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Episode 18 of 18

Business Mastermind Takeaway Round Table

Duration: 01:25:52
Recorded at the 2020 Urban Farm Academy Invitational Master Mind in Dallas Texas. Guests included in this roundtable: Host, Nick Burton Wythe Marschall, Drew Demler Oaken & Alecia Beeson www.urbanfarmacademy.com
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Recorded at the 2020 Urban Farm Academy Invitational Master Mind in Dallas Texas. Guests included in this roundtable: Host, Nick Burton Wythe Marschall, Drew Demler Oaken & Alecia Beeson www.urbanfarmacademy.com
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nutrition and his own journey to be healthier. And, um, you know, that's different than if there was the same local seats filled by politicians who just didn't see that as quote unquote their issue, You know, and and it's it is funny. I get the local, um, laws, the local amounts of money that are available and just media attention that comes from the borough president. You know, these are the fiber presents are very powerful, and City Council is very powerful. So to have the city councillors in north Brooklyn, where the farms are all be very supportive, made a difference for those startup farms. So that's something in my narrative, you know, to be able to talk to the city councillors and C from their eyes. And it's not to say and that this is nothing against them. I think it's great that they're supportive, but, you know, they didn't necessarily come into it because they're so passionate about farming. Per say, they saw that their constituents care about sustainability. They learned a little more. They started to care more, and you know most every local politician cares about the small business, so that's a good overlap when your constituents want you to talk about sustainability and their small businesses saying We're trying to do some new things, um, in that sector, you can come in and say All right, well, I'm going to be supportive in this way, this way, this way. But But there's always Yeah, it's it's a game to be played and I've seen that I've seen how that's played out for for some of the businesses up there. So I can only imagine, you know, here. Yeah, you're gonna have the same push and pull. And you know, to whom do you feel like you owe favors or whatever? But But I think that's that's also part of as I understand that the growth of an entrepreneur is you know, if you're starting really small bootstrapped, you don't need to worry about everybody else. But as you succeed, you're just you're basically widening that social context. So even if you don't want to widen it and you want to just focus, I make a good widget, and I sell it at a good price. Naturally, somebody's gonna come protest that widget at some point. If you're selling enough, um, you know somebody's going to give you the their thoughts on the life cycle. You know, costs of that making that widget. Um, so the more you can kind of, I think, stay in advance of those externalities. The more you can say. Well, how much am I really spending in terms of water? Um, what is the impact of my widget on human health? You know, Is it actually that nutritious? Are there scientific studies on this? You know, those are good questions To ask maybe earlier on is one thing I'd say and again go. Academics love talking about this stuff. So, uh, and a lot of the data does not exist, so they might just tell you. Yeah, we don't know. But, you know, it's something that's actively being researched. The nutrition component. The impact on human health of local fresh food is really, really actively being researched. There's not enough data, but we're doing that work now. Um and I think that's important. And that's that's just one dimension of this whole idea of, you know, farm entrepreneurship to be aware of and engaged with maybe earlier on in the process, because it may not drive your court business decisions when you're first starting out, but it's eventually it's Yeah, it does all sort of become political, right, for sure. So you guys are having to deal with a little it. My understanding is you have to deal with a little bit of the political thing because the greenhouse are restricted. You can't put some up or can't, um, what's that like and all about? Well, in our county, they don't allow permanent greenhouse structures. Um, and they limit the size of the amount of like if you even want a hoop house. Um, and there's only a certain amount of square footage that you could have a of a dwelling, um, within a certain amount of acreage. And so this is counting or citywide, or it's just Boulder County. And so we are on the edge of another county. So we're looking into just moving into a different county if we want a greenhouse. Um, because there's a lot more. They embrace it a lot more there. So, um, we're yeah, we're just gonna have to move to different. Are they giving you any reasons why this is an issue? Um, so it's a lot of just it's very rich area, and they say it's nice or for these rich people when they drive down their streets, they don't want to see it. Um, so I you know, it would be be fun for me to actually fight this and, you know, actually go around and petition with these rich people that may actually not care, but it's just something that's been in the rule book for so long old who put it on. And maybe now that you know, it's, you know, urban farming and just farming in general is getting more embraced. Maybe it would be something that we could change. Yeah, and they've been actually been. I mean, all the farmers around there have actually tried to changing that, and over the last couple years, they did get to implement. So you're allowed up to 2000 square feet and external like hoop houses and bridges, external buildings that can put on your property. But they still can't do washing stations, which they really need because of the new, you know, gap certifications and things like that that have come through. They still can't do that. They can't do housing for employees, and that's the biggest one. They can't just They're really fighting to be able to drop tiny homes and trailers and things like that just to be able to put some housing on their land. So right now, a lot of the farmers around our area are actually happy to write a hotel space and pay for that and and put that cost into their things in order for employees to have somewhere to stay. So it's just it's, you know, we want to support urban agriculture, agriculture in general. But then we make these h O A rules or no guarding in your front yard. No, none of this, no housing. You know all these kind of things, producing traffic on back roads. You know, just all this stuff that's really making it even that much harder for agriculture to succeed and for new farmers to come in. This is Colorado. It's not like for fun. Yeah, this is Colorado. The other thing, too, is, you know, Boulder County's, uh, do you know they're really good about allowing open space to be farmed on and charging less. So that's a good entry point for farmers to come in. But this open space land hasn't been touched. It soils not ready to be farmed on at all since their interpretation of what farming should be, not necessarily what it is, not what's actually possible. It's going to take the farmers, you know, five years to get the soil at least three years to get the soil like farmable, and they have to pay for it the whole time. And there's no there's no reimbursement on that or any grant money. Everything that so. It's almost impossible for new farmers to come in in the current climate like that, unless they change those kind of rules, but and it's open space, but they're leasing it to the farmers. So not only does the farmer have to pay for that land, but they have to pay to regenerate the soils on that land to even farm it. And they're starting from nowhere. So it's like, impossible and there's restrictions on you're not allowed