them out there or even the terrorist major. I mean, I know that’s a really [00:44:00] heavy food service. So, if you could get that from kind of your, your smaller butcher, that’s, that’s awesome to be able to connect with them too on that. Um, it’s, there’s places for everyone in the world, for sure. And I, I, the main reason why I do like it is I feel like people are connecting or trying to connect back to agriculture. And there’s this huge disconnect from there right now. Uh, and I think we need to have more of that bridge gap. So people just understand why certain practices are in place and that it is good and okay. And you’re starting to see more and more acceptance of that. Um, I just hope that people don’t think that that’s only in your small local person that’s everywhere. I mean, it’s, it’s within the system. It’s being able to see how that small person can fit into the bigger picture. Um, cause they will, regardless of, of where they are producing that they’re all kind of in it together doing similar practices.
Trevor: Oh yeah. I like that. That’s a good point. So, um, I learned in college that it’s kind of the four main categories of beef for [00:45:00] like prime choice, select standard in terms of like quality. But, uh, didn’t that change like a few months ago or like a few
Diana: years ago? Uh, not really. You still have prime choice, select standard, and then you have more that are on kind of your lower quality. Um, so you have commercial utility cutter and canner. Uh, but those are animals that are older than 42 months of age. Um, so just to kind of your poor quality, but in terms of kind of your, your mainstream, your. That people would know PR prime choice and select that standard. Not many people even know that. So the fact that, you know, standard is pretty amazing. Trevor: Yeah. I had an animal science class in college and we learned all about the different cuts and stuff.
Diana: Awesome. And that’s going to be your lowest quality of your younger animals. Not a lot of marbling essentially is what it comes down to. Um, but yeah, there’s, they’re still all utilized in some way, shape or form. So even if like, if you’re a beef person and you’ve had this old cow, that’s kind of [00:46:00] just isn’t producing calves anymore and you’re going to end up putting her into the beef system. Well, then all of a sudden you have this eight year old animal that’s going through. And what are you going to do with all our cuts of meat? So she still has a Tenderloin. She still has a ribeye. And I tell you, those still will get processed and they still will get sold. Probably your Tenderloin, your ribeye, and your strip loin are going to be used in some further process type way. Um, but then your other mates, if you think about Campbell soup, like they, those have chunks of beef in them, where do they come from? You get some of those cattle that fall into your. Kenner and cutter, uh, categories. There’s basically a really old and really low marbling. Um, that’s going to go more into your pet food system, but they all have homes and that’s the beauty of the big beef industry is that they can take it and see where do these places need to go, because we still need to utilize all the meat in some ways of form somehow. So how are we going to put them back to the people? Um, so it’s, it’s cool to just kind of [00:47:00] watch how that works and there’s actually even a. And national renders associated. So it’s the NRA, which is always funny, cause it’s like the other, other NRA. Um, but they, they have this really neat infograph, um, that shows where all of those rendered parts kind of go into. Um, but basically just show. Every single part of the animal is literally utilized. And some people see that and they get scared to go. It’s in my hot dog was like, no, it’s not in your hot dog. There’s, there’s literally meat in your hot dog, but it’s all of the other stuff. If you think about just like glues or, uh, cosmetics, uh, things like that, even other pet food and stuff, it’s all going to go in to be used because we don’t want to waste anything that this animal lived a long life for a reason and a purpose. So we want to make sure that we use it to that specimen. Yeah. I
Trevor: mean, people don’t realize that. I mean, there are animal byproducts in almost everything because I mean, we try to be super sustainable and use most of the parts of the [00:48:00] animal. I mean, I was reading a few years ago that, um, fireworks for example, have animal byproducts in them and things like tires, cosmetics, um, and of course, leather, obviously. I mean, there’s so much stuff that is made because of animal byproducts and because we want. Sustainable and use all of it. Uh, well, Diana, this has been super awesome. Chatting with you about all things, beef, all things, meat. Um, I feel like we could just keep talking about this stuff. Uh, but if people want to learn more about you or if they want to learn more about the whole certified Angus beef brand, um, where can they go? Where can they go to kind of see the content and learn more about it?
Diana: So, um, if you want to follow me, my Instagram handle is beef. Um, and then certified Angus beef. You can just search certified Angus beef. We have our website, there’s a ton of great recipes on there for pretty much every single cut of beef that you can imagine. Um, where I think we’re on all the major channels to take talk, Instagram, Facebook, and anything like that. [00:49:00] So, yeah, just Google it and I’m sure you will be able to find us pretty quickly. Uh, but yeah, if you guys have ever have questions or comments, we also have a podcast, the meat speak podcast, uh, just of talk all things, culinary and beef as much as we can. Uh, so please feel free to jump on and listen. And if you have questions, comments, write in, we will be sure to answer you. Um, even if you write into the website, I promise you, we do look at all of those questions and we will get back to you, uh, probably within a week, honestly. Pretty good about doing that.
Trevor: Yeah, that’s awesome. I can’t wait to check out your podcast. More meat speak. I mean, I think it’s super cool to have those. Really focused podcast in ag, like meet speed, where you can learn more about like beef and meat and all that good stuff. And I’m also super impressed that you guys use Tik TOK. I have not ventured into that, but it looks super terrifying, but I mean, it’s also been super valuable for some people. That’s
Diana: been a very new venture for, uh, for a certified Angus beef. We’re we’re starting to see some, some trends and things. It’s [00:50:00] yes, I have never, I, I don’t own, I don’t have a Tik TOK account or anything like that. I feel like I would. Sucked in way too quick and waste a lot of time. So my gift I’m just going to stay away, but it’s kind of neat. Some of the videos that they’ve come up with, uh, that, uh, yeah, there are a fascinating to
Trevor: watch. I might have to download tick-tock now just to, just to see, I mean, I’ll do it for Angus beef, so, so there we go. Well, Dana, this has been awesome chatting with you. I can’t wait to follow you more on Instagram and hopefully I can guess more of those cuts of meat correctly, but we’ll see you better. All right. Well, thanks so much for being on. We appreciate it. Yeah, no problem.
Peter Dyck is a self-described Chicken farmer, tractor driver, Ag fanboy. Not a bad background. Peter, also known as Pete, married into the chicken business and raises pullets, which are young female chickens destined for egg-laying. In our interview, Pete and I chat about that Canadian chicken farming looks like, what makes “free-range chickens” actually free-range, and how he got into drone filming, which has resulted in some awesome videos.
Can agriculture and the environment FINALLY live in harmony? I believe they can and so do many experts. One such way is by agroecology which is combining the knowledge of ecology with the science of agriculture. Our guest today is Evan Marks from The Ecology Center in California. Evan has an expansive background in agroecology and permaculture and he has spent time working in California, Hawaii, Mexico, and Nigeria in learning and developing agroecology practices. In our interview, Evan explains the background of agroecology, how regenerative agriculture is the future, and how farming can build better relationships with farmers, consumers, chefs, and communities.
Working extensively in permaculture and agroecology in California, Hawaii, Costa Rica, Peru, Mexico, Ghana, and Nigeria
What are Permaculture and Agroecology?
Ecological experiences: berry picking classes, farm stand and CSA program (which also donates 100 CSA boxes per week to food-insecure folks in the area), as well as a new six-month Apprentice Program for young adults to learn about regenerative agriculture.
Current food systems and policy, and his vision for
How to expand regenerative farming on a mass scale
How do we minimize our industrialization and harm to the planet, and therefore take better care of each other, either as farmers or as consumers?
How to implement regenerative agriculture practices
There is really nothing more futuristic than lasers, right? My first thought goes to the Death Star when I think about it. Now, imagine a Death Star…but for weeds. That is the subject today as we chat with John Mey from Carbon Robotics. John and the team from Carbon Robotics are developing an autonomous weeder that uses lasers to zap weeds into oblivion. How awesome is that?!?! John and I also chat about his background, deep learning, the future of ag tech, and much more.
