Principles of Soil Health in a Variety of Market Farming Frameworks: Best Practices from the Field with Experienced Regenerative Farmers

Final report for EDS21-27

Project Type: Education Only
Funds awarded in 2021: $48,000.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2023
Grant Recipient: No-Till Growers
Region: Southern
State: Kentucky
Principal Investigator:
Jackson Rolett
No-Till Growers
Jesse Frost
No-Till Growers
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Project Information


No-Till Growers has built an extensive online presence promoting the four principles of soil health as practiced on small-scale vegetable and flower farms. The No-Till Market Garden Podcast has over 9,000 regular weekly listeners, among which farmers in the US comprise about 70% of downloads. Since 2017, our partnership has produced 86 interviews with regenerative farmers, soil scientists, and agronomists, as well as more than 200 YouTube videos (with over 40,000 channel subscribers) featuring farmers using best practices in regenerative and no-till farming. Our purpose is to bring those practices into the Southeastern U.S. and beyond where it is a relatively new concept. Our vision is simple: we believe that taking better care of the soil can help take better care of the farmer by increasing profitability and reducing issues of disease, pests, and erosion, thereby improving quality of life. The easiest way to expose farmers to these principles is through the increasingly popular formats of podcasts, videos, and social media.

Until recently, excessive tillage was considered a “necessary evil” of organic vegetable production. However, we believe reducing or eliminating tillage altogether—along with the three other soil health principles—can be profitable in almost every context and better for the soil, the farmers, and the communities they serve (i.e. the triple bottom line). We also believe that we, as farmers, have only begun to understand the mechanics, let alone the implications, of profitable, small-scale, regenerative farming. There are innumerable ways to approach regenerative agriculture, we chose to begin with the four principles of soil health, and aim to create a community centered around those principles—the very community we have been searching for ourselves. The farmers, the models, the methods are out there, but they are hard to find on an individual basis. Good techniques are also often left unexplored because they are perceived to be impossible in a particular climate and context like the South. We want to cultivate the best, most diverse, most accessible online resource available for small-scale growers and use the presence we’ve worked to create to promote these principles in effect. Further, not only are direct market farmers the face of local food systems, we are the bedrock of community food security and resilience, and we hope to aid these farmers in discovering and implementing more resilient farming practices, empowering them to educate consumers from an experiential standpoint on the myriad of benefits of ecological farming.

Project Objectives:

Four Project Objectives

1 Work with a project advisory board of farmers at different scales to identify exemplary farmers and/or more specific areas of interest (cover crops, living mulches, fertility, etc) to be covered.

Steering committee:
Brooke Gentile, technical assistance - Organic Association of Kentucky
Vera Fabian, steering committee - Ten Mothers Farm (NC)
Shawn Jardnicek, steering committee - Wild Hope Farm (SC)
Daniel Mays, steering committee - Frith Farm (ME)

2 Develop an audio and video resource presenting real-world, regenerative, small-scale vegetable production based on the four principles of soil health as outlined by the NRCS.

Educational products:
24 hour-long farmer interviews
12 short-form video guides
6 long-form virtual farm tours
1 in-person or online workshop

3 Utilizing a marketing and outreach plan to promote our material to a growing community of farmers, through which we may also promote additional resources and emerging soil science from other organizations and institutions.

Reach goals:
210,000 podcast downloads
100,000 video views

4 Collect quantitative and qualitative feedback through multiple channels to assess the extent of knowledge gained, behavioral change, and opportunities to improve the quality of our content based on the farmers’ needs.

Internal evaluation of the project will consist of making sure the proposed number of podcasts and videos are produced and reaching listener/viewer targets. In addition, the demographic information of the featured farmers will be recorded to ensure we are consistently representing BIPOC and female farmers above the national averages per the USDA (2% and 30% respectively).

External evaluation will rely primarily upon surveys conducted online. Further, constructive comments, feedback, and reviews will be collected via Apple podcasts, YouTube, and social media. These will be reviewed to assess the evolving areas of interest of the listeners/viewers and anecdotally assess the quality of the educational products as they are released.


Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info


Educational approach:

The primary educational approach used in EDS21-27 is farmer-to-farmer interviews syndicated through podcast platforms for ease of access. Once popular or engaging specific areas of interest are identified, our secondary approach is to further illustrate AOI through the use of video through YouTube.