to have farm stands on open space land. You're not allowed to. You know those kinds of things like that. So there's a whole agritourism that you can't do on open space. There's, you know, you have to be a part of the farmers market, which is seasonal, and, you know, and they restrict how many farms along on their farmers markets. It's just all this kind of loop. One of the excuses and this is actually it is one of the recorded literal excuses for not allowing greenhouses was from one of the board members in Boulder County was wolf. We allow greenhouses. Someone's just gonna put one up to put all their cars in it, you know, like we can't you know that we just can't allow thing, but we can't restrict something else, right? We can't allow outbuildings because people are just going to use that rule. They're just gonna, you know, things like that. So that's kind of the problem they're having. So most if you drive around, I mean, we're we're very hip orientated, So there's more and more green houses being built that are doing, you know, kind of light deprivation, things like that. But all of them are temporary structures. They're all hoop houses, things like that, or they're grandfathered in. There's a lot of green houses that were built 25 years ago, that dilapidated, that people are just kind of like trying to fix up, but that's kind of a loophole in the system. But you really don't see commercial greenhouse agriculture in Boulder County Drew doing the community gardens and everything that you guys are working on. What, What has been hurdles as far as the city government has gotten in your way, Um, on the community, at the community garden level. Um, very, There hasn't been a lot of issues with that. The biggest issues we've had with the community gardens is getting people off their ass. They want to come out and pitch in and do the work. Um, now, with the the Hatcher Farm project in particular, um, when we went from community garden, too, Actual farm where we're developing A for people who don't know we're working on developing a natural production farm facility. Um, on a former dart, which is our Dallas Public transportation. It's a dart lot that we occupied, um, with the Restorative Farms group, and we're working on developing this vacant plot of land into a production farm. And with that, we've had a lot of issues. It took us forever to even get water to this, uh, to this vacant land we're talking about over a year. Over a year. Yes. It was right there. Yes, the the access was all we needed was attacked. Yes, it was right there. All we needed was was the city's blessing and a plumber to come and put a tap on. And we got we had to jump through hoop after hoop after hoop after hoop and red tape. And oh, that's not our department. You go talk to this person and that person, you need to have this kind of plan and architectural plan for this. And we presented that and they're like, Oh, no, we need this. Not that. And I mean, it was It was nuts. It was crazy. And it was very clear that the city of Dallas just wasn't ready for this kind of of venture to be done in, actually in the city. Um, and I know now we've We've got a good guy on the inside who's who's working on fixing all that, um, with Bob Curry, who I know you've met. Um, but he's right up front with everyone. He's like, I still I need a little bit of time to fix all this, you know? And there was zoning ordinances. And you mentioned, uh um, the farmers marked the seasonality of y'all's farmers markets the same thing here in Dallas. And funny because I'm wearing this shirt shout out to good local market. But, uh, that's an issue. Also, um, that they're they're limited on how many times that a farmers market can can happen in a calendar year. Well, it also naturally constricts There's not a gigantic proportion of the population that actually goes to farmers markets. It's Saturday mornings. It's hard for folks. And you're right. It's not mass market selling opportunities. You're right. Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, for somebody like myself or other people who work almost every weekend, year round, your your opportunities to go and shop at a farmer's market is very minimal, very hard. So that's it? Yeah. Another, Another issue there. Let's just see how restrictive we can get. Why, What's what's it like in New York City? Yeah, well, I mean, I think I think what's funny across all these examples is it's not, You know, this isn't a like a right left political issue, and it's not necessarily even urban rural. It's more, you know, it's it really is class. You know, the people with money who run big cities but who also own expensive rural land and, you know, ski country whatever versus you know, everyone else. You know, small business owners, farmers, people who want to eat better food. Um, so, yeah, I mean, in the city, for example, Um, there there have been, you know, the New York City's been this world leader in terms of urban gardening, which other other people, not me, have written really great books about, um, that goes back a ways. But that was always just with no support, just against the will of the city entirely until very recently. And even now, um, it's more that there's a kind of detente. You know, the city is not actively raising gardens, which, you know, is Giuliani's idea which they should all just be destroyed and developed. Um, despite, you know, numerous socio economic, you know, reports, studies showing how they provide all this value. You know, people want green space in a big city full of concrete and glass. It's nice to have some plants, even if it's not a production farm. So one thing that the new that the startups that I focus on the benefit from is the idea that the quote unquote creating jobs are bringing economic value that is more visible to that. That class is sort of very money focus person who's really running the city. Uh, the other thing that that you touched on just deep institutional momentum. So you know, you have people who have been doing it a certain way forever and passing down that knowledge and again it's kind of, regardless of their politics, it's just the way the city functions. So Department of City Planning, the people who make the zoning laws, they have a set, you know, they have a mindset about these laws. Their 100 year old laws of New York City pioneered zoning, and that's not, you know, they're not taking into account that things change over time, Really, they're not that open to change. So it was very funny and their initial meeting, all the commercial startups got together and proposed this bill. Um, that would have been essentially a comprehensive urban agriculture plan was backed by this council member is very supportive in North Brooklyn, and we went before, um, you know the City Council City Hall and and a lot of the urban community gardeners felt left out. So that was one tension which is very powerful in the room. But everyone's on the same side if we need more resilience plans, and we need to include urban agriculture in them, so that sort of wasn't really at the problem there. But the main tension was just with the city, So the d c p. I mean, it comes down to the city planning to change zoning laws, and they just sort of said they didn't wanna do that work. It's like it's too much work, you know. So instead, it's still up to 10 different agencies to approve a commercial farm. Um, and if you're an urban gardener, is just doing it as a community project. I mean, you really have to do it as a gorilla project and then hope that it works out. So similarly, there's an empty a lot in Long Island City near where I live. Um, and this guy Gil Lopez just started a guerilla garden with his friends, and it was so successful, they just took over these abandoned raised train tracks and this long, skinny, biodynamic farm with bees and trees, and it's really beautiful bunch of windows. Really great. Um, you know, the Google culture thing and just a