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May or may not be 100% accurate. Transcripts are close!
Trevor: All right, well, john may Welcome to farm traveler podcast. How are you doing?
John: Very good. Thank you.
Trevor: Thanks. So you’re, you’re with a super cool company. It sounds like carbon robotics. And we’ll talk about that in a second. But kind of tell us a little bit about yourself and kind of how you got started working with carbon robotics.
John: So my education is in mechanical engineering. And then I’ve been doing robotics for a super long time. Most recently, I was working at a company up in Muckle to that provided robots for Boeing and Lockheed Martin and all those guys to build their airplanes to basically fasten the skins to their substructure. And when Paul reached out, he, you know, his background is software. This is our founder and CEO. He was looking for somebody to do the hardware. So when I found out about its mission, it matched with what I’m, I’ve always been wanting to do, you know, something better for the world. And better for, like humans, basically. So I jumped, like, right at the first chance.
Trevor: That’s cool. Yeah. So I looked at the website, and basically the whole thing with carbon robotics, it’s a 10,000 pound autonomous robot and basically eradicates weeds using lasers, which, I mean, is super neat. So you’re talking about it’s better for the world. So kind of, what was the inspiration behind it behind this weed here? And what was the whole process of kind of developing it toward is now where you guys have actually got, like the full system going. So what was that whole production process? Like?
John: 4:39 I guess so. You want to start from like, Where did the idea come from? Sure. So our CEO, Paul, he wanted to start a company, you know, he’s started a bunch of tech companies that did really, really great. And then he went over and worked at Uber for quite some time on their AI and deep learning. But he wanted to get into robotics, it was just like this realm, he hadn’t been wanting to do it. So he was gonna sell his airplane, and basically focus on that. And he ended up selling it to a farmer. And that farmer and him started talking about, you know, if they were to do something in farming, like what would be the most helpful thing. And they looked at a whole bunch of different aspects to farming, and found that weeding is like the number one pain point, you know, it’s a huge cost for their, their operation, both in conventional and organic. And so they kind of looked at what’s out there, you know, they saw other, basically cultivating robots, and said, Well, we don’t want to do the same thing as everybody else. So let’s figure out a way to do this, like, using deep learning and using whatever crazy new technologies are out there. And I think they just maybe stumbled upon the idea of laser reading, and then it just took off from there. So it was pretty cool. And they basically had a laser on a on a wood cart. And then they’re like, Can you make this, you know, shoot the ground. And so we got some mirrors, started practicing aiming. And it was like, pretty clear right away that you can kill weeds with places.
Trevor: That’s so cool. Yeah, I mean, right now it’s so it’s so pricy to spray pesticides on the course, I mean, it’s not the best for the environment depends on what you’re spraying. I mean, depending on your crop, you might have to spray over and over and over again. And so what I mean, what kind of like lasers is using, I mean, I’m imagining it’s not, you know, like your death star laser, where it will blow up everything in this path. But so how powerful are these lasers that are kind of destroying those weeds.
John: 6:47 So these are the same, this type of lasers, a co2 laser, so the glass tube, that’s basically co2 gas, but some other gases like helium. And you run electricity through it, and it excites photons to exit out one side, they bounce around inside this thing, and there’s only one way out, so you can aim it. And that is 150 watts. And so this, this laser could be used with some different focusing elements to you know, cut steel, or aluminum or wood. But we d focus it to help with our accuracy killing the weeds. And it takes, you know, 250 milliseconds, up to 2000 milliseconds. So two seconds to kill a week. Oh, wow, that science. Okay,
Trevor: so what, what exact part of the weed is targeting like the leaves or the root structure? What exactly is the target?
John: 7:42 Yeah, we originally started by basically doing this, like, you know, quote, unquote, eraser mode, where we would basically burn the entire weed. And we just found that to take way too long. We talked with some biologists that University of Washington and learn that you really just need to kill the Mary stem. So there’s, you know, the undifferentiated meristematic cells, basically at the center, like if you look at a generic weed, like pig weed, you can see it, it’s directly in the middle. That’s where new leads are coming up and out.
Trevor: Okay, gotcha. And so what’s kind of the average? Do you guys have like an average per acre on how quick it can destroy weeds and an acre of area?
John: 8:25 Yeah, so roughly, you know, you could say, like, half an acre an hour, up to like, two, depending on the weed density. You know, if it’s a, if it’s a field, that’s crazy weedy, like, they didn’t control the season before, and it just got out of control, you’re going to be on the lower end, like half an acre now. But if you’ve done a good job, but you just tidying up the field, you can go, you know, two acres an hour or so.
Trevor: Okay, that’s pretty good. So how exactly does? How exactly does deep learning kind of play a role into this, because when I’m imagining the whole system is learning what a weed looks like, because of course, it’ll be bad if it targets the actual plants and destroys your whole crop. And so how exactly is deep learning playing a role into that?
John: 9:09 So the kind of like, go to analogy for me, it’s, you know, like Facebook, if you look at your pictures on Facebook, it can identify your face, or maybe it identifies like your brother, and it’s like, is this you know, Ashton. So, it does that by getting just a ton of examples. And so that’s what we do when we get to a new region or new, you know, new crop, we get examples of it. He really only takes about 100 images, which is actually pretty amazing because there’s, that’s, that’s solely due to like our CTO, Alex, Sergei, who’s just one of the country’s best deep learning guys. He also came from Uber. But you know, we get 100 pictures, like day one, and then we label this is, you know, pigweed. This is pursuing those types of weeds, and then we’ll look We’ll label this is spent, you know what click actually where those things are for about 100 images. And then we do a thing called training, basically, you’re just reinforcing the algorithm to make choices along the way that ended up in the result of this is a weed, this is the crop. And then as we go, you know, continue going on that farm will keep getting images and keep pushing those to get labeled. Just so we can keep learning. But really, it takes like two days for us to go into new crop, which is really incredible.
Trevor: Yeah, that’s really quick. So it sounds like I mean, it’s still learning. I mean, it’s not like you just upload those first 100 images. And it’s done. I mean, it’s still collecting images and still learning.
John: 10:48 Yeah, and like when we’re in production, we’re sampling the field, you know, to get an even distribution. So, you know, in case there’s some specific weed at the northwest corner.
Trevor: Okay, so how exactly does this whole autonomous wieder work? Like? How often does it get sent out? Is it completely autonomous, like you set a time for it to go? And then how does it get its power? And kind of all that good stuff?
John: 11:12 Yeah. So above the lasers, if you look at pictures, like there’s basically white cabin inside there, there’s a 74 horsepower, Cummins diesel engine, that’s how you feed a diesel, it’s got enough for 24 hours of operation a little more, just so that, you know, the idea was you touch it one time a day. And then that drives a generator for all the power for the computers, lasers, all that. And then has a another PTO shaft that runs a hydraulic stack. And so all of our motors, we have four wheel drive, they’re all hydraulic. And then we have some steering actuators that are also hydraulic. And then, so you’re asking about, you know, how does the How does daily operation look where they’re most of the time, somebody from carbon, because we’re honestly just moving so fast, and going into new crops and new regions that were there to check its performance, make sure it’s killing all the weeds that are out there, and not shooting any the crop. But as far as the autonomy, it’s, it’s going up and down the rows by itself turns around at the end of the rows. sets, it’s it’s more of a supervisory function. In some places like California, actually require you to have somebody in the field, they don’t actually allow fully autonomous things yet. Oh, really? Was that? I mean, it’s, you know, kind of, like, why you don’t have for self driving cars yet? Yeah, that’s, there’s some risk associated. And so they, you know, they’re not comfortable with that on public land, you know, because the robot could easily, you know, in theory, go past the farm, you know, up the field and into a road or something. So they just, they want eyes on it.
