Ocean Robbins from
The Food Revolution Network
Editor’s note: Ocean Robbins is a true revolutionary, and it is a huge honor to have him as our featured farmer for this month! April 30th-May 8th, he’ll be hosting the 2016 Food Revolution Summit, a free online summit, in which over the course of one week, his father John Robbins (a 3 million copy bestselling author and health authority) is personally interviewing 25 of the world’s top food leaders and experts including: Christiane Northrup, MD; Mark Hyman, MD; Joel Fuhrman, MD; Daniel Amen, MD; Jane Goodall, Ph.D; and Vani Hari. These interviews will be penetrating, mind-blowing, and inspiring. See more about the Food Revolution Summit here.
Tell me a little about your urban farm. What’s its name? Size?
We just call it The Robbins Family Garden. We’re growing 35 fruit trees, and we have 12 raised beds.
What are you growing?
Kale, collards, squash, tomatoes, zucchini, parsley, basil, broccoli, chard, carrots, and sometimes melons in the garden, and we also grow apples, nectarines, peaches, pluots, plums, apricots, oranges, mandarins, lemons, figs, pineapple guavas, and Asian pears.
What kind of climate are you growing in?
Coastal California – so it is pretty moderate.
What initially got you interested in urban farming?
I grew up with parents who grew most of their own food, as we lived on small island in the middle of the woods in British Colombia, Canada. I’ve lived with a garden my whole life, and I find it nourishing for my soul as well as my body.
Do you use any organic, permaculture, hydroponic, biodynamic, or other methods? Explain.
We use organic – including cover cropping, composting, bringing in manure from our neighbor’s horses… and we incorporate drip irrigation which is important in California since we have real water concerns in our state.
Do you use compost? Where do you get it and how does it help your plants?
We have a big compost pile, and we add to it every day. Lately my kids have taken to emptying the compost bucket (we have 15-year-old twins). We layer it with straw and manure, and it is the BEST fertilizer for our plants.
Do you have any urban livestock? Chickens? Bees?
Not right now.
What do you do with the food you grow?
We eat it all – thought sometimes we have enough that we can freeze some, or we may can applesauce, nectarine sauce, pesto, or apricot sauce for the winter.
What is your greatest challenge in your farming endeavors?
Finding the time to get out there and do it! But it is so rewarding whenever I do.
What do you enjoy the most about farming/growing food?
I love that tired, well-used feeling I get after time spent gardening. I love having food ready when we need it, without having to go to the store. And I love the taste of local, fresher than fresh food.
Why do you think urban farming is important?
For food security, for community resiliency, for health (people who grow vegetables are more likely to eat vegetables), for spiritual and emotional well-being, to give us respect for our food and what it takes to bring it to us, for exercise, and for the sustainability of our planet.
Do you think this is a growing movement?
I do. I think that more and more people are taking an interest in local, real, natural foods. More young people are getting interested in growing food. And more community gardens are popping up. This is all very exciting!
Is urban farming the future of agriculture?
We talk about thinking globally and acting locally. Growing food is about as local as you can get. It’s good therapy… and you get tomatoes! I think that as we have more people on this planet, growing food where people are is a fabulous antidote to the disconnection that so many people feel from community, from place, and from their own souls.
Do you have any advice for someone that’s just getting started?
Get some good advice so your efforts work – and then just do it. Start with something. And let it grow on you. Notice how you feel after an hour or two in the garden. Do you feel more alive, or less alive? More satisfied with yourself and with life, or less satisfied? If you can enjoy it, and “dig in”, the experience will change you. Don’t make the perfect into the enemy of the good – if you can grow something, that is so much better than nothing.
Check on your plants at least every week or two, to take out weeds. And set a timer reminder, unless you have automation set up, for watering.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Growing food is revolutionary! And it’s fun, too.
Ocean Robbins was born in a log cabin built by his parents, and grew up eating food they grew on the land together. At age 16, he co-founded an organization called YES! (Youth for Environmental Sanity) that he directed for the next 20 years. Ocean has spoken in person to more than 200,000 people in schools, conferences and events, and he has organized 100+ seminars and gatherings for leaders from 65+ nations. Ocean’s work has taken him all over the world, where he has seen first-hand the powerful impact of the food we eat – not just on our health, but on people and economies everywhere. He is author of The Power of Partnership, and co-author, with his dad and colleague John Robbins, of Voices of the Food Revolution. He serves as an adjunct professor for Chapman University, and has received numerous awards including the national Jefferson Award for Outstanding Public Service. He serves as co-host and CEO of the Food Revolution Network.