Updated: May 3, 2020
Get dirty and grow something - that's what Russell wanted the tagline to be for The Farmer's Hobby. He is passionate about food production, believing wholeheartedly that we all have a roll to play - however big or small it may be.
Here in the US, we have one of the best and most diverse food systems in the modern world, driven by people who are passionate about providing an abundant and safe food supply for us all to enjoy. From commercial farmers to patio gardeners, we’re working toward that same goal!
My first foray into growing food with Russell was when we lived in DC. We lived in a very densely populated urban neighborhood, about 11 blocks from the Senate offices in the middle of a string of traditional row houses.
I think Russell was missing the farm, the feeling of dirt in his hands, and the pride of a harvest. So, in our alley, on top of a slab of concrete, he built a 4x4 garden bed. He used the square foot growing method - but all I actually remember growing is Brussels sprouts.
I’m sure our neighbors wondered what those crazy folks were growing.
Since then, we’ve had container gardens. And a straw bale garden. And the self watering raised beds. The smart garden in our pantry. And the mushroom farm, also in our pantry. And, then there was the time he grew hydroponic lettuces in our garage. Again, I’m sure our neighbors wondered what those crazy folks were growing.
And now the garden we have today.
Russell has spent practically every day of his life studying, promoting, and contributing to our global food systems. This passion has taken him all over the world to learn about different methods of farming.
Along the way, he has learned that there is no single, universally perfect way to grow food. Whether you’re farming commercially or gardening for your family, that holds true.
There are so many innovative and unique growing techniques, developed to solve different challenges that gardeners and farmers face. They don’t all make sense for our commercial farming operation (like, we aren’t going to grow 4400 acres of hydroponic cotton anytime soon!), but Russell loves adopting responsible farming practices where he can, and utilizing others on a smaller scale in our gardens.
Instead of a single perfect method, it’s more of a formula that takes into account your land and space, your environment, the availability and cost of inputs, time, health and ability of those involved in production, needs of the end consumer, and market prices. That formula yields totally different results for someone on a farm in the Texas Panhandle, compared to someone with an acre in Hawaii, compared to someone with rooftop space in NYC.
And one isn’t better than the next. They are just different layers in our food system, addressing different needs and values.
If you’re looking to start a garden or farm, start filling in the details of your situation: your space, your budget, your environment, your time and ability. There’s a way to grow food, no matter what your answers are to those questions. It might start as a single tomato plant on your balcony, or an herb garden next to your patio. Over time and with experience, you can cultivate your perfect methods.
But for today - just get dirty and grow something!