Why I'm Not an Off-Grid Farmer
Nestled in the city of Denver is a blossoming organic farm called, The Karma Farma! James, who began to experiment with gardening in 2001, has evolved into a very knowledgeable, resourceful farmer and working with the earth is now his life’s passion.
There is a lot that goes into farming, but developing the one-acre property wasn’t nearly as expensive as most would think. The wood-chips were free from chipdrop.in and the manure for the soil was donated by neighbors with horse property. Several plants and equipment have been donated to James as well, along with contributions from friends and family who know they are helping to support a necessary cause. When I asked James why he chose to farm in the city versus out in the forest, he responded, “I used to really fear the city. I was afraid to be in them… But cities have a lot of people; my family is here and I love them. If we all were to run off to the woods, there would be no one to develop farms where we need them most. We need people learning how to grow food again and we need to do it in these populated areas.”
“Do you face any challenges from the city of Denver for being an organic farmer?” I asked
“Denver has a lot of strict codes that make it hard be fully self-sustaining and for some reason they don’t like green houses. If you want to say that your produce is organic at the farmer’s market then you have to be certified, which is something you have to pay for. Certifying that you farm organically gets you a sticker to put on your produce at the market, otherwise you’re not supposed to say you grow organically if you’re not certified.” Organically growing food for James means he doesn’t use pesticides or GMO seeds. “I trust Mother Earth’s technology. She’s been doing it right for thousands of years. I don’t want to mess with that.”
For anyone starting out with gardening, James shared to start planting in whatever space you’ve got. Whether it’s a big, or small area, just go for it! Start with planting kale, radish, wax beans, carrots, beets, and squash as they are easy to work with and manage. James recommends Baker Creek or Seedsavers as a good source for purchasing non-gmo seeds. He also shared the books: Gaia’s Garden (First Edition), The Permaculture Design Manuel, and One Straw Revolution as great reads to help you get started. It's really important to learn how to build soil and to know how to save seeds.
James showed me the variety of plants growing in the beds and pointed out a power weed called Purslane. I am calling it a power weed for good reason… Purslane is high in omega oils, so if you are vegetarian/vegan, this is excellent source to get those nutrients without having to eat fish. It can be eaten raw, straight out of the garden, or added to soups and salads. Purslane isn’t found in the store, but is abundantly available in the wild and in gardens. It fights depression, and is safer and more effective than taking omega-3 supplements.
The Karma Farma has come a long way in just a short time. James began to develop this farm in the early spring of 2016 and thanks to an event put on by well-known artist, Polish Ambassador, James’s farm was picked for the “Permaculture Action Tour – Push Through the Pavement”. This event was inspired by performance artists who wanted a way to give back to the land after festivals have caused a lot of destruction and to leave a positive trace around the world. “We want to merge sustainability and celebration,” David Sugalski (The Polish Ambassador) said. “Get into the Earth and get your hands dirty… build a garden and plants some tress. And really give new meaning to transformational festivals. Let’s actually transform the earth into a more beautiful place.”
The permaculture action day at James’s farm included over 200 volunteers, a Bhakti chai stand was set up to provide the volunteers with cold drinks, and there were DJ's and live music performances. A variety of workshops were hosted; Kelly Simmonz taught a sheet mulching class, Manda Pendleton (of InJoy Cha) did an herb walk and shared her fermented deliciousness, and Lindsay Semilla conducted a powerful and personal permaculture exercise. It was really inspiring to see the community and musical artists putting energy into making this world a better place and helping out small farmers like James. Permaculture Action Day's are taking place all over the country, so check out permacultureaction.us to get involved.
James could always use some help around the farm, so if you’re in the Denver area, I really recommend visiting the Karma Farma and putting some energy into this beautiful garden. Visit James’s website to find out more information: karmafarma.net
Please know this is only a small excerpt of what will be in Diary of a Starseed Pt: 2…. Please check out Part One of the book series, which is available now to see how my journey began and be inspired!