Jesse and Hannah Frost run the Rough Draft Farmstead in Bowling Green, Kentucky. They are an off-grid, bio-intensive farm striving to be as sustainable as possible—in the way they grow food, raise animals, consume, and the way they waste. They are committed to never using chemicals of any kind in our gardens, to employing biodynamic principles to encourage diversity, to using non-GMO and local grains for our poultry and livestock, to using organically grown seeds, and to always focusing first on the health and biology of our soil.
Tell us a little about yourself.
Hannah and I, my wife and I are both classic, we didn’t come from agricultural backgrounds. We both come from city suburban backgrounds.
I moved to NYC in the mid ots’ then I took a job at a wineshop. I worked there for several years. We specialized in organic and biodynamic, and sustainably produced wines. So I kind of stared to really fall in love with those wines and wanted to learn more about them.
I started visiting the tiny vignerons in France and Austria and kind of met these really interesting farmers. They didn’t farm with chemicals, they weren’t what I had originally imagined wine makers to be like, they were really just dirty, big handed farmers and I like them!
That coupled with classic new young farmer, that coupled with Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma you know kind of led into wanting to be a farmer.
I grew up in Kentucky, was living in NY when I was working, and I cam beca to see if I could find a farm in Kentucky I could work at and I found a biodynamic farm called Bugtussle Farm.
I did an internship there and at the end of that season, the farmers asked me to come back and do another one and I’m glad that I did because in my second season I met Hannah
it was crazy
That’s so romantic!
you tell someone that you knew each
she grew up
Now where’s Hannah from?
she grew up in Kentucky too but in
about 45 minutes away from each other
her background is actually in Art, she studied art in Belmont University in Nashville and spent a year in Florence studied painting
t moved up to Chicago. After that experience and read the omnivores dilemma
didn’t do a good job with the people
She got really into that, she looked up like I did and found Bugtussle Farm. too.
The Smith’s who we worked with offered us the property that we now live on and it’s about 71/2 acres. We built a cabin here, we crowd sourced the money here though our blog and indiegogo.
through out cabin for our blog
through 2012 raised enough money here to build a 560 square foot cabin!
Tell me about your first gardening experience?
My first gardening experience was when I was I must have been 11 -12, and my mother and I were living in Chester, Il when her parents were getting really old and we were taking care of them. I remember we had this little garden on the side of the house. I just remember we grew flowers and hot peppers
maybe the hot peppers were ornamental
remember weeding and growing
enjoyed the act of it. Hannah nor i had much agricultural background
Do you guys have brothers and sisters who garden or are you still the only ones?
Still the only ones in the family. My mother she dabbles, she enjoys growing things. My dad likes growing morning glories! Not really.
So now you’re raising kids right?
We have one child, he was born on Christmas eve, right here in the cabin on Christmas Eve and he just turned one.
definitely an interesting experience
like having another livestock, it’s strangely similar, there’s a lot more gravity to it obviously, but strangely similar.
Hopefully he’ll become a gardener too:~)
Hopefully at least he has an appreciation for natural food, and understands the importance of growing your own food.
Of course it’s still way to early, but I tell the listeners a lot and my mom is still like how did my daughter end up with a gardening podcast? but a lot of my guests say I wasn’t interested in growing things or gardening. But then you never know there’s the kid in GMO OMG!
I remember when I was in first grade you germinate that bean seed, and how fast it would How that fascinating that was!
Shout out to Miss Montana!
What does organic gardening/earth friendly mean to you?
It means a lot, and for me it started out in the wine business, I would tasted these wines and be like why are these so drastically different and so much better then the other ones. What is it? And after i would talk to all the producers, I realized it’s how they grow it, it’s not how they make it, it’s not how they bottle it, its the way they grow it!
So are you guys growing grapes?
We’re not, we plan on it,
we are still clearing land
the land that we
were dense cedar forests, we moved here because we wanted to be closer to our mentors. but we didn’t get perfect land here, so we’ve had to hack away at it
when we get m
we do make wines out of
our favorite were really black berry wines, blueberry wines.
You can make those really dry, most people get the first impression they’re gonna be sweet.
Good because I don’t like sweet wines!
without getting to
amount of the sugar before fermentation
try to get it to a relative sugar level of 20-21 bricks.
kind of get it in that range you can make a wine that is relatively dry.
