Welcome to The Urban Farm Podcast
Welcome to the very first episode of The Urban Farm Podcast! This 3-day-per-week podcast will air every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday and feature interviews of farmers, authors, business leaders, advocates, and changemakers. Each week we will explore various aspects of urban farming and sustainability, including environmental, economic, social, emotional, spiritual, and health.
In today’s episode, podcast host Payton Collins interviews Greg Peterson about the podcast. Listen as Greg shares his story, the story of The Urban Farm, and introduces what The Urban Farm Podcast will be all about.
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Greg Peterson is a green living and sustainability innovator who is well-known regionally. He has appeared extensively on television and radio and is a frequent guest columnist for publications. His mission is inspire people to embrace their own greenness,which he does daily by living what he speaks. He received his master’s degree in Urban and Environmental Planning (MUEP) in December 2006 from Arizona State University. His academic training has been augmented by 34 years of real world self-study, ownership of multiple businesses and a rich background in entrepreneurship, computer training, software development and management.
As a resident of Phoenix for the last 48 years, Greg is well-versed in urban sustainability and food production in dry lands. He was first introduced to desert gardening at the age of 12. In 1991, he discovered the concept of permaculture, bringing together many sustainability concepts into one cohesive system. Then in 2001, Greg created a new concept called the Urban Farm (www.urbanfarm.org), a real world environmental showcase home in the heart of Phoenix, Arizona. He applied his extensive background to transform this 1950’s built tract home into an innovative holistic home site. The Urban Farm (www.urbanfarm.org ), featuring an entirely edible landscape, including over 70 fruit trees, rainwater and greywater harvesting, three solar applications, and extensive use of reclaimed and recycled building materials. The site is opened periodically throughout the year to the public and offers classes, lectures and tours.
Payton Collins is an Arizona native with a heart for people. She studied Sustainability and Religious Studies at Arizona State University, and views a sustainable system as one in which people “employ rather than fight the interconnections between economic, social, and environmental systems” in order to increase quality of life for all. She served as The Urban Farm’s first Podcast Production Supervisor, and considers regenerative agriculture, quality education, and healthy relationships three of the most important way to cultivate a thriving community. You can contact Payton via email at email@example.com.
Full Transcript by BuhoBot
Payton: You’re listening to the urban farm podcast your partner in the Grow Your Own Food Revolution whether you’ve just been introduced to urban farming or you’re a lifelong advocate. We’re sure you’ll be feeling more informed equipped and empowered to dig deeper into the soil of your local food economy with you every step of the way. Here’s your host Greg Peterson says Hello and welcome to the first ever episode of the urban farm podcast. My name is Payton and I’m the podcast production supervisor here at the urban farm and I’m here with Greg Peterson your host and the owner of the urban farm in Phoenix Arizona. How are you doing today Greg. I’m great and it’s great to have you here. Thanks. Thank you so much I’m happy to be here. I have to say I’m psyched to be launching this podcast and I’m excited for all we have in store for everyone tuning in. Before we talk about what listeners can expect in the coming weeks would you tell us a little about yourself and what inspired you to start this podcast.
