Art of Manliness Podcast #47: Saving the Family Farm with Forrest Pritchard (+ Book Giveaway)

by Brett on June 7, 2013 · 55 comments

in Podcast

Welcome back to another edition of the Art of Manliness Podcast!

In today’s podcast we talk to Forrest Pritchard, farmer at Smith Meadows Farm in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. He’s recently published a book entitled Gaining Ground: A Story of Farmers’ Markets, Local Food, and Saving the Family Farm. An enjoyable read — made me want to cash out and start a farm. Forrest and I discuss his story of how he saved a farm that’s been in his family for eight generations using sustainable farming practices. Even if you have zero interest in becoming a farmer, this is a great podcast to listen to — one of my favorites.

Highlights from the show:

  • How Forrest decided to become a farmer
  • His early obstacles as a farmer
  • The differences between typical farming and sustainable farming
  • How sustainable farming made his hog pen smell like maple syrup
  • The turning point in his farming career
  • His daily routine
  • Lessons regular guys can take from farming
  • How you can get started with farming
  • And much more!


We’re also on Stitcher! 

Gaining Ground Book Giveaway

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If you’d like to get your hands on a copy of Forrest’s book, Gaining Ground, we’re giving away a signed copy to one lucky AoM podcast listener. To enter, simply leave a comment below your thoughts on the podcast.

Deadline to enter is Friday, June 14, 2013 at 5PM CDT. We’ll then draw a random comment to select the winner.

1 Sean June 7, 2013 at 5:10 pm

I think books like these are incredibly important in a time where food producing giants are taking over the market. My dad has been a farmer all his life and Forrest’s story seems very familiar. It would be an honor to read his story at a time when I am considering joining the family business as well.

2 James June 7, 2013 at 6:44 pm

Although not a large scale farmer, I just took a look at our small flock of chickens, poked in on my hive of bees, and sat down to a home grown salad. All sustainable, very enjoyable, small scale, and ultra-local (i.e. my back yard). Best wishes to all that employ these practices large scale and farm in cooperation with mother earth.

3 Alain Racette June 7, 2013 at 9:04 pm

I admire this man for everything he has done – Pritchard is a shining example of all the virtues of true manliness.

4 Scott W June 7, 2013 at 10:01 pm

I really enjoyed this podcast! Don’t know if I will become a farmer, but I think it would be awesome to have a small farm in the Shenandoah Valley!

5 Romeo Gunn June 7, 2013 at 10:50 pm

I really liked hearing about how he dealt with naysayers and other people trying to prevent him from succeeding and I was also interested in a lot of the information about the additives in food and how it relates back to the testosterone week that was here awhile back.

6 Andrew LaFontaine June 7, 2013 at 11:15 pm

I love this! awesome show

7 David June 8, 2013 at 1:00 am

Great podcast!! Perfect timing as I can explore my local farmers’ markets tomorrow morning. So hopefully I will know who “my farmer” is:)

8 Adam June 8, 2013 at 4:44 am

First a little introduction. I recently moved to the contryside from “the big city”. My in-laws gave us some land to build a house and stables (we sold our apartaments in the city). We currently have 2 horses, but plan on running an 8 horse stable.

It’s been almost a year since we finished building and settled down (lots of stress and hard work).
I love the countryside and surrouding forests (all the seasons present different values and challanges). Really lets You get in touch with nature.

As for on-topic comment:
The work on our small “farm” is sometimes hard, but worth it. I really admire “true farmers” which I came to know living here (not the moonshine drinking loosers), as this work is nothing a “city person” can imagine.

It’s great that AoM is presenting the “farming side of manliness”, most people don’t realise what it takes to produce food they eat.

9 John Hathaway June 8, 2013 at 4:47 am

Good stuff to know!

10 Robert June 8, 2013 at 5:45 am

I just took over a small cherry tree farm (24 trees) with no background in this area. So this interview is especially relevant. I hung on every word and found this useful but want more… much more. I look forward to reading his book and learning from him. Forest is well thought out and I thank both you and him for this podcast. Thanks!

