246. Locally Sourced Food | the Farmer’s Hand Gourmet Grocery and Take-out Counter| Rohani Foulkes | Detroit, MI

Rohani Foulkes THe Farmer's Hand

Hey Listeners, Patti Armbrister filled in for me this summer and did this interview when I couldn’t make it so it’s little different.

Patti: Welcome to the Organic Gardener Podcast. How are you doing today?

This is Patti Armbrister the guest host, I have not hosted before but I am doing it. We are sharing some time with Rohani.

So go ahead and introduce  and tell us a little bit about yourself.

Rohani: I am Rohani Foulkes I am co founder of the Farmer’s Hand which is a primarily local, meaning Michigan Grown, Michigan Made Gourmet Market and take out counter called the Farmer’s Hand which is located in Detroit and State of Michigan.

Patti: Wow! Exciting! I am actually from Michigan! From a rural community between Detroit and Chicago out on farm I was raised. That’s fantastic in Michigan you can grow almost anything!

Rohani: That’s surprising to me, as I am obviously not native to the area. I am intrigued to find out that we have such a big agricultural industry here in Michigan

Patti: I think that and tourism are probably your top ones right?

Rohani: Yeah, I believe so. Yeah.

Patti: So where did you come from and how did you end up in Detroit?

Rohani: I am originally from Australia, and my business partner was born and raised in Detroit, we have been in multiple cities here in America, overseas also. My husband is originally from Detroit. I met my business partner here in Detroit at a time when we were both looking to open a very similarly thought out local market in the city of Detroit and yeah, that’s kind of what led us to the Farmer’s Hand and beginning that adventure together.

Patti: That’s great! I’ll bet that’s exciting working with someone with the same interests.

What part of the business do you prefer?

Rohani: Clarify that questions there are so many parts to it.

Patti: Maybe through a day?

Rohani: For the market side of things, there’s also a restaurant we recently opened on the same block something new we do logistically day to day.

The market side of things on delivery days we get big flushes of beautiful local produce coming and it’s just great to interact with local farmers and see all that produce come in and then watch it walk out the door after its been harvested not so long ago with customers who are just supporting this ecosystem that exists here around the world in terms of eating local food and supporting local farmers.

Patti:  I love to hang out with farmers really and find out what they’re doing and what they’re growing. That’s fantastic!

Then making the connection from the food to the consumer is just grand!

Can you tell me about your first garden?

My personal first garden?

Oh Yes, I guess my first garden would have been back in Australia.  My mother introduced me to gardening at a very young age, and I got into it later in life on a bigger, grander scale. I grew up in a very temperate climate back in Australia where you can grow things, pretty much year round and by things I mean most every thing year round like

  • tropical fruit
  • mangoes
  • passion fruit
  • bananas
  • paw paw

My mom often had a paw paw tree in the garden

  • lemon grass
  • things that are going crazy now like
  • finger limes
  • kafir lime
  • citrus

all different  kinds of citrus, seeing that kind of food, I’ve always been interested in food.

I’m a chef as well by trade

so seeing that cycle of food growing and harvested and prepared is really intriguing to me.

I later went on to have my own small gardens in homes that I have lived in over the years but then after moving to Michigan my husband and I owned a 10 acre farm for a short period. I farmed a small lot of that land for our own purposes and for sharing with friends and family.

We had a dozen chickens that we reared on the property and a couple of children who were very into that as well. Yeah! I have a bit of experience with farming along side the business as well.

Patti: I bet the kids loved it.

Rohani: I think it’s very important to raise children preferable at a young age as to where our food comes from, what it looks like, how it grows. I think it can help to excite them at a young age and also to introduce and educate them about growing and how important it is to eat healthy food in the back yard

Sure and get them eating at young age and get them to enjoy it it becomes part of the life habit

Patti: Tell us about something that grew well this year.

Rohani: It’s been a little bit, we opened a second business attached to the market, that is in its very very early days, also renovated and moved into a new home here in the city.

I am really learning about my soil number one

and how the sun hits my garden during the course of a day and trying to get settled into my new house. I haven’t grown a huge amount this year.

In previous years I have always been addicted to tomatoes. I am always shocked at the poor quality of tomatoes here in Michigan during most part of the year, due to lack of access and local growing.