Greg: Absolutely. So I really feel like I was born with this task in mind because in 1974 I was in the eighth grade and I had to write a paper for my science class and I wrote a paper on how we were overfishing the oceans. How on earth an eighth grader knows that I don’t know to this day. But I knew back then that there was something inherently wrong with how we were living on the planet and how we were eating on the planet and I you know it is some pretty big seeds were planted back then. M. one thousand eighty one. I designed on paper. Sustainable fish farm. And because it never made sense to me I was playing with aqua culture back then that’s what fish farming is called it’s called aqua culture as playing with fish farming back then and looking at fish farms that would raise fish. They would clean the fish and they would throw away the stuff that was left over which would make great fertilizer you know there’s whole bunches of stuff that could be done with that so what I did is I I took that the concept of sustainable back then I don’t even know it was called that back then. I took this this concept of sustainable and I wrapped that waste back around into the system because basically it turned the fish waste into fertilizer for fertilizing. I think we were doing corn in this model or whatever it was. So that was in 1901 I was really thinking about deeply about that. Fast forward 10 years I actually spent some time in technology. I ran a Macintosh computer company for 20 years and in 1991 a couple of major things happened for me. I discovered permaculture. And I did a 72 hour permaculture design course that year and and I discovered a book called Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. I’ll be talking about that probably a fair amount in the coming episodes Ishmael’s a conversation between a gorilla and a man. And the grill is the teacher. It’s really fascinating work of fiction. If you haven’t read it go read it. Then in 2001 when I had returned back to Arizona State University to get my degree and I had to write a mission and vision for life in one of the classes. And in writing that mission vision what I discovered is what I was already doing what I wanted to do and that’s show people how to do what we’re doing here at the urban farm. So in 2001 the urban farm which created the urban farm I like to call an environmental showcase home. So there’s a lot going on here and what I do is I open it up periodically for classes and tours so that people can come in and see these different concepts in action and then hopefully take them with them and do something about them.
Payton: It is so inspiring to see what you’ve done here and for listeners who haven’t been here to the urban farm to see what you’ve done could you paint a picture for them of what there is here.
Greg: Absolutely. So the urban farm is in north central Phoenix it’s right in the middle of the city. He stood up on the roof here at the urban farm and looked around 50 miles in every direction you see city you can see that far. So that kind of gives you a picture of where we’re at. I’m about four miles north of downtown Phoenix in a neighborhood that was built in the 1040s. My house was built in 1989 and it is on a flood irrigated property basically what that means is that this used to be a citrus orchard in the 1900s and 30s and how they watered it was with ditchwater So basically the the yard gets 6 inches of water 20 times a year. That’s part of how the property gets watered here is through this ditch water this flood water. So the property itself is 80 feet wide and 160 feet deep so it’s about 14000 square feet ish. And what I’ve done over the past twenty six years is I’ve created this space into what I call an edible landscaping. So everything is edible or it supports at all. So what that looks like is I’ve got somewhere around 80 fruit trees on the property. I’ve got rainwater and gray water harvesting theirs. Three different kinds of solar panels on the roof and edible gardens everywhere. Plus we have a pretty good contingents of chickens that live in the you know in the back part of the property that you know they take care of bugs and weeds and so on
Payton: like that. It really is like an oasis in the midst of the concrete jungle being here with you right now. Thanks so Greg. Our podcast is called the urban farm podcast you are the owner of the urban farm in your note. Urban farmer but what exactly is an urban farmer.