What’s a brick?
bricks is the measurement of sugar
how you measure sugar
the degree of sugar measurement. Grapes have kind of a perfect combination, of a bunch of different things. They hit the sweet spot for how sweet they can get.
how sweet they can get
persimmons that get equally sweet, also they have a lot of tannins and things that make a good wine, they’re not quite as juice
persimmons can be on par with a grape wine.
Who or what inspired you to start using organic techniques?
I guess I jumped ahead with ehe wine story, earlier , because I had seen the outcome of growing organically. was a big part of it for me.
seeing the results,
Smith’s inspired us to see how it was done
how it could also be very fruitful
produce a flavorful high quality food
that was important for us
taking care of the soil, grows good food. If your goal is to grow good food, there’s no reason to grow any other way, you can’t grow good food without growing good soil.
how did you end up doing an internship? Was it the wine thing?
It was really a combination of meeting those farmers and reading the omnivore’s dilemma.
introduced you to the idea that we really don’t know our food. AlsoI have a cooking background, so I have a big interest in food. I knew at the time you could ferment
curious that you could, and maybe a bit idealistic. of saying screw it, I can make a wine out of everything. d need grapes
I didn’t know that I could at the time, I just assumed I could
I was somewhat right, luckily.
I wanted to be closer to home, and also so did Hannah, living up in Chicago,
longer drive wanting to be out in the country.
How did you find your internship?
just googling, and also, they were on wwoof at the time
may have gouda it through woof as well.
they had a little video
students at western
Tim Harris he shot a video of them, of a school project.
just a great photographer class,
shot this video
that was one of the things, it’s really kind of easy video to watch, just a couple of minutes long. But they, you get to hear them talk and listening to them talk about their farm and their community and there relationship as
that really spoke to me. When I sent my application to them, I didn’t send it to any others,
didn’t even think about it
I’m glad I did
very much into homesteading, making it a manageable farm, they do rotational grazing with animals, and
Now are you guys’ living off grid?
Do you want to tell us anything about that?
living off grid
have had to earn with our water system
just enough money to stay off the cabin
It’s a choice. It’s also kind of necessity
didn’t have enough money
that’s what we worked with. We really enjoy it. You’re very physically involved with your day-to-day, your chopping wood, we’re constantly
our water system is cool, we have spring on the lowest part of our property
use a gravity fill pump, a ram pump,
tank it gravity feeds down to the house
familiar with a rand
water to pump
concept of a water hammer
water travels downhill and it stops really fast and when it stops it has a lot of pressure behind it
forced into a small space
closet full of balloons or something, you open a door and shove a balloon
pops out of a balloon sized hole
water comes down the hill, stops agains and again
the pressure out of the water behind of the spring
so the water hammer idea,
absorbs that water for a second but then when it rebounds it pushes it into a pipe and then up a hill pumps it 100’ elevation in over 400 feet of pipe.
It’s a pretty neat invention.
actually late 1700’s invented went out of vogue when electricity and steam came in, there were more efficient pumps and you didn’t have to fiddle with it
becoming a lot more popular right now.
I wish I would have known about that way back when.
Something to look into, it’s
can irrigate your garden
if you have as spring or a pond you can use any sort of water source that’s consistent and reliable.
our neighbors our mentors have one that feeds their livestock. It goes all over the farm, 160 acre farm
He actually built his own, which isn’t too hard you can build it out of pvc pipe, for like $60.
good youtube videos
Ours is more expensive because if you have a slow flow rate, because our spring isn’t particularly aggressive,
so we had to buy one….
Tell us about something that grew well this year.
Recovered it, was tomatoes, we had a really wet season for tomatoes, nobody had a good season this year. Then it dried up tomatoes we’re kind of done, and I went through and
They were just kind of done producing, they’d been soggy, it had rained. They’d produced enough, it was an ok tomato year,they were starting to siness, we didn’t really want to let them go.
So I just tried it with a rotary plow, went through with a rotary plow must tosses the dirt up, to remound them I guess you could say. You always want to hill up tomatoes as your cultivating them.
It completely reinvigorated them we had a second full crop of tomatoes.
threw dirt onto the base of the plant
they got frost before they were done producing and that was our first crop of tomatoes. It leans into one of your other questions.
tossed a big mound of dirt
They produced well enough, they were starting to sinesss? We really didn’t want to let them go. If you can imagine a spinning corkscrew. To green mound them. You always want to hill up tomatoes anyway in this case we just tossed a big amount of dirt on them.
put our roots on the stem
This isn’t something that commercial growers would be surprised
a lot of times in commercial grower
in a greenhouse commercial grower keeps them in pots
continuously pull them down
,then put the roots against the soil and the roots just keep producing and keep producing, but we had this out in the in field in cages, it was nice, it was new thing for us
When you say you cover them with dirt, just the bottom of the plant, leaves?
