AN INTERVIEW with Bob Baloch a forth generation farmer. Bob would spend his free time at the farm of his grandparents learning and helping with harvests. In Canada Bob has been farming for about 10 years at McVean Farm in Brampton, Ontario and other farms. He is starting now second time after 3 year gap to summarize whatever he learned in his 5 years of farming at McVean Farm and he’s margining better for next time.
Danuta: How long have you been growing?
Bob: 10 years
Danuta: How about growing organic?
Bob: 10 years; I’ve always grown organic.
Danuta: what made you start growing organic vegetables?
Bob: The taste. I am used to buying produce from stores which are 4-5 days old when they get it and it is about 5 more days old when they ship to the store, so 10 days old vegetable doesn’t taste good, when you pay high price for them, especially South West Asian vegetables. That motivated me to grow my own crops like OKRA . Some of them do good , some of them not.
Danuta: What do you usually grow?
Bob: I have only 10 crops : salad greens, carrots, beets, turnips, radishes, tomatoes,and green beans.
Danuta: Which vegetables/fruits/herb do you eat?
Bob: I like to eat okra. But this year I planted about 5 beds and I only have 5 plants to show for that. They have not been growing well this year.
Danuta: Which vegetables do you like to grow, which one is your favorite?
Bob: So far I like to grow carrots and tomatoes. They both grow very sweet organically when you plant them over here; they are also very beneficial. Its flavors are intense very sweet.
Danuta: What challenges as an organic grower do you face?
Bob: One is that people’s perception of that organics are too expensive. For example: we sell our organic beets for 3 dollars and the big chain stores sell them for 4-5 dollars. Public perception is that if they buy from the farmer maybe is not right, if the shape of vegetables is not perfect, they think something is genetically modified. If the veggies look weird to them they think it is GMO but it is not; it is a natural way!
Danuta: Exactly! The genetically modified will look perfect on the outside and Nature is not perfect, right?
Bob: Nature is never been perfect.
Danuta: We are talking about the lack of education of the consumer?
Danuta: Any other challenges that you face?
Bob: The weather is number one challenge for any farmer, for organic it intensifies because we are small acreage. Our work is that whatever we put in we need to get a return from and we do not have any way to offset that. If we are big scale farmer we can get an insurance, crop coverage, other things which would help but we cannot as an organic small scale farmer.
Danuta: So the insurance doesn’t apply to the small scale farmer?
Bob: They are talking about 100 acre plus. I have 4 acres, nobody covers us . The big guys will be covered. Yes, they can pay premium and insurance company has a worth investment in that to sell the policy.
Danuta: How do you see these challenges to be overcome?
Bob: Consumer is number one challenge. Number 2 is mitigation the risk by planting multiple crops like we plant 10 crops. We are not focusing on one or two. Out of 10 some we fail some we succeed and overall it should be in the plus; and that is what we are getting.
Danuta: Any advice for new aspiring farmers?
Bob: Start small if you are failing fail quickly. Stop there and rethink, reevaluate, learn from the mistakes, move on. Start the next faze of your project. Don’t linger and keep failing. Some people are failing for 10 years and are still failing. That is not what the lesson is.
The lesson is that within 3 months you got the results, move on, maximum 6 months. Don’t linger around more then 6 months and sit down outside of the farm. Completely forget , then think what went wrong. Is it the weather? is it the labor risk? and the 3rd one is the price, not knowing who to sell to. These are the 3 main factors.
Danuta: If you ended up on a deserted island, which seed would you take with you?
Bob: Which seed would I take with me , that is a good question…him..how big is the island? 🙂
Danuta: Hahahha 🙂
Bob: As long as I have salad greens I am happy. All salad greens. They gonna grow quick give me results and I will eat something within a month.
Danuta; Any other thoughts or ideas that you would like to add?
Bob: Work with a farmer for a season. Season means 6 months from a start to the end. You will learn a lot of things that which books would not teach you and it will eliminate a failure factors to by 100 %. You gonna fail you will know how you gonna fail. So you avoid that from the start. That is the way to start.