Local Farms Look to Heal the Community from the Inside-Out
Ken Singh’s family has been farming the same piece of land northeast of Thomas and the 101 since 1947. While his father farmed naturally, his uncle adopted the practice of using chemicals, which paid off in the form of profits. However, when a young Ken would goad his father by pointing to his uncle’s productivity, the elder refused to relent.
“Chase life,” he would tell his son. It may have taken a while for those words to sink in, but chasing life is exactly what Ken Singh is doing today.
“If you don’t eat well, I can guarantee that you’re going to get sick. It’s just a matter of when and how long,” says Singh, who besides growing, has also positioned himself as a leading soil expert in the region and produces his own selection of compost and fertilizers.
“That’s what our grandfather’s taught us, but we forgot and went into the chemical age,” says Singh. “But I tell everybody, going backwards is actually forward thinking.”
And the rewards for getting some dirt under his fingers have been well worth it in the long run.
“Back when I started, there was nothing here,” says Singh, pointing to the historical photos of his land hung on the wall of his indoor market, then out to land rich with vegetation under a canopy of mesquite trees his family built outside.
“All this is to show that in the middle of the desert, and without any chemicals, one old boy can build a farm and feed you.”
For more information on Singh Farms, visit them on their Facebook page at Facebook.com/SinghFarms.
The Simple Farm
For Lylah and Michael Ledner, the journey toward small suburban farming was a bit more of an unexpected venture. Inspired by the motto “bring dignity back to the dining table,” in 2009 the couple had the opportunity to develop a three-acre plot of land owned by the church where Michael is a pastor. Still owned by the church, the Ledners invested the proceeds from the sale of their own home, moved to the property, and got to work.
As unexperienced growers, theirs was, and continues to be, a journey of trial-and-error. Beginning at the back of the property, they started building a series of garden beds and a chicken coop. As the couple found stability and success, they built more beds, and in 2010 adopted two Nubian dairy goats from Northern Arizona, whose milk would inspire Lylah to learn how to make goat cheese and perfect a recipe for caramels inspired by a small confection shop from her youth spent in France.
Her goat milk caramels became a finalist for the coveted Good Food Award in San Francisco, and now with distribution across the country, a source of local pride for her small farm in the corner of Scottsdale.
“We believe that there should be something like this every two-square-miles, and what’s important is that the people who live around things like this get on board,” explains Ledner. “Farm members cook, they see the value, and they offer the support. After the relationship and community is built, the coolest thing is when they start to talk to one another and share recipes and experiences.”
For Ledner, however, hers is a venture that goes beyond just taste. It’s about the sights, smells, sounds and feel of something fresh, pure and real.
“I am all about beauty and aesthetics,” says Ledner, who takes pride in being able to produce everything her members need for their meal, all the way down to the flowers for the centerpiece.
“Whenever there’s an intense situation in the world, I go plant flowers. I feel that if somebody drives by, perhaps they will pause – I call them beauty pauses – and their heart will change or they will be touched by something they see.”
Whether it nourishes the body from the inside-out, or the soul from the outside-in, both Lylah and Ken agree that raising an awareness for what fresh, healthy food looks, smells and tastes like is really just a small part of the bigger picture.
For more information on The Simple Farm, visit them at their website at TheSimpleFarmLife.net.