Trevor: Okay. No, that makes sense. So, I know, I’ve seen pictures of it, it looks like right now it’s kind of, for smaller crops. So how can this work for I would say, maybe like a corn or something that’s super tall. So Well, I mean, what’s the plans there? I mean, can it work for taller crops like that? Or is this just kind of for something kind of a little bit lower to the ground?
John: 13:27 Well, we’re primarily focused on, you know, specialty crops like onions, lettuce, carrots, broccoli, all that kind of stuff. But in theory, there’s no reason that can’t work in corn or soy, or, you know, wheat, especially in the early stage where it’s most important to do the weeding. Because that’s, you know, like, that’s the time when the crop is really competing with the weed for nutrients. And once it gets to a certain size, it’s shading out the ground. And so that’s where we kind of don’t need to continue bleeding. We may learn something as we break into those different crops that could encourage us to, you know, come up with a different model that was specialty made for tall crops. Okay.
Trevor: Yeah, that makes sense. That’s pretty cool. And yeah, I mean, that’s such a good point. Because especially like right after these plants are either planted or transplanted. I mean, that’s when they’re really going to be in danger of like weeds overtaking them. But once you’ve got like a crop like corn, you’re usually going to be good from weeds. I mean, usually. So I know when a lot of people see technology like this, they instantly get scared that’s going to replace jobs. So I mean, how do you guys view is this here to replace jobs or to reduce inputs? I mean, and also with this, you’re creating more jobs for like you and everybody a carbon. And so what’s your whole viewpoint on that?
John: 14:48 Well, to begin with, it’s not replacing jobs necessarily because there’s a labor shortage in farming, you know, so we’re actually supplementing and giving the farmer Some sustainability, you know, and reliable, like, just the reliability in their operation. As far as some of the jobs like the hand laborers that are in the fields, we’d like them to transition to more operating machinery type jobs, like the supervisory function of watching the robot. body and also creates a whole bunch of tech jobs since in Seattle, and which is nice, because it’s good to see. Tech going into something like farming, not just, you know, making like a new Snapchat app or something. Oh,
Trevor: yeah, absolutely. I’ve seen a bunch of videos on like, super, super small scale organic farms where they have like this. It looks like a hospital bed, kinda. And the person will lay flat on it, and they’ll crawl around. Oh, yeah. Have you seen that? Oh,
John: 15:50 yeah, totally. It’s actually a really great idea. Yeah,
Trevor: no, it’s a good idea. But I mean, of course, that would be like, nearly impossible to do for like 1000 acre farm. And so this, I mean, this technology is basically that on a larger, larger scale,
John: 16:03 right? Yeah. And our, I mean, a real, real goal here is to help eliminate chemical usage. And that’s not that’s not you know, replacing anybody’s job. Yeah, exactly. I could be replacing the chemical click Next.
Trevor: That’s true. But I mean, they’ve got millions of dollars they can find someone else to do. I mean, so do you see like technology like this as the future because I know right now, I think it’s case Ah, are they’re developing like driverless tractors? So you’ve got driverless tractors, autonomous weeding machines? So do you think tech like this is going to be the future and ag?
John: 16:40 I think it makes sense. Because there’s just in every, like, job title in farming, there’s a labor shortage. So tractor drivers, hand readers, you know, everybody, I think, if we don’t do things like this, we’re gonna be in trouble with being able to sustain, you know, the country’s food supply. We’re the world’s rather. So it just makes sense. Like, the technology is here, you know, it’s, it’s just making sure, on our end, that we listen to the farmer and, you know, give them what they need.
Trevor: Hmm. I like that. And speaking of that, I mean, what’s the response been, like, from farmers where you’ve used it on their on their land? I mean, has it been good? Have they been? Have they had any, like, very helpful critiques about it?
John: 17:28 Yeah, I mean, it’s, it’s been really cool to see it, take off the way it has. I’ve run most of the demos. So we’ve done a couple seasons of like, full season weeding, and onions, you know, in New Mexico and Eastern Washington. But about three months ago, we realized that basically, every farmer wants to see it in their field in their crop. And so we had like demo days, but they’d come see it in Washington, but then they’re like, well, I need to see it in carrots, you know, in California to believe you before buying it, we’re selling equipment, we’re not doing leasing or like, pays, you go, like per acre model. And I started doing demos in California and breaking into crops, and it was just like, as soon as they saw it in their field and invited, like, they immediately go and invite all their co workers, like all the, you know, higher ups of the farm, the decision makers, if the if I’m not already talking to that person, and then it’s like, basically, the conversion rate from demo to sale has been really high. We’re basically sold out for 2022 as well. Oh, wow. Like, in addition to this year, it’s being done. Which is great. We’re getting, you know, the kind of adoption that we were, we knew that this was going to be the situation. So it’s good to see that, you know, happening.
Trevor: Yeah, and that’s great that I mean, once you’re doing those in person demos, I mean, people can see it on their property, doing their crops, and they have that sort of buy in from there. So that’s awesome. There’s been a good conversion ratio.
John: 19:12 Yeah, I mean, their eyes light up. This is like, most of them are like, this is what we’ve been waiting for. Huh? Yeah, good.
Trevor: Yeah. No, that’s awesome. And so I would love this so I don’t have a farm. I’ve got a yard. What do you think like maybe in the future, there could be a much smaller scale version of this like going around your yard and taking care of weeds? I mean, do you think that might be something that might come of this maybe in the future?
John: 19:40 We’ve toyed with the idea like my my dad’s asked for one, you know, you can just a handheld shooter version, you could go around instead of spraying chemicals. We’d have to figure out the safety of it. You know, having a person hold a laser is a lot different than a robot with them aiming only down. You know, like, that’s where we get our safety. It’s gonna happen, like, as a hobby project at least. And we’ll see how feasible that would be.
Trevor: Yeah, that’d be super cool. I mean, I know that I’ve seen my sister has sent me a snapchat of her neighbor. In Germany, they have like, it’s like a Roomba, but it’s a lawn mower. And so it just goes around their yard. Oh, yeah. Adding up everything Aparna does that right? Yeah, I think so. Yeah, I thought that was super cool. And so I’ve often wonder, like, when are we going to have those big weeders? Kind of like how you have but on a smaller scale? Or maybe even do you see maybe one of those farmers going to take that big system home, and they just let it do their yard or something? Of course, not in a commercial area, just like, on their home, or something.
John: 20:42 I’d say goodbye, like, especially with the weight, you’re gonna lose your grass.
Trevor: You might get rid of your weeds, but you’re definitely gonna be able to see where that thing went. Yeah, yeah. So I mean, what’s been the biggest struggle during the whole development of this kind of getting people to get on board with lasers? Or the technology behind it? Or maybe the r&d? What’s been the biggest struggle?
John: 21:05 Well, I think, I think it would be the fact that like, the tech is just getting to the point where it’s capable of doing this, like the computers and the the cameras, and the gold and the lasers. I mean, those have been around for a while. But none of them were designed for a farm environment. And so we’ve, I mean, we’ve gone through, like, more iterations than I thought you would need to, but it’s good that we moved so fast and broke so much stuff, because we learned how to like ruggedized, you know, a computer with eight GPUs in it. That is like, you know, pretty expensive and sensitive to vibration, shock, heat, you know, but we’ve broken everything in every possible way and found how to not break it anymore. I mean, the tubular glass, they’re about six feet long. Oh, wow, about, I think 80 millimeters in diameter. So what’s that, like? five inches, four inches. And so you can imagine that being pretty brittle, right? Like that long of a thing. And so just, yep, we froze the tubes. Before we figured out we needed antifreeze. And just a ton of it’s been good, because our CEO, Paul has pushed us super hard to get into the field, like, day one, you know, we kept taking prototypes out there, breaking it, fixing it, making the new, we basically were always in this stride of, as soon as one is coming out of the fab shop. We’re like designing the next one. Like, it’s no, no delay.