Robert A. DeLena, CFP

11 ted hood June 8, 2013 at 6:38 am

Interesting podcast. I too am a small scale farmer with chickens and bees and a summer produce stand. I enjoy these types of things.

12 Lyle June 8, 2013 at 7:44 am

We belong to a local-grown co-op, buying produce in season and eggs all year long. The food is naturally grown and obviously fresher.
A good read about the industry would be very wlecome.

13 Jake June 8, 2013 at 7:53 am

Makes me want to be a farmer!

14 Rocco Chappie June 8, 2013 at 9:04 am

GREAT WORK. Hope that more people pay attention and start being part of the solution.

15 J.J. June 8, 2013 at 9:20 am

I’ve often joked with my wife about what I am going to do after I retire from the air force. The more and more I hear/read/see people with successes with bringing back self sufficiency to our communities, the more I want to boost production. Granted, I do my part with half my backyard on base tilled up with garden plots, but at times it does not seen enough.

16 Patrick June 8, 2013 at 10:32 am

Great interview! I’m a forester by trade and really appreciate hearing Pritchard’s very obvious love for the land and what it provides. My wife and I are of thinking of getting into growing a few things to sell at a local farmer’s market, so this has given me a ton to think about! I definitely want to hear more of this type stuff in the future.

17 Ben Drake June 8, 2013 at 12:04 pm

Great podcast. Tons of great information. I am hoping to start my own grass fed beef operation in the near future and this podcast gave me some really good advice! Thanks!

18 Ismael Alberto Schonhorst June 8, 2013 at 12:10 pm

I’ve always found this an interesting subject and this can be my first research on it.

19 Cody June 8, 2013 at 12:38 pm

I think that growing and sustainable farming is awesome and could help alleviate some of the problems with local poverty and even health.

20 Jason J. Fedelem June 8, 2013 at 2:54 pm

This podcast is very motivational. We have 21 acres that we bought about two years ago and have had a hard time actually getting going. I think part of it is that we’ve never done it before and no one in our family has done it. This encouraged me to go find a local farmer not just for food, but for mentoring on getting started.

21 Jeff June 8, 2013 at 2:59 pm

I have a friend who now runs a small family farm with her husband. Their stories of small farm life are always very interesting, and I’m proud to support some of our local farmers here in the Cincinnati area. Would love to read more about this important topic!

22 Stephen June 8, 2013 at 3:50 pm

Starting our own beyond organic sustainable CSA. Loved the podcast.

23 JR Crooks June 8, 2013 at 6:08 pm

I’d love a free copy of Forrest’s book!

24 yzergod June 8, 2013 at 6:37 pm

I wish we all could follow in Forrest Pritchard’s footsteps. We tried to be self sustaining and do a lot of what Mr. Pritchard did, but with the economy and us on the wrong end of the real estate bubble, we are giving up our home. Being upside down and not able to sell our house because our note is $100,000 more than the current appraised value, we will either short-sale or foreclose. We just bought a single-wide mobil home and now do not have the space to grow as much as we would like. We will do what we can and I hope to have our own chickens again soon, but until then…

25 Russ June 8, 2013 at 6:55 pm

Each time I listen to one of the podcasts, I learn something new, and something new about myself. Thank you.

26 Tim June 8, 2013 at 9:27 pm

Great philosophical discussion…who would’ve expected that in the context of farming! Really enjoyed Forrest’s perspective, thanks for sharing.

27 Spencer June 8, 2013 at 9:34 pm

Enjoyed the podcast. I think most of the advice/commentary from Forrest was applicable to life in general and a good listen for those looking for general career advice.

28 Julie June 8, 2013 at 9:45 pm

I would like the link to the interviewee’s post telling his ten pieces of advice on starting a farm – I am saving up for a piece of land of my own, and advice from those who have done it the non-conventional way is always appreciated!

29 Marcus P. June 8, 2013 at 11:19 pm

I’ve always wanted to be a farmer. That is what my father’s father did. My father chose to work else where to make more money and give a better life to me. He always kept a garden though. He wouldn’t let his farming roots go. Now i want to plant that seed and make it mine. I want my son to know what manliness is.