Yeah, just a few inches, the bottom leaves, if you have the ability of pulling that stem down and press it agains the soil it would have the same or original effect.
Is there something you would do different next year or want to try/new?
I think we’ll do that again this year. We’re excited to experiment a little more with it this year and do it in some different ways.
Tell me about something that didn’t work so well this season.
We planted some daikon radishes, a little bit early in the fall, so it was warm. It ended up being bittersweet
they flowered, sometimes when you do that, we’re down in south more or less. We’er about an hour and half NE of Nashville, pretty warm
when you get seeds from up north you have to be wary because they could be more geared towards northern growing. We do a sort of forage cover crop
mix of kale, radishes, and daikons,
They ended up flowering really early, which was kind of a mess, because it blocked a lot of sunlight. We ended up giving those seed pods as part of our CSA.
that was fun I wish we would have pickled some and kept some around.
didn’t really get any icon radishes, wish they would have
essentially the seed pod of the radish, essentially wen it starts to bolt create those brisk seed pods.
if you eat those,
if you get them when they’re green they’re really tasty. They taste those like little bean radishes
they get a little woody if you eat them too late.
Something that you find is easy to grow and is generally successful every-time.
Sweet potatoes work really well in our little part of Kentucky. We can grow them year after year, we’ve always had all sorts of conditions. drought
always produce something great… confident we can always grow well,
clean beds, somewhat weedy beds, dry years, wet years.
Im jealous about that. Can I ask, a lot of people talk about sweet potatoes, I always picture a yam, but these are actual sweet potatoes.
closely related to the morning
golden nugget, our neighbors got it from a guy who’d
an old heirloom
who had been growing it in our area, the general vicinity for over a hundred years. When you think of sweet potatoes you think of heart shaped leaf
They look more like a wild sweet potato. Just the sweets sweet potatoes I’d ever eaten. I didn’t even know that I liked sweet potatoes.
more of a five fingered leaves
I can put sweet potatoes in almost anything! All of a sudden it becomes a hearty dish.
We eat almost always, at least twice a day sometimes 3 times a day especially in the winter.
Something you would steer new gardeners away from that you find is typically challenging to grow in your climate.
blessed to have a really long season
gets hot fast
growing sweet tender fall colder weather crops
if you do
If you have good irrigations time it well, it’s hard to manage
I would hesitate to tell anyone not to try things.
brussels sprouts can be difficult
start it in July
spinach is always a joke in the spring because it gets so hot here fast here. WE have at least several 80º days in March?!
In May and June it gets pretty hot and then it kind of dies down in July, August
a little easier in the fall stuff.
It can get hot pretty fast here and then
Which activity is your least favorite activity to do in the garden.
I think if I had to pick one, it would be to move the fence to mow under it. We have the solar electric fence
it seems really inefficient. I want to just be able to shove it out of the way and just keep going.
It depends , if we’re trying to guard against deer we’ll
height wise it’s 36”
offset another fence, Polywire, to keep the deer out,
It kind of creates a visual effect
that they are not particularly fond of, they have really bad depth perception.
if they can’t tell where one fence ends and another starts
they tend not to jump over it
We have a great pyrenees who runs around, so those are our defense against deer.
What is your favorite activity to do in the garden.
I’m a fan of cultivating. I enjoy using our little collinear hoe, and going in-between the crops. There’s something very meditative about it. I know a lot of people complain about
I really enjoy cultivating, it gives me a lot of time to think about what we’re up to and what we’re going to be doing.
done a lot of no-till
I miss using the hoe
I will go do it on a Saturday night after we get back from market just to kind of ground if I m dead tired.
What is the best gardening advice you have ever received?
Our neighbors have given us so much advice over the years, one of my favorite things and a lot of people will say this.
Just keep planting
It’s sort of the idea in the middle of the summer,w hen your’e wiped out and exhausted and you just can’t imagine putting more stuff in the ground or starting more seeds, it’s just keep planting and everything will be ok.
I know you said it was 7 acres but how much are you farming.
That’s a good question. The property is 7 and half acres.
