Catherine from The Cohen Kibbutz
Tell me a little about your urban farm. What is your farm’s name?
The Cohen Kibutz. Although no one else works it.
We are on an acre, but use very little of it because we are not fenced in. We have 8 trees, 7 we planted this year and a fig tree we planted in 2006 from a twig. We also have a moringa tree in a pot (it’s new), 2 barrels with herbs and our favorite, a keyhole garden with tomatoes.
What are you growing?
Herbs and tomatoes for now. We are building another keyhole garden for eggplants and peppers.
What kind of climate are you growing in?
What initially got you interested in urban farming?
My parents always had a vegetable garden in the yard in our house in Queens, NY as did all the neighbors. When I moved to Long Island, I continued growing, but I knew nothing about organics and safe growing practices. We moved to Arizona in 1996 and it hasn’t been easy to farm out here because we are not fenced in and have all kinds of critters coming through the yard. Javelina, rabbits, coyotes and the occasional snake.
Do you use any organic, permaculture, hydroponic, biodynamic, or other methods? Explain.
We have 2 compost bins that we use for kitchen scraps. We only eat organic or pesticide- and GMO-free food, so it is great compost. Anything else we use in the yard is organic. Our main crop are tomatoes. We grow them in a keyhole garden and they grow much bigger and better than when we just had them in the ground. A keyhole is a circular raised bed about 3 ½ feet high to keep javelina out. It is 6 feet in diameter with a cutout or keyhole (pie slice) on one side so you can reach the whole thing. At the pie slice point we put a tube made of chicken wire. Into that we throw kitchen scraps and the whole thing self-fertilizes.
Do you use compost?
We start with compost dirt from Singh Farms in Mesa. We also compost in a compost bin (2 of them) and the keyhole garden is self-composting. Our tomatoes don’t need fertilizer or even bug spray. They are super healthy and strong. Everyone wants our seeds!
Do you have any urban livestock? Chickens? Bees?
Hoping for chickens one day. Our neighbors had some but the local bobcat had them for dinner. So we have to plan a really excellent fencing system.
What do you do with the food you grow?
We can the tomatoes, eat them in salad or just pop them in our mouths. They also make a great caprese salad and we use the basil from our yard as well.
What is your greatest challenge in your farming endeavors?
What do you enjoy the most about farming/growing food?
It gives us a sense of accomplishment. Makes us grateful for the food we grow and for the food we buy.
Why do you think urban farming is important?
The more we grow, the more of a sense of control of our lives we have. Our health, our spending, our environment are now controlled by us. The more food we grow, the more independent we become. Not in a doomsday sort of way. But just a sense of security that if I grow it, I know it.
Do you think this is a growing movement? Is urban farming the future of agriculture?
Yes I think this is a growing movement. Groceries are expensive. Even if you can grow your own herbs, you save a lot of money. It’s really easy.
Do you have any advice for someone just getting started?
Start small and you don’t have to be traditional. We did much better with our raised beds than with traditional in-ground gardening.