30 William LaRue June 8, 2013 at 11:39 pm

Inspired to get back in the family business!

31 Andrew June 9, 2013 at 2:11 am

Loved hearing about someone going for their dream, even when they had no idea where it was going.

32 Blair Brown June 9, 2013 at 8:29 am

I admire Forrest for raising animals the way they were meant to be raised, and for having a strong sense of family and community. This podcast really made me want to buy a small piece of land and start growing apple trees and grapes and tea leaves. Thanks for the inspiration, Brett and Forrest, and I look forward to reading Gaining Ground!

33 Zane June 9, 2013 at 10:42 am

Always nice to see small operations continue. I think the big boys have lost sight of what makes food taste so great

34 Zakk June 9, 2013 at 11:45 pm

So much good info. Makes me want to pack up and start a farm.

35 Bruce June 10, 2013 at 2:03 am

Many interesting points made in this podcast which caught my attention as I’m hoping to find my five acres to begin sustainable homesteading on the west coast. Will enjoy studying/perusing the book when I have it in my dirt-caked hands.

36 MJ June 10, 2013 at 8:10 am

LOVE the podcast… this episode shows the true sense of manliness. Forrest is inspiring. Great stuff. Thanks for the opportunity to get our hands on Gaining Ground!

37 Anthony June 10, 2013 at 9:07 am

My wife and I have been talking about a small farm for a few years now. This is great information and I’d love to have a copy of the book.

38 Patrick June 10, 2013 at 10:51 am

Great podcast, and corresponding article. Inspiring for this suburban-raised guy who has always dreamed of spending his days out on the pastures and working with his hands.

That said, this is where I think there desperately needs to be clarification in the podcast and the AoM article. Forrest and Brett seem to be advocating farming as a viable career for any young person to pick up; however, read a little more carefully though the article and I realized something crucial: the advice given here seem to be directed towards those who have suitable circumstances to begin farming in the first place, ie. have inherited land and/or farming equipment. Reading the article initially, I was in utter disbelief that Forrest had managed somehow to survive running his own farm from ‘scratch’ – until I read that he inherited his parents’ dying farm. This is an extremely important asterisk to the discussion at hand. The #1 rule of farming, according to the article – “stay out of debt” is laughable for anyone who is interested in farming full-time and starting from TRUE scratch – at least in the 200km surrounding the Toronto area where I live, where the going rate is around $5k an ACRE. Couple that with the necessary purchase of basic equipment (which will still cost tens of thousands of dollars), and unless you have inherited a small fortune, you’re looking at some sizeable debt. It doesn’t sound like Forrest had to worry about either of these, and thus, didn’t have to worry about taking on much debt.

I’m not trying to discredit the article or its inspiring message. I would love to have my own farm one day, and I think the small-time farming lifestyle is something that our society needs to jump back to. But I do think that the article should be a little more clear to point out that Forrest did have something to work with in the first place, and that for those not blessed with his groundwork to start from, and looking to move full-time into farming: it is going to be an extremely difficult road, and one more than likely burdened with a whack of debt.

39 Charles June 10, 2013 at 1:13 pm

This is a great topic, and I’m glad you covered it with the podcast. BUT – I agree with the commenter above who notes the “rose colored glasses” view of farming that the podcast takes. Where’s the discussion of the immense difficulty in farming, particularly for those without money, land, or equipment?

40 Larry Johnson June 10, 2013 at 2:35 pm

While I’m very much in support of this shift in farming (I bought a share of a CSA last year) I personally have no interest in becoming a farmer. I keep a small vegetable garden at home and that is more than enough for me.

41 Austin June 10, 2013 at 3:22 pm

Having grown up on a small farm myself I am excited to see so many people interested in doing it for themselves.

42 Matthew June 10, 2013 at 4:17 pm

My wife and I are currently working on a chicken coop for our backyard. We’re interested in starting a backyard garden next. A small farm would be awesome…someday.

43 Melanie Sexton June 10, 2013 at 6:42 pm

I loved this podcast.. I grew up on a farm in NE and sure miss it.. This is good stuff Maynard! Thanks for sharing!

