Organic Field Day

Wholesale Vegetables on a Small Scale

Field day co-host

Ariel Pressman
Seed to Seed Farm
Balsam Lake, Wis.

 

 

For folks looking to transition their farm from direct-to-consumer to wholesale, or beef up their wholesale production, this field day offered a wealth of information.

Seed to Seed Farm is a certified organic vegetable farm with 14 acres of vegetables, 3 greenhouses, and 3 high tunnels. Participants learned about wholesale production on a small- to medium-sized farm.

Farm host Ariel Pressman explained how to grow quality produce consistently for larger accounts, including supermarkets and co-ops. We toured the farm and talk with Ariel about his general farm efficiency practices, how he selects the best plant varieties, and the many other lessons he has learned since he started farming 7 years ago.

 

Lessons learned at Seed to Seed Farm

Greenhouse tour

The field day started out rainy, which didn’t dampen spirits. Ariel, who used to work as a professional tour guide, began by talking about his greenhouses. Nothing much was growing at this point in the season, but he discussed the importance of putting money into infrastructure. He has put up three greenhouses, each one straighter and more professional than the last. The first greehouse he put up himself, the second was put up by one of his employees, and he hired someone to build the third. One of the lessons he has learned the hard way is that it really does pay to hire a professional to build farm infrastructure. He stressed that it doesn’t pay to do a sloppy job to save some money, because by the time you finish paying off a big expense like a greenhouse, you don’t want to have to reinvest that money in fixing or replacing it.

 

Brush washer for cukes

The next stop was the packing shed. Ariel highlighted the importance of having a rigorous food safety plan. He said it would only take one salmonella outbreak to be traced to his farm to put him out of business, so he takes food safety very seriously. He has a handwashing station in one corner, and he trains his staff according to the food safety plan that he developed for his farm with University of Minnesota Extension Food Safety Educator Annalisa Hultberg. He has a brush washer for washing cucumbers, which saves lots of time and is better for food safety than a dunk tank. At the end of each washing and packing session, his team sprays everything down with an organically-approved cleaning agent called Sanidate.

 

All-in-one bed shaper, drip tape and plastic layer

Ariel has several pieces of equipment that he bought new for shaping the beds, laying drip tape and plastic mulch, transplanting, and weeding between the beds. He said he’s a fan of purchasing new equipment and tractors that “actually work,” because he’s not a fix-it guy. This allows him to focus on doing what he does best – growing veg – as opposed to fixing broken-down equipment all the time.

 

Celery planted into plastic mulch

Out in the field, we talked about the pros and cons of planting into plastic mulch. Every crop on the farm is grown on a standard four-foot raised-bed system. Plastic mulch is used for everything except cilantro and radishes.

 

 

 

Heirloom tomatoes

Because of the recent late blight epidemic, all the tomatoes on the farm are grown in high tunnels. Two large tunnels were full of tomatoes, and the crew was busy harvesting while we were there. Most of the tomato varieties were red heirlooms, with a few different color varieties to round out the heirloom mix. Ariel talked about buyers wanting a variety of heirloom colors, with 80% being red because that’s what consumers are used to.

 

 

 

Brussels sprouts

Participants asked lots of great questions, and left with a good understanding of what it takes to be successful in the wholesale market as a small-scale farmer. “It’s all about relationships,” said Ariel. “If a produce buyer isn’t willing to have a relationship with me, and understand that I’m a real person with a bills and a crew to pay, then I won’t sell to them.” Because of the relationships he has formed, buyers are willing to stand behind him through difficult times.

 

 

Ariel Pressman owns and operates Seed to Seed Farm, a 14-acre certified organic vegetable operation. They grow produce and greenhouse plant starts exclusively for larger Twin Cities area customers, including coops, supermarkets, wholesalers, and school districts. Ariel has been farming for 10 years and is in his 7th season running Seed to Seed Farm.

 

Read in the Organic Broadcaster why Ariel Pressman switched to growing for wholesale.

Also check out this news story about our MOSES Field Day with Ariel Pressman at Seed to Seed Farm:   The Country Today: Cultivating customers: Polk County vegetable grower finds success in wholesale market by building relationships

 

 

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