Trevor: That’s awesome. Yeah, I didn’t even think about that. I mean, cuz like you’re saying, like a farming environment is going to be, I mean, pretty tough, pretty unforgiving. And of course, you’re gonna have all this tech in there. So what’s the repair? Like? I mean, can you guys record repair these things pretty quick, or is there a lot of downtime involved.
John: 23:07 So by doing all this prototyping, and breaking things, we’ve learned which components, you know, could break. And the tubes are the number one thing. But not only can they they break, which they don’t, this is the possibility. And there’s so many of them. That we wanted it to be really easy for the farmer to replace. So we made everything like that, like the lasers or the computer, or, you know, all of our little packages. Everything is really nicely packaged and self contained and modular. So it’s like, we just hired a VP of sales and his first time out of the demo. Out of seeing the robot demo. I just had him replace it to. I was like, let’s see how easy this is. I didn’t tell him how to do it. He just opened the hatch. Okay, so there’s water to water lines to power lines. And then you just flip a little latch and pull it out. Put a new one in, takes like two minutes.
Trevor: Oh, that’s not bad. Yeah,
John: 24:10 so I mean, you know, mechanical engineers, especially from the company that was previously do a pretty good job if they know something, you know, could be needing replaced, making it easy to replace. Because most of the time, especially in like startup world, you’re going to go and fix your own shit. So you just, you know, you go through those pains.
Trevor: Yeah, that’s kind of different from what you hear about, I mean, different large scale startup companies like a Tesla to where you know, they’ve got, of course, the whole right to repair thing, but replacing their stuff or fixing their stuff is super duper complicated. And then you have people online like di wires, they’re like, it doesn’t need to be this complicated at all. And so it’s good you guys have made it. Super simple to replace. Biggest things, which are, I mean, super tech savvy, super advanced, but still pretty, relatively easy to replace and fix?
John: 25:08 Yeah, you know, I don’t I really don’t necessarily understand the reason for locking people out of that kind of stuff. It’s definitely not our philosophy we want. I mean, if the farmer can replace it, like, you know, immediately without having a cause that’s way better for a product and then let you know that the outlook on our product?
Trevor: Yeah, I mean, even like companies like john deere, I mean, they have the whole rent repair thing and that going on. So I mean, that’s something that you guys are definitely beating the multimillion dollar companies that so that’s good to hear. Um, so what do you think about, I’ve seen more and more ag tech startups like this kind of booming in the past decade? And so I mean, what do you think kind of started that, like just kind of Silicon Valley, and everybody started to want to have their own impact on the environment? And all this new technology came out? What do you think kind of inspired all this? And ag tech?
John: 26:02 Yeah, I think it’s driven by like, the fact that, in general, I think people want to do stuff that’s, you know, good, like, in general, good for the earth or good for people or good for their, you know, friends. And I think tech, maybe got so heavily involved with, like, maybe stuff that’s a little less important. You know, like, making some app that doesn’t actually increase. Like life, you know, happiness. So I imagine there’s just a lot of people that were like, you know, I want to do something good. And there’s all this tech coming out, deep learning and all that stuff. And farming is just, you know, I think farming has always been innovative. Like, if you go to a farm, you just see like, 10,000 new different things. And so from mechanical engineer standpoint, that sounds like a lot of fun. You know, designing stuff like that, especially because farmers are so sure, like, they’re okay with a little bit of risk. And so these things can look like death traps, like most of the stuff on a farm. And then I think from the software side, like I said, I think it’s just people wanting to do something. Good.
Trevor: I like that. So did you do you have like an agro farming background? Or is this kind of all kind of new to you, when you when you started this, or when you joined it?
John: 27:45 It was totally new to me. And I’ve loved the journey of like learning about farming, because I don’t think I would have ever gotten that experience just living in Seattle working at a you know, aerospace automation company. Shea Meyers always jokes about you know, the, the buyer who asked to sit on the entry or whatever. I love that. I always think about that. But um, I have spent a significant amount of time at the farms. And I just really enjoy talking to the farmers, and just seeing all the varying ways they can do their, their operations. And they’re just super good people. Like, I haven’t met one farmer didn’t like that, like they’re so willing to, you know, jump in a truck with you. And show you their farm for like, four hours to talk about stuff. Yeah, just yeah, at the drop of a hat.
Trevor: That’s awesome. Yeah, I mean, that’s quite a big shift from aerospace to kind of working in the ag tech world. So has it made you think more and more about kind of, like, where your food comes from? And have you thought any more about it? Like when, whenever you go to churches or anything?
John: 28:54 Absolutely, yeah, and I mean, I’ve, I’ve always kind of lean towards organic, and I definitely go for organic when I can now. But I also try to encourage, like, my friends, you know, understanding of farming, so I take billion pictures, and I explained things to kind of show them like the pains that farmers, you know, go through. So yeah,
Trevor: that’s cool. I like that. Yeah, I mean, that’s a fun, we went to, we went to a chocolate farm in Hawaii, and we actually interviewed them on the show. And I mean, they were super nice. They give us like the behind the scenes tour of everything. So I mean, it’s just cool. When you finally meet the people that make your food, it makes it that much more relatable. And you’re like, Hey, here’s the people behind my food. I didn’t tell my friends about this. And so I’ve been trying to tell all of my friends and family about them and they’re starting to buy their chocolate so it’s cool. I mean, it’s just like those little personal relationships kind of bridge the gap between farmers and consumers, which is pretty cool.
John: 29:54 Yeah, I love I love going for, you know, let us that is from a farm. I’ve been to That’s a weird feeling. I don’t think most people, you know, I don’t think most people in the country probably know exactly where the food’s coming from.
Trevor: Oh, yeah, yeah, no 100%. And so do you think like for farmers that uses technology? Do you think they might be able to use it for their marketing? Like, hey, we’re using we’re reducing spring, we’re using autonomous leaders. Here’s how it’s helping the environment.
John: 30:22 Absolutely. I had this idea to have like a laser weeded sticker that they could put on their produce, either on either on the bag or on like the apple or whatever. And have that be kind of something that like, society goes for instead of and knows that, that means there’s no chemicals, or at least no herbicides used?
Trevor: Yeah. No, that’s such a good idea. I mean, could something like this kind of work for pests? Also, I mean, if you might have, like a pest outbreak, you can maybe use something to where it targets just the bad pests for a crop?
John: 30:57 There’s no reason it can’t. Yeah, we’ve had farmers ask us about different types of beetles. And we know the deep learning cannot detect it. But instead, a lot of time to figure out how much time like no laser time you would need to do to kill whatever beetle. But I’m sure we’re gonna be doing it at some point. Yeah, I mean, I can ask for it.
Trevor: I can imagine just like little turrets on top of this autonomous weed, or where like, as the bugs fly by and just kind of zap them. I mean, that’d be pretty cool. Be a little deadly, but it would look pretty badass.
John: 31:29 It’s super fun to watch. Like, I’ve spent, I don’t know how many hours behind that thing, walking in looking at the lasers running, that if you look at our YouTube, it’s just so cool. Like, it looks like a little light show.
Trevor: Oh, that I haven’t looked at the YouTube yet. But I’m gonna have to go look at it and just kind of see what that looks like
John: 31:47 that yeah, it’s it’s insane to watch it work in like the high density crops like spinach and chards. Because you can’t even see the weeds a lot of the time, because it’s so dense, but the robots seeing it and using that super, you know, surgical laser to get in between and kill the weeds.