44 samW June 10, 2013 at 6:45 pm

I love living in the country on a farm & it is exciting to see a shift in this country with at least the desire to get into farming, on any level

45 Matt June 10, 2013 at 11:23 pm

What a life! At times I wish I could start all over again and just be a farmer.

46 Claude June 11, 2013 at 12:21 pm

Great timing on this. My wife and I probably won’t become farmers, but we’re committing much more of our land to large gardens and fruit patches in an attempt to be more self sufficient, and have fresher, organic produce. Love the podcast and would devour the book. Thanks!

47 Will June 11, 2013 at 10:31 pm

Farming is truly a noble profession. Mr. Pritchard’s thoughts are much appreciated. Hope to read more of them soon!

48 David Bridle June 12, 2013 at 3:40 am

I have followed this website for years. I love the content that you have on here and it has helped me to understand more about myself. I come from a single parent family where I learnt to shave from TV adverts! Not a good idea, they move that razor way too fast.

Anyway, listening to this really brings about some great feeling I have. My family came from Zimbabwe, and were originally Tobacco farmers. My grandfather started his working life in the Gold Mines in South Africa.

I was born and bred in England, but for some reason I have always wanted a farm. I only found out when I was older that I loved tractors, especially Massey Ferguson. I spent many weeks in a pair of red MF overalls. Due to growing up in England I never knew my Grandfather was a farmer etc. My mum never spoke about those things much and I didn’t have much contact with them due to geography.

I was delighted to see this podcast and book. I started a small vegetable patch a few weeks ago with my youngest son (Dino, 6). It has been such a delight to build this little area with him.

Thank you very much for this podcast and it moved me a lot when Forrest spoke about being a father and having sons.

- David

P.S – sorry for the long comment, but this episode really hit home for me.

49 Stan June 12, 2013 at 10:37 am

Great topic! Very interesting and stirs some deep desires for me to get some old family land ‘paying for itself’ again. Would love to check out Forrest’s book.

Our family project this summer is growing a garden, and we’ve started buying local eggs and produce – great food and a good way to connect with our community. Keep up the good work!

50 Mike M June 12, 2013 at 10:46 am

I’m about a week and half behind my podcast feeds so I haven’t heard this yet. I’m looking forward to it though!

51 Sonny June 12, 2013 at 3:06 pm

Forrest has some remarkable perseverance with all the naysayers and the rough start. Very admirable.

52 Josh June 13, 2013 at 7:35 am

I am not a farmer and definitely don’t have a green thumb, but this podcast was very helpful for me. I am a teacher and have experienced more than a few setbacks in my career. This podcast brought a lot of things into perspective. I am definitely more inspired and a better man for listening. Thanks.

53 Forrest Pritchard June 13, 2013 at 11:42 am

Thanks for the tremendous feedback everyone! I’m stoked that these issues are resonating with you guys. Suffice to say, even if we’re not directly involved in its production, farming and food policy effects each of our lives, every day.

A quick response to Patrick and Charles above… indeed, debt DID play a significant role in my farming experience, and I certainly didn’t mean to gloss over it in the podcast or the ‘rules’ list! But… there’s only so much that can be covered all at once, and frankly, the book delves deeply into many of these issues.

So please don’t think my glasses are TOO rose colored, ha ha! Being a farmer requires an unnaturally high level of optimism, but it’s very much tempered by pragmatism. But debt is something that MUST be avoided if possible, and despite technically inheriting my family’s farm (hence the subtitle of the book), I had to struggle with inherited debt, as well. Hence, my free advice about circumventing it if you can.

I’m always happy to discuss these issues more in depth with anyone who asks. But FIRST, check out the book! After reading it, I think these ideas and connections will make a lot more sense.

Cheers everyone, and Happy Father’s Day!

-Forrest

54 Aidan June 13, 2013 at 6:41 pm

Want to read the book now. I believe that there is a definite sense of purpose and work ethic involved in this type of activity, and I also feel like people in this day and age need that so desperately.

55 David June 14, 2013 at 11:29 am

Now I gotta buy a bigger yard and have my own household mini farm!

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