Greg: You know that is a great question and it’s one that I really I push every day forward with that. I’m you know I’m really out to create 10000 urban farms here in Phoenix. And the reason I do that so there’s the reasons behind why I do that and what is an urban farmer So here’s a quick quiz for you listeners out there as you’re listening. How many people are growing their own food. You either want to grow your own food you’re growing your own food and so you know kind of take note of that. And how many people share that food with somebody to share that food was somebody you could some people sell it. You know generally they think farmers sell their stuff. Well farmers can also grow it and share it. So my contention is that if you’re growing food and sharing it even with your family or an urban farmer so claim that so you grow food. You share it and then the third part of that is you always want to name the urban farm because naming your urban farm creates name recognition. It creates sizzle in the community as well. I’ll tell you when I do a tour I always ask Hey how many urban farmers do I have out there and people are learning this now 10 years ago when I first asked this question you know I get nobody that would show up and claim to be an urban farmer now I’ll get five or 10 or 15 people on a tour that raise their hands and then what I’ll do is I’ll say OK what’s your urban farm name and there are some great names out there first of all you know it’s a pretty generic the urban farm but people here in Phoenix you know the urban farm and they know there’s this place in north central Phoenix that’s called the urban farm where great grows food and he shares People shared with people how to grow their own food stuff right. Well there’s Jack’s beanstalk. There’s wish we had acres that’s a great fun name. My friends learned David that that’s their farm name and they have a quarter acre kind of a wish for more acres right wish we had acres there’s two fat cats apartment garden and what it does is it brings levity to the levity to the space and brings levity to the conversation and and it big makes it more memorable test being an urban farm and why do I do what I do. So a big piece of why I do what I do remember I talked about seventh grade and having this sense 40 years ago that there was something inherently wrong. Well I still think that there is something inherently wrong with what we’re doing here and how we’re doing food on the planet and we have this absolutely amazing food system set up in this country that delivers meals to three hundred thirty million people every day. Right. Why it’s the food system in the way that it’s set up. And on one hand it’s amazing on another
hand it’s got many problems and one of the problems is it’s delivering food that’s not so nutritious. We’ll talk about that in future episodes in people be able to discover that. But it’s also somewhat tenuous in its ability to deliver if we have a storm or a power outage or something happens and food stops coming into really any metropolitan area we have about a three day supply of food. And I actually say we have a three hour supply of food because once people get wind you know food so there’s a disruption in the food supply the food is going to disappear off the shelves right. Right so I really encourage people to you know plant their front and back yards grow their own food so that hey. If something happens and we have food growing in our yards there’s food available for us to eat. And guess what. If nothing happens which is what I’m going in for if nothing happens then we have food grown everywhere we have food growing in our yard so either way we win. It’s an absolute win win situation for our communities for our families when we actually get out there and grow our own food.
Payton: It really is Greg. So earlier you mentioned the word permaculture. What does that mean and why is that important.
Greg: So my definition for Permaculture is the art and science of working with nature. You know as human beings we’re kind of you know we’re kind of where we think we know how to do it better than nature. So we’ve created these systems on the planet that we think work better than what Mother Nature has working and what we’re finding is that that’s not the case. So what permaculture does is Permaculture takes a look at how nature works and it replicates and builds on those systems. So again the art and science of working with nature. There’s several a myriad of books out there. Permaculture Designer’s Manual there’s the introduction to permaculture. A good friend of mine Toby Hemingway wrote guy’s garden and he’s all talk about how to implement permaculture in your space. And one of the one of the significant things about permaculture is Permaculture is not a thing to do although we do things in permaculture it’s a different way of thinking it’s the shift in a paradigm shift in how we think about how we live on the planet. And then it becomes a design methodology. So in designing our systems around the house what we do is especially here at their brand farm what I do is I think through an entire process and then I implement it. So we think through an entire process and then we implement it so let’s take chickens for example and chickens fall under a really cool category for me. Called stacking functions in permaculture we play with stacking functions as often as we can and basically what stacking functions means is that we use a resource as many times as we can. I love my chickens in the backyard chickens are our great workers and in permaculture we have something called a permaculture chicken so what we do when we’re looking at a chicken we look at the different resources that it brings to the table. So what do you think that chicken could do in my backyard.