Hannah and I have about 3/4 acres cleared
going to grow our entire
sharing our neighbors space, growing on roughly 3 acres. We’re reducing that down by a lot to roughly 3/4 acre but we’re planting a lot more intensively then we plant in the past, were going to more of a past French Parisian style gardening method. It’s really more about planning, double cropping beds, in some places having triple cropping beds and having really strong fast rotations. That’s what were working on this year. The past though years, worked strictly with neighbors, and opened up about 3 acres with them. This year we wanted to try to do it on a smaller scale, behind our house, so we’d be closer to home that would save us time, in travel. Not they’re very far away. Only about 4-12 minutes but when I did a calculations, it added up to about 48 daylight hours and I thought I’d rather have that time to spend with my son.
You don’t have to tell me, I’m all about convenience and efficient especially when you’re talking about gardening! Our garden, I’ve complained about, I want a little kitchen garden outside my kitchen window, my favorite anniversary present for our 14th wedding anniversary was a compost pile outside our kitchen. And I forget to get the radishes, or don’t realize Im out of salad, it’s not a far distance but it seems like the salad is the last thing I think of.
And then also raised beds, weeding is easier when you have raised beds.
Is there a favorite tool that you like to use? If you had to move and could only take one tool with you what would it be?
I love the collinear hoe? My favorite tool, is my leather-man, multi-purpose pocket tool, That thing it has a couple of knives, and pliers, and a sharpener and I use that thing to death. I’ve had it in my pocket for nearly seven years, it’s kind of falling apart because I’ve used it as a hammer.
I totally understand, I always have a pocket knife in my purse and 2 things I couldn’t ever get along without is my pocket knife and my headlamp.
Yep, I can grab it out of my pocket and
Do you have any tips for eating or harvesting vegetables or fruit on time?
One mistake in the home gardener sense,
a lot of people try to get it all in at once,
a good way to neglect your garden and have an epic glut. So I think, like basically the best way to do it is to think in successions.
plant some lettuce every week, so you are always going and checking on your garden and then your always putting little bit more in, so your taking it out and putting more in.
in terms of just keeping
best to harvest early in the morning
dew is still on, not too breeze
certain things that obviously force you, beans and squash.
still cool early
Your guest number 113, I think you’re the first one who’s said that about harvesting at a certain time in the day. I can’t be sure because they’re all starting to blend together.
getting the field heat off, harvest it, get it cooled off, water if you have to, field heat, as soon as you take it off,
As soon as you take it off, it’s dying, it’s decomposing immediately, that’s exactly how life works.
so to slow that composition process down as soon as possible.
Do you have any secrets for preserving food-making it last?
we always can tomatoes
we do some different ferments, we really like Kim chi’s and krauts and stuff! Just packing some cabbage into a jar with some salt and garlic! That’s enough for me. We’ll preserve some things and do some pickling and wine making
That’s definitely a form of preservation! Imagine you’re a hunter gather, and you come around a bunch of berries, you gotta figure out some way to keep them around little longer, so making wine makes sense.
Tips for keeping things for keeping things around.
Maybe the Art of Fermentation or those of those great books and make some sour kraut.
A favorite recipe you like to cook from the garden?
I know exactly what that is. Tomato sandwiches! I am not one of those people that ever gets tired of tomatoes. I will eat tomatoes on some kind of bread it doesn’t have to be good bread.
bread with butter garlic and fresh hot pepper
key is put the hot pepper on top of the butter. The fats kind of draw out and kind of balance the spice.
Now you mean like an actual pepper not just the spice.
Yes, like a jalapeño or a
I worked at a restaurant that had this pesto mayonnaise that was to die for.
I’m an organic farmer and I think about mayonnaise all the time.
Maybe Mike does use butter? IDK because he doesn’t like mayonnaise now that you mention it. What do you do in the winter? Do you have tomatoes now because you’re in a warmer climate? I basically quit eating tomatoes in the winter and just put picked beets on my salads instead or craisins.
We don’t have tomatoes at the tmoement. We’ll start them may win a month and a half. We’ll put them in the ground in early may. depending how we’re feeling sometimes we’ll put them in mid-April under a row cover. We can have a frost up till the first of may but well have them in the ground until October.
A favorite internet resource?
Facebook. I never understood Facebook. I have some good friends since high school, I don’t understand this following people who you graduated with. Started to connect with other growers, such a good resource for sharing ideas
seeing what everyone else is up to and having that camaraderie and being able to commiserate in live time with people who are doing what you are doing and growing things at the same time.
