Featured Farmer: Steve Bayless
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 farm is named Amado Gardens and it is on a 1/8 acre plot (which includes our house). We are growing tomatoes, kale, green leaf lettuce, Serrano peppers, banana peppers, snow peas, watermelon, butternut squash, sunflowers, onions, carrots, potatoes, broccoli, cilantro and bell peppers. Our herb garden contains oregano, peppermint, spearmint, basil, parsley thyme, lemongrass and stevia. We have boysenberries, black, flame and Crimson grapes, goji berries and blueberries. We also grow peaches, plums, nectarines, almonds, lime, lemon, Valencia and mandarin oranges, Anna apples and gala apples, and moringa. We are in a low desert climate.
What initially got you interested in urban farming?
My dad used to keep a garden and as I grew up I started growing things too. Nearly everything I planted produced and I loved it. So when I finally bought a house I started growing my own produce. I love the taste of homegrown produce and since I grow it I know what is in it and on it.
Do you use any organic, permaculture, hydroponic, biodynamic, or other methods? Explain.
We grow all our plants organically (we are not certified organic because we do not sell any of our produce). We employ the principles of permaculture, using ironwood trees for shade and nitrogen. We also grow a number of native and other desert plants along with our produce. Most of our plants are grown in raised beds due to the heavy clay in our soil.
Do you use compost? Where do you get it and how does it help your plants grow?
I let my chickens do the composting. They are so good at mixing and shredding the plant parts! I built a compost pile in the middle of the chicken run and we rake the run daily and water the pile. The compost is very rich due to the included chicken droppings so a little can really have a big impact on our plants.
Do you have any urban livestock? Chickens? Bees?
We have 13 chickens: Rhode Island Red, barred rock and black sex link. We are currently averaging 10 eggs a day.
What do you do with the food you grow?
We eat it! Due to our small plot size and large family we eat most everything we grow. Sometimes the kids graze on it before I can get out to harvest it.
What is your greatest challenge in your farming endeavors?
Weather is definitely the greatest challenge in farming. Damaging winds rip young fruit off of trees and sometimes take entire branches down. Freezing temperatures and scorching summer heat shorten the growing time for many plants.
What do you enjoy the most about farming/growing food?
I find gardening very relaxing and calming. There is just something about digging your hands into the soil and working it. I love getting fresh organic fruits and vegetables to eat as well.
Why do you think urban farming is important?
Urban farming is important because no matter how small your space you can always grow something that will reward you for your efforts. It teaches us to slow down and patiently wait for fruition.
Do you think this is a growing movement? Is urban farming the future of agriculture?
I hope it is a growing movement and that it will become the future of agriculture. With so many genetically modified foods and pesticide-coated produce, urban farming is a healthy solution to commercial agriculture. I have given each of my children a plot in my garden and I’m passing on the principles of permaculture to them as they grow their own food. They get so excited when we harvest something they have grown.
Do you have any advice for someone just getting started?
Just do it! Start small and expand as you can. Grow the produce you like to eat and grow as much from native seed as you possibly can! Good soil is key – don’t skimp on it.
Anything else you’d like to add?
The best way to teach others about urban farming is to share some of your produce with them. Once they see it growing and taste the goodness, you will have planted the seed of farming in their hearts.