bunch of plots of veggies and it's all community. People come and just, you know, people come and quote unquote steal the food, but they want to give away the food, you know, and people volunteer, and the city came to them and the m t A. Said, you know, we'd like to give you a lot after four years of doing this. He said it was so funny when I interviewed him. He said, Well, I'm an anarchist, you know, I don't want to sign anything, so no, you know, And it was so funny because the city was like, we're but you won. You know, we're trying to give you you develop this this beautiful urban farm that we want to give you the land so eventually said yes, because it allowed him to bring school kids and feel good about sort of insurance. Yeah, there's There's reasons to say Yes. Um, but I thought that was indicative of, um, in a way, the positive, very slow but positive change that that culture um in the city has has gone where more people. Yeah, you guys are saying People are just generally more interested in sustainability, and urban AG fits into that itched to sort of Okay, I want to do something good. This seems like a good idea. Maybe I can volunteer, Um, people like growing plants. So it's, you know, there's not a lot of opportunities beyond window sills in New York. So, um, you know, buying indoor units or working in a community garden that that scratches that itch. But but it's slow in the city is minimally supportive, even if there are champions here and there just because again, regardless of politics, just that institutional momentum, it's so hard to shift, you know, to turn that boat, um, in in any direction. Um, and it's a lot easier in some ways. I think for them to be restrictive than it is to be open because they're to be generous. They're trying to protect things they see to be working, too, trying to protect residences, communities they think are doing well. Um, but the idea of this eyesore, I mean, we are seeing, I think, just a real battle with sustainability. projects that re envision what cities could look like versus older people with some money who have a set idea about what the good life looks like. And they're sort of unwilling to to re imagine that or allow for new elements to populate that image. And I think that's just gonna that tension is gonna increase. And I think we'll win because we're you know, we can eventually prove it out and make money off in all kinds of things. But, um, but it's a matter of speed, you know, rate of change. How quickly can we win and have more sustainable cities? Um, and it's it's terrifying that it's New York wants to be a leader, and and they're really not there right in the middle of the pack. Um, and we'll see if they can kind of catch up to Paris, Copenhagen, Seattle. I don't you know, other other cities. Toronto. I'm wondering what's that mean? We all sit in this room. Yesterday we had eight different presentations, all vastly different from each other, and it seems like your case in particular with the Hoop House debacle, that policy is not keeping up with the change of not only how we grow, but how we distribute or service our clients across the board. What what did you feel yesterday outside of your own? Was the most unique sales opportunity, either either from a product or a service, And then maybe what? Let's let's all run that around the room about whatever you and I'm gonna do this for each of us. So what? What did you find? Most intriguing, as far as that's a great idea for a business and then maybe kicks some ideas around of what they're having to come up with as far as hurdles to get over to go. This may be new, but it's it's something that's in demand, something people want. I was really inspired by the, uh, culinary gardening, um, you know, within urban areas, because I think that's a really great segue for the population to start thinking. Oh, we could be farming everywhere and even in this urban development. And um so I that that kind of, um, you know, spurred some inspiration for me on how to like, because a lot of what we're doing is not only for our own business and stuff like that, but I want to elevate the education around farming and healthy eating and being local, um, eating local foods. And I just, um, for for sales for our business, Not necessarily because we're not going to go out and do the culinary gardening. Um, but maybe we could champion that for someone in our area. Um, I'm not sure you know the funny thing about Piper's businesses. She's There's a clear homeowner versus Chefs, Gardens, hotels, restaurants versus the corporate campuses. They all serve such completely different needs. And they all have their own challenges. Whether that's infrastructure or PNC or the h o A going, Yes, you can do this in your yard that you own. I kind of hate age always. I cannot imagine some. Can you imagine getting a knock on your door? Somebody be like, I don't like the color, your door, the hell out of here with this. No kidding. I can't I can't deal with that. Yeah, please do uh, like the other thing, too. I think that what Piper's doing is important is that is changing people's perspective of what's pretty or whatever. I mean, this whole, you know, landscaping plants that have beauty but plants that you eat or not. And I think that even ties into the issues we have in Boulder County and stuff. People want local food. They want to eat healthy and all that, but they don't want to see it. You know, farming is a dirty business. You piles of compost, you have chickens and pigs. You have all this kind of stuff. It's like, Well, we want the local urban farm, but we want it all quaint. We want the romantic Red Barn version of it and things like that, you know, and that's a lot of what Boulder County like. They won't have an issue with the farm as long as it's got some agritourism. It's pretty, it's got cheap and you know all these kind of things. And it's just this perception of what's pretty and what isn't what's allowed and what isn't. And I think of changing people's perception, and they get more and more used to seeing, uh, plants and things like that that give you food around their city. On that block on that corner, they see it more often and things like that. Then they'll get a little more used to it will be able to have more urban farming and things like that. So I think it's just like a visual aspect to it, too. And using not just pretty flowers but like mixing things in there, too, that are also life giving and things like that and just just letting people see it more and more optimal. I think I think right now, with culture being what it is with, I mean, we're gonna throw out the disruption where you know, so we can check that off our conference bingo card. But, um, hotels are getting disrupted by Airbnb s, which were sitting in transportation is getting disrupted by, uh, more and more like light rail and that kind of thing. And uber and lift and restaurants are getting disrupted, sometimes internally, with their own chefs with like pop ups and food trucks have certainly changed the landscape of how people are not only envisioning food, but just how they live and get around. Just like if we're able to now put these plants into somebody's face or put something that used to be in a stew now in a drink or instead of gathering at a restaurant now we're gathering at a farm. I mean, it's just it's nothing but opportunity for us. And for naysayers. They'll be like, Well, you either make money farming or you make money doing events. I mean, there's there's a lot of people out there doing both, and it's to the benefit to not only themselves and their business, but the community and, by the way, the people that own their loans at the bank and everything else. So I mean, it really ties into giving the community something to go and learn and experience and then become a future customer. I mean, there's Yeah, I think farmers have to do that so they have to diversify. I mean, you have to be able to do