Trevor: Now all about precision, I mean, a lot more precise than just blanket spraying chemicals, whether it will crop Yes, or spray or anything possible. It’s cool. That’s so cool. Well, john, this has been awesome, man. If people want to learn more about carbon robotics, where can they go to learn about you guys and kind of see how the whole developments going for the autonomous leader?
John: Yeah, so we have a really great website, carbon robotics comm that’ll link you over to like, YouTube, and all that kind of stuff, Twitter, Instagram, and on the website, you can click, you know, contact us. And I read a lot of those, and then I’ll reach out and, you know, if somebody’s looking to do a demo at their farm, we’ll we’ll do that set that up, or invite you to a demo nearby.
Trevor: So Are y’all pretty much available around the US? Or is there any particular area y’all focus more on,
John: 32:54 we are focused for the 2022 season, or basically the entire year for West Coast. We’ve got customers in Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, New Mexico’s kind of our farthest. And we’re probably going to wrap that up, so that we can build out that support organization, that’s going to be the most critical thing for the next year. We have technology that works. We need to make sure we support it well, and the farmers are happy. But 2023 will probably break into Midwest. And then I think plan is to go international after that.
Trevor: Oh, awesome. Well, that’ll be exciting. I mean, yeah, I can’t wait to see you guys. Take over the US and I can’t wait to see more of these on farms. I’m gonna start looking at YouTube videos now. And I’m gonna look at that video. So that’s I think this is I mean, super neat. It’s the perfect blending of agriculture and technology. I mean, it’s a problem we’ve had for years and such a great answer to it.
John: 33:52 Yeah, there’s just so much like tailwind you know, like, it’s good for the planet. It’s good for humans. Farmers love it. You know, our customers love it. Everybody wants to work here because it’s super cool. It’s badass. We’re working on a laser weeding robot?
Trevor: Oh, yeah. I mean, that’s awesome to hear that every day.
John: 34:09 There’s there’s like, I can’t find a problem with with the situation. Yeah.
Trevor: Well, that’s awesome. That’s good to hear. I’m glad you like it. I’m glad you like this job. I think this is super cool. Well, we’ll have to touch base with you guys soon. Maybe 2022. Whenever you guys are slowly growing. We might have to touch base with you all again. But thanks so much for coming on the show, john.
John: Thanks a lot. Thanks for having me.
Trevor: Again, thank you for listening to this episode with john. I was wanting to include some laser sounds in the intro, you know, because I thought it’d be kind of fun and kind of cheesy, but I couldn’t find anything that wasn’t utterly ridiculous and really corny. So now. So anyway, thanks so much for listening to this episode. If you enjoyed it, if you learned a thing or two, maybe you’re new here. Consider leaving a review on Apple iTunes. That helps us out ton. I think right now we’re sitting at something like 69 ratings on Apple, which is phenomenal. So if you haven’t already, please consider leaving us a review. Or if you’re on a platform like Spotify or Google podcasts, consider sharing with a friend or family member. organic growth really helps us reach a whole lot of people and a bigger audience for this show. And we can help people learn more and more about where their food comes from. So thank you so much for supporting the show and we’ll see you next week.
You’ve heard “quality over quantity”, right? Well, what if you could have both? Our guest today is Jeff Lundberg from Babe Farms in Santa Maria, California. Babe Farms grows quality vegetables and also grows a quantity of varieties, from traditional veggies like carrots and radishes all the way to lesser known vegetables like romanesco and frisee. Jeff and I chat about the start of Babe Farms, the relationships they’ve built with customers and how their Farm Days bring out tons of locals looking to learn how their food is made!
Vertical farming is a super interesting subject within Ag. I really do think it’s going to be the future of agriculture in cities across the world, especially in larger metropolitan areas. If you live around New York City, you might be familiar with our guest today is Tim O’Brien from Aerofarms. Aerofarms grows high-quality greens using vertical farming technology. Tim and I chat about the start of Aerofarms, the process of opening new operations, and how they are working with a few companies on growing cacao using this technology.
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There might be a few typos, but you’ll get the gist!
Hello, and welcome to the farm traveler podcast. I’m your host Trevor Williams. Hope you’re doing great city pub and I have had the house to ourselves this past week, Allie and her mom and her sister Molly. They have actually been on a once in a lifetime trip to Greece. You know, the beautiful country of Greece. They’ve been to Athens, they’ve been to San Tareen. They’ve been having a ton of fun. And while they’ve been doing that Satie and I have been at the house, chillin, I’ve taken her to pet smart gotten her a bunch of treats been to Home Depot at least 12 times. And I’ve been catching up on some video games and movies, which I mean, you know, what you do? It’s been great. Um, so yeah, I I’m excited for today’s episode is with another vertical farming company. This one is called arrow farms. And they are around the New York area. So we’re chatting with Tim O’Brien from arrow farms. And we’re going to talk about how arrow farms is different, what their vertical farming looks like. And really how this new technology can help reduce carbon emissions. What sets us apart from other indoor farming systems in Canada, the future, they’re actually I believe Tim said that they’re going public, in terms of like, you know, investing very soon. And I think they’re also opening up another location. And I think I thought this was awesome. This was just such a cool timing. Because, you know, we went to LA aloha a few weeks ago. And we did that whole tour, which you know, if you haven’t already, go to YouTube and check out our farm tour, I’ll link that in the description, where we toured cacau and full circle aerofarms is actually working on how to grow cacau plants in a vertical farming environment. And so I think that’s super cool. nobody’s really done it before. And so they’re kind of at the forefront of that. So you never know, maybe in a few years, we can go towards a vertical farm that is growing cow aka chocolate, which I think is phenomenal. So yeah, this is a great interview with Tim we chat a lot about the future of agriculture, the future of vertical farming and stuff like this. I really think that this stuff is going to be the future I mean, if you’re in a larger area, like in New York or like a Philadelphia this would be a great way you can provide fresh local produce in terms of green greens and all that good stuff and actually if you’re listening and you’re from New York maybe you’re in Philadelphia wherever you can actually find their produce at Amazon Fresh which I did I didn’t know that was a thing. Also Whole Foods Walmart and a couple others like a shop right and stuff like that. And they’ve got a bunch of really cool greens you can buy like super mix some looking at their stuff right now they’ve got a spicy mix of microgreens which sounds delicious you know, they’ve got kale, or rainbow mixed or watercress and all that good stuff. If you want to check them out. Go to arrow farms calm that’s just arrow A e r o farms calm. So yeah, I hope you enjoy this episode. This was a blast talking with Tim and learning more and more about another fascinating vertical farm business. But arrow farms as Tim is going to explain is a little bit different. So hope you enjoyed it. And thanks so much for listening. All right, well, Tim Brian from aerofarms. How are you doing?
I’m doing well. Thanks, Trevor, how about you doing? Well,
I am super excited to chat with you, as I was telling you just a minute ago, I’m a big fan of hydroponics and the whole future of urban ag. And so aerofarms does that. And so I’m super excited to chat with you about it. But before we dive in to aerofarms, kind of tell us a little bit about yourself kind of a background and how you got started with arrow. Sure,
So I I’m a New Jersey native born and raised in New Jersey, very proud of the Garden State and like the family farms in my area where I grew up along the Delaware River in the Delaware River Valley. Several of those family farms face similar situations, and one in particular, faced the notion that their children did not the next generation did not want to take on the farm. And so a lot of those family farms that face that same consequence, ended up selling to developers and kind of suffered the urban sprawl. But one family farmer, my community, the Snyder family, they had the foresight to take their farm and bequeath it to Rutgers University, which in New Jersey is our land grant university where the Agricultural College Cooke colleges, and they bequeath it to them, and they created it into a Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Center, which still is in existence today. This was back in 1987, that this event happened. But I say all that Trevor because I am part of a whole group of people, youngsters at the time that got high school summer jobs, college summer jobs, working at the Snyder Research and Extension Farm in pittstown, New Jersey, and did not come from an agricultural background. But after experiencing that facility and working there, particularly for me, I worked there for six summers in a row between high school and my undergraduate in college, it absolutely sparked an interest in sustainable food production, alternative ways to produce food. And it charted me on a course to get a bachelor’s degree in plant Soil Sciences from the University of Delaware. And where I currently live here in the Pacific Northwest, I came out in 1995 to get my master’s degree in sustainable ag from Oregon State University. And what I thought was going to be two years out here in the northwest before it came back to New Jersey turned into 25 years later, and a whole story that career. So for me and aerofarms This is a bit of a coming home. scenario for me coming back to New Jersey, working with aerofarms to work in this very interesting and innovative area of Ag biotech these days.
