Today we’d like to introduce you to Kari Spencer.
So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I started the Micro Farm Project in 2009 while my husband, Lewis, was deployed by the U.S Navy for several months. While he was away, I passed the time by transforming our quarter acre of dirt and rocks into a lush garden. When he returned home, we increased the garden space and added livestock to the operation. We were having so much fun and we wanted to share our experience with others. So, we started to offer training and support to gardeners and urban farmers as well to provide resources to the community. Although we made many mistakes, the success of the farm rested on our ability to apply a mixture of garden techniques, based on a combination of proven methods and out-of-the-box experimentation. My background as a Master Gardener gave me an understanding of plant classifications, plant pathology, soil health, entomology, cultural growing requirements, sustainable gardening and integrated pest management. To these, Lewis and I, added the principles of Permaculture and our own wealth of experience gained by trial and error.
We really wanted to connect with other urban farmers in Phoenix, so I went on a tour of The Urban Farm. There, I met Greg Peterson. We found that we had a lot in common and that we both had a big vision for the urban farming community in our area. Together, we began to create events to support urban agriculture, which eventually became Grow PHX.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
We have had our struggles. The homesteader’s lifestyle is exhilarating, satisfying, exhausting and sometimes disappointing. Crops fail, animals get sick, costs exceed expectations. And things can just go haywire, like having an ornery, stinky goat buck escape his pen just as I am leaving to speak at an event (which means corralling him, showering and changing clothes because buck smell lingers!) At times, there is heartbreak, like the death of a newborn doeling.
Despite the challenges, I count my many blessings and remind myself of the purpose of our farm: to inspire, train and support gardeners and urban farmers through sharing our experiences, offering training and classes, and providing resources to the community. These high’s and low’s have provided us with experiences to share with others, as well as more knowledge and understanding from which to draw in our support of other urban farmers. So, while we have experienced loss and setbacks, we have also had times of joy and have gained an intangible depth to our understanding of what it means to be farmers.
Please tell us about Grow PHX & The Micro Farm Project.
I am an author and one of the co-creators at GrowPHX.com. At Grow PHX, we specialize in creating events that support urban farmers in Phoenix, AZ. One of our signature events, The Great American Seed Up (http://greatamericanseedup.org), a local seed saving festival centers on bulk sales of seed varieties and seed education. It occurs annually and attracts hundreds of growers and gardeners because we offer free education, great prices on seeds and a lot of fun.
As an author and the proprietor of The Micro Farm Project, I recently published City Farming: A How-To Guide to Growing Crops and Raising Livestock in Urban Spaces. The book is both our personal story of The Micro Farm Project and a compilation of anecdotes from a variety of urban farms around the country. Chapters include helpful exercises entitled Inventing Your Farm, which will assist in creating, expanding or redesigning homesteads. When we started our urban farm, there were few resources to help us. I wrote City Farming as the guidebook that we wish we had early in on in our endeavors. The book contains some of the best urban farming solutions in practice today and is the guidebook for starting or improving a city farm. What sets it apart from other books is its connection to the website, CityFarmingBook.com, which extends the information in the book and which is updated to reflect the most current information on urban agriculture.
If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
Grow PHX and City Farming both sprang from our family’s love for urban food production. We have had so much fun running out the farm, The Micro Farm Project and really wanted to share the lifestyle with others. We were especially motivated to share our mistakes with others so that they could learn from them. If we had it to do over, I definitely would have put effort into planning our farm before we started it. We started several gardens and got chickens. From there, we really got excited and brought too many animals onto our urban property. We had goats, chickens, turkeys, Coturnix quail and even sheep in our backyard! Although we were having a blast, it was a tremendous amount of work and expense for upkeep. We discovered that we really needed to scale back, which was difficult to do because we had grown attached to our goats and sheep. The challenges that we had provided a lot of the educational material that I am able to share with others via Grow PHX and City Farming. So, I guess, I wouldn’t really change anything.
- City Farming: A How-To Guide to Growing Crops & Raising Livestock in Urban Spaces is available on Amazon for $39.99.