2004 - 2006, 2020
As a permaculturist and organic gardener I've grown many metric tons of organic produce (I know because I weighed it), inches of new topsoil, and neighborly community, where before only chemically intensive suburban lawns and abandoned lots had lain languishing.
I have taken numerous sites from a plot of bare earth, through soil core sampling at a university extension, garden planning, soil amendment, irrigation installation, and into cultivation. I've taught gardening to underprivileged youth in the heart of the inner city, and to my own two children. I love seeing a child's face the first time they pick a strawberry and it makes a loud pop sound. Here's a picture of my kids, and a typical harvest during a Salt Lake summer:
Sick of living in the only way I knew how, which was destorying the earth on autopilot, in 2004 I began traveling around the country to volunteer on organic farms and ecovillages - searching for a better way to live. Through hands-on toil during the daylight hours I gained fluency in permaculture, and by combing the libraries of the old hippies whose farms I was working on, at night I became introduced to the voices of eccentric natural farming zen masters like Masanobu Fukuoka as well as super nerds like John Jeavons (with whom I eventually was able to train in-person). Here's a picture of me biking to farms back in the day:
In 2005 I heard that the legendary One World Cafe (no prices: pay what you want) in my homeland of Salt Lake City had been gifted the use of a ¾ acre lot in the middle of the city and was looking for an experienced (but just naive enough) gardener to transform the hardpacked, garbage-strewn wasteland into organic produce for their kitchen. I took the job and yes, I did end up in the hospital with a herniated disc in my back, but also yes, I was able to yield many tons of produce. Through the transformation of that space I was also able to cultivate a strange and awesome community: Mormon housewives and bishops working alongside squatting anarchists and environmental activists. It was a small peek into Martin Luther King Jr.'s "beloved community."
A year later I moved to San Francisco and volunteered to be a Garden Camp Counselor at Alemany Farm, the largest agricultural site in San Francisco, helping to cultivate the next generation of brown and black farmers. Mentoring the underserved kids from the housing projects nextdoor, I taught them not only how to grow their own food organically, but how to cook it too.
Suddenly, in 2006 my music career picked up, and I put down my spade for 14 years...
But then 2020! So with the help of my two kiddos and wife we sheet mulched our front lawn:
And soon our garden looked like this: