303. Listener • Chef • Cover Crop Expert | Nick Schneider | Thrive Chef Works | Twin Cities, Minnesota

Tell us a little about yourself.

  • I’m from Minnesota originally
  • family typical upbringing in the suburbs
  • career as being a chef

my extensive hobby as being a gardener

market gardening

growing up in the 80s food was sort of an after


so I got a degree in psychology

needed to do something a little more inspiring

lived in Europe for a semester in college

traveled around Europe and really saw food in a different light

experienced it really differently from what I had

Then I decided to go to culinary school, I ended up in Vancouver BC

relatives out there as well so I came back to the twin cities

Italian kitchens


kind of moved around bit as chefs do is quite normal

I also started gardening at a fairly young age

early twenties

I ended up dating a woman from the Ukraine, she had a strong gardening interest

I had always been interested in nature as a young kid

gardening with my parents

but very simple, chard and green beans and that kind of thing

I started working at a natural foods coop right next to a really old and thriving community garden

in St Paul and that’s where I met some really great gardeners who I would call mentors

One particular gardener there was a soil scientist at the university of MN, she took me under her wing learned some incredible techniques

  • raised bed
  • no till garden
  • cover crops
  • rotation

One thing that really inspired me from a young age to kind of continue this and do a lot more was just witnessing the differences in her garden and other community gardens

She made her community garden plot not tilled in the back row and the rest of the 90 plots were tilled once a year. In the other plots, the soil was still quite good but it was obvious she had the

  • best looking vegetables
  • earliest
  • largest vegetables in that garden

It was no mystery she was doing something different and right. It was from her I learned about 

Mycorrhizal fungi and the relationship to the plants and how important that was

using those techniques

I was able to follow in her footsteps in a way when she got done, working at an urban agriculture non profit in st paul, centered at gardens all over st Paul

  • children
  • form a market garden essentially

I was able to take over that job when she was finished, working on her phd

I got to be a market gardener for 3 years, all the while I was cooking at night, I couldn’t do that these days, way too intense, way too much

So wait, are you a rockstar millennial?

I’m 42 so I’m more of an xer

yeah for me

For many years, I’ve been involved in both the culinary world and the growing world

I see that they are so intermittently intertwined, and kind of dependent on each other, the communities overlap so much. I find that really inspiring, such that I was able to go to the MOSES

MIDWEST Organic Conference for Organic Farming and meet a lot of great farmers and gardeners

move to the country and start a land based business

Alas I stayed in the city and am still working as a chef

After working at some great restaurants and for some people who are superstars 

for natural foods

local alice waters

worked for this woman for 7 years, after that ended

I started my own business as a personal chef, working in people’s homes

cooking Monday – Friday, everyday meals, it’s different from catering 

Gives me a lot more time on weekends and evenings

being a chef is pretty awesome but the restaurant life can be hard on you, working 60 hours a week bare minimum. The end game is sort of to own your own restaurant but that takes lots of hours and lots of risk.

Well, I worked at a restaurant this summer, and I told the owner over and over it’s amazing what you do here. How many people they employ and the pickle guy, and the bakery guy next door, the egg guy, and produce guy, there is so much food and so much to run and manage all the employees, etc. What it must be like to pay all these people through the winter.

I’ve been listening to the organize 365 podcast and this woman talks about getting help, either in your professional life or home, like getting someone to cook for you!

I don’t grow it, but sometimes I will take a small portion from my own garden

if I have an abundance of something, inspired to use some of my own stuff

We know how abundant gardens are, so I do take some of that stuff

IDK if you know this but what is basic model, in the twin cities, we have a really strong natural coop, there are just a ton of them

they all supply great organic food and meats and cheeses

blossomed and proliferated in the last 20-30 years. Went though a hiatus part of the 80s 90s so I am lucky to be a member of some of the co-ops where I buy that stuff.

when you are a personal chef

  • get to know the staff
  • board members
  • influence a little

learn how your membership can be a driver in decision making to get new products or find different ones

give feedback

My particular passion and interest is 

  • finding great farmers
  • keeping great farmers
  • coop has to the small local farms in the area

looking for the best nutrient nutrient dense food that is available.

that’s where I get the produce, I don’t grow at the clients homes.

