Featured Farmer: Jake Mace from Tempe, AZ
Since I was 19 years old I have only eaten plants. Only plants, 100 percent of the time. So, when my wife Pam and I bought our first home together in April 2011 we couldn’t wait to plant our garden. I always had a love for plants and gardening growing up in Vancouver, British Columbia thanks to my mom. She always had beautiful flower beds and a small vegetable garden that my brother and I would help her with as kids. But, when my family moved to Phoenix in 1993 she found it too tough to keep plants alive in the dry heat of the Sonoran Desert. As an adult buying my first house, I still was inspired to plant like she did when we lived in Canada. Plus, I wanted to grow my own food and save money by not needing to go to the grocery store.
Five months after moving into our new home in Tempe, Arizona, my wife Pam and I took old doors from the renovation we had finished on the inside of the home, sawed them in half long ways, and bolted them together into a large 30′ x 20′ rectangle. We then brought in several cubic yards of compost by truck and filled the rectangle. We didn’t know much about how to make good soil 3 years ago, so I took an urban gardening class with Greg Peterson at the local Desert Botanical Garden and at the same time began watching YouTube videos incessantly—especially the Garden Program called “GrowingYourGreens.” We put some of that knowledge to good use on our temporary rectangular garden and planted a fall crop of dinosaur kale, broccoli, spinach, lettuce, sugar snap peas, winter squash, carrots, Brussels sprouts, and jalapeno peppers. It was so much fun to see the plants grow, harvest the mature crops, and eat the results!
Unfortunately, after that fall season, those doors all fell apart from the moisture and our compost nearly disappeared into the Earth. We needed a better system for a successful garden which would last for years to come, so we started over again and this time built a network of raised beds out of redwood fence posts. The beds all range in size but most of them are about 3′ x 6′ and around 12″ to 18″ tall with walkways in between. We filled these new and improved raised beds with a soil blend which, among other amendments, included compost from Singh Farms in Scottsdale and Western Organics in Phoenix, coconut coir from Amazon.com, Azomite rock dust (with 70 trace elements) from Paradise Veggies in Paradise Valley, and lots of worm castings. Now, our overall garden layout and structure looks much better with the redwood raised beds and the plants/veggies grow bigger, better, and more delicious than ever thanks to the healthier soil in those beds! Our current garden, almost 3 years later, is allowing us to save about $500 – $1000 a month on our food budget and the food is so much healthier and LOCAL!
This is only the start of our backyard urban farm story and journey because now, in addition to our garden, we have planted over 70 edible trees in our front and backyards, are making our own compost onsite, are raising our own worms for homegrown castings, have tapped our entire roof and harvest the rainwater, and adopted a small flock of chickens! Looking forward to giving you a tour sometime in person or through our YouTube channel.
-Jake Mace Tempe, Arizona
Check out Jake Mace on The Urban Farm Podcast!