My first attempt at gardening.
In my early days of gardening I was fascinated with the idea of zero waste, closed loop systems and agroecology. They were ideas that appealed to me because of the ways in which they viewed nature – as a partner, something to work with and not against. This notion of working with something instead of against it captured my mind, and forced me to think differently. When working with people we learn to change them, when working with natural systems we learn to change ourselves.
What our lawn looked like before.
A former front lawn converted to a market garden, an area roughly the size of a football field. Growing up on this land since the age of 5, I watched as each sibling would mow the lawn. At first with a push mower, which I was fortunate enough to be too young to remember, and eventually my father purchased a riding mower. A beautiful green lawn for half the year and a field of star thistle during the summer. Although most of the lawn is gone and converted to beds for crop production the beauty of the market garden far outshines the lawn on even it’s best day.
As I look back on the start of this gardening exploration I often wonder where all the time has gone. Working with the living systems to benefit each other mutually is a time honored way of living a fulfilled life. There is no greater purpose than to serve one another while caring for the land. I consider my profession as a farmer, someone who works with the earth to provide a nourishing harvest for his community, to be the highest honor. I am grateful to be where I am because of where I came from.
What a beautiful time of year, especially after a brutally hot summer. This summer did not feel as long but the intensity in August was devastating. It’s times like these, cool mornings and rains that have watered the garden, that you forgot about how hard it can be to grow food during our Mediterranean summers. You often forgot that there is no rain between June and October.
For nearly half the year there is no rain in California and the ground dries up. The grasses turn “golden” and the wildfires rage. The lakes and rivers that flow through the Sierra Nevada foothills are the only areas of greenery. Farming in the foothills without water would be certain failure, yet farmers are gamblers in the respect that they will do whatever it takes to make it work. Ditches were put in place years ago and lakes damned and diverted for irrigation water.
When Fall comes rolling around the rains are a welcome reprise for the parched soil. The earth breathes a sigh of relief and so to does the farmer. Days are shorter and the plants grow a little slower. Living without moisture for so long we are often ill prepared for the first rains, as if we have never seen this miracle before. It is easy to take for granted the water that pours from a faucet. Often that water is used but for brief moment and gone down the drain.
Our farm reuses water from our drains to water perennials like fruit trees, goji berries and hop vines. The farm is designed with water in mind, we have strategically located our gardens in areas that would benefit most from seasonal rains and created contoured beds to harvest runoff water. Drip tape is used for all long season crops and micro emitters for quick turnover annuals.