How many homes do you go to a day?

usually one a day sometimes 2

two is about the limit

We’re pretty spread out, so just the commute time. I am hoping to maybe do some bike commuting next year.

I asked to describe a typical day.

I am a single employee, maybe in a catering job I hire some help.

in a typical day

I am just going to the coop, getting some things I might need

planning I am following an agreed upon menu

When you go into the store,don’t know what’s gonna be fresh and available

chef skills of thinking on the fly are pretty useful

I like to change the menu seasonally, dishes.

Do you have some entertaining or recipes to share?

One of the best cooking tips I could mention

crowding the pan

If you want to sauté something and you put too many things in the pan, you end up steaming them which is a totally different process then sauteing.

One of the most common things people do to possibly get not as nice results

  • vegetables
  • proteins

matter of physics, draw more heat into the pan, the more things you put into the pan

heat is more distributed

don’t get the browning so you might as well get the steamer out.

You hit my number right on the nail, I usually fill a cast iron pan as high as I can, I tell my mom all the time, it’s not that people don’t want to cook, they don’t want to clean up so one pan is better then more.

don’t have the time

We have a one year old now so I can relate to don’t have the time

  • use a lot of herbs
  • bold flavors
  • a dish should have one or two herbs

it’s rare that I cook without an herb

Samin Nosrat


Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking 

she talks about

important acidic component you can find that in cultural cuisines

  • lime
  • lemon
  • vinegar
  • balsamic
  • tamarind

sour quality to lift the flavors

Kind of acts a little bit like salt in lifting the flavors balancing out the fattiness you

What about wine, for all of us Italians out there, my mom’s big sauce is lemon and wine?

heres’ a tip about cooking with wine

this comes from Julia child, my dad used to do this, I just have this memory of slowly simmering tomato sauce. If you reduce your wine slowly you will get more flavor

bubbling real slowly through the day

different kind of chemical reactions happening

memory of that taste is really quite great

wines in a professional kitchen we sometimes we don’t have time to slowly reduce, and have to do it more rapidly, can’t extract, not getting that long slow cooking

I’m thinking in red sauce my mom is more likely to use red wine and for fish she is likely to use white.


ala manette sauces

your dealing with such a small quality bigger pot reducing tomato or Balinese

one recipe I love and will share with you

tend to cook simple

love to be in the garden

daylight hours are limited so you need to be out there

Tuscan Kale

lacinto dinosaur kale comes from tuscany

strip off the stem

don’t alway have to do that

  • brown butter
  • cooking oil in a pan
  • let it start to brown a little
  • stir fry the kale
  • popping sizzling
  • blackening of kale
  • few drops of water
  • steam as well
  • little bit of crisp in there
  • lightly blackened
  • grilled brassicas
  • bok choy
  • broccoli

mmmm, last summer I cooked a ton of that. Ever since I discovered it it is my favorite kale!

I’m curious. Tell us about your garden, do you live in the city.

I’m in Minneapolis, fairly urban. We have 1/8 acre

before buying our house a few years ago I was in a lot of community gardens

intentional community with a community garden attached to it. Before that we were in rural Wisconsin, I kind of revitalized and expanded an orchard

On our property we have 1/8 acre

  • we get full sun, do need to have that
  • raised beds
  • no till methods

when we set up this garden

curious to do


4 beds with 4 methods

  • Double dug, john jeavons style
  • 2 years of layered lasagna gardening brown and green
  • 3 years of nothing but cover crops
  • sheet mulch compost growing something now

To watch the different examples of things growing was really impressive to me, I found the one I used the cover crop on over the following 3-4 years really produced bigger and more robust

That was a fun little experiment.

