field a e1484963931443 721x541 - Sarvodaya Farms Tour
The CSA box

Sarvodaya Farms Tour


Over the weekend I had the distinct pleasure of visiting the farm where my CSA veggies come from.  Sarvodaya Farms is located in Pomona, CA which is a short 34 mile drive from my house.  It takes less than an hour to get there with no traffic and since we left at 9AM on a Saturday, way too early for the majority of Angelenos to be driving around, we made it there in 45 minutes.  Yes!

The tour was organized through the Permaculture Design Course that I’m taking.  The purpose of the tour was to show us what it looks like to implement the design principles that we have been learning about.  For me, there was the added excitement of meeting the farmers who grow my food, Rishi and his mom, Pearl, who I had only interacted with over email and social media.  You gotta check out Pearl’s Instagram, it’s pretty great.   

On our tour we got to visit two locations.  The Growing Home was the first location, which is the actual home where Pearl, Rishi and the rest of their family live.  This home is located in a very nice, suburban neighborhood in Pomona.  As we drove down their street looking for the correct address I was like “how the hell is this going to be a farm?”  We passed by row after row of well planned suburban homes with well manicured, “drought tolerant” landscaping.  This was a residential neighborhood just like any other, not remote farmland.  But when we pulled up in front of the house, it started to make sense.  While every other house on the block had minimalist, cookie cutter lawns, the Growing Home is enveloped in a veritable food jungle.  There is so much foliage and plant life that the house is barely visible from the street.  The front yard is filled with a thick canopy of citrus, cherimoya and papaya trees.  Under the trees are all kinds of fruiting and flowering bushes and the ground is covered in chard, sweet potato and other low growing veggies.  As we walked across the street to their house you could feel the temperature cool and the moisture content of the air increase.  We found out later during our tour that to support all of this greenery they use less water than when they used to have a well manicured, “drought tolerant” landscaped yard.  

Rishi front yard - Sarvodaya Farms Tour

This is the front yard. THE FRONT YARD Y’ALL!! That’s Rishi standing under some majestic papaya trees in his front yard, no big deal.

The first person to come out and greet us was Pearl.  I don’t know if it’s her healthy, green lifestyle or genetics but the first thing I noticed was that she has amazing skin.  Like the skin of a 25 year old.  I was like, I’ll have some of what she’s having.  

Pearl Giving Intro e1484963660869 - Sarvodaya Farms Tour

Here is Pearl, welcoming us into her home. She’s the best.

The rest of our group started to arrive and then Rishi came out and introduced himself to our group.  Our tour started in the back yard which was just as impressive if not more so than the front.  There was a little swampy pond thing, veggie beds, terraces, more fruit trees, and lots of cool soft earth.  Rishi and Pearl gave us an overview of how they managed to build this suburban Garden of Eden around their house.    

Rishi pointing to tree in back yard e1484963733810 - Sarvodaya Farms Tour

Our permaculture class has people of varying skill levels when it comes to gardening.  I fall into the category of “has no skills” so I love it when the more experienced people ask questions because they actually know what they’re talking about and I learn a lot by listening to the Q and A.

The land that the house sits on is mostly clay and sand.  Most fruit and veggie plants don’t like to grow in this kind of soil.  It’s hard for roots to push through and spread out and there tends to be very little biological activity in this mixture and it’s doesn’t hold moisture.  Water just flows right through it.  So Rishi and Pearl added a ton of biological matter to their lawn to create rich, biodynamic soil.  Soil that is full of life and that holds on to water like a sponge so that it doesn’t need to be watered constantly.  They did this by bringing in tons and tons of stable bedding from nearby horse stables, so lots of horse poop and hay, and they also brought in tons of other people’s yard debris.  You know, the stuff that your gardener either rakes or leaf blows into a bag and then throws away?  That stuff makes amazing soil.  It just takes a little time.  Oh and mulch, they also brought in mulch.  All of this stuff broke down over time to create soil that holds moisture and supports a ton of life.  

clay and sand dirt e1484963866775 - Sarvodaya Farms Tour

This is the neighbors soil which was what Pearl and Rishi started with. A big lump of sandy clay.

living soil e1484963637457 - Sarvodaya Farms Tour

And this is the gorgeous soil that they have created on their property. We all took turns passing it around and smelling it. You really can smell the difference.

