Featured Farmer: Amanda Midkiff from Locust Light Farm
Tell me a little about your urban farm. What’s its name? Size?
Locust Light Farm grows just over an acre of medicinal herbs. We are Certified Naturally Grown, and are slowly incorporating aspects of permaculture design into our farm. We are not an urban farm; we are actually located in the suburbs of Philadelphia. We grow medicinal herbs, dry them, and process them into herbal products such as tea blends, salves, massage oils, herbal honeys, and more. We sell our products through our Community Supported Wellness program, in which members “join” the farm and receive a package of herbal products once a month.
What kind of climate are you growing in?
What initially got you interested in urban farming?
I was planning on going to law school to work with international agricultural trade legislation. I wanted to work on agricultural trade between the U.S. and Latin America. I was interested in the way that trade legislation impacts the lives of growers in Mexico and Central America and wanted to advocate for growers’ rights. I decided to volunteer on a vegetable farm to learn what life was like for vegetable growers. I loved the work, and have been farming ever since.
Do you use any organic, permaculture, hydroponic, biodynamic, or other
We farm using organic methods. We haven’t done organic certification yet due the expense; we’ve chosen Certified Naturally Grown because we appreciate its grassroots values. We are learning to plant with the biodynamic calendar and are beginning to incorporate permaculture into our design. It’s great to do with herbs because so many of them are perennial, and there are many medicinal trees to work with as well.
Do you use compost? Where do you get it and how does it help your plants?
We use organic mushroom mulch (widely available in PA, which is the nation’s largest mushroom producer) to fertilize, but we don’t fertilize much. Herbs don’t need high fertility. We also maintain a compost pile on our farm.
Do you have any urban livestock? Chickens? Bees?
We have two hives on our farm: one is a Langstroff hive maintained by a friend of ours, in its second year. This year Jamie (my partner) is keeping a Flow Hive. This will be his first year keeping bees, and it’s a new style of hive, so he’s excited.
What do you do with the food you grow?
We make herbal teas, herbal remedies, and culinary products such as herbal vinegars, herbal honeys, oils, etc.
What is your greatest challenge in your farming endeavors?
Learning to grow herbs has been a series of challenges: herbs grow very differently from vegetables and there’s not much information available on growing them. Also, supporting myself while getting a first-year farm off the ground was quite difficult. I’m happily heading into my second season with more knowledge and stability.
What do you enjoy the most about farming/growing food?
I enjoy helping people to feel empowered in their own wellness and healthcare. I want people to feel like they have tools to heal themselves or work toward preventative healthcare. Also, I love spending every day outside, working with incredible plants and inspiring people.
Why do you think urban farming is important?
Independence in food and medicine is a cornerstone to building sustainable communities.
Do you think this is a growing movement?
Absolutely. Increasing numbers of people are growing their own food, making their own medicines, or even becoming farmers.
Is urban farming the future of agriculture?
Urban farming will definitely be part of a larger system of sustainable agriculture.
Do you have any advice for someone that’s just getting started?
Don’t be intimidated. Read and learn what you can, find a mentor or a community, and just go for it. You’ll learn as you go, and in the meantime you’ll be doing great work.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Herbs are a great option for urban farmers. You get a high yield from just a few plants, many prefer shade or unique growing environments, and you’ll be growing something for yourself that you probably cannot find anywhere else.
The CSW is an excellent way for people to learn to incorporate herbal healing into their lives. Herbs can be excellent for maintaining health, for preventative care, or for treatment of daily complaints. Members receive educational information with each share, and become well-versed with a variety of herbs.
Amanda Midkiff, the owner of Locust Light Farm, chose the CSW model because she feels passionately about helping people to feel empowered about their healthcare and wellness. She feels that herbs are a great tool for health and works to make the products accessible to people who have never used herbs before. Most of her members are new to herbalism, and she loves that. “At first members may be a little uncertain about what they’ve gotten themselves into,” says Midkiff, “but soon they’ll be saying ‘I’m getting a bad cold. Can you send me some white yarrow? Or ‘I was really drained from work this week, so I started taking the ashwagandha and it really helped!’ and that is what I love to do: put herbal medicines into the hands of people who might otherwise not have known about them.”
Locust Light Farm is Certified Naturally Grown. They strive to cultivate the herbs in ways that honor the plants’ innate wildness. They are slowly incorporating permaculture design into their operation, and feel grateful everyday to steward a beautiful piece of land.
Members can sign up for a share at www.locustlightfarm.com.