lots of different things in order to make that income, and and even that is an issue right now, a friend of mine for organic farm in our area is only allowed six farm to table dinners in their summer in their season. That's it. How the hell is restricted there because it's I don't I don't know how they why they restricted or how this works, but they share open space land, so they have half of their land they own and half of its open spaces right next to each other. They grow on the open space, but their farm stand is on their land, which they are able to make work. But I mean, that's very rare for farmers to be able to own land next open space and be able to do that. But since they're sharing with open space and all these other regulations, they're only allowed to have these, you know, community events where people come in a very limited amount of time without getting, you know, they're trying to get extra licensing and documented. Do not yeah, six dinners, that's it. They're only allowed to have sex. You know, I just don't understand the mindset of every other business and country out there kind of company is allowed to have diversified sales. I mean your your orthodontist. Oh, by the way, you can get your frames here, too. That's that's diversifying income. Home Depot is a conglomerate of a bunch of diversified buildings. It's a grocery store, is a dairy, a butchery of nowadays you know, clothing, store and get shoes and get your car batteries. Everything's diversified. I don't know why some people rail against. Well, if your tomato farmer, you better only tomatoes. It just doesn't make sense to me. I even know, and I'm sorry. One more. I also know another farm that's based on agritourism, where they, you know, they allow kids to come, and they're trying to really push the education aspect. They got shut down two years ago because someone just complained that the bathroom wasn't, you know, qualifying the quality that they wanted. So they basically had to do a Kickstarter campaign to try to afford the money to update their bathroom so that they can really open again. I mean, just there's all these things we want all this stuff, but we want it to the level or this preconceived notion of where we want it to be. Like when you were not allowed to travel to that destination. It seems it's a perception issue. Just I think perception just needs to change. Yeah. I mean, I wouldn't say that, but, you know, she was over there shadow box, and he's pissed. Yeah, well, that's crazy. I mean, restricting the number of dinners you can have is crazy. Uh, yeah, I mean, I totally agree with what I can say. I think it's about like we'd say, you know, vision or imaginary. You know, some people have this idea of farms as you know, pastoral and agrarian. And yeah, for some reason, focused on a couple of things that have stuck in people's heads from for various reasons. Um, that's, uh, in one article I read called the Yeoman Farmer Myth. You know the idea of the small family farm where there's like, yeah, exactly like 10 sheep. And they make cheese and they grow some cabbage and that's it, Um, but But here in the real world, it's 2020 and there's sprawling urban peri urban complexes and different kinds of land use. And it's just we live in a different world where, yeah, you need diversify streams of income and people are shopping differently, going to Vince differently, so to try to summarise it quickly, I think one of the things that I thought about the most yesterday was just this question that that came up with wispy greens and especially with, um, with Jeff and profound foods, which is, you know, what would it look like for smaller producers of food who are all doing events and growing great food to work together as collectives. You know, what does that food hub of the future look like? They can't compete or quote unquote disrupt. Um, a different model where people are just growing a lot of one thing and shipping it all across the country or from northern Mexico or southern Canada or from wherever, um, you know, chili. I mean, if you think about, um what we're trying to disrupt if we're talking about local food is just that idea of big farms that grow one thing. So we're talking about local farms that are smaller, growing at range of things and also having events. So how do we support that sort of bigger shift? And I feel like there has to be, um you guys do focus so much to do a good job on the entrepreneurship end of the single producer. But what about that collective izing in what's that middle step where you have local groups like Jeffs where they're trying to work together, and how do you support that? And and I don't really know. But that's something I want to read more about and learn more about because I feel like, um, you know, that's probably the only way to succeed. Right is if you can have smaller groups that have power collectively because they can't all do it on their own because they're up against crazy. Well, I think a lot of that is a lot of self talk from farmer to farmer going. If I work with this guy and he's going to my secrets and you see it, I feel like you see a lot more like the mhm, the farmers market level. You start hearing chatter. There's so much. It's like anything else. It's fucking high school all over again. So, like, I can't believe this person is going to do X, Y or Z sell much. Sell the tomatoes cheaper, come in and have a fancier boots. They're all they accept credit cards and they're giving money. The credit cards. It's like, you know, just can we do this? We're all in this together. It drives me absolutely bananas, the the competitive and the idea that somebody that's growing differently than you is just committing complete blasphemy is just I think it's my eternal complaint. It just runs over me if if you have a line of tractors in protest of a different type of growing method and your active if you're actively making your farm about that instead of what your farm actually is, and providing for your community drives me up a wall and that's that's a conversation that's getting louder and louder. And I just from a respective standpoint of going, Oh, fuck it, I'm just gonna say it. So the people that that originally brought on the organic label back in the day fought very hard for that. All respect due to that for sure, and I get that everybody is going to see is hydro products. Can it? Can it be organic or not? What the law used to be in the early seventies, one that came on is different. Everything everything has changed. We have to consider the fact that it might not be utopian, but you do have farmers that are actively looking to make that the very best it can be. And we need this production to feed us. It's going to come from somewhere. Why not let it come from your neighbor down the road? That happened to invest a little bit more or happen to start out small and work their way up to a level where they can produce from everybody. The only certifications just run me over to and I'm I need a therapy session. I guess I get hot. I get hot, man. I just I don't want this internal struggle between farmers. So the collaboration I'm gonna pull this back in on the rails. So the collaborations, I just see it. It may not be I don't even think it gets to a chance for government, city or local, whatever to shit on it and shut it down. I think it gets to a point where we can't get enough people because the meat producers making more money than the carrot producer. Well, yeah, it costs a hell of a lot more to raise beef than it does carrot. Well, for now, I mean, if we tax carbon appropriately, beef producer might be out of business or tissue culture, you know, selling agriculture takes off. Meat producer might be out of business, So these are all in terms of the future stuff. There are other disruptions on the horizon that may or may not come to pass. Um, but But I totally hear you on, um, you know the current debates about sure, hydroponics be organic. And