Featured Farmers: Curtis & Dani
from Phoenix, AZ
Tell me a little about your urban farm.
We don’t have a farm name yet. Our farm is 40sqft of raised beds and 36sqft of aquaponics. We are growing squash, tomatoes (cherry and roma), oranges, moringa, mint, basil, chamomile, strawberries, thyme, duck weed, Aloe vera, and started an avocado tree. We are growing in Phoenix Metro Area climate.
What initially got you interested in urban farming?
Always wanted to grow our own food but fresh chicken eggs is what got us into growing as organically as we can.
Do you use any organic, permaculture, hydroponic, biodynamic, or other methods? Explain.
We use aquaponics as one way of gardening in which we incorporated a rabbit cage and also an area below to house chickens (for when I get into a chicken friendly area). In this 84sqft area you can house 1 rabbit with babies, 3 to 4 chickens and up to 50 full grown tilapia. And use the aquaponics to grow the food for them.
In my raised beds instead of composting I take my rabbit poop and dig a hole and bury it. When I do this it keeps a large colony of worms fed so that my plants have an unlimited supply of worm castings.
Do you have any urban livestock? Chickens? Bees?
I do have urban livestock. First, I have rabbits for meat with a unique caging system I built myself using a swamp cooler to blow underneath it. By doing this the cool air is blocked on the sides, forcing the cool air to rise with no need for frozen water bottles in up to 112-degree weather. Also, with the air blowing where the poop falls it dries it out and the air detours the flies from laying eggs, making deep litter an ease (only having to clean every other month!). Second, we have tilapia with the aquaponics for meat also.
What do you do with the food you grow?
We consume as much of the food we grow as we can and what we can’t consume the animals get. We also get plenty of meat out of the rabbits.
What is your greatest challenge in your farming endeavors?
Our greatest challenge in our farming endeavors is finding land where we can grow whatever food and animals we want to. There is always something stopping us from getting onto an acre+ property. I still am currently renting and waiting to get onto my own land.
What do you enjoy the most about farming/growing food?
The peacefulness and therapeutic elements to gardening and livestock raising is the most enjoyable part. I find nothing better than walking out to the garden and finding worms with my 3 year-old girl, checking on the baby rabbits or seeing the fish swim peacefully around in the aquaponics.
Why do you think urban farming is important?
I think urban farming is very important because people are becoming way too separated from knowing where there food grows and how it is made. There are way too many “food-like” products made up of who knows what on the shelves at the grocery stores. It’s a bunch of fake, nutrient-lacking products that can’t sustain our bodies.
Do you think this is a growing movement? Is urban farming the future of agriculture?
I do think it’s a growing movement due to the amount of information on how our food is grown and how bad it is for us. I don’t think that we are to the point of making it the future of agriculture. I think that gardening and livestock raising go hand-in-hand and that there are too many laws preventing livestock from being backyard grown and without this key element backyard agriculture cannot grow to the ease it needs to be. I could not imagine my garden without my animals.
Do you have any advice for someone that’s just getting started?
My advice to anyone starting up is to simply learn about your food and why it is so unhealthy. When you find this out you’ll be motivated to grow your own healthy, organic and freshest food ever.
Curtis and Dani,
Great lookin’ setup. I was reading your greatest challenge, finding land to move to, and I totally know where you’re coming from. We used to have a nice small acre + back east before we moved out here in AZ, and then the best we could get at that time was a standard issue city “sardine can” lot (very small) in a HOA where we couldn’t do anything. We were extremely miserable so our first priority was to get the sort of property we used to have and it all worked out a few years ago so our universe is back in order. Just wanted to say I understand how frustrating that can be but keep at it and you’ll get there for sure. Good luck and keep up the great work!
We finally did and in a big way! We got 3.5 acres in San Tan Valley. It’s a run down mess but we are up for the challenge of fixing it up. You can also follow us on Facebook under Desolate Homestead. Thanks for the encouragement it’s taken us 4 years and 4 moves but we did do it.
We finally got into our acre+ property! If you like the article than like and follow us on Facebook under Desolate Homestead as we take this wasted worn down property and turn it into a working homestead.
Thanks for reading.
Great story and follow up comments. Curtis, do you guys have a YouTube account we can see some of your challenges and successes?
I have not started my YouTube account although I would like to start soon.