Pearl informed us that this home garden or food forest, actually requires very little maintenance, something that intrigued me a lot because that’s the story I have about gardening… it takes too much time so it’s not for me.  But Pearl says she spends very little time tending to this stuff.  It pretty much takes care of itself and that is something I could definitely get on board with.  A little front end investment that produces plenty of yield without much ongoing effort sounds like my kind of garden.  

Rishi and class in side yard e1484963684649 - Sarvodaya Farms Tour

They even had stuff growing on the side yard! Rishi is holding on to a broccoli plant that he let bolt and then just let it keep on growing. You can still eat the leaves but he said it doesn’t make any more broccoli heads.

Curry leaves from side yard e1484963909648 - Sarvodaya Farms Tour

Pearl gave us each a sprig or two of curry leaf! I was excited because it’s hard to get fresh curry leaf in the store and a lot of the Indian recipes I’ve been cooking with call for it. I’ve been settling for using the dried leaves but now I have fresh one to try out!

IMG 8253 e1484969567453 - Sarvodaya Farms Tour

They also have a ton of chickens on the side of their house. Chickens are vicious so it’s important to use a stick if you’re a child trying to poke them.

biting chicken e1484963844118 - Sarvodaya Farms Tour

This chicken wanted to bite me so bad. Why are they so mean??  I just want to hold you like a baby!!!

After the tour of the growing home, we headed on over to Sarvodaya Farms which is, in comparison to the Growing Home, a higher maintenance but higher yield farm.  We drove ten minutes to another more urban residential area and there, across from a park was a little white house that had a large back yard that was, as promised, a real live farm.  There were rows and rows of veggies, a nursery for seedlings, chickens, a small fruit tree orchard and a whole section for composting.  A much different set up from the wild food forest at the Growing Home.

welcome to sarvodaya farms e1484964997541 - Sarvodaya Farms Tour

This is where all my food comes from!!!

This is where the stuff that I get in my weekly box comes from and during this part of the tour, where they explained their CSA program, I got to proselytize about how much I love the program, the veggies and how low waste their program in particular is.  It was also really fun to see what was ready to harvest and then guess what might come in my box this week.  

nursery with seedlings e1484964152416 - Sarvodaya Farms Tour

They have a nursery where they sprout seedlings before they go in the ground. Awww, look at all the baby plants in the nursery!! Aren’t they cute?

more urban farm e1484964127710 - Sarvodaya Farms Tour

Row after row of veggies followed by row after row of townhouses.

rows of veggies e1484964950887 - Sarvodaya Farms Tour

On one side of the property they have a neighbor who has a cactus farm in their yard. The other side is an empty lot they hope to acquire so they can expand the farm.

mixed crops e1484964103775 - Sarvodaya Farms Tour

Instead of planting just one row of the same thing, they plant a variety of plants that repel certain pests and provide shade where needed so that the plants work together to survive.

compost with thermometer e1484963888510 - Sarvodaya Farms Tour

They also have a whole section that is just compost piles. The key to compost is for it to get HOT.  This pile was at 120 degrees F.  Some of these piles get up to 150.

IMG 8296 e1484970474416 - Sarvodaya Farms Tour

Just a group of people checking out piles of luscious compost. How do you spend YOUR Sundays?!

peas and sky e1484964177710 - Sarvodaya Farms Tour

Rishi gave us an amazing tour and did a great job of answering everyone’s questions and being funny too.  I like funny.  We also got lucky with really lovely weather, just look at that beautiful sky.

At the end of the tour I got to talk to Pearl about some of the recipes I had seen on her Instagram.  We chatted for a bit about cooking and fermenting, what works, what doesn’t work.  It was really great to connect and actually get to know my farmers.  For real.  I also found out that they teach classes on gardening, composting and farming.  Seeing all of this and the varying levels of maintenance and commitment and what you gt for it was really inspiring to me.  I took this class so I could be a better consumer but who knows, maybe I’ll be inspired to become a producer too.  If I decide to do it,  I know that I have a lot of support available to me and that feels great!  

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Book Course