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Tag Archives: land

The Funny Farm – Sustainability for Suburbia

How do you run a fully functioning farm in a suburban neighborhood setting? Duane Marcus would certainly know. He’s been implementing a completely unique farming model over the past five years. Duane is well known in the Atlanta gardening community & has over 30 years of organic farming experience. Currently, he manages the Decatur Farmers Market, while selling his own harvested vegetables & herbs. A personal favorite of mine: the Funny Farm’s braising mix that includes edible flowers, blossoms & a simple variety of dark greens, excellent if flash-sauteed with a hint of braggs or even as salad mix.

When I show up on the coattails of a warmer than usual Georgia Winter everything in his garden is starting to or already is flowering. I find him in the back of his house, prepping seedlings for soil transplanting.

Astoundingly, the 3 acres surrounding his home in Stone Mountain, Georgia are producing a large variety of fruits, vegetables, herbs, mushrooms, woody flowers – you name it. Hard to believe it was only five years ago Duane plowed & dumped a truck load of compost on the ground of what looked like a typical suburb front yard, mostly commuter grass & a few perennials here and there. He really knows how to utilize the setting of his land! On the edges near the road where it tends to be more shady, mostly fruit trees have been planted. He explains that location and environment resemble the trees natural habitat. The harvest success of last years manking cherry tree of over 5000 cherries, echos his statement. In addition, the economy of planting manking makes even more sense for suburbanites, not requiring a second variation of cherry tree to pollinate. Maximizing space usage is what this type of gardening is all about.

One gardening bed was in fact over planted with a secondary crop. Duane explains that once he puts carrot seedlings in the ground it takes a couple of weeks for them to germinate; meanwhile he plants arugula on top, utilizing the rich organic properties of his soil, enabling him to harvest 100 lbs of arugula before the carrots get pulled out.

Farmer Marcus’ bag of farming tricks seems limitless. I listen closely to him describing adequate water usage. Most people, he notes, tend to over water, killing their plants faster in fact than not watering enough. He typically waters very little and during drought seasons he hand waters so he can put the water right when & where he needs it. Luckily, this particular suburb was designed with a .5 acre pond as well, situated conveniently next to Duane’s backyard. Every fully functioning farm will contain a body of water or be able to access one nearby, a crucial element necessary for livestock and crops to flourish.

If you need more advice, inspiration or just want to see what happens at the Funny Farm check out their blog or sign up for a gardening class. Hurry they sell out quickly! As a big coffee & tea drinker, for example, I am learning how to use these compounds for growing mushrooms. (read more – here) Neat – right?!

My favorite aspect about visiting the Funny Farm has to be the application of permaculture principals to a suburban setting. The amount of adaptability and creativity we can employ when it comes to growing food is solely dependent on our drive. With resources present in our communities of people, land and nature we have what it takes. One of the most reiterated common sense principals every farmer will tell you: Use what you got & make it work!

~Live well & Be merry~

Food Warrior Internship Winter 2012

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Decimal . Place Farm – 18 Acres of Goat Heaven

On the outskirts of the East side of Atlanta lays the popular Hipster landmark the Starlight Drive In; once passed, the eye meets billboards, gas stations and neighborhoods sprawling of a main road. Inconspicuously tugged away in the midst of a sleepy neighborhood are 18 acres of goat country – white Saanen dairy goat ‘country’ to be exact.

It’s a dreary day when I pull up to Decimal Place Farm. I know I am at the right place when I see a line of white goats standing on the higher ground looking towards me. Nestled at the end of a cul da sec Mary Rigdon has appropriately named her farm Decimal Place Farm.  She walks swiftly towards the car and directs me to the gate that leads to the goats and milking facility. I notice the acres of land surrounding us as the car slowly follows behind her steps in the mud.

Mary has been a dairy goat farmer for over 20 years and the land in Conley, Georgia for 17 years in her possession. It took patience and perseverance to acquire this land. Once she owned it, a milking facility had to be built and the right dairy equipment needed to be purchased. The process required assessing her resources critically, understanding how power lines were laid out & addressing functionality by getting the goats in and out of the buildings most efficiently. All of which she accomplished by using the means she had. In a time of credit defaults Mary’s sensible approach makes her somewhat of a modern day hero.

Her goats are having babies during the first few months of the year and I get a brief look into just how busy she gets. Mary is feeding the babies and checking on the becoming mothers periodically, meanwhile the rest of the herd still has to be milked. The days have a rhythm. She takes me outside to one of the grasing areas, while telling me how her lifestyle approach may be more of what people are talking about now and farm life is seeping into the mainstream but she has been living this way since the early 80s. She explains that in order to build the herd and utilize the land fencing had to be done. Grazing plots, comprised of clover, rye grass, a nitrogen fixing grass mix were created for limit grazing spans also called mammoth grazing. Mary tiled a few rows of soil for crop mob to come in and finish the sowing for new grazing plots. Crop Mob will also fix one of her fences and help get debris out of the creek.

Crop Mob, an initiative of young farmers and land enthusiasts, come together to help local farmers with a variety of projects around their farm. It builds the type of community interaction less reliant on monetary exchange. Being outside and learning some hands on farming know how, derived from years of experience, are plenty of reward for getting your hands dirty. At the end of each crop mob-tastic work day a dinner is shared between all the volunteers and farmers.

At the end of our excursion through the 18 acres of Decimal Place Farm, she hands me back my seven month old, that’s been carefully observing everything from her arms. She tells me about groups of children coming to the farm to learn about dairy goats, land preservation, gardening and making a living in this manner. When I ask her if she could envision anything for the future of the American food system, what would that look like, she takes time to think before answering. In her point of view we all receive the same amount of hours in the day. What we do with them is up to us & ultimately defines who we are. She questions peoples ingenuity or lack thereof. When a neighbor gives you grits in exchange for some of your goods, you learn how versatile that item can be. Furthermore, she adds she doesn’t like okra or rather the way most people in the south cook it but its an awfully space conducive and high yield type of vegetable. Therefore, she researched how to prepare Okra resulting in a dish sans a slightly gooey texture and utilizes its properties on her farm.

Did I mention just how delicious Decimal Place Farm goat cheese is? Seriously, you can’t go wrong with trying some of the creative flavors (i.e. amaretto orange chevre, pecan craison chevre, and cracked peppercorn chevre) either at a local health food stores such as Rainbow Grocery Market or Pine Street Market. During the summer time, Decimal Place Farm chevre, tuma or cheddar style goat cheeses can be located at the East Atlanta Farmers Market, Peachtree Road Market and Grant Park Farmers Market.

~ Enjoy, live well & be kind to one another

C.H. – Real Time Farms Winter Food Warrior, 2012