It’s joining a group, I used to call them the kids, and I worked at apple, and I’d sit in the lunch room and there were like 180 people at anyone time on shift, and there we’re all these kids I’d see them and be like what are they doing? I joined a group that’s interested in something that you like, there’s lots of great gardening groups. I got our chickens off the free Facebook group.
A favorite reading material-book, mag, blog/website etc you can recommend?
Modern Farmer lately, the magazine. They kind of maybe a year ago or so, they fired their editor that they started the magazine. They decided to geer it towards gardening more. I liked it before but I really like it now!
Hannah and I both like it.
Growing for Market is always a great one…
OK, speaking of selling for market, I haven’t asked you, it’s been so quick since you signed up and I looked at your blog and she was like you should check out this blog, but I thought you were just growing your own food for your family but are you selling food?
We sell though a CSA in Bollingreen, Kentucky,
going to sell there full time
Nashville, but I think we’re gonna switch to Bollingreen,
30 minutes away
we really live in the middle of nowhere.
CSA is our main, a little bit of market sales, then we do the homesteading thing
going back to our farm name before maybe rwe started referring we played with the homestead, but Farmstead, Rough Draft Farmstead sounded more accurate and feed people have a CSA and
knit and have animals and maybe a milk cow
Do you guys have animals?
a the moment we just have chickens dogs and cats
pigs, we may skip them this year because we’re trying something new in the garden
last year we were sharing a milk cow with our neighbors which worked out pretty nicely
they have a
ve had goats in the past, we do bees, we kind of dabble
gardening has definitely taken the front seat there. I really, Hannah’s doing a lot of the momma stuff, so my focus is definitely on vegetables. So right now there’s a lot more vegetables then animals. Maybe when our son gets older maybe we may get more animals.
We also just got 4 sheep so I also joined 4 Facebook groups on sheep. I have mixed feelings about the sheep. I’m just not the kind of person who likes to keep animals in a pen, so I don’t know what I ws thinking about getting sheep and then after 10 years of battling about letting the chickens out now for the first time ever the chickens have free range of the garden IDK how thats gonna work.
The electric portable fence. Set up another paddock your moving them and then stationary. I can’t recommend enough.
If you have a business to you have any advice for our listeners about how to sell extra produce or get started in the industry?
I really think, Hannah and I both recommend, doing an internship, learning how to actually grow, as far as selling grows, having good produce picked at the right time, a good consistent product. That’s a good way to keep, make customers appreciate you and come back is having a good product that they can rely on. In terms of advice that’s what I would say.
Final question- if there was one change you would like to see to create a greener world what would it be? For example is there a charity or organization your passionate about or a project you would like to see put into action. What do you feel is the most crucial issue facing our planet in regards to the environment either in your local area or on a national or global scale?
I think that, Hannah and I are really for a greener world, passionate about feeding people who want good food, one of the things that is prohibitively expensive for a lot of people
making it accessible for people who can’t maybe afford a full blown pay up front CSA we offer week-to-week and though our wonderful Farmer’s Market in Bollinggreen is to take snap food stamps.
that we’er able to take that for lower income families
I think in general for a greener
a greener planet is it tastes better
the beauty of it is eating better, if you don’t take care of the soil, you can’t possibly grow good food, so if you are growing good food and people are seeking out good food….
Do u have an inspiration tip or quote to help motivate our listeners to reach into that dirt and start their own garden?
Hannah and I talked about that for a second, the one that comes to mind, I don’t know who to attribute it to, it might have been Kurt Vonegaut
“is work harder then you dream”
keep in mind for young farmers, dream hard but work just as hard
think about your finances, and your future and what you are ultimately trying to achieve
I’ve used it myself in pretty much every aspect of my life.
Nice I like that. I always say work hard, play hard. That’s one of my big ones.
That’s a good one too.
How do we connect with you?
We are roughdraftfarmestead.com
You can follow us there on twitter and Instagram, and Facebook. We try to update regularly. We’re unapologetic becasue we live on the homestead and are trying to enjoying family life and
look us up and connect with us and meet fellow other fellow growers and gardeners and those sorts of things.
I had 2 other guests from Kentucky, Joyce Pinson from Friends Drift Inn., and she gave some great advice on cooking and sampling to promote sales at a farmer’s market. She talks about how she could sell zucinnis for $ 3 a pound right next to people who couldn’t give them away.
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