John Kempf and Vernon Peterson take the stage for a live-recorded conversation at the inaugural Acres U.S.A. Healthy Soil Summit, held at the University of California Davis Conference Center on August 21, 2019, for this Regenerative Agriculture Podcast episode.
Vernon’s experiences from 30 years of growing tree fruit and other crops on both conventional and organic acreage in California’s water, weather, and labor-challenged environment inform the wisdom he posits here.
Peterson was the recipient of the Grower of the Year Award from the California Certified Organic Farmers Association and the Organic Produce Network in 2017. He farms 300 acres of stone fruit, including peaches, plums, nectarines, and apricots. Vernon’s operation also packs fruit for almost 80 neighbors, including stone fruit, pomegranates, and citrus.
Listen to hear Vern’s strategies for activating employees to achieve their fullest potential, his knowledge of organic fruit production and marketing, and a call to farmers to tell their story through knowing the nutrient value of their food. Vernon also discusses how he’s formed a unique alliance of growers that work together in marketing, sales, operations, and compliance areas, resulting in successes for multiple small-scale organic operations.
Vernon describes the “aha!” moment when farmers realize that organic production is more than just the conventional input substitution.
He provides examples of measuring fruit tree production and worker productivity on his own operation, describing why it’s important for employees to have access to the data and tools needed for their own improvement. He shares how a simple pay scale increased the output quality without costing him more while paying the workers double. He makes the case for how extraordinarily close relationships with employees lead to greater business success.
Vernon also turns the ag production paradigm on its head when he suggests that growers should start by selling the crop, then focusing on marketing and packaging, before growing the fruit. He also shares his overarching goal of reinvigorating agriculture through organic production. He believes that documenting and publishing the nutritional quality of food holds the potential to turn the tide of agriculture in America.
Vernon’s recommended resources:
The nutrient meter mentioned by John:
Our community impact spot for this episode is the cover crop provider, Green Cover Seed. Green Cover Seed shares the benefits of cover crops with the farming community. They do an excellent job of conducting and disseminating research into cover crops species, blends, and uses. While there are many excellent cover crop providers out there, Green Cover Seed stands out for their education, outreach, and variety.
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This episode was recorded live by John Kempf and Vernon Peterson at the Healthy Soil Summit and produced by Nathan Harman, Robin Kitowski, and Anna Kempf.