Also, the double dug one, we grew sunflowers for our wedding! The sunflowers were like 15 feet tall super happy, everything I have heard of that method produces a lot of productivity.

So how does the double dig method fit into the no-till method is it a broad shovel?

Well the idea is it’s a one and done process where your digging in deep the first time and not touching it ~ I guess that my reaction to that now is that it’s necessary or pertinent in the upper midwest. We have lots of water. Our soils are fairly decent.

  • sandy loam
  • fairly decent growing soil

What I have seen of the Jeavon’s method is it is done in the summer arid where the water is not that abundant

don’t think it would be that important where I am again

my own thoughts now are, at least growing where I am, don’t need much of a raised bed

in GA where you have the clay soils you might go higher where you need the drainage in the Southwest you might go lower and have a sunken bed

different geographic influences

parent soil is really important and working with that. 

I have had mixed results where we have imported compost, 

  • don’t always know what was in it
  • not all created equal

small quantities

What cover cops did you put in that bed?

started out doing a lot of

  • rye
  • vetch
  • oats
  • peas

Over the years, I started doing more. I have been recently interested in what Farmer gabe brown

diverse mixes

7 mixes

  • buckwheat and 
  • sorghum and millet
  • brassica root with the borage radish I LOVE THAT ONE!

so what I have been doing

doing that recently leave them in cover crop for half season or full season if I am preparing the soil. 

section of bed

improve the soil

one of the things I have observed cooking and market gardening

one farm in i

gardens of vegan

first o farmers int estate

master famers

top of the market

partnering with the restaurants

been tot heat farm

see what they do

half of the farm in cover crops each year

other half

assorted vegetables

stuff looked so good

really regenerative ag before we were using that term

some of the things I am working on

diverse cover crops

if you are not putting

if you don’t have animals eating it

going to seed at different rates and different times



don’t manage them well

manage in terms of knocking it down

a lot of that in your bed

when you re trying to seed lettuce or something

can be a bit of a challenge

I have been teaching cover crop classes

various venues in town

comfrey is a used a lot in permaculture

one thing I will mention about

you put it in somewhere it’s gonna be there for a long time

has a deep taproot

it’s in to stay if you were ever to till

root you cut will start a new plant

easy to propagate

big reason to use comfrey

it’s a mulch maker

make mulch under some fruit trees

perennial plants if you like

throughout the seasons

use that as a mulch

how quickly the leaves darken and blacken

good sign it’s reacting so well with the soil

you can get the common kind

everything different everywhere

where I am in MN it doesn’t reseed itself

there’s a cultivar called

sterile cultivar

it’s seeds aren’t going to be

south in the south

time to reside itself

time to

become more of a problem

apply local factor

not too close tot eh trunk

feet away

use it to create mulch for that tree

pairs fairly well with fruit tree roots tend to be more horizontal

accessing different

use it cautiously

can heal things too rapidly


don’t forget to ask about comfrey as Patti as

Tell me about your first gardening experience?

How did you learn how to garden organically?


Tell us about something that grew well this year.

fro me one of the biggest differences I saw was cucumbers and apples

very different corps

doing a lot of applications of foliar feeder this year particularly the

ego ag products




different suppliers

not necessarily


do like what they do

saw really impressive results

more cucumbers that just kept producing

apples did extremely well

applications of calcium

right after bloom

absolute ton about plants and crops

how to increase the yield and maximize size

various foliar feeding

john kemp webinars


cucumbers did well

apples did well

cities are like petri dishes we have a lot of pests

apple maggot lie

coddling moth

decent harvest

talon clay


other wise called surround

pest off of fruit

you know

one thing I observed

though some webinars


stopped producing for about 2 weeks in July it got so hot

plants basically shut down

not pollinate

don’t thing it had anything told ow with the insects



getting really weird weather basically beginning of fall

one nice bit of advice

planting and preparing for climate change

plant stuff that is a zone below and one above

plant for extremes cold and variability of weather

September of mine

week and half of high

Is there something you would do different next year or want to try/new?