do we need a regenerative organic label? And what goes into that part of it is so funny because, um, when it comes to USDA, I mean, it's always existed to help these bigger commodity farms, and now they're definitely, Of course, they're scientists within USDA are scrambling to to shift that that that really large ship, um, in another direction, toward resilience and toward helping farmers adapt to changing climates, uh, and produce better food for humans. And it's it's just it's again, there's institutional momentum, and it's not really what the whole organization was set out to do in the first place. Um, so I do think we'll probably see another generation, like in the seventies and eighties with the organic label initially, where it's farmer driven its bottom up, and farmers are gonna have to come together and have these hard conversations. That's us out. You know, this is how we think of regenerating soils. This is how we think of Stewart and land sustainably. This is how we think of working with communities in a fair way equitably. Um, and this is the kind of label we want to produce. And here's how technology fits. And here's how Hoop House fits in our greenhouses has the realities of the situation. It's gonna get cut across modalities it can't be all about, you know, demonizing or Val arising CIA And it can't be just, you know, you have to do it my regenerative way or else you're evil. I mean, it has to be a little more capacious. And maybe there's a complicated metric if you look at lead or passive house or, um, you know, uh, the I'm sorry, blanking on that the other one. But you know, if you look at what architecture is done for design of human habitations and office spaces and schools and hospitals take some of the same learning and apply to soils, trees, waters and how does how do different agricultural practices fit into that and either help soil or use less water? Or, you know, maybe it's a point system, so I think it would be great to see farmers come together and agree on some of those goals and then figure out the right way to evaluate, um, as opposed to just saying you do it my way or don't do it this way or whatever. So yeah, and I don't think we have to start out being perfect. And I think that's to me a gigantic problem. We're going to solve this problem. And it can only be this way because only this way is the most perfect way without accounting, for every person is in the in whatever collective hypothetical that we're talking about, you know, everybody's different. Every piece of land is different, every crop is different, every sales point is different and you just can't blanket policy, right? And I think that's another like thing about diversity. And when we talk about biodiversity, diversity in every aspect and the benefits of that, I think people are still having a hard time grasping that. But that's another form of diversity that needs to exist in order for everyone to be able to co create CO. You know, Farm co live, you know, because you need that. We need the different ways of doing things for sure. So go ahead. Yeah, We've done deep dive interviews like into big farmers and a little farmers and things like that, and we talked to a lot of different people, and the one thing that I found that they all say is, Yeah, they all do do things differently. They all disagree with a little bit of how some people do it. Some people don't, but they all just want to grow the best and see, that's the thing you get to farmers. Together, they can find common ground. You get 50 farmers together and it's a shit show. But it's true. But there's still the bottom line is we want to grow the best crop I can't. And one of my friends heard sold jobs to go around and try to help farmers do their job better. And sometimes, actually, she got resistance and things like that. But a lot of times, I mean, if you come to them with a good idea, and so you know there is a better way to do this, they're not necessarily, you know, these big farms aren't like, you know. This is the way we've always done it. Yeah, you're going to get a little bit of that. But it's surprisingly a lot of them. If we could do this with less water. If we could do this with spending, why wouldn't we do that? I mean, they are stewards because the benefits stack up. It's not only great for the environment, but I think that's one thing with the movement to It's like, Oh, Big Farm is bad urban or, you know and bring it local and small is good and things like that. But we we need everything we need the big farmers to. Yeah, sorry. Um, and there they are environmental. I mean, they're in the environment every day. So it's not like this, you know, red vs blue or like, are you environmental or not? Environment. They care about the environment and they see the changes every day, and so they're open to these changes. But what what they can't do? They can implement any changes because of financials. And the reason they get so big as they do is because that's the only way they can stay afloat. Yeah, I wanted to touch on that, too. You know, when we all collectively I feel like industrywide need to do a better job of education of what farmers are actually doing and why they're doing the things that they are doing, it's because they they're trying to make a living. You know, they're not evil people, or, you know, they're not going to growing GMO crops because they think that it's a great idea or they're not organic or inorganic because because of their, uh, own internal policies more most of the time, um, they're simply trying to stay afloat. There is such a tough business, you know that they're going to have to do what they have to do, especially at that macro level, to stay afloat. They're they're trying to feed their families just like we are, you know, and it pisses me off, too. And people like you want to pass judgment on on that, You know, it's like, Go, go try and run their their organization their far when the headline rate and right, Yes, and we've talked about that a million times. You know, um, we have to combat against that, too. You know, the sensationalist, uh, journalism. And yes, it's like we we've talked a lot about how we really need to get out in front of this thing and tell our own stories about what we're doing, because if you don't, someone else is gonna tell it for you. And that's the narrative that people are going to have and they're gonna gonna think is what's really going on. This is what farming is, you know? I mean, from a structuralist approaches, never that individual. It's not the fault of a farmer. He's using dicamba on a giant soy farm in Arkansas. You know, it's it's not. They're not a bad person. It's They're doing something to make money with the land they have. And they have a pilot debt and the machinery's finance land. Fine. I mean, you know, it's it's all a mess. Um, but I do. I do think that doesn't mean there can't be action at the political level, and that's where you know when we get beyond the smaller politics, Um, I do think that's why we need a green new deal, right? We need to restructure those incentives, restructure the big pots of money to push those farmers to do the better thing environmentally, to do the better thing labor wise. And it might not be easy. There might be some disagreement, but I do think it's not to say just because there's a diversity of practices and we need a diversity of practices that there also aren't essentially good and bad practices. You know, we probably should ban Dicamba and get people off it. So if that takes money to do, let's find that money. You know, I think I think it's not about demonizing someone who's using it. It's about like finding the solution. And I think you're right. It's about storytelling, and I just to share one story like a really senior scholar in my field who I really look up to. Brandi Jansen writes about Big Farms in Iowa, and she writes about these farms that are, um or maybe this is not a panel