Educational & Outreach Activities

25 Consultations
42 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
3 Tours
2 Webinars / talks / presentations

Participation Summary:

28 Farmers participated
Education/outreach description:

Podcasts Produced Under SARE EDS21-27 (syndicated to all major podcast platforms)




Date Released

Downloads (4/19/22)


Hayden O'Donnell

Goodie Farm

Hayden O'Donnell of Goodie Farm in Cherry Valley, California joins the show to talk about being a first generation farmer, expanding land under cultivation and diversifying crops, running a farm store, integrating animals, pricing food and more. Check out their Farmsite and follow them on Instagram.

Nov 1, 2021


Mimi Casteel

Hopewell Wine

Mimi Casteel of Hopewell Wine in Salem, Oregon and Farmer Jesse talk about the place and potential of no-till and cover-crops in viticulture, how her practices have evolved over the years, remineralization, foliar micro-nutrient applications, how truly healthy plants make great wine, the broader societal implications of regenerative viticulture, and genuinely nerd out about wine bit.

Nov 8, 2021


Richard Wiswall

Cate Farm

Richard Wiswall of Cate Farm, Vermont and author of The Organic Farmer's Business Handbook joins Jesse to make the case for paying as much attention to the business of farming as we do the growing. He talks about having a cooperative mindset, the hidden costs of direct marketing, dropping loss leaders, doing market research, the power of a smiple crop-budget and cost-benefit analysis, and goes deep on plant sales.

Nov 15, 2021


Gerry Ross

Kupa'a Farms

This week Gerry Ross of Kupa'a Farms joins the show from the dry side of Maui, who knew?, to talk about tropical farming in an arid climate, growing mulch, 14+ years straight of CSA, boosting organic matter, GINGER, and a whole lot else. Really fascinating conversation, really fascinating farm. Enjoy.



Jeremy Mueller

Commonplace Farm

Jeremy Mueller of Commplace Farm--formerly of Excelsior Farm--in Oregon joins the show to talk transitioning farms, scaling up from a market garden to a 10+ acres of not-so-small salad greens farm, mechanization, systems, wholesale head lettuce vs salad production, misadventures with a flail mower collector, and more.

Nov 29, 2021


Nazirahk Amen

Purple Mountain Organics

Nazirahk Amen of Purple Mountain Organics is BACK on the show to talk about how he saw the crack epidemic impact farming and food sovereignty in Black communities in the South, some of lesser known histories of how African Americans and shaped the food system, connects soil mineralization with human nutrition, and shares some more technical aspects about small scale dry bean, wheat, and rice production. Check out his Instagram for some truly awesome videos about the mechinization he uses to farm these staples.

Dec 6, 2021


Dawson Mehalko

Jubilant Fields Farm

Seventeen year old Dawson Mehalko of Jubilant Fields Farm joins the show to talk about his small farm in Texas. About managing the heat with greens, soil management, irrigation, compost, and more! 

Dec 13, 2021


Mason Kuehn

Winter Park Urban Farm

Mason Kuehn joins the show to discuss his small urban farm set up in Winter Park, Florida. Because his farm is in multiple locations (on various lawns), we discuss a lot of the logistics involved from harvest to spreading compost and beyond. Follow Winter Park Urban Farm on Instagram and wherever else you follow farmers. 

Dec 20, 2021




Little somethin' different for you this week. Instead of taking the holiday off the podcast, I moderated two separate talks at the EFAO 2021 conference and they offered to let us share them on the feed. The first session is on large scale no-till featuring Ken Laing, former podcast guest Dan Oostenbrink, and Theo Germain-Trudeau and here is where you can learn more about them and this event. Before the session, we suggest you learn more about Ken Laing's Living-Lab Ontario No-Till Trials through this video!The second session is with Daniel Mays, Kristine Hammel, Ryan Spence, and Isabelle Spence-Legault. Learn more about our speakers and the session here. Watch the videos at the No-Till Growers YouTube channel.

Dec 27, 2021




Harper Kaufman

Two Roots Farm

Harper Kaufman of Two Roots Farm in Basalt Colorado joins the show to talk about employee management, farming in an extreme altitude, having a farm store take the CSA overflow (for a very respectable revenue) and more! 

Jan 3, 2021


Dan Brisebois

Tourne-Sol Co-operative Farm

The Farm Spreadsheet Master, Dan Brisebois of Tourne Sol Cooperative Farm, joins me on the show today to talk about one of the most underutilized tools on small farms (hint, it's spreadsheets), how to apply it to a seed growing enterprise, setting limits to improve prioritization and quality of life, and an exciting new endeavor he'll be bringing to everyone's podcast feeds real soon.