Payton: The bugs
Greg: they could eat bugs right. They could eat weeds they leave manure behind. Right. Oh yes yes yes. And our hands we don’t eat our hands our hands here what do they give us every day. Oh eggs of course right. So we have this chicken and it’s giving us four different services in our yard essentially. Plus you know my sweetie Heidi loves the chickens so she gets a lot of entertainment around them. So in permaculture what we do is we look at different resources in this case the chicken and we. Make the best use of it. So anon permaculture chicken or what week in permaculture called an industrial chicken is pretty much good for meat and eggs and you know they’re raised in a particular way while my chickens live wild essentially wild in the backyard they get they get free run of about 8000 square feet in the back part of the property
and they eat the bugs they eat the way they do their work and they give us AIDS every day. But you know they’re happy chickens their permaculture chickens and another concept in Permaculture is what we call stacking functions and stacking functions it’s really making most use in the Permaculture chicken is really stacking you know that we use that concept and stacking functions in the Permaculture chicken but also just applying stacking functions in your life when you go out for a drive to get some things done you don’t go to the. Pet food store and then home and then the grocery store and then home and then the dry cleaners than home do now. No of course not. You go to the pet food store then you go to the grocery store and then you go to the dry cleaners then you go home and that’s actually something in transportation planning. So in city planning and transportation planning that’s called trips that we can take these permaculture concepts and stack them and use them in many places in our life in fact we’re sitting in my office here at the urban farm right at the office slash studio and I’ve been working out of my house now for 15 years. Fifteen years ago I had an office offsite here at the urban farm that I’d have to get up and go to in the morning and I’d sit there and I’d work and then I’d come home and I was paying for the office. Right so I looked at this space here at the urban farm 15 years ago and it’s like wow. You know what this little space would make a great office I spent fifteen hundred bucks back then and shifted it into this really cool space that we’re sitting in now. So now in the mornings this is a permaculture process for me in the morning what I do is I get up I go out and feed the chickens I you know do any little yard work that I’m doing and then I come in to the office and I work for a little while and then I you know pathway during the day or part of the way during the day you know I’ll go out and all feed the chickens again or you know do some pruning or you know I’ll get up and move around in the space of the urban farm and I come back and work so it is what I’ve done with my office and my work as I’ve integrated in the flow and in big part that’s what Permaculture is all about permaculture is about integrating life processes into the flow of our life so that we’re working in the flow of nature of that against nature. So that’s what Permaculture is to me and so much more. The interesting thing about permaculture is everybody that does a permaculture design course has a different definition. So there you go. Permaculture in a nutshell. By the way that is a great book. Permaculture a nutshell.
Payton: Well it certainly sounds like Permaculture is something that everybody can learn from not just farmers. Oh yeah absolutely. Well so can listeners expect to learn more about permaculture and growing techniques in our podcast.
Greg: Absolutely. Every podcast full featured guest with valuable experiences that can help listeners understand effective techniques to grow herbs vegetables fruits and livestock in urban areas. We’ll talk about how to handle common challenges growers faced and helpful tips to make sure you’re building healthy soil rock time which is a really really big one.
Payton: Yeah especially since the word agriculture itself is really all about enriching the soil soil culture taking care of this. You look at that absolutely. I learned that in the movie inhabit it which is a wonderful oh you should take out. Yeah exactly. That talks about permaculture a lot. So will all of the guests on the show be farmers.
Greg: Absolutely not. Will have farmers will have authors business leaders advocates change makers on the show to explore various facets of urban farming including the economic social environmental aspects of it. Plus how urban farming influence emotional spiritual and physical health of those involved. Each week we’re going to include different topics. So what we’ve done
is Peyton and I have kind of brainstorm and we’ve come up with these different topics that we’re going to kind of cover. Generally you know on a weekly basis. So
Payton: what are some of those topics that we’re going to be talking about Greg.
Greg: One really important one is you know let’s get down to growing it’s growing techniques. We’re going to share valuable techniques and theories and ways to grow food that are effective and efficient. But the sheet mulching sheet mulching is this crazy incredible way to build incredible soil and it’s a permaculture concept where we take the layers of organic material and layer it and then plant right in it. It’s also called interestingly enough it’s called lasagna gardening. So we’ll have guests on to talk about what these do you know some different techniques and how they do it and like that then there’s the wild card day.
Payton: I’m excited for our wild card day because that’s a day where we could surprise you with anything
Greg: just about anything show that could be anything that has to do with the food system and how our food distributed how we get our food how it ends up on our plates. It’s a wild card so I don’t know that I can say a whole lot more about it.
