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Talking Permaculture, Music, & Perspective with Romo Loco

Producing a podcast was at the top of my Resolutions List this year & I’m finally making it a reality thanks to my lifelong friend Tyler Gutman (aka Romo Loco). We had no plans, agenda, or structure going into this podcast, but I really feel like we got into a great flow & cadence – would love to hear your thoughts on the topics we dove into! We start off talking about the origins of our names – “Romo Loco” & “Gardening 4 Gains”, talk about Tyler’s time in the jungle & the practices of Permaculture he learned. Then we talk about Tyler’s music & what he’s currently working on – then we go everywhere from DNA & genetics to politics & just about everything else – Enjoy!

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Oil Change of Pace

mechanic handing keys to you
mechanic handing keys to you

I took a half-day off work today to get some long overdue chores out of the way before the holidays & inevitable travel that follows. We don’t have to travel far for family but Kyla & I both have 10 days off work between Christmas & New Years – who knows where we may end up with all that time.

I love my new job as a Product Manager, but when you dive in head first every day going 110%, with a huge variety of tasks, you need to unwind every once in a while – everyone needs a break – and not only that, but I feel as though it is necessary to get out & explore new terrain. Winter isn’t ideal but we can get creative & adapt.

And the more I think about it, bring on the cold! Lately I have been feeling like forcing myself into a certain amount of suffering – and by that I mean breaking out of your comfort zone – I feel like if you’re not struggling in some capacity, then you’re getting comfortable, and when you get comfortable, you become vulnerable. But vulnerable to your routine and inability to adapt, or better yet, to innovate; to be visionary instead of reactionary.

*****

Sorry for the severe detraction but I can’t help but wonder what all these guys are thinking as I’m sitting at Sidney Tire, waiting on my oil change, while writing chicken scratch in a notebook. What kind of “kid” writes instead of being on their phone or laptop?

First, this is partly about not giving a shit what people think – if you want to be an anomaly, you have to act like one. Secondly, I think that the action of writing, the mode I choose to write with, has been the bottleneck. It’s much easier to write & flow with a pen & pad of paper. Typing is mechanical and restricted to certain strokes, but with handwriting, you work your way down the lines, down the page physically, not in a theoretical technological representation of it.

We grew up writing everything & only recently have things been switched to digital. Does the younger generation feel weirdly about writing vs. typing/texting?

Either way, feel more creative with the pen – and I’m so thankful that I figured it out. If anything, it is the 1st draft & when I type it, that will be the time to refine & perfect.

And I thought didn’t give a shit – this African dude is blasting some African chanting music on his phone in the waiting area – some people just don’t care and that’s the way to be! No matter how cringe-worthy it can be for everyone else!

Being carefree & not judging one’s self is crucial to survival. And yet at the same time you need to care about a lot & be very judgmental of yourself in order to improve. Finding the balance is tough but one that I’m working towards in several aspects of my life: health, wealth, & happiness, to be extremely vague & cliché.

It all basically circles back to the statement I made about forcing suffering. Being overweight is a product of over-indulging on foods, not working out enough, not walking the dogs frequently enough. It is also a product of being in the happiest relationship I’ve ever been in, happy with my job – and simply being overall satisfied with the direction my life is going.

I’m not extremely overweight, but I would like to be slimmer. I’ve been bulking for about 5 years – it’s time to begin the cut for next spring/summer – after Thanksgiving.

It all begins with the consistency of lifting & activity. Since I spend the majority of the day at my desk, I NEED to walk the dogs (maybe run them), lift at least 3 times a week, and get cardio in wherever I get the chance.

When you force yourself into difficult situations like waking up early, lifting hard, doing morning yoga – when you overcome the struggle, you unlock more & more energy to propel you forward. Become the habits. Live the change.

Other than that I really am working hard towards formulating the right plot to take the garden to a full-blown farm. I keep talking about buying land but I think the better way to think about it is, “how much can I squeeze out of my small garden area that I already have set-up?” The Netherlands is one of the smallest countries, yet produces an enormous percentage of the world’s food & plant material because of agritech and grower knowledge that is beyond the conventional realm of agriculture & horticulture.