Jan 10, 2021


Cheyenne Sundance

Sundance Harvest

What a joy, we're so happy to bring you this conversation with Cheyenne Sundance of Sundance Harvest in Toronto, Canada. She and Jesse talk about constructed raised bed greenhouse production/growing, expanding to 1.5 acres, collaborating on Winter CSA, being real about you and your farm (it ain't all salad greens), being accessible as an urban farm, self-care early in your farm career, and looking forward to 2022. We hope you love this one as much as we did producing it.

Jan 17, 2021


Zach Selby

DreamTime Market Gardens

Fellow Kentuckian Zach Selby of DreamTime Market Gardens joins the show to talk about his Lexington KY no-till market garden, a creative land-access partnership, how being a chef for over a decade has informed his growing, what to and not to do when working with chefs, and how herbs can increase your value proposition when selling to restaurants.

Jan 24, 2021


Zach Brooks

Arizona Worm Farm

COMPOST CONTENTS... Each season, we have a professional composter on to talk about well-made compost because it's so essential to the market garden. Today, we have Zach Brooks of Arizona Worm Farmon to talk about his high-quality compost, vermicast, and veggie operation (among other things). The conversation ranges from the microbiology of healthy compost to the profitability of the many enterprises they have going on there. The AZ Worm Farm is so awesome we had to record the conversation twice. Warning, if you don't have worms already, you're going to want to get some after listening.

Jan 31, 2021


Tevin Allen

Tevin's Farm

What. A. Guest. Tevin Allen of Tevin's Farm from Jamaica joins the show to talk about how he has adapted market gardening techniques for his climate, adopting a simplified approach because the tools and infrastructure are not available, dealing with a clay-loam soil and flood season, his atypical marketing style, how the country has moved away from organic growing, and how he is bringing it back. All the while expressing nothing but love and joy for the act of farming on a small scale. So much love for this one.

Feb 7, 2021


Sarah Barney

Among the Oaks

A little off the beaten path today with fellow Kentuckian Sarah Barney of Among the Oaks in Appalachia. We talk about her background in ecology, HERB production and marketing, and making farms welcoming for folks with disabilities, herself included.

Feb 14, 2021


Brooke & Dan

Urbavore Farm

Welcome BACK Brooke, and for the first time Dan, from a farm that holds a dear place in our hearts, Urbavore Farm in Kansas City, Missouri. They and Jesse talk about evolving practices and very measured compromises in the face of climate extremes, their brilliant Compost Collective partnership, and some profound insight into balancing our ideals with what is practical. Wonderful interview, wonderful folks, enjoy.

Feb 21, 2021


Blake Cothron

Peaceful Heritage Nursery

Today, we get into something a little off the beaten path of the podcast with small-scale fruit production in the market garden with Blake Cothron of Peaful Heritage Nursery in good ol' KY. We also talk about foliar feeding, the nursury biz, and specific perennial crops. #KYrepresent

Feb 28, 2021


Bruce Darrel

Red Gardens

Six approaches, one garden. Today on the podcast, Jesse talks with Bruce Darrel of Red Gardens in Ireland about his six distinct approaches to growing veg and his experiences, a bit about the ecovillage he's a part of, and his awesome and prolific YouTube channel teaching folks to grow their own food.

Mar 7, 2021


Paul & Elizabeth

Singing Frogs Farm

The seed for The No-Till Market Garden Podcast began with Pual and Elizabeth Kaiser on The Farmer to Farmer Podcast with Chris Blanchard several years ago. It's only fitting that Farmer Jesse's final episode as host be a return to where it all began, Singing Frogs Farm.

Mar 14, 2021


Total Downloads




Educational Videos Produced Under SARE EDS21-27 (syndicated to YouTube)




Date Released






Keep the Soil Covered

This is the first in a mini-series we are doing on the 4 principles of soil health. This video was made possible in part through a grant from Southern SARE, and answers the following: why cover the soil? How does covering the soil help? What are some forms of mulch for covering the soil?

Aug 8, 2021



The Soil Needs Plants

This is the second in a mini-series we are doing on the 4 principles of soil health. This video was made possible in part through a grant from Southern SARE, and answers the following: why cover the soil with plants? How do plants assist with soil health? What are some forms of mulch for covering the soil? How does photosynthesis work?

Aug 15, 2021



What is Tillage?

In continuation of our series on the four basic principles of soil health, this week's video is all about disturbing the soil as little as possible... or is it? Well the reality is that we may not all see disturbance the same way, or see the potential behind it? Yeah, this is that video.

Aug 22, 2021



Why Biodiversity Matters

In continuation of our series on the four basic principles of soil health, this week's video is all about biodiversity in the soil.

