There are two journeys to Dripping Springs Garden.
One is the six-mile unpaved county road that squirrels along a riverbed, up the hill and past a bluff with a cave where Indian bones were once found, skirting by the neighbors with the junked cars, and deep into a valley with open vistas descending into Fall colors. The other is the journey of former apprentice, Mark Cain. In the living room of the cozy rustic home set in the hills of Northwestern Arkansas, a painting hangs on the wall. A face is surrounded by Japanese characters, swirls and abstract marks. It is a drawing by horticultural philosopher, Masanobu Fukuoka, illustrating his basic tenet of “Mu,” or “do nothing,” in which man knows nothing and all lessons lie in nature. Fukuoka gave this drawing, along with a lecture describing his philosophy of ‘Natural Farming,’ to Mark during a visit to Japan in 1990. But this exchange came after many years of practiced interest, during which Mark along with others cultivated a “Mu”-inspired community in Northern California. “We walked into ravines and threw out mustard seeds. People were starting gardens around their yurts and I created a little raised bed next to my teepee. And we must have thrown hundreds of pounds of seeds into this meadow.”
Mark Cain 1978 Apprentice Dripping Springs Garden Huntsville, Arkansas Land: 40 acres Farmer’s Markets: Fayetteville Season: April - November Highest income: (from one day at market) $2,500 Workers: 2 interns Favorite Flowers: Delphinium, Larkspur, Lisyanthus, Cultivation: Hand and (more recently) Tractor Worst Pest: Armadillo Email: drippingspringsgdn@lycos. com
Dripping Springs is as much a work of art, a spiritual way of life, as it is a means of making a living. In this vein, a form of farming has been sought that sits well philosophically, as well as technically. Mark’s life in farming has been a bridge— sometimes standing on one side, sometimes the other, but mostly trying to reconcile the two—between high-density market gardening techniques and the ‘Natural Farming’ philosophy of Fukuoka. While reading the introduction to John Jeavons’ book, “How to Grow More Vegetables than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land than You Can Imagine,” in the late 70’s, Mark first came across Alan Chadwick’s name. He moved out West to work with Chadwick, who was then near the end of his life and living in Covalo. This encounter led Mark to the USCS Farm & Garden in 1978. Twenty-five years later, Mark and his partner Micheal are well known in the area for their exquisite flowers and on-the-spot bouquet making at the nearby Fayetteville Farmer’s Market. Mark has been on the market’s board for many years and once served as the Board President. As one of the first farms to put up an umbrella, they have seen the market transition from a small gathering of farmers selling produce out of the back of their trucks to a thriving, well-attended, competitive affair. During this time they have also shifted much of their production and focus towards flowers, which accounts for three-quarters of their annual sales. On top of the two and a half acres of flower and vegetable production, there are two acres of blueberries, a large greenhouse, an area for shitake mushroom cultivating, a variety of bamboo, 30 acres of uncultivated wild, and a beautiful river from which they pump their water. This river, weaving its way through the remote valley, is the siren that landed them on this shore. The soil did not. It is a chunky soil, a ‘rocky loam’ as they call it, which tends to be hard and dry in the summer. Mark has attempted various experiments to incorporate innovative techniques that are in keeping with the ‘natural farming’ philosophy. He concedes, however, whether it was the challenges inherent in the soil or the economic realities of trying to make a living as an organic farmer, that the techniques learned at UCSC have served them best.
Twenty-five years later, Mark and his partner Micheal are well known in the area for their exquisite flowers and on-the-spot bouquet making at the nearby Fayetteville Farmerâ€™s Market.
Page Allison & Edwin Marty 1998 Apprentices Jones Valley Urban Farm Birmingham, Alabama
Land: 3 vacant lots, 2 acres Farmer’s markets: Pepper Place Restaurants: Hot & Hot; Highlands; Bottegas, V. Richard’s, Open Door Cafe Growing season: March - October Workers: Students; Volunteers Favorite Crops: ‘Rattlesnake Beans’; ‘Climson Dwarf Okra’
Casey, a frequent visitor and neighbor, at the Jones Valley
Urban Farm, is five years old. Her favorite activity? Planting daisies. If she’s nearly as talented at planting as she is at catching butterflies, she may have her own farm one day. Casey, along with hundreds of local students, multiple volunteers and visitors, have gravitated to this new urban farm located in Southside, Birmingham. Jones Valley Urban Farm (JVUF) is a non-profit, started by past apprentices Page Allison and Edwin Marty. Its mission is to reclaim vacant urban lots and convert them into productive use. Now in their second year, the farm grows fruits, vegetables and cut flowers and acts as an important community resource. “Everything to the south of our farm is white and everything to the north is black. We’re kind of perched on the edge,” says Edwin. “I was inspired by that thought, to be a bridge.” Noting the success they’ve had, Page remarks, “People come by and pick up produce and flowers on their way home. People really get a kick out of it – coming and actually seeing the place where their produce is grown. We’ve had a lot of repeat customers.” Many of those customers become volunteers on the weekend. Every Saturday morning, Edwin hosts a ‘Coffee on the Farm’. Local urbanites drink coffee, chat about gardening and organics, and weeed. Occasionally, in the evenings, the farm becomes a place to gather as well. “We’ve had several solstice gatherings with live music, food, and dancing. It’s pretty wonderful to sit on an urban farm looking out at the cityscape of Birmingham and be warmed by an open fire,” says Edwin.
