I am no stranger to Urban Farms. For five years, I ran a nonprofit that promoted urban agriculture and transformed a number of abandoned and desolate landscapes to a bountiful landscape. We grew vegetables, herbs, fruits and medicines for local Community Supported Agriculture and ran community projects to take advantage of resources that existed yet were underutilized. The most rewarding aspect of those years was meeting all of the people that had a passion for growing, a drive to see life emerge from the mineral-lifeless soil.
This is why I was so excited to meet Andy Gorman who transformed his entire yard into an edible landscape. Andy was kind enough to provide me with hardwood shavings for my mycological cultivation and I was able to go to his place to pick up the shavings. He told me over the phone that I would know when I arrived because of the garden beds lining the front of his home. There truly was no mistaking his address with the warm welcome given by the rows of garlic and spring onions. I got out of the car and found Andy hunched over spreading some mulch. I immediately requested a tour.
The first thing that Andy took me to look at was his compost pile. This is something that we bonded over. He told me that his aunt taught him about compost when he was young and he had a system down for producing compost for his fertilization and soil building practices. His piles were active and warm. As we stuck our arms elbow deep into the compost heap, we talked about how composting sets off a trigger in thinking, from which once experienced, you can never return. The work of composting is quite simple. The complexity of the process is mind-boggling. To even imagine that the balance of microorganisms in the pile can so effectively transform waste into fertilizer, it borders on witnessing true magic. The process is by no means magic though, it is quite a natural phenomenon that is prevalent everywhere with microorganisms present in the environment.
Andy has two sites where he grows. He started growing microgreens after moving to a plant-based high nutrient diet. He then started to grow for neighbors that stopped by and now he manages and sells at farmer's markets around the city. Andy is also a talented woodworker that produces furniture. His resourceful style and perseverance have helped him to grow from season to season into an operation that produces a impressive amount of food! He has high-tunnels that he got from scraps and build himself and a washing station that is customized and automated to fit the needs of his produce. My favorite was a lettuce spinner that was engineered from a washing machine.
Andy's property abuts a stream that has been eroding his family's property for decades. He even discovered that his beds lie in a floodplain which causes him to clear debris from the culverts upstream. The city maintenance are familiar with him and his chainsaw. He hasn't only had trouble with natural phenomenon, he also had some struggles when he first started out with his municipality but that eventually got sorted out. That is the reason, he told me, that he is supplementing his operation in a agriculture zoned area close-by. He is now undergoing a project of high tunnels at the new location with a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture. I am very refreshed to see this type of endeavor supported and growing in an ever organic matter.
Having a visit with someone like Andy is quite refreshing. I am working on formulating an idea and bringing it into the world and that is a daunting task. My vision of Forest Shefa, of endless abundance, through foraging and cultivation is something that is worthwhile for me to stand behind and seeing Andy's handiwork is an inspiration and a reminder: great things always arrive in a process and sometimes you have to be prepared for things to actually happen overnight. So, Andy, thanks for the wood shavings, the tour and the inspiration. I could really feel the life sprouting from the soil.
You can learn more about Andy and his Urban Farm at CincyUrbanFarm.com
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