Aggie from Sam’s Farm
Tell me a little about your urban farm. What is your farm’s name? Size? What are you growing? What kind of climate are you growing in?
Our urban farm is really a garden that we started for fun at first. We have four garden areas and 10 fruit trees in the yard. The name of our farm is Sam’s Farm, which stands for our first name initials- Samie, Aggie, Michael. We are growing a variety of veggies and fruit—specifically, beets, carrots (fall), zucchini, tomatoes, sweet peas, grapes, pumpkins, watermelon, cantaloupe, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, cabbage, kale, lettuce, spices (dill, cilantro, mint, basil), potatoes and sometimes cucumbers. The fruit trees we have are grapefruit, tangelo, orange, lemon, tangerine, pomegranate, fig, peach, apple and apricot. We have it all right here in Phoenix, AZ, so it’s a desert climate. We adjusted the growing of certain things depending on the season.
What initially got you interested in urban farming?
At first we really did a small section just for fun, mainly tomatoes and cucumbers. I wanted the kids to know where the food comes from and have it more organic, healthy and tasting better. We noticed that tomatoes taste and smell so much better when they are grown in the garden vs from the store which pretty much are tasteless.
Recently, we expanded into larger garden areas and planted more fruit trees. I love to have a green yard but I didn’t want to waste water and my work on something that doesn’t bring any benefit. I can spend as much work and water (ok, maybe a little more), have a green yard and have a benefit of fresh veggies and fruit.
Do you use any organic, permaculture, hydroponic, biodynamic, or other methods? Explain.
We use purely organic method. We have excellent soil that I’ve developed over the years. We also have our own compost. We do not use any chemicals at all to grow or fight pests. I change the types of plants I use from season to season, plant marigolds around to keep pests away, try to combine certain things and I’m getting ready to have chickens.
Do you use compost? Where do you get it and how does it help your plants grow?
I do use my own compost when I have it. When I don’t, I buy from local nursery and make sure it’s organic. I mix it with the soil when I tilt it and prepare for the next planting. Once I have chickens, I plan to use the waste for fertilizer. I think compost is awesome! The soil needs the organic matter and compost helps everything grow. It also invites things like worms.
Do you have any urban livestock? Chickens? Bees?
I would love to have bees but will wait until my retirement. My grandma had bees and I loved watching her work with them. I am planning on having chickens very soon.
What do you do with the food you grow?
We eat it, of course! 🙂 When we have a lot (like beets or tomatoes), I share with family and friends. We pickle extra cucumbers.
What is your greatest challenge in your farming endeavors?
Not enough time! I would love to spend more time in the garden but with full time work and kids it’s hard. The weather is also a challenge. I modified what I grow and when to accommodate for the heat. I also created shaded areas to help with the sun. The challenge in AZ is, of course, water. I try to water in the early morning so the soil and plants soak it up instead of the sun.
What do you enjoy the most about farming/growing food?
At first, it was seeing my kids’ faces when we got pumpkins! It was so fun watching them having so much fun with it and carving it was more fun because it was our very own pumpkin. When we swim in the pool, the kids love to pick and eat tomatoes right from the plant.
I love spending time in the garden. It’s cooler; it’s greener; it’s relaxing. You can forget about the whole world and all the world’s problems when you’re in the garden. I don’t even mind getting my hands dirty and feeling the dirt between my fingers.
The fact that I know where my food comes from, what is really in it, and what my kids eat (or don’t eat) is really important to me. I don’t want pesticides, I don’t want chemicals and I can be in total control of it. I just don’t trust the food industry.
Why do you think urban farming is important?
Same as above – I don’t trust the food industry. There are only a handful of large companies that control all of our food. That’s really scary since all they care about is profits. Organic and healthy food is expensive and even that food I don’t fully trust. What is organic? I remember eating apples and other fruit when growing up in Poland – you had to check for every bite since sometimes there were little worms in the apples. That’s organic!
Everyone should know where their food comes from and what’s in it! That’s why urban farming is important. Also, what would we do if we didn’t get the trucks with food to our city? People don’t know anything about growing their own food and they should! It’s healthy and good for their soul! It’s also much cheaper therapy than Prozac. 🙂
Do you think this is a growing movement? Is urban farming the future of agriculture?
Yes! I have seen a ton of farmers markets pop up everywhere. Chickens are beginning to be popular. You hear of little farms and gardens popping up. When talking to people or on social media, many people are starting this in their own yards. I think it’s great!
Is it the future? Maybe in years to come. But, I do hope that it is. So many farmers had to close their farms, the government is encouraging them not to grow certain things, and big corporations have taken over the farming and food processing. And, food processing is bigger than farming. It’s so sad and not good for anyone! I hope people will wake up, start urban farming and change the culture!
Do you have any advice for someone just getting started?
It’s easy so just do it! People think it’s expensive and hard and they have to have a degree in agriculture, but it’s so easy! And, it’s really not expensive to start! All you need is a tiny spot with good soil, some sun and water. That’s it! Just do it! Not succeeding? Ask for help!
Anything else you’d like to add?
I wish I started sooner!