let’s see

one thing I am excited building to try here is a cold frame

kind of the shape of a deep winter greenhouse

it’s gonna be cedar and polly carbonate

catch that sun at the end of the season end of the summer



lettuces coming up

about to put the cold farm into place

nov dec

having them freeze

these big jugs

I’m gonna put in there

get from the greek groceries

fill t hem with water

extend the season a little

no fresh produce

I love

tend to do better in my garden in fall through spring

working though a problem

ascertain the issue

basically in spring

tends to go after little brassicas in


arugula over my life

in various gardens

is a little

growing arugula

in the spring for sure

sprout ing now

super cold tolerant


you may not of have heard of

herbistella an Italian herb




growing that a few times

continue to grow that challenging to grow

Tell me about something that didn’t work so well this season.

other example

polyculture of tomatoes


pole beans like a broad bean

grew everything too close

the cucumbers took over the tomatoes and shaded things a little too much

delayed ripening of tomatoes

keep the tolerances less

problems in gardening in urban areas

spreading things out a little bit more


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

I like most things

that grates on me

wood chips

mulching under fruit trees

wood chips for

keeping weeds off paths to keep them from being muddy

drop them in a central location

find the time

filling the back of a sedan makes a bit of a mess

least favorite job

interesting you mention it

gets at the question of it

are any of our farms

carbon negative

challenge to not bring in


What is your favorite activity to do in the garden?

harvesting is quite fun

close to cooking

recipes and things I might enjoy

for example

one of the things I love

in June

Vietnamese soup called pho

thyme basil and cilantro

mint in it too

favorite meals

all of those head

What is the best gardening advice you have ever received?

I’d say some of the strongest advice

no till raised bed

no till

all those years ago

an auxiliary to that

something I learned form Steve Solomon more

parent soil

high quality compost

smaller quantities

not to look at all compost as the same or equal

quick caveat

sometimes in urban settings you get municipal compost

not made int eh same aerobic way that good compost should be mad in

throw things a little bit

in your garden

whole other discussion

displaced calcium

more important element

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?

pinch herbs with my fingers

hoe that I have

inherited from my parents

seed furrow

doing a little bit of weeding

don’t have a lot of weeding

hardly have to weed

A favorite recipe you like to cook from the garden?

couple of those


one thing I love to do with fresh tomatoes


a lot of Italian food

Italian farm

see some of this first hand

simple pasta

garlic and olive oil

fresh tomatoes

melt for a brief moment

tossing that with pasta

A favorite internet resource?

well, I have a lot of time when I’m cooking for example

as a chef

often working in peoples homes

busy with my hands

not my

done so for years

down this path of listening to podcasts.

You’re was the first one i downloaded

you can listen to a lot without having to look at the screen

youtube video

people I might say

various site

Dan Kitteredge

Bionutrient Food Association


all thats on youtube

john kempf

such an excellent communicator

pat battle

living web farms

his farm

teaching farm

he has great info

those are three that I really love


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

one of the most recent books that I read that I really enjoyed



scott mann interviewed

animal behaviorist

his book is called nourishment

I picked it up started reading it

beautiful weaving of a lot of different disciplines

in the life sciences

human health studies

not about just what animal herds eat

nitty gritty of the details on a micro view

macro view

how that relates to human health

wonderful read

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?

much in the same way

it’s sept here now

the growing season begins a season ahead of time

think about the soil

what you do to it


  • preparing for business
  • setting up your client base
  • potential client bases

visiting them in the winter the season before

what they want

what they are interested in

see what they want so you can plan

side topic

how farmers are going to be able to demonstrate quality

differences in quality

nutrient levels

for example the bionutrient meter that the bionutrient group is working on

you might be interested in talking to dan Kitteredge it won’t be ready for a year or two

most chefs we just understand quietly for taste

a lot of the general population doesn’t necessarily have or is detached, can be reawakened easily enough

very interested to see how things like bricks and any bionutient readings

small spectrometers to help them get a leg up over large suppliers across the country

obscure topic but you might be thinking about that in the future.