I feel confident that with more diligent planning, & the accumulated knowledge through experience and education, that I can at least double my production next spring on the same amount of land. To be fair, half of the garden at my parents’ house was devoured by hungry deer, but I think I can double production at the Garden of Gains South (my house) too. Through the use of container production, organic principles, biological controls, and a little bit of luck, I have learned how to dial it in & prevent disease rather than trying to cure them.

Learning from experience is different than education from classes though. Through classes, you learn more about the biology, the chemistry – and that fascinates me – I just wish that I learned those subjects under the same context in high school & college – it probably wouldn’t have changed my mind without me actively gardening though, but I’m glad that I found it at a certain point in my life. I was always interested in those areas of science, but never realized how I would utilize them in my future passion that is growing plants & gardening.

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How & Why I Began Gardening

Vegetable garden with bamboo fence, raspberry bushes, Root Pouch fabric pots lining the fence, and potting shed
Vegetable garden with bamboo fence, raspberry bushes, Root Pouch fabric pots lining the fence, and potting shed
The Garden of Gains

I sit here sniffling on a chilly Sunday morning in November talking with Kyla about our dreams to buy a house on expansive acreage. Somehow I’ve got her roped into this whole farming thing & I really believe we can make this work as a lifestyle, a business, and eventually, an empire.

Right now it’s just a dream, but something that I’ve been inching towards over the past 5 years that I’ve been working at AM Leonard. When I was in college I studied psychology & philosophy with intentions of becoming a psychologist, but after going through the process of writing my senior thesis – writing & working my ass off for no direct compensation –  it hit me,

“What if I put all this hard work into something business-related? How much more impact could I make on the world through a freer environment that wasn’t crippled by intellectualism & political correctness?”

Writing my thesis & working in the realm of academia forced me to change who I was on a certain level. You’re forced to remove your thoughts, feelings, and intuition in favor of objectivity devoid of any personality – and that’s just not my style. Passion has to be a by-product of the things I do in order to continue to fuel the journey into the subject.

My decision to go into business, or sales, or marketing came towards the end of my senior year of school. I really had no idea what I wanted to do but thought marketing would be a good fit. In my mind, studying psychology was the perfect field because it was the basis for everything – understanding people & developing relationships is the foundation of business & life – relating to people, knowing yourself & the value you can provide to others.

It was by luck that I ended up at AM Leonard; I had probably applied to 50+ jobs, but they were the first (legit) company to give me an interview, and eventually, my first real job.

My first real job was as an Associate Account Manager – entry-level sales – and I worked with landscapers, growers, governments, & universities to supply them with their horticultural tool & supply needs.

As time went by, I began to learn about the industry through email newsletters, articles, YouTube videos, and basically anything I could get my hands on. This fueled a lot of learning & my passion began to grow, but I realized I was still having trouble relating to growers – they seemed to be a breed of their own. It was easy to bullshit with landscapers because I had done a lot of that work, but growing was something that I didn’t know much about. So instead of just reading, I realized I had to get growing.

Something made me very hesitant about growing – maybe I was afraid to fail, maybe I was worried what people would think, but either way I got over it because I wanted to take on this challenge to learn.

Not only did I want to learn, but I was seeing that my customers were able to make a living by growing plants of all kinds – why don’t they teach you about this stuff in school? or life in general? I have always said that I wanted to be a farmer, (since at least the third grade maybe?) but I never realized it was something I could make a reality!

My first year of gardening was pretty experimental with broccoli, cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, spinach & strawberries in Root Pouches, because my garden area at my parents’ house was on the ground where our swing set used to sit. The pea gravel was mostly scooped up, so the garden-area was a couple inches below the surrounding lawn & the ground was basically pure clay. For this reason I grew in Root Pouches (fabric pots) that I filled with potting soil.

That summer ended up being one of the rainiest years on record and my “garden” was flooded for most of the growing season. Because of this, there was a lot of disease, and eventually, a lot of weeds growing wild.

And there was nothing I could do but sit there and watch the rain fall into the pit I tried to make into a garden.

