Ryan Leach of Live Simply Live Richly Farm
Tell me a little about your urban farm. What’s its name? Size?
Our farm name is Live Simply Live Richly Farm. We have a year round, homemade geothermal hoop-house. We make things people normally buy like soap, lard, yogurt, sauerkraut, and many other things. The farm is roughly 8,000 square ft.
What are you growing?
5 varieties of Tomatoes, Sweet Corn, Green Beans, Beets, Lettuce, Kale, Spinach, Broccoli, Cabbage, Carrots, Onions, Potatoes, Rutabaga, Turnips, Peas, Okra, Zucchini, 5 varieties of squash, Cantaloupe, Pumpkin, Cucumber, Bell Pepper, Jalapeno, 2 varieties of Garlic, Lemon Basil, Yarrow, Wild Black Raspberries. This coming winter we will be doing wheat as well.
What kind of climate are you growing in?
Western Ohio Zone 6a. Cold winters, hot summers and not much in between. It is a difficult area to forecast weather because even though the area is flat, the weather changes can change in a matter of minutes. One day could have a forecast of rain and 10 miles before the rain gets here, it breaks up or it develops into a large storm literally 2 miles past us. We are slowly learning to forecast our own weather based on site observations.
What initially got you interested in urban farming?
By trade, I am a golf course superintendent. When my wife was pregnant with our first, it hit me; food is sprayed with things similar to what I spray on the golf course. I have never seen a long-term study on the health effects and I in no way want our kids exposed to that kind of food by our hands. There are many carcinogens in the world that we are exposed to and we cannot allow food sprayed with who knows what, to be one of them. After research, we also saw how much food we could produce. So, we planned for our entire produce and probably 85% of our food needs to be grown on site. It has been an enormous success. The growing season starts early May and ends by late October. As of August 5, 2016, our farm has produced 380lbs of fruits and vegetables and meat.
Do you use any organic, permaculture, hydroponic, biodynamic, or other methods? Explain.
We use organic, permaculture, and some minor biodynamic methods. We use no chemicals, build soils and pay attention to climate or moon cycles when planting or harvesting.
Do you use compost? Where do you get it and how does it help your plants?
We do use compost. I use aged chicken manure as well as wood chip compost. I get the manure from here on the farm and the wood chips are aged for 4 years before they are applied. Those chips come from a local municipality. Using organic matter that is broken down into compost is much more beneficial than any manmade product. You have long term nutrition, micro-organisms, organic matter, water conservation properties, and I could go on and on.
Do you have any urban livestock? Chickens? Bees?
We have 26 laying hens, one rooster, and raise meat birds twice a year. We are planning to set up a few Langstroth Hives next year. We are also planning to do a 2,500 sq ft pasture for two pastured/partially supplemented hogs.
What do you do with the food you grow?
Some of the meat birds are sold on the farm; the rest are for us. The produce we grow is stored for our family and we give the extra to family, friends and our church. Our goal is to grow enough food year to year, that a trip to the grocery is for things we cannot do ourselves.
What is your greatest challenge in your farming endeavors?
Time is the biggest challenge. With a family of four and a full time career, devoting enough time to manage 8,000 sq ft of ground and animals is always a battle. When one thing is done, something else comes up and needs addressed.
What do you enjoy the most about farming/growing food?
We enjoy what we harvest because it is pure. Heirloom, beyond organic, chemical free, food. There is something about picking something out of the garden and eating it minutes after it’s picked that is incredibly satisfying. I also really enjoy education of self-sustainability.
Why do you think urban farming is important?
It is important for several reasons. Growing food is inexpensive. The return of investment of seed to yield is exponential. The nutrition of the food is immeasurable to conventional food. Organic at the store is “expensive” but so is healthcare so why not grow it yourself and give yourself the best nutrition nature can provide you? Health is wealth. I also think it is important because I want to be able to pass this knowledge to my children so that they will always know how to provide for themselves.
Do you think this is a growing movement?
I absolutely do. Very slowly, people are realizing that our “food” isn’t really food. “Food” is a bunch of ingredients that are highly processed by chemicals or heat and added to other ingredients that you can’t pronounce. Society wants to know what they are eating and it is a growing concern. Growing food starts as a hobby that turns into a way of life.
Is urban farming the future of agriculture?
I believe so; I believe that our kid’s generation will see this food movement as our generation sees the complete shift from cigarette use. I mean, cigarettes were not only mainstream but “healthy” for you and today it is proven wrong. I think our kids will look back and say the same about the current mainstream food system.
Do you have any advice for someone that’s just getting started?
Start small. Pick a crop you like, find out how much space it needs, make a garden for that size. It is easy to get overwhelmed if you jump in with a lot of ground and not much experience in managing it. Every one of us have made mistakes and you will too. Learn from it and push through. You will succeed and you will fail; enjoy all of the processes and results because the food you grow is coming by your hands and from start to finish, it is utterly satisfying.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Thank you so much for asking how I think the food world could be changed. We started a farm page on Facebook called Live Simply Live Richly Farm. Here we show what is going on with our farm, try to solve any issue that you may be having with your farms, and is a place for everyone to talk about how to get the most out of your ground with minimal effort. We invite any and all to come and be a part of the group.