25: Benjamin Fahrer from Top Leaf Farms
Benjamin Fahrer is joining us today on the Urban Farm Podcast. Ben is the owner and operator of Top Leaf Farms and has over 18 years of organic farming experience.
Prior to starting Topleaf farms a year ago, Ben worked with Josiah Cain, a well-known landscape architect known for vertical systems. Ben was called in to consult on a new project: To design and convert a living roof into a food roof.
He has successfully managed and operated many projects including Ocean Song Farm in Sonoma Co and the farm at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur. He has worked on additional projects in Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, Costa Rica, Mexico and New Zealand.
Tweetable/Quotable: Ben “enrolled in the University of Life and majored in direct experience.” @farmtheroof
As you explore what Ben and his team have created, be sure to check out their Urban Farm and Seed Project which is live on Barnraiser – Help support their effort for a local food system!
Urban seed project: macro and micro greens and kales – seed intensive…organic seed alliance. Reclaim the seed sovereignty.
Ben is also a graduate of Seed School, run by Bill McDorman and Belle Starr: Having a locally produced seed has benefits. When you harvest your own seeds from your established plants, they are already naturally adapted to your urban environment.
Ben went through his permaculture design course and went on to teach it! What was his experience? “A 72-hour drink from firehouse.” The curriculum is based off the designer’s manual. It’s a comprehensive look at how nature works; how to use appropriate technology and indigenous wisdom in a way that we can create a sustainable life. It’s a response to an unsustainable way of life.
Here’s how he defines permaculture: It’s an assemblage of conceptual components arranged in a way for sustainable human habitat. “I see permaculture as a way of life in balance with nature’s ecosystem.” Permaculture allows us to participate in nature and in life that is more in line than what we are living in now as a culture.
The ethics he holds dear: Earth care, people care, and fair share; these are how to take care of the earth and take care of each other, and the surplus that is generated is invested back into the other two for a cyclical pattern of abundance rather than scarcity.
One Straw Revolution: An Introduction to Natural Farming – opened up perspective to spiritual aspect. Masanobu Fukuoka (1913-2008) was a farmer and philosopher who was born and raised on the Japanese island of Shikoku
Grow for it! 🙂
Where can you connect with Ben?
More about seeds from Ben’s Barnraiser:
We envision an urban farmscape,
Help us plant the seeds!
Bright Future by Eric Drooker
Organizations we are working with:
FAQ (source: Barnraiser)
We often ask ourselves where does our food come from? Who was the person who grew it? How far did it travel and how many hands touched it before it arrived on my plate? And we rarely ask “Where did the seeds that grew this food come from?” The answer is hard to track. The seed industry is one of the only production systems in the world that is not required to list its point-of-origin and yet all the potential and energy of the produce we eat is embedded within the seed. The top 10 seed companies own over 70% of the world’s commercial seed industry and Monsanto now owns over 25%. How much of this seed is organic? Not much. Only 0.9% of the world’s commercial food production is considered organic. We need more organic seeds to grow our organic food and our efforts are addressing this simple fact. Only about 40% of the seeds that we have commercial access to here in the US are from a certified organic source.
However this model is not the only way to grow food nor grow seeds. Many farmers all over the world grow and save their own seeds. it is estimated that 70% of the world’s food supply is grown by small farmers and 80-90% of their seeds are sourced outside the commercial market. Urban Agriculture on a global scale produces an astonishing 15 to 20 percent of the world’s food, The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations reports that 800 million people worldwide grow vegetables or fruits or raise animals in cities. Most of these small farmers including many in the US are subject to corporate and political undermining, which makes it hard for them to thrive. We are contributing to a new model of farming that is rising in our country and worldwide–one that it is ecologically and economically just and does not rely on fossil fuels for production and distribution.
We are approaching unprecedented situations in regards to resource depletion and climate change. Both of these factors influence our food supply dramatically. On average the food that is on your plate has travelled over 1500 miles, and oil is the main driver, so is the means in which it is produced. The climate is changing and our plants and crops are needing to adapt. Heirloom varieties have been proven to be more resilient than their conventional counterparts to climatic factors such as drought, unseasonal weather patterns and pests. At the same time the corporations that control most of our seeds are beginning to gain more control of what is grown and who owns it. This situation is causing farmers to be servants and sometimes slaves of the global industrial agriculture complex rather than the stewards of culture and life as they have been for eons. The time has never been more important to reclaim our seed sovereignty and ensure this diversity of life for the future.
What does ‘Urban Adapted’ mean and why is this important?
Most seed companies get their seeds from large corporate seed farms based halfway around the world. These seeds carry with them the characteristics from their point of origin and begin to adapt to their new climate once they are planted. In just one season a plant will adapt and we can select for certain traits that will allow the next generation to perform better. The varieties that the farmer has access today has been severely reduced. In the last 100 years we have lost over 96% of seeds that were commercially available, thus the development and breeding of new seeds is crucial and especially for the evolution of Urban Agriculture.