I have consulted on several community planning projects in the Kansas City area, primarily concerning urban food production. As Associate Director of Cultivate Kansas City I was part of a team preparing a redevelopment plan for a 300-acre municipal property which once housed a jail, a farm, and other uses. I have also advised on the development of a set of zoning regulations for the production and sale of farm products in Kansas City. Other consulting work includes the siting, design and installation of various urban farms and assistance with a proposal for an edible public art project.
I arrived in Berlin, Germany, in 2016, and involved myself with several of the city's urban agriculture projects. Berlin is famous for its vibrant urban agriculture scene, its comparatively generous greenspace (for a European metropolis) and countercultural mindset. I became a facilitator and co-developer for the Hellersdorfer Gutsgarten, a start-up community garden project located on the grounds of what was once an East German agricultural cooperative, now at the center of a rapidly transforming high-density urban neighborhood. With the help of many participants from Berlin Hellersdorf and across the city, the new garden has turned into an amazing space for exploring sustainability, human connection, and civic engagement. Through various gardening, educational and art activities, we aim to create a platform for healing, mutual learning and collobarative neighborhood design.
I am a trained permaculture designer with a design certificate from the Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute. I have taught permaculture courses on edible forest gardening and on applying permaculture principles to annual organic vegetable farming.
In 2010 I was awarded a conservation fellowship funded by Toyota and the Audubon Society (TogetherGreen). My project was to research, design and plant an urban food forest and to conduct an in-depth workshop on forest garden design. The workshop was the first of its kind in Kansas City and drew participants from across the Midwest. The forest garden was installed on a suburban lot in Kansas City and has thrived beautifully since its inception. Now in its 5th year, the forest garden was recently part of a study titled Urban agroforestry: Connecting agroecology, permaculture, urban forestry and urban agriculture into urban food forests and has become a much-visited demonstration site in the Kansas City area.
PLUM VILLAGE HAPPY FARM
A seed was planted in 2010 during a mindfulness retreat at the European Institute of Applied Buddhism that I should come to Plum Village Monastery in France and lead the establishment of an organic vegetable farm and educational program. Two years later this seed germinated as I found myself on a plane to France for the onset of the Winter Retreat. Only a few short months later, we harvested our first spinach, cabbages, zucchini, potatoes, tomatoes and many more vegetables from the Plum Village Happy Farm.
Plum Village Happy Farm has become a major mindfulness practice and educational hub in Plum Village. It was the center of the first Plum Village Sustainability, Mindfulness and Community Living retreat in 2015. It has hosted farm tours for hundreds of visitors and children's activities during many retreats.
Since its inception, Happy Farm has expanded significantly. In 2015 I lead the construction of a large 30 x 100 foot poly tunnel. We also installed an irrigation system from a nearby pond and the composting team expanded an associated food waste and dry toilet composting operation. Plum Village Happy Farm has a small greenhouse that functions as a plant nursery where most of the needed transplants are raised. Happy Farm grows crops in permanent, slightly raised 4-foot wide beds. Our powered machinery includes an 1965 Massy Fergusson tractor and a professional Staub walk-behind tiller. Happy Farm hosts 5-6 intern each year who receive in-depth training in mindful organic farming.
CULTIVATE KANSAS CITY
Cultivate Kansas City (formerly the Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the expansion of urban food production and healthy eating as well as the development of sustainable urban neighborhoods. I co-founded the organization in 2005 and served as its Associate Director until 2012. At the heart of the organization is a 2-acre urban farm called Gibbs Road Farm. It has become a major demonstration site for urban agriculture innovation in the Midwest. It is also an educational center that connects different stakeholders (farmers, educators, planners, policy makers, community leaders, residents, etc.).
Gibbs Road Farm is highly productive farm that has generated revenue upwards of $110,000/annually. In the challenging Midwest growing climate, the farm serves as an inspiration for growers wishing to earn an income from their small organic farms.
JUNIPER GARDENS TRAINING FARM
The Juniper Gardens Training Farm in Kansas City, KS, is one of the nation's oldest refugee training farms and farm business incubators. Situated in the heart of a public housing project, the farm serves resettled refugees and others living in the area. Those enrolled in the program receive technical and financial assistance as well as training in small-scale vegetable production. Graduates of the program receive assistance in accessing land to start their own farm businesses.
My involvement with Juniper Gardens Training Farm goes to its very beginning, when the project was born out of a previous, smaller-scale refugee garden operated by our partner organization Catholic Charities. The Kansas City Center for Urban Agriculture was providing farming and business education to the refugees when the need for a larger site became apparent. Over the years I supervised and managed the Juniper Gardens Training Farm, developed and taught spring trainings for farmers, installed a poly-tunnel and managed the construction of innovative storage, refrigeration and washing facilities using shipping containers.
Trailside Farm in Calhoun, Missouri, is where my organic farming career started in 1999. With little more than a dream and determination I and my then-spouse embarked on a surprise-filled journey to reconnect with the land and to find an answer to the question: Can a determined couple make a living in modern-day America with just a few acres? We acquired a neglected 15-acre property and in the course of five years turned it into a fully functioning certified organic vegetable farm that more than paid for itself.
Without any prior experience or knowledge in farming, construction or landscaping, the path to renovating the 130-year old wood-frame house and outbuildings, to constructing a greenhouse, two movable polytunnels, a 450-foot deep irrigation well, a vegetable washing station as well as cold storage and post-harvesting facilities was profoundly humbling. Never before or since did I work so hard and solve so many unfamiliar problems in such a short time with so little money. Yet, the experience has yielded many beautiful lessons and serves as a reference point to this day.