My next mission was to fill this pit & make it the Garden of Gains.

I started by hauling countless loads of top soil from my Grandparents’ house to the garden. Gradually it filled with dirt that I tilled into the clay bottom. Further soil conditioning was necessary – over the years I have added multiple bags of peat moss and perlite, ashes from the fire pit, leaves, grass clippings & several loads of horse & chicken manure.

Through loads & loads of work, I finally had a garden plot where I planted the seeds that would eventually grow into my passion & my big moonshot dream – to become a grower.

In the beginning, it was the learning & the challenge that really excited me & piqued my interest. It was like this super secret special talent of being able to grow things – and not only that – but being able to sell them & make a business out of it is incredible if you really think about it!

You quickly learn that growing things is not the hard part – it’s the keeping them alive that poses the biggest problem for most people. Growing teaches you the delicate balance of nature – you must be patient for things to grow & think long-term, while at the same time taking a proactive approach to the plant’s life by monitoring for pest or disease pressures.

It’s such a micro/macro game & that’s what I love most about growing – it’s all about managing perspective.

And that is exactly what I have done with my gardening journey. I did initially start off to learn, but then I wanted to grow flowers, starter plants, and veggies at the farmer’s market; a short-term sight.

When I actually started to grow plants, I began to realize how hard it was to grow from seed, how hard it was to keep any type of plant alive without disease or pests dominating it, how important fertilizer is, and ultimately, how this was not a get-rich-quick type of business, but something I enjoyed regardless of my results. I also realized that I had plenty of time to learn to grow, AND THEN think about going to a farmer’s market; a long-term sight.

So, as I have grown as a gardener, so too have I grown within my role at AM Leonard – the core reason why I’ve fallen down the rabbit-hole of gardening & greenhouse growing. After my first year of being an Associate Account Manager, I was promoted to Account Manager – essentially working with bigger clients & growing my account base to a larger level. My interest & passion for the green industry only continued to grow and I really enjoyed sales – not at first, but it’s something I had to grow into.

I believe that we’re all fed certain prejudices about business or sales – you instantly think of the “used car salesman” or a telemarketer – but real sales experience will give you so much empathy for those people, regardless of how pushy or horrible they are. AM Leonard did a good job of working around those objections, teaching how to provide value & be other-centered – it sounds crazy but in my first few weeks of training I felt like I learned more psychology than I did in 4 years of school. And that is because the knowledge was PRACTICAL, not simply theory, discussion groups, and assignments.

Entry-level sales was a great role to start in because I was in the trenches from the get – handling customer service calls from homeowners & professionals, calling on some of the largest growers in the nation to some of the smallest landscapers in our local area. You get a ton of requests for things that you’ve never heard of, learning things about chemicals & fertilizers that you never knew, start understanding the operations of different types of businesses & also identifying their pain points.

I began incorporating this knowledge into my own garden, slowly perfecting my methods in the same way I view my game of golf – it will never be perfect, but I can always improve. Not only did my growing methods improve, but so did my social media efforts – blogs, videos, Instagram, Facebook, and my podcast – they weren’t perfect, but I had to allow my passion to spill out into something tangible.

It is this expression of passion that I believe helped me advance my role at AM Leonard from an Account Manager to an Associate Product Manager. The title bothered me at first – “associate” – but I kind of like it now because I can just continue to climb thru the ranks. And because titles don’t mean shit.

A leader isn’t chosen because of a title, they’re chosen as a result of their actions & execution.

So now I have decided to mash my job as a Product Manager with my life as a Gardener & completely immerse myself in providing value around gardening, growing, and the healthy lifestyle communities.

Recently, I have realized that I was setting some goals too far down the road. I keep saying that I can’t wait to own acres & acres of land; I can’t wait to become a farmer; one of these days we’ll be growing x; yet I am failing to recognize that I am already a farmer – just not in the traditional sense. I grow with organic methods & grow my plants in Root Pouches – fabric pots made from recycled water bottles, using a custom-blended soil concoction that I have created that includes beneficial microbes that a natural soil would have, but this is better because it eliminates the possibility of soil-borne diseases that could already exist in your garden.