Aside from providing organic produce and a community green space, JVUF has an even more ambitious mission. During summer 2003, it became an environmental education center. The Arts and Science of Agriculture Program (ASAP) is an innovative high school program involving students and staff from the Alabama School of Fine Arts. During the 6-week intensive course, students learn the basics of sustainable food production, including composting, soil fertility management, propagation, pest control, and social issues in agriculture. Page, who directs the program, adapted materials from a sustainable food production teaching manual created by the UCSC Farm & Garden. “Tuesday through Thursdays, they learn new skills with lectures and hands-on activities. Fridays they harvest and on Saturday mornings several students come to the Pepper Place Farmer’s Market with me.” When asked which activity is her favorite,
Page replied, “It’s definitely fun to teach a high-school student who has no earthly idea about gardening how to plant a seed, make compost and feed the worms. They scream and go ‘yuck!’”
The Department of Agriculture recently provided a $40,000 grant to support JVUF’s educational outreach efforts. This is a crucial source of income for a non-profit that began shortly after 9/11 and found funding to be its greatest challenge. Edwin and Page started the Southside farm with a start-up cost of $5,000 from their personal savings. In May 2002, a host of volunteers cleared the vacant lot of kudzu and poison ivy, dug beds and planted pear trees along the main road. Two years later, they sell over 15 different crops and cut flowers to local restaurants and markets. Recently, JVUF has grown to include two additional locations: a half-acre garden in Avondale and a downtown quarteracre, called the “Garden of Hope”. When asked what he took away from his experience at the UCSC Farm & Garden, Edwin said quite frankly, “The stupidity to try to something like this.” He laughed and added, “Honestly, the inspiration. It fed my soul. To think that organic farming was important enough to change everything in my life.”
When asked what he took away from his experience at the Farm & Garden, Edwin said quite frankly, “The stupidity to try to something like this.” He laughed and added, “Honestly, the inspiration. It fed my soul. ”
“This farming story is not over yet!” Oasis Benson shouted
with laughter, as she told the story of her family’s struggle to start their farm on the outskirts of San Diego, just miles from the Mexican border. Five years later, developers have purchased their leased farmland with plans to build 50 to 60 homes there. A polo field is slated for the land where the farm currently sits. Oasis and her husband Todd found the land that would become Good Faith Organic Farm two weeks after she completed the apprenticeship at UCSC Farm & Garden in 1998. Oasis, who grew up in France, is a passionate farmer with a strong work ethic. She told stories of donning a head-lamp late into the night to tend their farm in its early days. For the first six months, they had only one hose, which they carted around to irrigate all the crops on their intensively-farmed three acres. Her passion has paid off. The dirt is the classic rich-dark humus of the UCSC’s Chadwick garden, oozing with earthworms. And for all their hard work, people have responded. ‘When chefs put dressing on our lettuces they stand up, and they wonder what we do to get such a fine product,” said Todd. Good Faith sells their produce at several local farmers markets, to various upscale restaurants, and to a food coop. They also have a 25 member CSA for their most loyal customers.