Aug 29, 2021



Other Short Form



How to Choose the Right Cover Crop for What You Need

Not every cover crop makes sense for every situation. In this video, I wanted to give a brief rundown of when to use what cover crop and the reasons you may want a cover crop to begin with. This video answers: what makes a good cover crop, what are good cover crops for mulching, what are good cover crops for fertility, what are good cover crops for adding soil organic matter, what are good winter cover crops, what cover crops die over winter, and more!

Aug 1, 2021



How Not to Cover Crop

How to grow great cover crops, how to establish cover crops, different cover crops, mistakes in cover cropping and more.

Apr 3, 2022



I Don't Make My Own Potting Soil

Today's video is all about making one's own soil mix, or potting soil, or seed starting mix, or potting mix or whatever it is you call it your neck of the woods. It's about making your own and why we no longer do on our farm. I also discuss peat moss and several other things to consider when making this decision.

Apr 10, 2022



How to Grow Carrots - A Complete Guide

How to grow carrots without weeds is one of the biggest questions in gardening. So in this video I give as many answers as I can. I also try to tackle carrot spacing, carrot density, seeders for carrots, soil prep for carrots, harvesting, and a whole lot more. It's freaking 22 minute video (sorry).

Apr 17, 2022


9 The Bulb is Just the Beginning The potential behind garlic is huge and break down all the ways we sell and market garlic from our farm from green garlic, to garlic scapes, and elephant garlic along with the many other opportunities there are for adding value to garlic with little to absolutely no processing. Apr 24, 2022 20,093
10 The Downsides of My Living Pathways Living pathways have a lot of advantages and are a very beautiful and productive alternative to other pathway management styles, but like every system, they are not without their complications. In today's video we will discuss the pros and cons of living pathways as well as my chamomile pathway project so that if this is something you are considering, you know what to look out for. May 1, 2022 98,439

How to Grow Head Lettuce in the Summer

Summer head lettuces present a fairly sizable income potential and, for many of us, a pretty sizable challenge. Growing head lettuces in the summer in the south is quite the adventure but in this video we break down how we are able to produce dozens of heads for every market all summer long. May 8, 2022 137,746

Virtual Farm Tours



Spring Forth Farm

This family has a sustainable homestead that is supported by their no-till flower farm.

Sept 8, 2021



Exploring different ideas for cover cropping in the tunnels at Spring Forth Farm!

Sept 12, 2021




Love’N Fresh Flowers

I took a trip up to Philadelphia to see my friend Jennie Love's farm called Love'n Fresh Flowers and... wow. What a place. I can't wait for you to see it! She uses JADAM and KNF techniques. Truly a great farm and farmer.

Nov 14, 2021



This video is all about a simply and easy way to do tulips––better for the soil and farmer alike. Jennie's no-till tulip method is simple and productive. Great option to save labor in tulip production.

Nov 19, 2021



In this video Jennie Breaks down her no-dig dahlia approach.

Nov 28, 2021



In this video Jennie and I each break down how we amplify the material in our worm bins.

Dec 5, 2021




Culinary Gardener

Today I go to visit Evan Chendar in Western North Carolina at his farm The Culinary Gardener. He talks about radicchio and market garden production for chefs and restaurants.

Nov 21, 2021


4 Treehouse Farm Collective How to start a farm when land is expensive or inaccessible? This is a question that many people are asking and perhaps Treehouse Farm Collective in Colorado can provide at least one possible model for how they started their farm in Colorado where land is out of reach for most beginning farmers. When watching this it's hard not to believe that collaborative agriculture like this will have a prominent place in our future! May 3, 2022 39,558
  Artemis Flower Farm Awesome tour video for you this week with Helen Skiba of Artemis Flower Farm in Colorado, one member of the Tree House Farm Collective. Helen talks about no-till on clay soils, integrating cover crops, no-till in flower production, intercropping with cover crops, mulching, fertilizing cautiously, and more. Jun 16, 2022 25,232
5 AZ Worm Farm If you've been curious about how good, commercial compost is made, Zach Books guides us through the operation at Arizona Worm Farm in Phoenix, AZ. Very cool video that talks about not just how to make compost and raised bed mix on scale, but some of the basic necessities for starting one's own compost farm. May 17, 2022 297,519
    If you've been curious about how a good, biologically active vermicompost compost is made, Zach Books guides us through the operation at Arizona Worm Farm in Phoenix, AZ. Excellent video that talks about not just how to make compost and raised bed mix on scale, but some of the basic necessities for starting one's own vermicompost operation as well as the economics and details behind worm breeding. May 24, 2022 283,463
    What is the potential behind raising black soldier fly larvae on scale? Well we asked Zach Brooks of Arizona Worm Farm to take us around his operation and give us an idea of how it works and the business potential of this protein. Also we get to see their thermal heated greenhouse, which is super rad. May 31, 2022 322,123
6 Urbavore Farm In today's tour video we catch up with Urbavore Farm in Kansas City to learn about the community composting company (Compost Collective KC) they purchased and moved onto their property. It includes some financial information, revenue, and how they don't sell the compost but still make money. Jun 23, 2022 79,222
    If you've ever wanted to start an urban farm, this is the video you need to watch. Brooke and Dan of Urbavore Farm generously break down how to start an urban farm despite the codes and restrictions. Or rather, working with them and working with the city. Things that are covered in this video: how to start an urban farm, where to look for land in a city, farming abandoned land, agricultural zoning in a city, and more. Jul 7, 2022 43,049
1 OEFA Large Scale No-Till Vegetable Production Dec 26, 2021 65,389
2 OEFA Small Scale No-Till Vegetable Production Dec 27, 2021 19,760