That’s interesting, I find every time I talk to a chef I learn something new. When I asked a chef this summer is he said bring it to me. At the back door. He had seen businesses fail by not being able to keep the van running, or deliver enough on time. He also said quality. It sounds like you are talking about the quality of nutrients as well as taste!

that’s the key to this whole thing

I think we are entering into an age where we can be able to explain that scientifically intuitively etc.

I think chefs are also interested in a consistent supply is an important thing

newest and latest vegetables are a good thing to look into

plant breeders are always coming up with new varieties

Chef Dan Barber’s working on

a new company called 7 row seed working on breeders from Cornell specifically for taste of vegetables which is not done as often as you might think.

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 can give a couple of quick answers

farmers nationwide growing more cover crops

that information in the news

ne farming association

how critical that can be

atmosphere carbon

in a big way

probably changing the US Farm bill

another thing I would say

in addition to gardening or growing something

if everybody grows a garden

readily important

in response

that’s kind of insignificant

add to that

michal pollens comment

adding some kind of community element tot hat

gardening in community way

starting community

helping friends and neighbors

cooperative house

garden for a while

community element gonna be come increasingly important in the future

times get tougher

help keep comm

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

from the agronomist

the soil is the plants stomach


if you are working with someone who is new to gardening

soil and microbes


that just means the microbes in the soil




liquid carbon in ex

How do we connect with you?

The Organic Gardener Podcast is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com

If you like what you heard on the Organic Gardener Podcast we’d love it if you’d give us review and hopefully a 5 star rating on iTunes so other gardeners can find us and listen to. Just click on the link here.

Let’s take a minute to thank our sponsors and affiliate links

Please support us on Patreon so we can keep the show up on the internet. It cost close to $100 a month just to keep it up on the internet for the website etc so if you could help by supporting it with an $8/month contribution or $10/month to join the Green Future Growers Book Club where we can delve deep into some of the best gardening books that have been recommended on the show! GoDaddy even is bugging me for dollars just to have the domain name…

OGP Patreon Page Green Future Grower Book Club



Health IQ Logo

The Organic Gardner Podcast is sponsored by Health IQ, an insurance company that helps health conscious people like runners, cyclists, weightlifters and vegetarians get lower rates on their life insurance. Go to healthiq.com/OGP to support the show and see if you qualify.

Over half of Health IQ customers save between 4-33% on their life insurance.

Health IQ vegetables celebrating the health conscious

  • Health IQ uses science & data to secure lower rates on life insurance for health conscious people just like you green future growers! Like saving money on your car insurance for being a good driver, Health IQ saves you money on your life insurance for living a health conscious lifestyle.


To see if you qualify, get your free quote today at healthiq.com/OGP or mention the promo code OGP when you talk to a Health IQ agent

Good Seed Company Seeds

The Good Seed Company

Now Let’s Get to the Root of Things!


Organic Gardening Podcast Group

We’d love if you’d join  Organic Gardener Podcast Facebook Community!

The Organic Gardener Podcast is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com

If you like what you heard on the Organic Gardener Podcast we’d love it if you’d give us review and hopefully a 5 star rating on iTunes so other gardeners can find us and listen to. Just click on the link here.

and don’t forget if you need help getting started check out our new 

Free Garden Course.com


 Free Organic Garden Course 

Remember you can get the  2018 Garden Journal and Data Keeper to record your garden goals in ourhttps://amzn.to/2lLAOyo

You can  download the first 30 days here  while you’re waiting for it to come in the mail. 

Organic Gardening Podcast Group

We’d love if you’d join  Organic Gardener Podcast Facebook Community!

If you like what you heard on the Organic Gardener Podcast we’d love it if you’d give us review and hopefully a 5 star rating on iTunes so other gardeners can find us and listen to. Just click on the link here.


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.

Leave a Comment