Hi. I’m Boyd, a board member at Project Food Forest. I grew up on a farm in Clark County, SD. In the early fifties we raised pigs, sheep, chickens, cows and occasionally ducks, geese and turkeys. We milked cows and sold the cream. We grew oats, barley, rye, flax, wheat, winter wheat, millet and a few other things my Dad experimented with. The only fertilizer we used came out of the cow barn. My Mom also had a large vegetable garden. All in all, we raised most of our own food.
It is not like that any more. Many people live in food deserts where they can’t get fruits, vegetables, whole grains and other nutritious foods. That is why I was happy to find Project Food Forest. Our mission and goals are to make food available in communities using sustainable and safe growing methods.
Even though I left the farm to get an engineering degree and never went back to farming, I have been growing my own food for years. I know it can be done in a sustainable way and without chemicals. My garden has been chemical free for almost 20 years. That means that soil organisms that don’t like chemical fertilizers can grow and create rich, fertile soil.
There is a rhubarb patch in the garden that is probably over 50 years old and requires almost no maintenance. I just pick the rhubarb when its ready. Now that is a sustainable crop!
Then there are the strawberries. I planted June bearing strawberries many years ago. After a few years they out grew the original patch and just spread around the garden. I stopped taking care of them but they didn’t mind. This year the rains were timely and I picked enough strawberries to freeze for later use. Another sustainable crop. Plants know what to do. They have been doing it for a gazillion years or so. What we need to do is stick the plants in the ground and get out of the way.
That is the idea behind a food forest. We plant compatible trees and shrubs that produce fruit or nuts. Then we add vines and perennial vegetables. Then we get out of the way and let it grow. Once established, a food forest can produce food for many years without much maintenance, no chemicals and little piped-in water.
I have been testing sustainable and chemical free ideas in my garden for over 20 years. Things like using round raised beds that put vegetables right in the middle of the flower garden. Then there is my “complete” gardening system which will probably never actually be complete. But those are topics for a future post.
Boyd McPeek is an artist and the newest member of Project Food Forest’s Board. Learn more about Boyd’s artwork here!