123. Kate and Grant on Pastured Animals, Vermicompost, and Pivoting to a Grocery Store Model

Why is proper composting so important to a farm’s success, and how can you make sure you have the right compost for the best outcomes? 

Today we’re happy to host Grant and Kate Estrade of Laughing Buddha Nursery in Metairie, Louisiana.  In 2003, Grant started Laughing Buddha Nursery out of a simple desire to be his own boss and run a retail shop that met a community need – the then fledgling but growing demand for organic gardening supplies. After Katrina struck the area in 2005, people were concerned about the quality and potential contaminants in their backyard soil. In response, Grant began composting and mixing organic soil blends to supply healthy, lead-free, and nutrient-rich soil products for customers’ gardens. In 2010, Kate joined when she met Grant at Laughing Buddha. Her parents always grew a large vegetable garden and composted and as a teenager she spent summers working at a local garden center. She never imagined going into gardening or agriculture professionally, but we know how these things can work out! Tune in to hear all of their integral and transformative composting tips!

In This Episode:

How Kate and Grant got started with Laughing Buddha Nursery 1:50

How their store operates 6:09

Grant and Kate’s composting process 13:59

How they efficiently manage both their farm and their store 24:29

The hardest thing Grant and Kate have done in farming 38:25

What Kate and Grant would do differently given the opportunity to start their farming journey over 54:56

How Grant and Kate build their team 1.02:38

The biggest mistake Grant and Kate see newer farmers making 1.12:28

How they approach the mental game of running their business 1.19:51

Their favorite farming tools 1.26:01

Where you can find out more about Grant, Kate, and Laughing Buddha Nursery 1.30:18

About the Guest

Grant has operated Laughing Buddha Nursery, a retail garden shop that helps people grow vegetables organically, since 2003. After Hurricane Katrina, Laughing Buddha began composting to supply healthy, lead-free, and microbe-rich soil products for customers’ gardens. From 2010-2015, Grant launched and operated a commercial composting division of a sand and aggregate company. He sold his shares of this company in 2015. 

In 2010, Kate met Grant as a customer of Laughing Buddha (buying worms for her apartment compost bin!) and they got married in 2016. Kate grew up in Wisconsin, graduated from the University of Missouri, served in AmeriCorps, and worked in newspapers and nonprofits prior to farming.

On land that was a failed subdivision that they purchased in 2014, together Kate and Grant started Local Cooling Farms, their pasture-based regenerative livestock operation. Their farm model focuses on maximizing nutrient cycling (nature’s loop of production, consumption and decomposition) and raising livestock with respect and dignity to produce healthy protein, restore soil health, and sequester carbon (hence the name!). They also now have their composting operation on the farm.

Kate has developed the farm’s neighborhood delivery hub model where they sell the vast majority of their farm products (save for a few restaurants and bakeries that purchase eggs), as well as seasonal produce, chicken, lamb, dairy, fermented and preserved goods, bread and pasta, honey, and more from 20 other regional farms and producers.

Resources and mentions

Website – https://www.laughingbuddhanursery.com/

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/localcoolingfarms

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/localcoolingfarms

And if you want to keep the conversation going, join us in our Facebook Group to connect with us and other farmers looking to grow their business!

We also have six free eguides to help you be more effective on your farm (Winter Growing, Pastured Poultry, Washing Shed Efficiency, Profitable Farmers Toolkit, what to look for in a farm property, etc), which you can download here.