Six years ago, I hadn’t planted a single seed. Now I spend almost every waking moment tending to thousands of them.
My journey is fuelled by my wonder at the generosity of the natural world. I started with a small 10sqm patch in my first flat, which produced for me an abundance of corn, pumpkins and tomatoes. Six years later, I manage a highly productive and profitable urban farm in Uptown Auckland called OMG - Organic Market Garden - which is a hero project in the For the Love of Bees artwork.
Here’s what I’ve learned so far.
OMG, IT’S POSSIBLE!
Two years ago, we took responsibility for a small sloping piece of dirt, once a gravel carpark. We wanted to model an alternative food system and prove that fresh food for city people could come from within its own environment. We now produce roughly two tonne of food each year from only 310 square metres of bed space. To put this in perspective, your average sports field is 7000 metres square. Once you connect with what can be grown in such a tiny space, the potential for abundance becomes infinite.
THERE IS ALWAYS SOMETHING INCREDIBLE TO DISCOVER
One of the best things about growing is that you can never come too close to having a complete understanding of how the soil system works. And this is where the wonder lies. Growing is an inherently creative practice; I view all gardens as living sculptures that materialize through time and space in an ongoing relationship between human and nature.
PLANTS ARE OUR GREATEST ASSET
Generous and resilient, plants sequester carbon, beautify landscapes and create habitat for a myriad of other life. They feed the world, create the oxygen we breathe as well as the nutrition we eat. They were here long before us and they will outlive us all. Agriculture doesn’t need to destroy the soil of its inherent goodness; in fact, it can do the opposite. There is a way to produce food at the same time as regenerating the soil, capturing carbon and effectively reversing climate change. Within one year of OMG soil love, our tests told us we had increased the soil organic matter content (carbon) by 10 tonnes.
DIVERSITY IS KEY
OIf you look into a forest or a wild meadow, do you see a boring monoculture, or chaotic diversity? Plant diversity creates resilience and strength. Having multiple species planted close together means less pest problems and more food. At the farm, we aim for four to seven species per square metre; in a home garden with healthy soil you could easily fit a dozen.
IT STARTS AND ENDS WITH LOVE
To be a good grower is to be loving and observant. The systems we design in our gardens, parks and farms must blossom from a love for the whole ecosystem - for the weeds, the snails, even for those pesky birds that eat your seedlings. They are all part of it; the journey is to learn how to work with these things instead of against them. Modern civilization has dominated and separated itself from nature. We are now leading a movement counter to this where nature is our teacher, our provider and the means with which we can regenerate and thrive.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Levi Brinsdon-Hall is an artist and urban farmer that works to inspire and model new possibilities for urban food production, community resil- ience and regenerative economies. He is the head farmer and project manager of Organic Market Garden (OMG), a highly productive and profitable urban farm located in the middle of Auckland city.
Auckland, New Zealand