I discovered urban farming by accident. I live in a part of Southeast Asia that is very, very dense. I spend half the time in Southeast Asia and half the time in the northern part of the United States.
And while land is pretty much plentiful in certain states and in the northern part of the US, it’s definitely very expensive and in short supply in certain densely populated areas of Southeast Asia.
Well, I found myself in one of those cities and there was this half acre plot that people were just piling garbage on. In fact, it became so obnoxious because some people would burn the garbage and there was this nasty overhanging smell of burnt garbage, plastic and yes, dog feces, hanging in the air.
Now, I wish I could tell you that this scene played out in a more distressed, informal or economically depressed part of town. But no, this was supposed to be the area where highly educated people who travel the world and who live in very expensive homes live.
And apparently, people basically were just being irresponsible and thinking that since this lot was in the middle of nowhere in what was supposed to be a green space in our subdivision that people can basically just haul their garbage there and burn it. Out of sight, out of mind, right?
Well, not quite. Because it may be out of sight, but your nose knows. Do you see or smell where I’m coming from?
So I decided to take matters into my own hands and I spoke with the head honcho of the homeowners association.
My proposal was simple. I would take everybody’s garbage as long as they loaded it in the same spot, but the homeowners association will give me full freedom to recycle, re-purpose and otherwise turn their garbage into food. I’m talking about vegetables and fruit.
And in exchange, everybody participating in the program will get 20% of the produce of the organic farm that I plan to set up.
Well, after a couple of months of back scratching, blank stares and other low IQ moments, people finally gave me the green light.
I sprung into action. I set up a permaculture operation.
In other words, I would grind up everything that can be ground up as far as leaves and small branches are concerned and layered it on the land. This ensures that when it rains, a compost tea is filtered through the land, which enriches the soil.
I also instructed homeowners to put everything that can be rotten into a black bin. I then ground up the stuff that can rot, mixed it with leaves and dried plant material.
And after a month of proper composting, I invested in about 50 kilograms of African night crawler earthworms. They made short work of the rotting smelly food.
And in a few weeks, I had myself some nice, sweet smelling compost. Using this compost, I layered it on the mulch and then layered another layer of mulch on top of it.
To make a long story short, I turned this garbage spot into a very green spot that produced tomatoes and some fruits.
True to my word, I gave 20% of the produce to the homeowners association, which then distributed to whoever wanted the free veggies. People were very grateful and happy because they save quite a bit of money on their monthly grocery bills.
The 80%, which amount to a few hundred thousand in the local currency, I kept. Not a bad deal.
It’s all about win-win. And it really all boils down to turning somebody’s garbage into gold. You can do that.
And to take things to the next level, I invested in the best composite decking for the housing or semi housing portion of the gardens. So now, homeowners can use it to relax while staring out into this deep, lush, green carpet that is the organic farm in their backyard.
Everybody wins with proper planning and with the right vision.