shit. So maybe maybe it's not her work as someone else's, but anyway, it's a panel she she was on. There was this farm in Iowa where the marginal land they were giving to new farmers who wanted to farm regenerative Lee because they couldn't. It wasn't they didn't fit the turning radius of their harvesters, you know they're coming, so they had with land and they wanted to do the right thing, you know? And these are guys growing corn for, You know it's not going to be eaten by humans, but it's like at the end of the day they do care about the land. And of course, they're like, Yeah, please, if someone wants to farm my land that I can't do anything with, You know, they were so happy that that's some family, you know. It was just such a story that hit me where I was like, Yeah, of course it's not. It doesn't have to be a big versus small and demonizing, headline grabbing way, but it's about what can we do together, big and small, to to sort of move that whole system that's enormous and hard to move in a better direction. You know, in all these ways we'll talk a little bit about, and I'm gonna put you as proxy, all of it for for Tyrone, Tyrone is traveling today wasn't able to be here, so mm to go on record. Brandon and Eyes and Bootstraps and Urban Farm Academy are. Our mission is not to say hydro or soil or this or that. The only thing that we are truly passionate about is making sure that small farms, small family farms make it without doing detrimental damage, you know, to to their immediate surroundings and the environment. So with all that being said, we've talked a lot about the opportunities for entrepreneurship to come into some of these community garden aspects and to some of these lower income aspects. I love what, Tyrone soon, because he has a very small farm. He's impacting a lot of people in a significantly low income area, and he's doing that through selling some of the plants also by giving away some of the plants. And then the most important thing for me is passing on some of these skill sets when people are coming out and back into the world from being incarcerated and then using those skill sets to go work in a number of places. I loved his him and I had that talk that day about all the places that somebody could go after leaving his seedling farm, whether that was a nursery or to Home Depot or Lowe's at the Garden Department are going to work for landscape are going to work from a farm in any of the farms that we're talking about here today, so I just want to get your perspective because you're really close to that. And I want your take on how entrepreneurship can affect low income and what a lot of people would run as a non profit. Okay, okay. Good questions there. Um, number one. I think it has the potential to be so beneficial. I mean, in particular in an area like where? Where I'm at in South Dallas, which has been, you know, a depressed area for a very, very long period of time. Um, but it's also hard because in a lot of ways, we're asking a whole lot of people, um, who may not necessarily have ever had any kind of training in that in that type of thing, you know, an entrepreneurial field, you're also asking them to produce for a lot of people that has never said I want this exactly. And then it's and then we're asking them Not only that, then we're asking them to do it in in in a field that's so darn hard to begin with, right? I mean, this is farming is very tough. It is a tough line of work. It's a tough line of work to make it work. um So all of that is collectively against us, so to speak. You know, um, but the upside of it has has a chance to change so many lives and literally transform an area, a neighborhood, if we can figure it out, you know? So that's the thing it takes, figuring out it takes time to figure it out. We can't be critical getting back to another point. I think that being able to diversify your income is so vital, especially in projects like like Hatcher, um, where Maybe it's going to take having a separate division where we sell the race planter beds, you know, to homeowners, or we may need to have some agritourism. Um, and I think that's great. You know what I mean? Like you were employing, people were putting local food out into the community. What's wrong with that? You know, I I think that's that's wonderful. And I think it's probably necessary, Um, at least for in the short term, maybe forever, and projects like this and I think that's something that people need to be aware of is like, you know, this is a really tough line of work. Yeah, you might have to have some some showtime built in as well to to make it. Um, but again, the upside of it is well worth it. You know, you're gonna be able to impact the community. You're gonna You can change people's consciousness with these kind of projects to, you know, to wear. Now, people are seeing vegetables growing, and they're thinking, man, I should eat that more often, you know, or in the health and wellness side, you can kind of start to change people's perception of where their food comes from, and you can change people's lives. So even the introduction to some of these business concepts and opportunities for somebody just getting released that look, they paid their time, Right? Right. Hey. Hey. Act like you've been here before. Uh huh. But to just have somebody in society go paid your debt. Wow. Welcome back. Here's some skills that you can take and will vouch for you at the end. I think that I've never been in that position. You want to talk about white privilege? I've never been incarcerated or even known anybody that directly has had that issue. Mhm. Yeah, There we go. And just work like I haven't asked a whole lot of questions about his deep, deep background. Yeah, it's like, Mm hmm. I can't imagine being institutionalized, then coming out and really not having a place to go or or even the opportunity to walk into a place without having to answer a bunch of questions and to have have somebody like Tyrone that's been there. That's done that forced his own path. And it is now passing that down through this vehicle through this agricultural venture. That's to heroic work, Man truly is for sure. No, no doubt about it, you know? And there's a There's a couple of different groups that that I work with that are doing similar things. Um, Tyrone is the one that that is specifically using farming or agriculture, but there's a couple of other organizations in South Dallas. There's Richard Miles and Miles of Freedom, and then Cornerstone Baptist Church, which is one of the places we helped out. Tyrone and I both have have helped out cuddle Marty helped out and get their community garden started, Um, but yes, it is. It's tough work, and it's heroic work, and I'm glad that people are are cognizant of that and how much impact they can have with projects like that. I'm wondering if there's like there's this bridge to that people need to make We all talk about how hard work, how much hard work farming is. And then people have this perception like how you want to do that. That's wait like such hard work, especially the white privilege, right? And maybe we're missing this, like, you know, link between what it feels like, how life giving it is to be growing your own food and to be watching your own vegetables and then eating your own vegetables that you have grown like There's this disconnect from what hard work really means when you love what you do. Like I think of the way I always put under that lenses, like being a coder is hard work. It's rough on your eyes. It's it's going to kill, you know. It's very physically demanding, even though you're just sitting or standing nowadays, depending on how it is, everything's hard, you know. But yeah, if that code or at the end of the day can look at that project and feel the immense satisfaction that we get and growing it. You know, I have a hard time going. My work is harder in your work. It's definitely gonna be Mm. I think you know, if