Oasis Benson 1998 Apprentice Good Faith Organic Farm Jamul, California Land: 3 acres, leased Farmer’s markets: Hillcrest, Ocean Beach, La Mesa, Poway Restaurants: Nine-Ten Food Coop: Ocean Beach People’s Market CSA: 25 members Growing season: Year-round Income: 30,000 Workers: 6-8 hired; 2 interns Favorite Crop: ‘Hopi Red’ melons Cultivation: Tractor Worst Pest: Coyotes email: email@example.com
One of their most dedicated vendors, the upscale La Jolla restaurant ‘Nine-Ten’ recently went to bat for the farm, hosting a special dinner spotlighting Good Faith produce. The dinner publicized their plight and generated awareness for ALOFT—a Local Organic Farmland Trust, a charity created by the Bensons and The Back Country Land Trust for the purpose of buying and preserving organic farmland in San Diego County. Todd claims the superior taste of Good Faith produce is due not only to their lowtill approach and the high microbial activity in the soil, but rather to their choice of soil amendments. “We don’t use any bonemeal or fish emulsion because it flavors the product.” Nor do they use cow or chicken manure, which Todd feels is too “hot”, and makes the plants grow too fast. Aged horse manure and compost are their amendments of choice. “We want our annuals to grow slow so they absorb more minerals. That’s what gives our greens their flavor and turgid quality.” “First you have to figure out what your land will grow, then what your customers want, and finally what you like to grow, and see where the three intersect.” That intersection for Todd and Oasis seems to be a variety garden approach, with everything from asparagus to zucchini, melons, tomatoes, and greens. Many of those we sampled were heirloom varieties — ‘Cinderella’ pumpkins, ‘Round of Hungary’ peppers, ‘Hopi Red’ melons. The ‘Hopi Red’ melons were started with seven seeds that Oasis brought back from Santa Cruz. The following year they saved seed and got 700 seeds; the next year they were able to save 7000 seeds. They’re now able to plant different melons simultaneously without worrying about crossbreeding because they have a seed bank for their favorite melon variety. Those seeds will be traveling with them to their new farm in Chico, in Northern California. Referring to the loss of their land, Oasis said, “I don’t know how things will work, but they’ll work in their own way, in their own time.” The good faith they started with in San Diego will no doubt follow them in their new endeavor. 6
The â€˜Hopi Redâ€™ melons were started with seven seeds that Oasis brought back from Santa Cruz. The following year they saved seed and got 700 seeds; the next year they were able to save 7000 seeds.
Tim Crews 1981 Apprentice Professor of Agroecology, Director of Wolfberry Farm Prescott College Prescott, Arizona Classes: Land Stewardship, Land: Wolfberry Farm, 30 acres, leased Farmer’s markets: Prescott CSA: 210 members Cultivation: Hand & Tractor Worst Pest: Crickets Email: tcrews@prescott. edu
I caught Tim Crews, a Professor of Agroecology at Prescott College
in Northern Arizona, on the day of his class on Land Stewardship. He was in the midst of looking up information on Linda Hasselstrom, a rancher, poet and essayist from South Dakota. That afternoon, his class would discuss her writing, as they explored the concept of ‘work’ in American culture. We mapped the evolution of his interest in agriculture—from the days as a high school student when he challenged his father that he could grow a garden organically, to the inspiration he drew from Wendell Berry’s “Culture and Agriculture” which he received by accident through his Book of the Month club membership when it was first published back in 1977, to his apprenticeship at the USCS Farm & Garden Since then Tim has written numerous research papers, one of which is entitled “Legume versus fertilizer sources of nitrogen: ecological tradeoffs and human needs,” a study that compares the environmental sustainability, as well as food security on a global scale, of cover crops vs. synthetic fertilizers. Tim’s work in this area led him to be the corecipient of a $180,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. Another grant, this one from the USDA, partially funded Tim’s sabbatical year spent learning new methodologies in measuring nitrogen dynamics in intercropped systems in Canberra, Australia. Tim employed these new methods that same summer at the Land Institute near Salina, Kansas, where he assessed nitrogen fixation in Natural Systems Agriculture (NSA). NSA, a concept developed by Land Institute director, Wes Jackson, operates on the understanding that over time annual crop agriculture is degrading to an
ecosystem and therefore requires outside amendments to the soil. In search for a model that is truly sustainable, or self-replenishing, NSA seeks to create perennial crop mixtures that mimick native ecological interactions. NSA is an important part of the research that Tim and his students conduct at the Prescott College experimental and educational agroecology farm. As Director of Wolfberry Farm, Tim is able to interweave lessons from the classroom with handson experiments and interaction with the land. Chino Valley, a town 15 miles north of Prescott, leased the 30-acre plot to the college for 23 years at a fee of $10. Chino, a growing suburban town with a more recently failed, but rich history in agriculture, has a stake in the research being conducted there. “As water becomes an ever-increasing concern and the local population expands, studies regarding native and drought-tolerant plants, fertility-generation rotations, water-saving irrigation technologies, and sustainable desert agriculture are crucial,” states Tim.