My plan has drastically shifted from owning acres & acres to pumping as much food out of my small backyard as I can. I believe that growing only in Root Pouches will increase our space efficiency in the garden & in other spots around the garden perimeter / patio area – hopefully doubling or tripling production capacity since we’re adding an additional 300 of 10/15 gallon Root Pouches.

For the 2018 growing season we were able to feed 10 people with our CSA CropBox (CSA is Community Supported Agriculture & essentially provided our customers with a bi-weekly box of fresh produce). Peppers, cucumbers onions, garlic, turnips, potatoes, and some herbs were grown in the ground, but tomatoes, carrots, lettuce, radishes, spinach, cabbage, rainbow chard, and other herbs were grown in 70-80 containers – for 2019 we should be able to add another 300 containers at our current location – PLUS I should be able to put AT LEAST that many containers at my parent’s house (where we grew potatoes last year & where the deer obliterated my Sweet Corn patch). We will fence off the corn & put the potatoes in Root Pouches – the yields will be HUGE, just wait!

A lot of the additional containers will be optimized for succession planting of carrots, lettuce, radishes, spinach, greens, and onions. Not only will the increase in containers help, but I also have a plan to build a seed propagation rack with a sample LED grow light I got from a potential new supplier & I added some new LED lights at AM Leonard made specifically for vertical growing & propagation/seed-starting that will occupy the other shelves. We should have plenty of plugs to plant – and maybe we’ll even grow enough microgreens to begin to offer them as well!

So far here’s what I plan to offer in the CropBox this year:

  • Lettuce – Head & Leaf
  • Spinach
  • Mizuna
  • Arugula
  • Radish
  • Microgreens
  • Turnips
  • Bell Peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Potatoes – Purple/Red/Yellow
  • Jalapeños
  • Habaneros
  • Cucumbers
  • Green Beans
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Basil
  • Cilantro
  • Dill
  • Sweet Corn

Our revised plans may not involve 1,000s of acres, but if you’re an entrepreneur then you can make an acre out of a 1,000 square foot garden – if there’s a will there’s a way!

Stay tuned as we document the process of our growth in the garden & within the business we’re building!

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Why I Haven’t Been Blogging

One of my resolutions for 2018 was to publish a weekly blog post. I started the year off extremely strong, sometimes even posting multiple times a week – or I’d get on a roll of posting on 3 consecutive days – I was really feelin’ it!

But a few things happened, and I decided to pivot & follow my instincts on blogging.

I felt as though my posts were manufactured & becoming forced just for the sake of keeping up with the metrics of my resolution – not in line with metrics of my motivation.

And then it was even more forced when I was trying to align my blog posts, with my Instagram posts, with my YouTube video. And as I’m writing this, the logic seems flawless – but the execution was lacking, it was motivated by the metrics, not the true passion.

Mostly this is my fault & the fault of my perception on it, but the pivot took me to some really interesting places and some new mediums that allowed me to test my limits & push myself out of my comfort zone.

I had already been working on my Podcast that I started on Anchor, so I kept publishing on my channel “Plant Rant”. (Check out my latest episode below or the whole channel here)

As I carried on with the podcast, it too felt like it was lacking something. It definitely wasn’t focused, but that’s how I wanted it – I just wanted to rant – Plant Rant. Sometimes it was about gardening, other times it was about social media, or my thoughts on something that was grinding my gears, or my observations & perspective on stuff. I really enjoyed it, but it was just lacking something!

The fact that it was spontaneous was probably a very limiting factor, but it was important to me so that I could practice my verbal skills, build confidence, and because I believe all the magic happens in spontaneity.

What needed to happen was a merging of all of these ideas & platforms into one – and that’s basically what I did!

And thus the Vlog was born!

Vlogging has been a great collision of everything that I want: spontaneity (because I never plan or try to manufacture content), visual content combined with an audio commentary, providing value through knowledge & experience, and documenting my process of growing my garden and my business.

