Featured Farmer: Greg Rendek
Tell us about your farm. What makes it unique?
My urban farm consists of several potted outdoor herb gardens, a 7’x11′ outdoor raised-bed vegetable garden, and 3 fruit trees. I also am taking advantage of my southern-facing window in my room by growing tropical fruiting plants indoors.
What are you growing?
Right now, in the vegetable garden and potted herb gardens, I have 3 tomato plants, purple dragon carrots, pickling cucumbers, dinosaur kale, lemongrass, lemon thyme, thai basil, parsley, rosemary, “regular” basil, mint, collard greens, and watermelon radishes. I also have a valencia orange tree, a ruby red grapefruit tree, and a Desert Gold bonanza peach tree in the backyard. Indoors, I am maintaining a southern-exposure window garden consisting of two 1-year-old passion fruit vines grown from seed, two 2-year old pineapple plants (smooth cayenne and variegated pink), and a 2-year-old dragon fruit cactus with over 40 arms.
What initially got you interested in farming/growing food?
Growing and cooking with fresh basil is what got me interested in urban farming; there’s no substitute for fresh-off-the-plant basil.
Do you use any organic, permaculture, biodynamic, or other methods? Explain.
I use no pesticides and I use companion planting to maintain good soil balance. Right now, I have aromatic herbs interplanted with the other plants to drive off pests.
Do you use compost?
At the moment, I am not using compost. I used to dig food scraps, spent brewing grains, and spent brewing yeast cakes into the soil, but had to stop due to a pill bug infestation. In the future, I plan to set up a composter and do it the right way. I know the pill bug issue was due to having too many fresh food scraps in the soil. While I was digging in food scraps though, my plants were bright green and as happy as I’ve ever seen them.
What do you do with the food you grow?
I cook with and juice the food I grow.
What has been your greatest challenge in your farming endeavors?
My greatest challenge so far has been in not overplanting my garden, as past experiences in doing so have resulted in more pest issues (more hiding places for them). Considering each plant’s full mature size and making sure there is enough spacing between each plant has been challenging. It’s hard for me to not plant every seed I get my hands on.
What do you enjoy the most about farming/growing food?
I love the endless possibilities of what can be grown, indoors and outdoors.
Why do you think urban farming is important?
I think urban farming is important for many reasons:
– It brings people together
– Fruit can be left on the plant longer to fully ripen before use, unlike conventional agriculture
– Since urban farms are usually maintained and harvested by one person or a small group of people, it is possible to interplant many crops, creating a healthy ecosystem of bugs, both pests and predators, so that the bug population stays in check.
– Urban farms, when using composting practices in the kitchen and in the garden, keep good waste out of the dump and help grow healthier plants
Do you think this is a growing movement?
I like to think urban farming is a growing movement. I hear more and more about friends growing food; sometimes it’s just basil. Basil, however, is what I started with, and it’s what got me hooked. I really believe urban farming is the future of agriculture. There’s just no need to be trucking produce all over the place and growing pesticide-drenched fields of one crop.
Do you have any advice for someone just getting started?
I have three tips for someone getting started.
1. If you’re putting in a garden, make it a whole lot easier to maintain by installing a watering system on a timer.
2. If you’re doing a potted garden, be sure that the pots have holes in the bottom for drainage.
3. Challenge yourself every now and then by growing something that most people would tell you isn’t possible to grow where you live.