That’s awesome. Yeah, I think most people outside of Ag have no clue that technology like this is I mean, not only out there, but also it’s super popular. And I know over the past like decade or so it’s gotten even more popular. Like there’s companies like you guys aerofarms we had another company from Wyoming called vertical farms on and so it seems like indoor hydroponics and growing produce this way is really catching on. So going off of that kind of tell us if you can a little bit about kind of the background of aerofarms and how you guys started?
Yeah, aerofarms is a fascinating business because its its original founder, a gentleman named Dr. Ed Harwood, who was a longtime professor at Cornell University in Ithaca. Unfortunately, Ed did pass away, just recently, and so we all at aerofarms are still grieving his loss and he’s left a void in the in our in our company, but we’re at a very exciting inflection point four in the history of the company. And we know that ed is watching down with that beaming smile of his as he’s finally seeing the the fruits of his labor from all those years ago but at Harwood started our company in his garage literally, and which is the classic American invention story, right. And he was building tabletop versions of his indoor vertical farm chamber to where it got large, large enough to where he took over his entire dining room and he turned that into a grow room if you will, of his endurable farm and he was trying to scale from there and he was you know, having different people build them in their back sheds and whatnot and And long story short Trevor he he finally went out and said I’m gonna go raise some money and kind of try and make a go of this with this business and in the great story that I’d used to tell was that the the original investors would, would ask him Well, well, who’s your chief grower He would raise his hand say I am and they’d say, well, who’s your chief financial officer and he raised his hand say Aye. And, you know, for every every task, he was raising his hand, and they all realized real quick, like, oh, boy, we got to get a team in and around and, and scale this thing. And so that’s, you know, entered David Rosenberg and Mark Oshima, who are carrying the torch forward in Ed’s absence here as we move forward. But they were in a different kind of early stage, indoor vertical farm business. And they met up with Ed saw the story saw the opportunity, and as they say, the rest is history. And they’ve been carrying the torch forward. And aerofarms has been around since 2004, as a more formal company. But it’s been tinkering that for for many years beyond that.
Okay, that’s pretty cool. So now assume that I don’t know how hydroponics and this technology work. I know there’s some people listening that might not know. So how exactly would you explain that to somebody that doesn’t really know how this process works?
Unknown Speaker 11:07
Yeah, so indoor vertical farming is a is a discipline within what’s known in our industry is controlled environment AG, controlled environment, agriculture. And so indoor vertical farming is essentially, fully controlled environments. So we’re not limited by the sunlight, we’re not limited by seasons are not limited by soils from that standpoint. And so we fully control all aspects of the growth of our plants, we have indoor lighting, we have a nutrient solution that we either use in a bath for the roots of the plants, or we can mist the roots of the plants in an aeroponic method, where we’re just spraying a very fine mist on the roots and keeping them moist all the time. So they, they think they’re in a perfectly moist soil bed. We we control all of the lighting, spectrum intensity photo periods, so we can design and tailor a lighting regime that the plant actually needs to be perfect. And contrary to popular belief, the sunlight that that grows our plants outside, there’s a lot of wasted spectra, there’s a lot of wasted energy there for horticultural agricultural crops. As a rule, you know, we can then prescribe our light regime to maximize photosynthesis and sugar production to produce whatever fruit or or tuber we’re trying to create from a horticultural value perspective. And so it’s a very detail oriented, prescriptive level of farming that is perfectly suited for areas that may not be suitable in the outdoor environment to grow certain types of crops. And it helps reduce the logistics or transportation associated with getting fresh, nutritious produce to large urban areas very quickly. And a great example of that is our flagship farm in New York, New Jersey, which sits right outside of New York City and is in this in literally in the center of the downtown of Newark, New Jersey. And we can produce just absolutely nutritionally packed leafy greens for the communities there, and they can be eating them within 24 to 48 hours of those being harvested in our facility and that’s that’s a powerful nutritional access story. That’s an apparent a very powerful horticultural kind of problem solution story around logistics, and shipping. There’s a powerful climate change and environment story to be told about the way that we can scale and grow indoors and maximize the productivity of the space we’re in.
So what Yeah, what kind of space are you in? Because I’m learning that more and more people that start these hydroponic companies are usually in like old abandoned warehouses or like an old like shopping market or something. So what kind of warehouse Are y’all in?
So the best This is great. And our our one of our warehouses is actually an old paint ball gaming facility. This is cool. Okay, yeah, and so we’ve actually left some of the graphics on the wall, everything is a little homage to the the paintball facility. And, and the other is a an abandoned steel factory building that was there. And so, you know, we’re right in the iron bound district of of Newark. And so those two facilities produce our commercial leafy greens as well as produce our r&d based material that we use for for developing new concepts and products. So what kind of products are Making? I mean, I’ve heard that when it comes to hydroponics, I think I heard this from somewhere where they’re doing it kind of in space they’re doing, they’re doing like very small hydroponic systems on the ISS. And they’re saying that it’s really helpful when you do something that has a large edible biomass. So things like leafy greens and stuff like that. And so what exactly are y’all growing?
there’s some very specific requirements of, of products. And there’s horticultural and economic requirements for for this. But there’s the one of the main drivers of the success of a product in inverse indoor vertical farms is light use efficiency. And so we really, we have a very rigorous and to be honest, a proprietary screening process that we evaluate various different crops, and we run them through a protocol and an algorithm to determine which ones are going to be successful. But what we like about baby leafy greens, and, and some herbs, is their ability to grow quickly, to be suited for automated automated harvest. We’d like their value in the marketplace and where we can be competitive at at the grocery store shelf. So we compete against field farmers for that same shelf space on those retail store shelves. And so we factor all that in to tailor our exact product mix. In each of our different farms that we have, we just announced our new farm commercial farm that’s going to be built in Danville, Virginia, right on the North Carolina, Virginia line. And we also just announced a farm being built in the St. Louis area in conjunction with the Henry Danforth center, as well as the World Wildlife Federation.
Okay, yeah. And that’s going to be a whole brand new kind of community you guys are going to impact with, with hydroponics with this vertical farm. So are you guys, what kind of like educational tools have y’all done, where you’re trying to tell people like, Hey, this is how vertical farming works. This is what it can do. buy our products, here’s how they’re helping the environment. So what all are y’all doing there on the education side? Yeah, so
we’ve got a couple of different kind of what I would say, prongs to that fork, so to speak, one of which is, in our earlier days, we actually fulfilled Ed’s vision of building some, what I would call tabletop or, or modular grow systems that utilize our technology. And we worked with in the city of Newark, with one of the Newark charter schools, and we put it in the school to learn about urban ag with the students and teach them about that. And they were they would then eat those leafy greens as part of their salads at lunch. And that was just an awesome 360 connection for them on a variety of levels. For that, we are working on a variety of pilot programs with various land grant universities, to help them shape curricula around indoor vertical farming so that as the next generation of the labor force comes through the ag sciences programs, they are training them to have the latest and greatest skill sets that are gonna be needed by this industry as it matures. And then the ultimate thing is our flagship r&d facility where it’s a research and development facility, it provides verification of our different technologies. And we’ve expanded that and announced the world’s largest r&d based indoor vertical farm, which is we broke ground on this summer in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates in conjunction with the United Arab Emirates University, and other industry partners there. And so we are really committed to education, r&d for this industry as it matures over time.