From Vlogging and posting on YouTube & Facebook, I went to creating content for IGTV. I would still post the IGTV videos to Facebook, but didn’t feel like it was good for YouTube because of the vertical format vs YouTube being optimized for horizontal. I like the concept of IGTV and think that it will really take off with the time & development – especially if they can integrate it into the feed in some way.

Recently, I have been pretty terrible at producing content & keeping on the up & up with stuff! After breaking my foot, I basically went in to hyper-drive trying to prove that I could keep up with everything and that my broken foot wasn’t going to slow me down. I ran on pure adrenaline for the first 3 weeks & doing as much activity as I could handle. After the 3rd week I began driving again and that pushed the limits a little, but was necessary to rehab the foot & begin working the muscles again (I have a manual transmission and the broken foot is my clutch foot).

From that point I realized that I needed to slow down a little bit if I wanted to heal up, and I think that was the whole reason I broke my foot in the first place – to force me to slow down, smell the roses, and enjoy life without constantly trying to do 8 million different things.

I feel like that last sentence completely contradicts the whole point of this article, but when I slowed down the production of my content, I began consuming more content, observing, and realizing what would draw me into videos. Basically observing success & reverse-engineering it to fit with my personality & style.

So now that I have gotten a chance to rest my mind, had time to rethink & refine my content strategy, I’m ready to get back to executing against my master plan to ultimately buy land & begin my farm – stay tuned to the podcast & the vlog, and please! – feel free to reach out with any gardening questions or topics you would like to see covered on the blog/vlog/podcast!

 

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Give Yourself Permission to Succeed

So often in life we feel as though things are out of our control because we aren’t in a position of “power”.

But true power is never attained – it is earned; it is something that exists within your soul already. You exercise this power by taking risks; taking calculated leaps of faith & fighting for your mission.

Sometimes you lose – most of the time you will lose – learn to love it.

If you always get your way, you will never learn the truth. You’ll never learn the true mechanics of the world and learn what the market desires; in the end it is the market that dictates who/what wins.

Your losses & failures seem so ultimate in the Now – our society celebrates success as if it always happens overnight; instant gratification. And when success isn’t instantaneous, we want to quit. We want to protect ourselves from the insecurity & vulnerability we feel – or fear we will feel. On the plus side, nobody gives as much of a shit about your feelings as you do.

The other good news is that you have 60-100 years of life left (I’m planning on living to 132) to learn from those mistakes & to pivot towards a new path.

Your failure is never an end – it is a new beginning.

If your failure is a dead-end & you see it as your goal’s death, that is a problem with your perception, or maybe your ideas do suck!

How you react & refine it shows your faith in your mission, and more importantly, in your Self.

Give yourself permission to fail.

Failure is the only true path to success & victory because it shows how badly you want It. When you see success as “winning” and failure as “losing” – you lose! Life is not binary unless you want to limit the scope of your mind to that. In success there is room for improvement & in failure there are micro-victories to be celebrated – a little paradoxical, no? Well that’s life – confusing as hell & so complex that we will never fully understand the relationships that intertwine to form our reality.

Giving yourself permission to fail or succeed is the critical component in the equation of life. And if you think of it as an equation, that may be the perfect analogy.

What you want could be the product, sum, or difference & the rest of the equation’s components are in your hands – and then it is algebra from there.

My equation looks something like this:

[Blogx+3Instagramx+YouTubex+(15CSA+add-on products)-Excuses-TimeWaste]² = Greenhouse Grower / Farmer

In other words, I  know that I need to produce content on my Blog weekly, post at least 3 times a day on Instagram, create a weekly YouTube video, build up my CSA (veggie box subscription), and when I take that to an exponential level – I will be on the way to attaining my goals. I’m constantly tweaking that equation with different approaches. When I slip on one platform, then I know I need to increase activity on another in order to balance the equation. And as I fail, I learn – as I succeed, I learn & seek to replicate that or fabricate new ways to succeed further.

Your goals are only crazy if you follow them blindly. If you continue to see your ideas/thoughts/desires surface – maybe there’s something there. If they continue to fail, what is poking holes in your theory? Study its credence & eliminate its influence if you still feel as strongly.