So throughout the course of the season here, I try to grow a lot of night shades particularly especially tomatoes

IDK if it’s an innate passion for them or excitement for them but I tend to grow them very well. Lots of success with them. I always have my soil tested through the Michigan State Extension program here in Michigan. I think that is probably pretty helpful as well.

Patti: So then do you use organic amendments for whatever needs amended?

Rohani: I do, so I always wait for the results when they come back, they are a little tricky to read but there are always hotlines you can call into and yeah, I do my own composting.  I have found compost tea to be incredibly beneficial to my garden over the years as long as you are keeping the right balance.

Organic Supplements

I will look to organic supplements if I feel my garden needs a little bit of a boost in the spring of the fall. Aside from that, I try to keep it to itself. I try not to fuss. Something my mother taught me many years ago, most people feel their gardens are imperfect if things don’t look well trimmed. A garden doesn’t necessarily need to look pretty to produce really beautiful fruit, fruits of your labor, it can look kind of scraggly and still do a good job so I try not to fuss too much.

Patti: I do regenerative agriculture in gardening so it can look rather natural after a while but the plants love it.

Rohani: I think three’s something about being mentally grounded too lit’s not just pristine manicured gardening it’s looking a little bit wild and untouched, to me,   it feels good, natural calming in a way.

Patti: You feel part of it What’s your favorite variety of tomato?

Rohani: Too hard to identify. Love green ones, chutney

I love paste tomatoes when they come in, that’s something I’ve learned here in Michigan!

the need to can and

  • tomatoes
  • when paste tomatoes come in, I can do canning and
  • in season
  • brandy-wines are always really lovely
  • sun golds in salads and things like that
  • my young daughter has become accustomed
  • watch for heirloom variety of tomatoes
  • increase of seed savings
  • different types we have access to now with delivery and online shopping

different tomatoes has cropped up around the world

through access online shopping

we’ve always had access to

anything your want to do different or try new

Patti: Anything you want to try new next year? Do differently?

first year in our new property

give ourself some time to figure out

how your garden wants to grow

  • and where things grow better
  • already had to move a couple of things
  • move things around our own property

I think next year I have a combination of  raised beds and in the ground so I might do more raised gardening next year.

I’m finding some of my summer squash aren’t doing so good directly sown into the ground

I think it might help to be able to control with soil a little bit more

a IDK if tis soil as been taken care of needs a little bit of love in the years go come.

Do a little bit of composting and feed the soil up a bit so I can direct so in the years to come.

Which activity is your least favorite activity to do in the garden?

In the garden? My least favorite activity? I find garden pretty therapeutic. Even if it’s the tedium of it

my least favorite thing to see is when fall is coming to an end and winter is coming and everything is starting to die, and I think the clean up in the spring can be difficult

  • fall and the spring
  • gardening moving to Michigan
  • very bad
  • doing regenerative gardening
  • I’m in a dry climate
  • somethings I leave to catch snow
  • think up spring there’s not much left

What is your favorite activity to do in the garden?

When spring hits its really fun to go out

I like to buy from my local farmers

its alway stop see what they started new this year

I like to flip through seed catalogs I hear e a number of them through each years, something to look forward to spring

secession plants that year

farmers market start off

its nice to see

in terms of things I can put tin ground

special moment to share with

being able to share that with someone else especially my kids

What is the best gardening advice you have ever received?

really had to learn my environment

a lot of extension agents round country will provide in

soil testing

request a little packet

soil off from a bunch of places

not familiar with this growing landscape of the course of a decade I’e only been here for 5-6 years

soil and growing conditions

foundation to seeing you up successfully

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 would say in all honesty my hands

there are certainly tools for weeding

or killing the

tilling the ground?

twine dig up and dig out

use my hands as much as possible.

Me Too , I just love using my hands

I have worn gloves

I feel like I have more control for obvious

what was the main tool that you brought with you?

From Australia for gardening?

I didn’t bring and physical tools with me much because it went into a shipping container.


  • gardening books and also journals, I keep a lot o f journals
  • rotations of garden needs etc
  • books

A favorite recipe you like to cook from the garden?