Payton: Yeah you name it it can happen that day so make sure you tune in on those days for sure. There you
Greg: go then we’ll have a permaculture concept day where we cover a different concept and permaculture will bring in a guest who knows a particular thing about permaculture and we’ll take a look at what they’re doing and how they’re doing it and have them explain just exactly how you can do this for yourself and then one of my favorite topics. And we’ve actually been doing this in our newsletter for almost two years now. We’re going to talk to featured farmers. So the urban farm lifestyle newsletter as it currently sits. Once a month we put out a featured farmer so we we find a farmer somewhere in on the planet and we interview them and their information gets you know posted in our newsletter. Well we’re going to bring that to life in a voice so you know we could have farmers from Australia. Actually I think we already had a featured farmer from a stray we need to get her on on the show but so featured farmers you know people just like you and me that are out there doing this incredible work that are you know building farms in neighborhoods to you know to feed ourselves.
Payton: I love that so much that there are farmers all over the world and everybody has their own unique tip or trick to share they’ve all had challenges and successes in overcoming their challenges and I’m sure there’s a lot for us to learn from those guests.
Greg: Yeah and you know what we’re going to talk about all of that. So we’ll have questions for these featured farmers that ask them you know what have you been your greatest successes and what you know what have you learned from your biggest failures. So things like that said we’re going to include all of that in the featured farmer section.
Payton: Awesome So what’s our final final topic this is a good one this
Greg: is a good one. This is called So You wrote it. And then we’re going to be bringing in authors anybody that wrote anything about permaculture the food system sustainable food
sustainable culture regenerative design that’s a term that we haven’t talked about yet but we’re going to talk about that more. We’re going to bring in authors and we’re going to interview them about their books and how they were just hired to do their books and you know and teach us some of the stuff from those books
Payton: we can learn so much from books and I’m sure having the authors here will have just such a wealth of knowledge to share that may not even be contained in those books so that’ll be fantastic. That is the cool thing absolutely. Well awesome. It sounds like there is a great landscape of topics that are so diverse that we’re going to talk about so I’m excited for that. And it’s amazing how far reaching the impacts of urban farming are gardening and farming been shown to provide a lot of health benefits and can also serve powerful roles in building communities and ensuring local food security. What benefits have you personally experience from urban farming Greg. Well
Greg: big thing is fresh food. Tell you what I can’t eat a peach that I buy from the grocery store anymore I just can’t do it. I have well I don’t know 15 20 peach trees growing here on the property. So in May and June every year I have fresh peaches that are falling off of my hands that I just you know that you but when you bite into him they splashed down the front of your shirt because they’re so juicy and they’re so full of flavor. But you know one of the biggest benefits is fresh healthy food. Another big benefit is that the ring’s community together in such an awesome incredible way because we’re you know when you have a party at your house where do people normally end up at in the kitchen in the kitchen that’s right so you know Food brings people together and that’s you know that’s really what we’re after here in the urban farming podcast is to bring people together in community and you know to learn how to grow their own food in the neighborhoods.
Payton: That’s fantastic Greg and I’m sure listeners can relate to some of that too. Speaking of our listeners Let’s share with everybody what they can expect from their brand.
Greg: Absolutely it’s pretty simple actually we have three podcasts per week. On Tuesday Thursday and Saturday and we’re going to be interviewing we will interview somebody new for every podcast on the different topics. Some of the interviewees might come in for a couple of topics so if we hadn’t had a experienced Permaculture is that wrote a book we might bring him in is that a permaculture topic and an author so you might hear from them twice and all of them will be inspiring all of this is designed to really teach people and inspire people how to create sustainable and what we call in permaculture regenerative systems in their yard and in their life. So that’s really what we’re going to be digging into.
Payton: That’s so exciting and you’re so clearly passionate about it. You’ve also launched a project called urban farm. You say you’re very excited about. Tell us about background.