the question was asked which I don't think it was of me. But if I had to emote that it's like this is what? Uh huh. This is Deep Rabbit hole. I mean, I can speak like this. This gets to the heart of my research, which is, um, you know, why do people want, uh, in urban settings to start different kinds of commercial farms that are quote unquote high tech? And how does that transform their ideas about farming? Or maybe they're literal experience so often they don't come from a farming background so they might have a picture in their head of farming as hard work, because it's physically demanding, may be hard to make a living doing. It's hard to merge those intersections that that they want to do they love. It seems to be either the growing aspect of health aspect of it or the sustainable aspect with it. It's usually one of those three murders low tech. That's what I see, right? And so, yeah, I think It's an attempt to, um, to try out something to write, not necessarily make it less work, but make it a different kind of work that is more acceptable to them because of their background, their skills, their ideas about what a good life is, and and fair enough if you look at yeah, I mean, a lot of farms are just struggling to stay afloat, whereas, yeah, often people who are doing tech work that they associate that with kind of at least a stability if not, you know, kind of X selling, Um, sort of socially and economically. So I think, um, it sort of makes a common sense to say All right, well, we'll try to take the good things from one and plug them into the other and see what happens. Um, no, I don't know that everyone is going to succeed. That every idea is a good idea. But I think that that we'll probably see. You know, it's just kind of a wimpy prediction, but we'll see more of that in the future. We'll see more people bringing what they like about a more urban lifestyle and tech into food production and saying, Well, I do care about sustainability nutrition. So how can I try to use what I know is leverage to benefit myself? Um, you know, and that's different than big changes happening in field based, more more rural settings. But, uh, you know, I don't think that's going to go away. And I do think it makes a kind of sense to you. Give me enough time to let my words percolate up to my brain. So I think the thing that is so hard about it is everyone in farming is taking care of the land. They're growing healthy food. They're giving jobs. They're making it on their own. But it's not so readily accepted, like what should be in very, very, very high demand. We're competing with Netflix, and we're competing with all these restaurants, and we're convening with convenience, and we're competing with their kids schedule. We are the very last thing that people think about because it's just expected to be there. And so the hard work comes from, not the physical illness of it, but the men, the mental puzzle of going. We're doing all this good work. Quiet. Is not everybody listening to it or consuming it, or that's to me. That's the hard part about doing this. Yeah. The basic needs, you know, have become, like, so readily accessible or whatever. You forget that what it takes to serve your basic needs and and farmers get beat up, right? I mean, you go to the farmers market and someone drives up in Alexis and wants to beat you up over tomato prices. Yeah. What the fuck? What? What's going on here? It's hard, and it happens every day. Yeah, amen on that. And one thing that's always been frustrating to me is that I feel like we have this really messed up system of values around food. Um, and it's not that we don't have the money to pay a little bit more for tomatoes or whatever. Because, like you look at even a company like mine, I guarantee you, tomorrow morning we can walk through the offices and probably had at least half of the people are going to have, like, a $5 you know, latte cup or something, and that's gonna They're gonna buy that, like, every single day. You know, um, or they'll go out and get fast food, lunch which 10? $12. But then we're gonna bitch about paying, you know, for an organic salad mix or whatever at the farmer's market. The price of that, which is something that's actually healthy and good for us. Or, you know, why are these clamshells and microgreens so expensive, you know, and this is exactly why Brandon and I push for farm fusion and added value products. It's not a lot of the knee jerk reaction for everybody's like, Well, we just need to educate our clients. They don't care. You're right. It's on us to get educated as to what the clients are going to do or what they need or what actually pulls the trigger. You can talk about how good this stuff is all day. Life, like the education is there. The information is there. But what isn't happening is the connection points between. They may not care about how healthy it is. They want to know that they can pick it up. They want to know that they can meet their friends, that they want to know that they can, whatever it is, whatever pulls people's triggers on buying or consuming or buying into a situation or subscription or to a group. It's not on us to educate them. It's on us to become educated on that. I think, you know, to wise Point to, uh, it's gonna come down to what we decided to subsidize what we don't because the biggest thing is just gonna be cost. I mean, that's going to be the number one factor of what people by what they don't is the cost. I mean, even if this tomato tastes a little bit better than this one or a lot better than this one, if this one's half, the costs are going to go with that one. Like when you have families, you have that. It's just I mean, it's It's crazy how much we're spending at grocery stores now. You know, we have a family of four, and we're spending hundreds of dollars every couple weeks on groceries. It's just getting ridiculous. So we're going for biggest bang for your buck. How much vitamin can you get? How much fresh food can you get for the lowest price, which I mean, I think that's what it's going to come down to. What do we subsidize? What do we don't I mean, that's I think that's just going to be the biggest thing. No matter how much communication or how much we try to sell stuff, that's how much does it cost? Well, I think as we're talking to our clients or potential clients, or we're talking to the media and we're being that brand ambassador for the industry at that particular time. We have to remember not to not to judge the public too harshly because we all have vices. We all have vices, right? So if we're gonna, if we're going to talk to somebody in any form or fashion and communication device and we're going to from a soap boxy standpoint, go well, the community isn't hell eating healthy because of this, that and the other. But we're going home and doing something that somebody else in the community might think is bad, right? Like I was too much Netflix, Who am I to pass judgment on what somebody's gonna eat, right? Yeah, we really shouldn't get tied up in the judgmental mentality. I mean, and it's the same thing with, like, restaurants, you know, like farmers provide the restaurants that people go spend hundreds of dollars for one meal, you know, at a really nice restaurant to eat like a really wonderful tasting fish. You know, that's beautiful and all this. But then you spend the same amount for a whole weeks, you know, amount of groceries. And it's just this, you know, comparison that people are making its nine day. Yeah, Yeah. And I think it all goes back to, um that idea of, you know, not judging individuals because, yeah, we're all guilty of, you know, not being conscious all the time of all our biases. And, you know, we're decisions and, you know, yeah, exactly. All advices and stuff we know is essentially bad. But, you know, we're going to spend $5 on a latte or have that extra beer or whatever it is. Um, you know, and I think it's all about structures, you