That’s so cool. I mean, I feel like as I mean, this industry has been around for a little bit, but there’s still so much r&d and kind of growth, because I know even just a few years ago, when really LED lights kind of became super popular, because you used to have to use these really expensive bulbs. I remember when I was teaching we had a greenhouse with a smaller hydroponic system, and the light bulb goes out and so to buy a new one was like $300, but now you can get an LED light system for that’s huge and outputs, the exact light spectrums that the plant needs, and it’s a lot cheaper. So I feel like that’s one a revolution that’s kind of happened. There’s no telling what’s going to happen next. Right. Absolutely. I
think and that’s one of the reasons why it’s an exciting time to be in this industry, because it’s it is in its infancy, but it’s it’s maturing very rapidly. And I think that the opportunities in this industry From like what you said, with lighting efficiency, development, fertility regimes in these systems, there’s a whole world of genetics out there yet to be optimized and developed for CEA based or indoor vertical farm cropping systems. So it really, really is a ground level kind of getting in on the ground level opportunity in a variety of facets of this, this section of the industry.
So I know that one of the huge selling points about this technology is that if you’re in a large urban area, you can produce food locally, like you’re not having to bring in transport it from across the country or anywhere. So do you see this as kind of like kind of an answer to helping reduce our carbon emissions?
Absolutely. And I think it also is going to help enhance the nutritional quality of our food, because you remember, for example, in strawberry, you know, a lot of times there have to be sacrifices made at the breeding level, because they need to be able to transport that strawberry across the country, or in some cases across the world. And so they need to breed for certain traits that tend to allow it to be stored longer, and transportability, lack of bruising and things. And so while they may be able to select for that, they may end up losing some of the flavor and nutritional aspects of it. But they have to kind of, you know, go for the best of both worlds. In our particular case, we represent an opportunity to reduce the amount of logistics required to get this product to the end consumer, we can scale vertically, so an acre farm of footprint can be up to 390 times more productive than an acre of field ground, then our system, and so you think about the the you know, and we don’t have the pest pressures, environmental pressures that come with that. So the the lack of pesticides that we you know, we don’t have to use the prescriptive levels of fertility that we can use. So there isn’t waste because we measure both what’s going in and we measure, because we’re aeroponic and hydroponic based, we can measure what’s coming out of the drain, and we can dial back or dial up nutrients based on what the plant is and isn’t using, feel farmers can’t do that. They don’t see that it just all runs offered, moves through the soil profile into the water system. And so there is an incredibly powerful environmental story to be told here. When you compare this to field agriculture.
Yeah, and also, I mean, with the systems you can grow year round, I mean, you don’t have to wait on the season, the right time of year to plan or anything, because it’s indoor, and it’s an indoor environment, you can grow basically, whatever you’re out.
Yeah, I love that, you know, when I speak to to younger audiences. I love to just say that, you know, at aerofarms we’re not limited to the soil, the season or the sun, we can really grow 20 473 65 and it’s a whole new frontier for producing food. Yeah, I can’t wait to see what happens. Because I mean, there’s some that I know aeroponics is huge, where you know, you kind of suspend the plant and it’s like misted throughout the year. I know, that’s not really as popular because I mean, it’s a little bit more intensive, I think. But I’ve seen some companies like you guys, that will have like a little demo of that and kind of explain what that is. Like, for example, my favorite ride at Disney World is the land because they have hydroponics and aeroponics and so they have this little thing. And I want to say it’s brussel sprouts that are like they’re on this conveyor belt system where they’re moving around, and their roots are literally just hanging there. And then they go through this little door that miss them with water and nutrients. And so it’s super cool. I mean, there’s so many different ways and different systems that you have.
Yeah, I mean this this these indoor vertical farm systems are an agricultural engineers paradise, because there’s so many different ways that you now have available to you to work with the natural plant architecture that the growing habit and structure and form of the plant.
And you kind of have this blank canvas to be able to design grow systems and grow chambers and towers around the ideal architecture of of the plant. For example, we are in a partnership with our good friends at Horta fruit, which is one of the largest berry growers in the world and we’re specifically focusing on indoor vertically farmed blueberry, which, as a as a New Jersey native, Trevor, the blueberry was originally domesticated out of the Pine Barrens of southern New Jersey in the early 1900s. And became a main crop for not only the US and the world And here is arrow farms working with word fruit pioneering or re domesticating, blueberry for indoor vertical farms. And it’s exciting because those plants that they are using for these indoor vertical farm systems have such a unique architecture. And we’re building very interesting. Grow systems and structures to to capitalize on the canopy and the architecture of those plants.
Oh, that’s exciting. I didn’t know that about the blueberry. That’s pretty cool. So I know there’s a lot of different companies out there that are doing vertical farming and stuff like that. So how exactly are you guys that aerofarms different? Like, where do you guys get doing different? What kind of sets you apart from the other? vertical growing companies out there?
Yeah, I think, you know, in a nutshell, for me, Trevor, I think it’s that we’re playing long ball. And when I say we’re playing long ball, we are very committed to our core of browned r&d associated with our cropping systems. We are in it to be the kind of industry leader in the industry stalwart in perfecting these systems, optimizing the systems, no matter which crop these that we’re working in, we have a whole portfolio of patents that we have filed around the various technologies that we’re developing. And so Ed Harwood, our founder, and his co founders, David Rosenberg, and Marcus Shima, have really set a vision for long term, sustainable presence and growth in our industry for aerofarms.
So I like that idea of just kind of sticking around for the long haul, instead of just really kind of going crazy and hopping on kind of the trend. I mean, that’s a good idea, you guys are kind of focusing on the long haul, where this technology is going to take you. And also, I saw some on your website about partnering with you guys about doing co production with with hydroponics, is that right?
Yeah, so that’s a project that I’m actually involved in, as well. And so it’s new project, it’s with cargo Corp. And, you know, that particular industry is just absolutely being decimated by climate change, and the growing regions of the world, that they have their, their suppliers are really struggling with the quality of the product that’s being produced, the growth systems are being challenged now as climate and environmental patterns are changing. And so we are working with them to try and innovate in areas, particularly around nursery tree production for them to try and optimize the health and vigor of these trees before they go out into the real world and have to do do battle with all the environmental pressures that come from being out there in the natural world. And so our, you know, our theory is, is let’s innovate, and produce these superior nursery trees that can then just hit the ground running and be vigorous and healthy, because they came from, you know, this perfect environment. And, you know, we’re in the very early stages of, of an 18 month kind of benchmarking phase, that’s gonna, you know, parlay into a multi year partnership agreement. And again, that’s part of our long term vision for, for these projects and cargo realize that and we were thrilled that they wanted to partner with us over that.
Unknown Speaker 28:43
Yeah, that’s super exciting. I mean, that’s the first time I’ve heard of another crop like cacao that’s going to be grown, possibly using this technology. I mean, that’s huge. I mean, there’s no telling what’s going to be next, if it’s going to be oranges, apples, or, you know, kind of larger produce, it’s kind of more typically difficult to grow in those circumstances.
Absolutely. And I think that, you know, this is our first foray into tree crops. And I can speak from experience in industry, you know, you know, the tree fruit folks and the citrus folks, and everybody kind of raised one eyebrow when they saw that one. Oh, okay, trees. Let’s keep an eye on that here in the coming years. And it wouldn’t shock me if if we were to, you know, in five or so years, we’re talking about more and more tree crops.