I’ll stick with something tomatoes

given how much I love tomatoes

something along the lines of a panzenella salad

  • olive oil
  • garlic bread
  • combo of tomatoes and a bit of salt
  • any kind of herbs

many people  stick tomatoes in the fridge

warm off the vine

I don’t like to put tomatoes in the fridge

I believe they deteriorate the flavor of them and it tends to halt the ripening of them.

there is something to a fresh tomato vs a tomato that comes out of the fridge

I always keep them on my counter top, I think they taste a lot better

A favorite internet resource?

there are a great deal of websites

IDK about favorite but I think my go to would beRareSeeds I find a lot of helpful info there

otherwise just searching generally for companion planting

I do a lot of companion planting but I forget so I do a lot of google research of what kinds of herbs are beneficial to different fruits and vegetables

RareSeeds to me


general info

Patti: that’s good

I love companion planting as I let more stuff go to seed I start to let them decide what to do, I have some plants that move to a different location and I think oh I guess that’s where you need to be

I tend to do that often, better for a bit to kind of see what works best

A favorite reading material-book, mag, blog/website etc you can recommend?

I think in terms of books

I have quite a number of books

not too long ago I was given

Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening

Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening

  • interesting guide to companion planting
  • to be honest I tend to read cooking books more then gardening books
  • because of my background
  • introduction to companion planting
  • and it’s a nice resource as I put things into the ground

Patti: I just got that this summer.

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?

Because the industry is huge!

Our business is multi-faceted. is there something specific

it says about selling extra produce but I think you have more expertise in marketing

which is an interesting thing for us

We’re on the direct to consumer to retail

  • small scale farming
  • urban farming
  • medium to large scale farming
  • produce especially local
  • diversifying immensely

not just going to farmer’s markets anymore and farmer’s market are tending to,

to consumers more inconvenient

only once a week, certain times of the year, certain times of a particular day

So as a consumer it’s not necessarily convenient to confine yourself during that time frame to go often to a very busy farmer’s market.

You can of course go to many large scale chain grocery stores of find local produce highlighted. That being said, doesn’t return a very high profit margin to the farmer

our nontraditional model of direct to consumer local access through the farmers hand here in Detroit.

We work directly with farmers who come in to drop off their product. We work on consignment. They set their own price point for that product, but we:

  • take care of the product
  • put it into cold refrigerator
  • put it on the shelf or in the freezer
  • for consumers to purchase

then we return a very much higher profit margins back to the farmers for all of the produce that sold.

So in terms of how to give advice on how to get more product out there as somebody who does that on behalf of farmers. I think there are a lot of different ways small scale farmers  can get their product out there and get more sold.

There are way more restaurants and cafes, coffees shops etc looking for local produce to put on their menus.

That’s another lovely way to sell more produce.

Final question- if there was one change you would like to see to create a greener world what would it be?

I think it would be looking closer to home for not just food, but many of our needs, I feel that we are way over packaging, transporting product. If we can find a not just services, we live in a much more connected world, I like that, I’m a product of that. We can think globally, act locally. We can interact in a global world, but we can look in our own backyard and look at our own surroundings for our immediate needs. Rather then looking beyond that

I think a lot of people are  sourcing locally and being into our own community

it will help to increase how we become greener on a local level.

food stream

Over packaging, over-packaging is a big issue, logistics, some of the transportation methods for some of the crazier things, like sugar

you can find it in your own backyard, country. ways to be more conscious.

Do you have an inspiration tip or quote to help motivate our listeners to reach into that dirt and start their own garden?

An inspiring quote or a tip? IDK how inspiring this is, I think that gardening can be really empowering, mentally in it’s physical form in the fruits of your labor but also emotionally it’s a really beautiful thing to put a seed into the earth and watch it bear fruit on your plate

as somebody who hasn’t always had a small grocery, restaurant

I’ve been in situation when I haven’t’ been able to always put what I wanted on my own plate and it’s amazing what you can grow in your own backyard if you just take your time to put a seed into the ground.

It’s really a beautiful thing.

Try it.

Try it out.

I have certainly enjoyed listening

How do we connect with you?

again my name is Rohani Foulkes

we are in the farm’s hand a local market and

located in Detroit, Michigan

own a restaurant

attached to the market

emphasizes the use of local produce






and if I get back to Michigan I will look you up!

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About the author, Jackie Marie

I'm an artist and educator. I live at the "Organic Oasis" with my husband Mike where we practice earth friendly techniques in our garden nestled in the mountains of Montana.

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