know? So it's like, All right, let's take the individual out of it and look at why are these behaviors in this society rewarded? And their let's say, their health. You know, we can look at models where it's working differently in another region or another country and say, Oh, they incentivize something differently, and people seem happier with that decision overall. And how could we get to that point? Or, you know, we can look at what's not working and say, What do we want to change? And, um Oh, sorry. Blanking had a really good example in mind. I'm back to it. No, no, no. That's but I agree exactly what you're saying about. Oh, sorry. I do have an example, but I think about in Canada, uh, this idea, this one small island that it was a cod fishery on the cod fishery collapsed. You know, they had rebrand the whole community. I mean, these people have no other source of income, and they've become a center of, um, sustainable tourism and really rethought. You know, what can you do with some natural beauty? You know, a nice little island, but not a lot of development. Not a lot of money. Uh, and one thing that came up with that I thought was so cool. Their economic development company headed by this, this really pioneering woman came up with the city of, um, and economic nutrition, and, uh, score says, like, you know, you have your nutrition label on your food That says what's in it scientifically from a nutrition science perspective, you know, whether the sugars and fats, um, it has a list of, you know, weird words often and people fight about that label. But what if you had one for the labor that went into it and said, Oh, right, how much of this product was made using fair labor locally, how much is made even in your country versus how much was made somewhere else? How long would it take to get to you? Just some basic things and it doesn't stigmatize. It's not saying, Therefore, it's good or bad, but just it is worth it. And I thought, you know, and it's something I never thought I thought a conference called Bitten in New York of Food Food Conference, and I just thought it blew my mind. I just think, Yeah, like, Why isn't that knowledge on everything? Why is that secret or hearted to know? And what would that transform if you gave people a little more knowledge about their behaviors that creating this feedback loops without judgment or saying Your batter your grid, but just saying Yeah, hey, you're spending a lot on this food. Here's how it's going. That's really great. But think about the work that went in that tomato at the market also has a lot of hard work and a lot of art. It's just it's an opportunity to make a better decision, which most people, if given that knowledge, would Yeah, I mean, when it comes down to it, the consumers ultimately have the power. So, like, you know, that's also where policy is driven and everything else. I mean, it's the consumers than the demand of the consumers. Um, so if we were to elevate people's, you know, respect for knowledge on what they're eating, then perhaps that will all shift. This is gonna sound crazy and people might disagree with me. But I also think that dietary habits are going to change. It has absolutely nothing to with perception or anything else. It will change when we start running out of water in 40 50 years. Things that take a ton of water to grow meat and beef and things like that, they're going to get expensive. Dietary changes are going to happen. We might go more towards, you know, chickens or whatever things that take less water. We can figure out how to grow plants with less water. But we can't figure out how to grow. Meet with less water. That's just not going to happen. I mean, I just think 40 50 years people's diets are going to change whether they want to or not. So start getting used to it when you see it with plant based meat and with the claims about seller agriculture, which there's no products in the market. But, yeah, absolutely people, that is, you know, good food Institute, Um, which is kind of the lobby for for that movement for plant based meat and sell based meat, as opposed to fully growing a cow that takes 1000 times more water? You know their whole idea is X plus y equals 100. So how can you just meaning really X plus y equals e Whatever solutions you want to come up with, how can we move completely away from some practices that just take a ton of resources toward practices that take fewer resources? Um and without, you know, saying it has to be this solution or has to be that solution, or consumers have to do this or this is a good or bad. Just saying what? How can we lower the amount of water and the amount of land we use to to get some of the foods we like and really trying to support that vision? And and again, I think if you frame things that way, um, it's not about demonizing a choice. It's about helping people see, um, what their options are. Yeah. Wow, we gotta we gotta switch recordings. So thank you all for indulging me and this and, uh, this this is again to circle back to why we started, you know, just having the opportunity to sit down with other people in the field, but yet doing different things and getting new perspectives. I think we all learn. I mean having both of you guys in my life for a very long time. And now hopefully, you guys, it's just you make me think of harder things that I wouldn't know how to push myself against. You've opened the door to so many opportunities of things I wouldn't have considered otherwise. And it's it's made me a better person having you guys here, and I just internally thankful for you guys always being so open and sitting down and having these chats and then allowing us to share it. So, yeah, I love you. Thanks for thanks for organizing these. Awesome. Yeah. We appreciate what happened without you. Easy. You know, it's not easy, so we thank you for sure. Well, let's, uh let's get after it. Thanks, everybody. Mhm.
little it. My understanding is you have to deal with a little bit of the political thing because the greenhouse are restricted. You can't put some up or can't, um, what's that like and all about? Well, in our county, they don't allow permanent greenhouse structures. Um, and they limit the size of the amount of like if you even want a hoop house. Um, and there's only a certain amount of square footage that you could have a of a dwelling, um, within a certain amount of acreage. And so this is counting or citywide, or it's just Boulder County. And so we are on the edge of another county. So we're looking into just moving into a different county if we want a greenhouse. Um, because there's a lot more, they embrace it a lot more there. So, um, we're Yeah, we're just gonna have to move to the account, given you any reasons why this is an issue. Um, so it's a lot of just it's a very rich area, and they say it's nice or for these ridges when they drive down their streets, they don't want to see it. Um, so I you know, it would be be fun for me to actually fight this and, you know, actually go around and petition with these rich people that may actually not care, but it's just something that's been in the rule book for so long, Old Coop put them. And maybe now that you know, it's, you know, urban farming and just farming in general is getting more embraced. Maybe it would be something that we could change. Yeah, and they've been actually been. I mean, all the farmers around there have actually tried to changing that, and over the last couple years, they did get to implement. So you're allowed up to 2000 square feet and external like hoop houses and bridges, external buildings that can put on your property. But they still can't do washing stations, which they really need because of the new, you know, gap certifications and things like that that have come through. They still can't do that. They can't do housing for employees, and that's the biggest one. They can't just there
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