Tim’s puppy stalks the farm pest, a cricket
While Wolfberry’s orientation is more experimental research site than market garden, you will still find a popular Wolfberry stand at the local farmer’s market selling organic beans, vegetables, melons, nopales and other desert harvest foods. Students associated with the farm are also in their fourth year of organizing and running a 210-member CSA. Employing a unique model, the PCCSA purchases produce from numerous local growers, who farm at different elevations, and are thereby able to provide a variety of produce and, more recently, a year-round share. The PCCSA has helped not only to support and promote small organic farmers in a 100-mile radius of the Prescott area, but has also created quite the stir in the community by getting both students and faculty jazzed about the whole CSA ritual. As Melanie Bishop, Prescott faculty, lovingly wrote in a local article, “Call me gooey, but I gush
about CSA every chance I get. It’s a part of my life now I’d not be able to give up. Truly, there isn’t a thing about it I don’t find rich.”
“As water becomes an ever-increasing concern and the local population expands, studies regarding native and droughttolerant plants, fertility-generation rotations, watersaving irrigation technologies, and sustainable desert agriculture are crucial.”
Earthworks Santa Fe Children’s Museum
Carrying the torch of sustainable horticulture isn’t solely a task for farmers, as 2002 UCSC Farm & Garden
apprentice Erin O’Neill can attest. When the Santa Fe Children’s Museum decided to expand its largely indoor facility to include an ambitious Earthworks program, it tapped Erin to fill the post of garden manager. Erin O’Neill 2002 Apprentice Earthworks Santa Fe Children’s Museum Santa Fe, New Mexico
The museum and its gardens buzz at all times with the sprinting footsteps and manic hollers of dozens of Santa Fe’s youngest citizens. The children have a variety of ways to engage the facility’s outdoor learning areas. Among the programs Erin has helped design and implement on the one-acre compound (formerly a parking lot) are vegetable, hummingbird, and butterfly gardens; a small pond; a 900-square-foot greenhouse; a solar fountain; compost piles; a water catchment system; and live animals.
“The museum is discovery and exploration-based,” she says. “More than scientific learning, it’s about inquiry learning.” The Earthworks program is a close sibling to UCSC’s Life Lab, a learning center where children get firsthand experience with gardening. Erin was intensely involved with Life Lab while an apprentice, and she has brought what she learned there to her new position.
Under Erin’s supervision, the museum’s cadre of staff and volunteers prepare activities ranging from plant dyeing and seed saving to the construction of an authentic adobe playhouse. What you’ll find depends on when you visit: “I try to design the programs around what’s growing in the garden.”
Full Sun Farm Asheville, North Carolina
Harvest was good this year at Full Sun
Farm. As they wrapped up the season not a week too soon, past apprentice Vanessa Campbell gave birth to a baby girl. Aida is the latest member of a family of two dogs, three cats, five ducks, eleven chickens and two UCSC Farm & Garden alums—Vanessa and her husband, Alex Smith.
“I loved being at the Farm & Garden because there were so many people that were in a similar position as I was. They wanted to learn about this thing that was really on the fringe with what’s expected as a career path. And here were 35 other people there doing it with me.” - Alex Smith
Full Sun Farm is a lovely sight, a quintessential farm setting 30 minutes outside Asheville, North Carolina. I arrived there via a dirt road which descends vertically into Sandy Mush Valley. The farm sits amidst other small family farms, three dairies and several tobacco farms. There is only one other road that leads into Sandy Mush, making it fairly remote and perhaps the key to its survival as one of the last agricultural valleys in the county. The ten-acre property is part of an old dairy farm that ran until the 1970’s. Today, four acres are in cultivation with a diverse mix of crops. Some of their favorites include ‘Jimmy Nardello’ peppers, ‘Delacota’ squash, ‘Scarlet Nantes’ carrots, and ‘Green Zebra’ tomatoes. And of course with a name like Full Sun Farm, sunflowers are a must. The remaining acreage is used to produce organic hay that is sold to a nearby horse farm as an extra source of income. Full Sun sells to two markets in downtown Ashville, where they have been a regular vendor for seven years. Alex joined the farm three years ago and spearheaded a 36-share CSA. Every Wednesday, members receive vegetables, fruit (when in season), and if they choose, an additional flower share.
Vanessa Campbell ‘92 - 94 Alex Smith ‘98 Apprentices Full Sun Farm Asheville, North Carolina Land: 10 acres Farmer’s markets: Asheville CSA: 36 shares Growing season: April – November Workers: 2 interns Favorite Crops: ‘Jimmy Nardello’ peppers, ‘Scarlet Nantes’ carrots, ‘Green Zebra’ tomatoes, Cultivation: refurbished 1947 Chalmers Model G tractor Worst Pests: Prickly Pigweed, Nutsage email: fullsunfarm@ earthlink.net
Published on Jan 28, 2011
Several spreads from a booklet produced in 2003 for the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems at UCSC. Photography and intervi...