Greg: Absolutely so I’m a teacher. I teach at Arizona State University and I teach in the public eye bring people here into the front yard regularly on Saturdays in the spring and fall I teach at the farmers markets here in the valley and a while back I you know I discovered this whole online thing. And I got together with some friends of mine some of which you will hear from urban farm you. And we created this plan five years ago to actually take our curriculum and share it more widely. Put it on the Internet teach it as online classes. So last October we launched our first. Class called Urban Farming one to one now on a really good day. If I get in front of 20 or 30 people I’m doing a really really great job. My first web n are for urban farming 1
0 1 on October 2nd of last year we had over 20 100 people signed up for the web an hour and over 500 people attend the web in our lives. I knew incredible That is incredible and I knew that it was such a group in an incredible way to reach more people. So now what we do at urban farm you is we offer free webinars every month usually two or three of them and we follow them up with what we call our signature courses and our signature courses are jumpstart your Been farm that’s one that I teach. There’s a signature course called Growing food the basics that’s a seven week online class taught by Charisse Spencer and myself and that really covers all of the basics of how to grow your own food. Then my friends Bill and Val. Those are two of the people I mentioned earlier that we got together with five years ago and they teach seed school online so they have a seven week online school course. The teaches you everything you need to know about growing and saving seeds. My other friend who was at that meeting five years ago was Toby Hemingway. He wrote Gaia’s Garden and he’s come out with a new book called The permaculture city and he will being giving a course called the Permaculture city starting pretty soon at urban farm you know we have more courses coming up one called aquaponics. We’ve got one coming up on backyard livestock. The possibilities are endless about the courses that will be giving the cool thing is that we start off with one or two free weapon hours where you can actually come and learn for free and what you can take away from these free webinars. You’ll actually learn and you’ll be able to go out and do something with
Payton: it sounds like there’s really no way to lose from from those type of courses that we can get so much from them. I mean you have urban farm you going on you get to as here we have this podcast starting up. I’m excited for all that’s going on.
Greg: Thanks to you there is so much here. There’s so much here so much value and I’m deeply committed to me and all of us here urban farm you and at the urban farm we’re deeply committed to you getting a lot out of what we teach. So we powerpack them with content that you can do something with Shell and I’m that deeply dedicated to teaching.
Payton: You’ve inspired so many people so thank you. Thank you I’ll take that. Well Greg is there anything else that you’d like to share with our listeners before we send them off.
Greg: Yes so the bottom line for me is you’ve got to learn I’ve got to learn. I’m in this never ending loop of learning something new and learning something new and learning something new I’m always in one or two classes. Often they’re online. So I’m I’m really taking advantage of this online learning platform to learn new ways to deliver what we’re delivering to you new ways to garden and so for me the bottom line is you go out learn gone take a class you know what if it’s not with me go to your local botanical gardens or somewhere big Go take a class learn and then here’s the cool part. Once you learn it teach somebody else. That’s how we get to learn it at a deeper level so that you know really that’s a big learn and keep teach and this is what’s going to change the world
Payton: but a great way to wrap up well for everybody out there whether you’re a beginner looking to start a garden or you’ve been doing this for years will be your partner in the Grow Your Own Food movement helping make sure you have all the knowledge you need to be successful wherever you are. Thanks for joining us on the urban farm podcast. Until next time have a farm casting day.
Greg: Interested in learning more and taking control of your food future. Text urban farm 2 3 3 4 4 4 to sign up for our weekly urban farming newsletter. Jam packed with urban farming tips
stories from people just like you. Learning to urban farm and free classes at the urban farm lifestyle newsletter will put you to join the urban farming revolution text urban farm 2 3 3 4 4 4.
Payton: We hope you enjoyed today’s episode of the urban farm podcast. Remember to listen three days a week for Ted’s advice and resources to help you on your journey with Urban Farming. You can find us on the web at urban farm tattling. Or send us an e-mail to podcast at her being farmed out away in the words of Vincent Van Gogh. Great things are done by a series of small things brought together. Be encouraged that with each lesson learned in scale developed you are one step closer in the direction of your dreams.