That’s super fascinating. Well, I can’t see I can’t wait to see how that goes. I mean, that’s going to be super neat to follow. So when it comes to this technology, and we kind of mentioned earlier, do you think things like this I know you know, Elan musk Musk is wanting to go to Mars, populate Mars, go back to the moon and stuff like that. And so as we’re slowly trying to like become a multiplanetary species. Do you think stuff like this kind of might be the answer to feeding people on different points? Whether that’s Mars, the moon or even the space station where we can use systems like hydroponics.
Potentially, I think that we’ve got a lot of work to do here first on earth, and I think that we, we are going to be able to create a lot of learning and knowledge here that may in the future be applied up there. As you know, obviously, we are a ways away from that, but I can tell you that, you know, this, this horticulture in a box, so to speak, or farming in a box is is going to have to be a foundational element for ways to sustain, you know, human populations off the planet. So I’m sure this will be someday long before you and I or, or long after you and I are around, someone will be looked back at at an indoor vertical farming and say, yeah, that, you know, our space farms have their roots in that no pun intended.
Yeah, no, that’s true. That’s funny. Yeah, it’s gonna be very interesting. I mean, of course, with that, with those systems, you’ve got to have water. So you’ve obviously got to have some sort of production for water. So that’d be pretty hard to do in space stations are on Mars, or the moon or anywhere. So that’d be very interesting. So what’s the future looking like for you guys? I mean, I know you’ve got multiple projects going on, you’ve got another farm you guys are putting up in Virginia? Um, are you are you guys wanting to kind of spread throughout the country without also kind of losing the focus of playing the long term goal? So what’s the future gonna look like? Yeah,
I think for for aerofarms, we’re going to continue to kind of expand our footprint. But most importantly, Trevor, I think that aerofarms is going to continue to build equity in the aerofarms, brand around, nutritionally packed, well, grown, healthy, great tasting food, whether that’s you eat an aerofarms, micro green, you eaten aerofarms, romaine salad mix, you eat an aerofarms, strawberry or an aerofarms blueberry in the future, we want to be associated with not only the indoor vertical farming, but the, the the nutritional quality, and the amazing flavor that comes from these these products, because of the growth system that we’re utilizing. And I think for us, success for us is going to be, you know, the best of both worlds in feeding people with just awesome tasting food, but also minimizing the environmental impact for folks. Hmm,
I like that. Yeah, I can’t wait to see more companies kind of jump into this whole vertical farming thing. So I mean, what’s been the biggest struggle? I mean, I know when you’re starting a company like this kind of, first off, one of the biggest struggles is going to be just steal it from cost, because this technology is really difficult. But I mean, also, I’m sure educating consumers is difficult getting investors. So what’s kind of been the biggest struggles you guys have faced? Yeah,
I mean, for for aerofarms. Like any other, you know, early stage scaling company, it’s, it’s been resources, right, we’ve had to, you know, raise capital and use that capital wisely. You know, where we’re growing, we’re working with natural biological systems. So, you know, while we may be in a factory type building, this is not just factory farming. And so it’s not like we set a set a machine up, and it just produces less plants. I mean, there’s tremendous variability in genetics and other environmental inputs that we have there. So we have to really be on top of our game. And we have a tremendous growing staff and science staff that really work on the day to day challenges of, of these growth systems. And so there’s been a lot of horticultural optimization that’s taken place. And we’ve come tremendously far, but we we like all the other indoor vertical farm companies have a lot of room for improvement moving forward.
That’s good to hear. So I’ve got a little hydroponic system, and I can never get it working well. And so how hard was it to kind of the biggest thing I struggle with was the nutrients either adding too much or too little and having the pH just right. So I mean, that’s a huge struggle when you’re trying to maintain 1000s and 1000s of plants. So I imagine it’s pretty important to pay attention to those levels, right.
Absolutely. Absolutely. We have an amazing system that we’ve partnered with Dell corporation to build a data visualization module that aggregates all of our indoor farming environmental data and nutrition data, temperature, data humidity. And our science team uses that as a centralized visualization tool so that they can monitor all facets and aspects of the growth and measure that against our performance metrics of our crops so that they, on a real time basis can make adjustments to our growing systems to maximize the growth and yield of those products. Hmm.
Yeah, I mean, there’s so much science that goes into it. And I wish I could devote all the time in the world to just studying how, how to do it effectively. But I’ve learned a lot through trial and error. And so I haven’t cranked up one for summer or fall yet. So hopefully, sometime soon, I’m going to start small. And last year, I tried a pepper plant, it did not work out. So I’m gonna try something smaller, like a lettuce or spinach. So hopefully that’ll work or maybe some microgreens. Those are always fun the grow. So how do you feel about the farmer consumer relationship here in 2021? I feel like it’s improved. And this is something I always like to ask people in the ag world, because they always have a different perspective on it. So how do you think the farmer consumer relationship is? Well, I think,
I mean, overall, I think that it’s a powerful relationship. I think part of part of our mission and all agricultural professionals mission is to further connect the general public to the food that they eat, we talk about that, whether it’s understanding where their protein their meat comes from, whether they understand where their vegetables and fruit come from, I think the more we can establish an emotional connection, and a consciousness by the consumer to a local farmer, I think the more value that the consumer sees in those products, and thus, they’re willing to pay more of a fair price for the product that is farmed by those farmers. And we can help the industry be much more viable and thrive better by having that consciousness be transacted through a fair price for a product that’s been grown. Because all too often, you know, the large industrial scale, conventional corporate farms, just brace to the bottom with price. And the consumers would, you know, don’t understand that. But the power of a locally grown piece of food is very powerful in the minds of creating value for the consumer and the general public. That and the word organic are two very powerful triggers, emotional triggers for for them, that they tend to be willing to pay more for something that’s locally produced and organic in its certification, because of the connotation that comes with that. So I think that that consciousness in that relationship between farmer and consumer, you know, as, as all of us in the farming community, whether we’re into vertical farmers are filled farmers, we have to continue to foster and build and maintain those relationships with the general public.
I like that, yeah. And I’ve always tended to think that the closer the farmer and the consumer are in terms of their relationship, I feel like the healthier the consumer will be. I mean, if you can find a farmer, and if you can just buy straight from them, you’re probably gonna buy less processed stuff, you’re gonna have a healthier food system, you’re gonna have healthier diet. And I mean, it’s a win win.
It sure is for you know, I’ve volunteered over the years on various farmers markets boards, I’m a huge proponent of farmers markets. And I think that the more people can get that direct connection with that grower, but also they can understand that those dollars are going to then circulate much more locally in their economy. And that, that weaves a social and economic fabric that strengthens and strengthens that community. And so I’ve, I’ve always volunteered my time to, to help local farmers markets thrive. Because, you know, if you look at them on a national basis, they struggle a little bit with their authenticity, right, with real farmers, you know, selling the produce that they’ve grown versus, say, a wholesaler, or a middle person coming in and selling something that they just, you know, distributor bought. And so the more we can directly connect those constituents to those consumers with those, those farmers from their local region, it’s a very powerful, powerful model.
I like that. Yeah, we we’ve actually got several here in Panama City, and I feel like they’ve gotten super popular especially now, during COVID. I mean, people want to buy more and I’ve heard All in South Florida doing that as well, doing more direct to consumers. And so I think one of the positives of all this COVID stuff is that that’s slowly happening. Like we’re slowly getting more out there. We’re learning more about where our food comes from. We’re taking more risks at farmer’s markets and stuff like that. So yeah, maybe it’s the future. I mean, we’ll see. We’ll see where that goes.