I LOVE telling people that I’m going to be a farmer because I see the smirk, I see the doubt, I see the almost-condescending attitude pouring from them. But I also know the truth of the economics, and more importantly, I know the truth of my passion.

Most people love their cushy office jobs, but I love nature & I love work. I remember helping my parents mulch our house when I was about 8-10 years old and just loving the fact that I was sweating my ass off, working hard in the hot Ohio summer – that is the difference – I love what other people fear or avoid. And on the academic side – I seek to understand as widely & deeply as possible. When you can combine an academic mind with a body that loves work – you have a farmer.

Whether I succeed in the end depends on my short-term actions that map to my long-term goals. Today I start with 15 people who have subscribed to our Garden-Fresh Veggie Boxes, but just a couple years ago I couldn’t even manage to supply myself with enough produce!

The moral of this rant is to chase down your dreams until you catch them. Fear of Failure is the 1 thing that will deter you initially. But what is worse: to try & then fail? or to not try & never know the outcome?

 

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Your Passion is a House Plant

Your Passion is a House Plant.png

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1.7 Minutes of Motivation

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Take Time to Make Time

Running out of time

And make time to be there!

In this world, everybody wants every thing.

Right now.

ASAP.

Yesterday.

Give yourself at least an hour every day to just.. Be.

Put your phone down & step away from your computer.

Do you remember what it was like before the world was so toxically interconnected? Do you remember reading labels of food, shampoo, or maybe even books on topics you were interested in?

People have FOMO from social media, but while the focus lies there, they are missing out on Real Life – you know, the stuff that happens when you look up from your anxiety-inducing, glorified tracking device.

We all want to manage our time; make the most of this short & limited time we have on this Earth right? There is so much we can do all the time! I HAVE to check my Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, WordPress, etc. right? Stay up to speed on my emails?

It all comes down to time – and managing time.

Most of us are terrible at this task for a few different reasons:

  • Lack of focus
  • Lack of understanding your value
  • The insane obsession our culture has with multi-tasking & quantity of output versus quality of that output

Time is valuable but placing value on time can be a dangerous thing. Don’t place such a high value on your time that nothing is worth your time; you’re managing your time but in those moments you must make the most of what you’re spending your time on – you didn’t go to a baseball game to scroll on your phone.

Placing value on your time also makes your interactions transactional – not relational; functional, not pragmatic.

As with anything with value, its value depreciates over… yep, Time.

What I’m trying to get at is the fact that we need to STOP IN THE MOMENT.

Stop to listen to what people are saying to you; hear their words & read their faces.

Stop talking to advance yourself to a sale; ask questions & listen.

Really listen when people talk to you – THERE IS A REASON THEY ARE TALKING TO YOU!

In my experiences in life, people are attracted to certain people because they trust them; they can unload some of their fears & anxieties on them – and this is a huge honor! Everybody is walking around with a million thoughts flooding the brain, so we can’t solely think of moving towards the sale or towards our ultimate goal in talking with someone.

Sometimes the most important connections made in business are made because of things completely unrelated to business.

Structuring your day & managing your time is an important task that has to be done. But as you’re going through your day, don’t lose sight of what is truly important in life; make the most of your minutes by diving in & being highly engaged with people.

Be something we need more of – a real, genuine, & caring person.

 

 

 

 

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Limiting Language & Thoughts

Why does the weekend fly by?

Why do you let it?

How you talk to yourself is limiting you. “I can’t do that.” “I can’t understand that, did you see how long the contract was?”

How you think about activities is limiting you.

Exhibit A: I hate Mondays.

What are you waiting for?

What are you afraid of?

Why?

Whether you dream of starting your own business or taking your career to the next level, we all have obstacles standing in our way to achieve our goals – and most of them reside between your ears.

That’s right – it’s your fault you aren’t where you want to be!

Who else can you blame?

As soon as you do place the blame outside of yourself, that is where it will reside forever. What an easy solution!

Your job isn’t to find the barriers, it is to find a way around, over, or through.

What’s your path today?