We were very lucky to have Greg Peterson on the show today to discuss Urban Farming. Greg is an expert in everything farming, and talked with us about how to start an urban farm.
He covered everything from:
- The importance of Naming Your Farm (I'm going to name our farm Andyama)
- Soil Quality being the most important thing to consider when getting started farming
- Easy tip to add wood chips to your yard to improve the quality of the soil AND that you can get wood chips for FREE
- Tree Farming vs. Garden Farming
- Rain Water Collection Basics
He imparted so much knowledge about urban farming, and even provided additional videos on soil collection at Healthysoilhacked.com.
About Greg. Greg lives in a place he calls Urban Farm, which in size is 80 feet wide x 160 feet deep, in Phoenix, Arizona. His place is called Urban Farm as it sits right in the middle of the city and is surrounded by houses. If you drive by his place, the only indication that it’s an urban farm is if you look closely you would see food growing or the sign on the curb that says “Urban Farm”.
40 years ago, Greg noticed that people is not living right. The systems put in place to grow food are unsustainable.
He wrote an article about how we are overfishing back in 1975 as he was inspired by by Jack Cousteau's TV show. In 1991 he discovered what he calls as permaculture – the art and science of working with nature, working with the flow of nature rather than against nature.
Greg mentions that people keeps on fighting nature, thinking that we are better than nature, but as was told to him which he also believes in, nature always wins. So, how to work with nature? It’s to work inside a permaculture model.
Greg’s Vision Mission. In 2001, Greg returned to college to get a degree. He was then tasked to write an article about his vision and mission in life, and on the process he discovered he’s already doing what he loves doing. He’s been sharing the Urban Farm not just to the neighborhood, but also to the world.
He also feels that his mission on earth is to look and see how we’re living on the planet and how to transform that.
Name your farm. The urban farm concept for Greg is that, you grow food, you share it with the neighborhood, and you name your farm. Traditional farmers would grow food and share it – some sell it, but most share it with their neighbors, family & friends.
Naming your farm is an important piece for the process as it starts building the cultural conversation around food, around the local food system which is also a way to engage people.
Where to start.
Start naming your farm.
Know and understand that starting a farm does not happen overnight.
Determine what a major and minor project is. Stand back and observe your farm. If you can put on hold major changes at least until after a year in the property. Go out every day and see what is happening in the space. You can plant on your garden, but at least don’t do anything major – i.e. putting a harvesting system in place - as you need to figure out where the water is coming from, where does it flow, and design a system that would run the water where you want it to run to. Get out in the rain, get wet and watch where the water would come from and where it flows, come up with a structure for your pipes and gutters to where you want to direct the water onto. Picking a place in the yard, putting good soil and planting a garden is what can be considered not a major project. If these seems like a big project for you, step back and put some pots instead. The easiest thing to grow are herbs, which is an advantage as it’s one of the most expensive in the market.
Pay attention to your space and work on the flow of that.
Don’t be afraid to experiment. Don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t be afraid to jump in and try again because that’s the only way you will be successful.
Fruit Tree Program. Greg offers Fruit Tree Education specifically for Arizona, but they also have classes online – geared to growing fruit trees in the desert that people can sign up for.
Fruit tree needs to be deep-watered, while gardens need shallow-watered so they don’t go together. Plant your fruit trees in an orchard and your garden in your garden.
Figure out what fruit trees grow well in your area. Understand “chill hours” for specific types of trees – i.e. plums, pears, apples, etc., where they require a certain amount of chill hours in order to bear fruits.
Make sure to have healthy soil or find a way on how to make healthy soil. There are 5 components for a healthy soil: 1) Dirt, as it got minerals, 2) Air Space, 3) Water, 4) Organic Matter, and 5) Everything that’s alive on the soil. Fixing unhealthy dirt is to add organic matter, i.e. wood chips.
Don’t just plant your fruit tree in the native dirt. Plant at least 60% organic matter on the hole – compost, composted mulch. Dig your hole, at least twice the size of the pot from where the tree came in. Mix 60% organic matter, 40% native soil in the base and around the tree. Plant the tree in the middle, then put a good 6 inches of mulch. The woody mulch creates a layer between the soil and the air, like an insulation.
If you have healthy soil, the plants are much stronger.
For more details, you can watch the videos by visiting Healthysoilhacked.com
For people interested in farming.
You can take Greg’s online classes - skewed toward growing in the dessert, but he provides a lot of data, simply visit their website at urbanfarm.org.
- Fruit Tree Program
- UrbanFarmU. Online platform for people to discover and learn how to grow food – from paid courses to monthly free webinars.
AskJake&Greg.com. Every month Jake and Greg get together to answer gardening questions.
Only for US. Every state has a cooperative extension service, sponsored by the land-grant university that you can get in touch with.
Look for resources. Maybe visit a nursery where people really are knowledgeable and have a chat with them.
address: PO Box 44434 Phoenix, Arizona 85064