Founding Farmer, Teacher
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.
Co-Founder, Associate Director
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.
Project Co-Developer, Teacher
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.