Total Views




As of the final report, we have surpassed our quantitative two-year outreach goals for downloads of podcasts by a factor of 1.5 and surpassed our quantitative two-year outreach goals for videos by a factor of twenty-four!

Learning Outcomes

113 Farmers reported changes in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness as a result of their participation
Key changes:
  • Best methods for establishing no-till beds, 4/5

  • Nutrient management and soil nutrient testing, 3.8/5

  • Soil biology and soil biological monitoring/testing, 4.1/5

  • Weed management, 3.7/5

  • Water management, 3.5/5

  • Cover crop management, 4.1/5

  • Start-up costs and enterprise budgets, 3/5

  • Profitability and economic analysis, 2.9/5

  • Compost and mulching, 4.2/5

  • Alternatives to plastic and landscape fabric, 3.6/5

  • Alternative business models, 3.2/5

Project Outcomes

8,000 Farmers changed or adopted a practice
2 New working collaborations
Project outcomes:

Our project has grown to reach tens of thousands of growers each week. Our podcasts collectively garner approximately 20,000 downloads each week and our YouTube channel has grown tonally 200,000 subscribers. From survey data we have collected, approximately 40% of our audience consists of commercial growers, another 40% home or community gardeners, and the remaining 20% not yet farming, but are learning about or working on farms.

While we do our best to engage in the economy of farming when appropriate during the course of interviews or videos, it has not been a primary focus. Given our survey data, it is a content area we will be putting more effort into in the future, particularly return on investment for quality compost, long-term cost benefit analysis of practices such as cover cropping and compost applications, and enterprise budgets for specific crop families given particular "no-till" approaches.

Given our promotion of a principled approach to growing, instead of a prescriptive approach, based on the work of the NRCS, three key areas stand out regarding our contribution to the environmental aspects of small-scale intensive production: establishing "no-till" production space, cover crop management, and composting/mulching. This is also based on the data we collected in our self-report survey after separating non-commercial from commercial gardeners.

Though we haven't measured social benefits/impacts, we believe our work inherently promotes a more resilient approach to farming not only from the building of organic matter, but the localization of additional inputs such as seeds, compost, and even marketing/cooperation. Further, all of our resources, aside from the book The Living Soil Handbook by Jesse Frost, is free and available to growers everywhere. Our belief is that, in making relatively high-quality and accessible content free and finding creative funding resources, we're spreading the word about ecological approaches to market gardening further and faster were it to be behind a paywall. SARE has been instrumental in the last two years in making that a reality.


Current No-Till Market Garden host and researcher Natalie Lounsbury conducted an online survey of 600 No-Till Growers followers regarding comfort levels and desired areas of further study relative to the principles and various aspects of "no-till" ecological market gardening. Farmers (600 self-report "I own or manage a farm and/or market garden" as opposed to 430 learning or home gardeners) ranked the following items on a scale of 1 (comfortable/no desire for further knowledge) to 5 (high desire for further knowledge). Here were the results, * items ranking the top five areas of further study:

Best methods for establishing no-till beds 3.87
* Nutrient management and soil nutrient testing 4.26
* Soil biology and soil biological testing 4.34
Weed management 3.85
Water management 3.78
* Cover crop management 4.10
Start-up costs and finding capital 3.15
Profitability/ economic analyses 3.65
* Compost and mulch sources 4.03
Alternatives to plastic/landscape fabric 3.92
* Nutrient content of foods grown using no-till methods 4.31
Alternative business models 3.49

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.