Pinch me ’cause this is one of the best darned things I’ve ever done. Smack me ’cause it’s the only way you’re gonna get this smile off my face.
Such was my first day of volunteering at a local organic farm on the outskirts of Phoenix, Arizona. It’s a four-acre plot of land sandwiched between two contemporary housing developments and is a great example of today’s urban-farming scene. I swear that even in the few short years I’ve lived here in Arizona, I’ve witnessed one agricultural plot after another disappearing and “house farms” appearing in their place. Lately, though, since a new local farm called Greenhouse Gardens put it’s business shingle out on the road for all to see, I’m slowly realizing there are at least a handful of organic farms in the Phoenix area.
Hope is not lost. Something is happening here in Arizona. It seems the public is increasing its demand for local, organic, non-GMO (and therefore non-GLYPHOSATE-drenched!), non-pesticide-laced fruits and vegetables. The public is also increasing demand for chicken eggs that come from local, happy, free-roaming chickens they can see with their own eyes, ones that might even have been named by their owners (like they are at Greenhouse Gardens). So, though it may seem like all available land in the Phoenix area has been swooped up by housing developers–and quite a lot of it has–somehow local urban farms are popping up here and there like poppies promising the arrival of spring. I’ve even heard of increased interest in plans for urban farms within new housing developments. Wouldn’t that be amazing if more housing developers would make THAT a reality?
I’m excited about the prospect of local, naturally grown produce right here in Arizona, especially because when I first moved here three years ago, I didn’t even know it was possible to grow veggies in the Arizona desert! I’m so supportive of this type of business that I was willing to volunteer my time to it. I specifically support my local farm, Greenhouse Gardens, because they are brand new, seemed like they might appreciate a helping hand, and the husband and wife team that run it, Cameron and Jeannine McChesney, are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. In my opinion, the people make the business and these folks are top notch.
The property itself was part of a larger entity of family farm property owned by the Riggs Family and most of the original structures still remain there; they are old, full of rusty tools and cobwebs, and chock full of character.
A DAY OF VOLUNTEERING ON AN URBAN FARM
Anywho, the first order of business at the farm today for me and my husband, who has also decided to volunteer, is to pull down the fencing around a row of overgrown pepper plants and then pull the plants out as well. Ultimately, we’ve got to prep a few rows for the next round of crops. The owners are allowing us a couple of our own rows to practice with, so we can track how well we’ve carried out orders and how naughty or nice Mother Nature is in influencing what challenges we might face. We also get to carry out a full cycle of tasks that we can expect to repeat in the days, weeks and months to come.
When done pulling the pepper plants, we transported their remains to the compost pile, where we met up with many Greenhouse Gardens chickens. Turns out the compost pile is one of their favorite gathering spots at the farm.
The compost pile is not far from where the chickens roost. Here is one of the girls doing her thing, preparing an egg for the Saturday morning market.
After busting our butts for quite some time on clearing out old plants, making room for new, I had a chance to do something fun: pull carrots from the ground. This just tickled me orange. I would have to say this was the first time I ever pulled a vegetable from beneath the dirt. I couldn’t stop giggling. Every single carrot looked so unique, so many different shapes and sizes. Some of them kinda comical. I couldn’t get enough of it. Aren’t they beautiful?
I also got to pick snow peas, taste testing a few along the way. My, my . . . they sure are sweet!
There’s something about this place that makes me feel at home.
Maybe it’s the cats hanging out in the barn (this one seems to be sizing up a nearby bird house!).
Maybe it’s the chickens that hang out in the barn when we take a break and have a snack.
Maybe it’s the fact that everything is really old and really real.
Everything about volunteering here at Greenhouse Gardens just feels good. And I think I know why.
Much of it has to do with a deep yearning I have to get back to basics, to put aside the umpteen things I think I need to do and replace them with other things I’m certain I’d much rather do. To remove what doesn’t add much value to my life and replace it with things that do have value. Things like: getting my hands dirty, pulling carrots from the ground, harvesting peas from the vine, and taste testing everything right there in the moment. It blows my mind to have access to these fresh-from-the-earth, clean and natural vegetables, completely devoid of all toxins. I know exactly where this food is coming from and that gives me piece of mind.
I feel like we’re at a turning point in this country, possibly even in this world, where we need to be more careful with what we are putting into our bodies. These urban, organic farms are a tremendous asset to the communities they serve. People want clean food. It’s time they got it.
It’s also time we relearn some tried and true advice passed down through the ages–a lesson I’m quickly learning in my short time here on the farm: whatever you do, do it with love; when you do, that love will come through in the final product. If you grow vegetables, grow them with love, grow them with a passion for feeding the healthiest food possible to the people you love. If you volunteer, then choose to volunteer at doing something you LOVE doing (or at least something you think you’ll love doing) and you’ll feel your heart grow exponentially as a result.
Why not choose today to let this be the year you say ‘yes’ to doing what you love to do.
Located at: 13103 E. Chandler Heights Road, Chandler, AZ 85249
Saturday morning FARMERS MARKET on the grounds from 9am to NOON