Mother Earth Living

In the Garden

Get down and dirty in the garden

Add to My MSN

Miss Kale: One Girl’s Bumpy Journey to Becoming an Urban Farmer

1/14/2013 12:32:00 PM

Tags: urban farming, rooftop gardening, community garden, Los Angeles, L.A., California, Kathleen Gasperini

Living in a brick loft in the heart of downtown Los Angeles, two blocks over from Skid Row, the largest homeless shelter in the country, may not seem the ideal place to start one’s journey toward becoming an urban farmer, but dreams can begin anywhere.

The idea started when my 97-year-old grandmother, who comes from the seasonal foothills of the Catskill Mountains in Upstate New York, had sent me a copy of Capper’s magazine. It was completely different than what I usually had to read for work—fashion, action sports, and lifestyle magazines—and I was intrigued. After browsing through her Capper’s which was filled with her colorful commentary on Post-its, I started to wonder about the possibility of raising a chicken on the fire escape stoop outside my window. After all, I did have a couple of geraniums out there and a row of herbs.

lemons, kale and strawberries
Lemons, kale and a Valentine's Day strawberry! Photo By Kathleen Gasperini.

However, it was apparent that a chicken on a fire escape stoop wouldn’t be “free range,” and anyways, I had two cats—but my second idea, which was still a long-shot, became embedded in my bones. Maybe, I thought, I could grow, like, kale or something, and become an “urban farmer.”

Fast forward three years and three moves into three different lofts, all within the same five-block radius, and I found myself in a penthouse with a small roof patio. Here, I thought, I could grow my roof garden and be a real urban farmer. Maybe even have three tomato plants and kale.

By this time, rooftop gardens were sprouting up on top of some of the refurbished old buildings in the area, cared for by local organic restaurants, or citizens dedicated to greening LA’s rooftops. After deciding that chickens on the fire escape landing wouldn’t work and trying to grow a tomato plant indoors (which grew and grew but never produced), I too, had joined forces with other rooftop garden neighbors and helped with one such plot where we grew tomatoes and flowers and even had a huge compost tumbler on the roof.

One sunny LA day, while dumping some coffee grinds into our tumbler up top, my friend Minh Son and I felt a huge jolt. We looked at each other and knew that we were in for it. Rooftops are not the spot to be for an LA earthquake since most do not have railings, among other reasons.

Within five seconds of the jolt, and just before we got the cover tightly back on the composter, the building started rolling like a double-masted schooner on the high seas, heaving up and down on what felt like huge, rippling waves. Keeping our balance was a chore, and unfortunately, I looked up across the city and noticed the tallest buildings in downtown swaying even more, which added to my growing sense of vertigo. This was not a good situation. We might get flipped over the side, drowned in the sea of asphalt eight stories below.

We gradually made our way to the fire exit on the roof and ran down flight after flight after flight of stairs and popped out into the street along with everyone else in our building. Only I was carrying a crushed tomato and Minh Son was carrying a spade. Suddenly she freaked out, “The cover’s not on the composter!” A quick-witted fireman at the building stopped her before she darted back up to the roof. Minh Son is a rooftop farming genius, but had lost a bit of perspective in the mayhem.

Meanwhile, I’d spent a pretty penny on my new penthouse roof patch, bought a tiny lemon tree and a wine barrel for its home, hauled bags of soil up my narrow spiral staircase, and dragged a bookcase rack from a previous tenant out to the patio to hold an assortment of plants, one of which was kale. Unfortunately, about a month into living in this loft, I quickly realized that at 10 stories high, winds were a problem, there were rarely any birds other than cool soaring city hawks, and the sun scorched the cement, radiating unbearable heat and causing a hardship for my potted garden and the hardy kale. In the end, my total crop yield was one lemon.

So, I moved again. This time, to the beach. With my little lemon tree in a barrel.

Even though it’s still considered Los Angeles, Venice Beach has its own vibe, and best of all, its own community garden! I applied and waited for months until there was an opening. Once a plot came available, I couldn’t wait to start my little patch of a raised garden bed and of course, planted kale.

Perhaps it was the result of my pent-up years of trying to be an urban farmer in a loft coupled with visiting the farmer’s market each Friday and paying some $2.50 for a bunch of kale that was at the root of the cause of why I ended up planting so much kale in my little plot of urban-farm-landia. Curly kale, Dinosaur kale, Siberian kale…it all grew to such abundance that kale ended up in at least one meal a day for weeks, not to mention numerous smoothies.

veggies 
Kale, beets, strawberries, mint and lemons from my urban garden. Photo By Kathleen Gasperini.

I had so much kale that I started bringing it into work—in a trash bag. I got everyone hooked on kale. We’d have kale chips for our weekly conference meeting snack. Clearly, the nickname “Miss Kale” was not too much of a stretch.

However, I’m happy to say, thanks to my grandmother’s Capper’s, and since then, my Mother Earth News subscription, and now Mother Earth Living, I feel confident that I’ve become an urban farmer. My little lemon tree survived and I’ve gotten her a little brother—a dwarf avocado tree. I even grow strawberries.


Kathleen GasperiniKathleen Gasperini is internationally acclaimed as an industry leader when it comes to global youth culture marketing, research and branding strategies. She is the co-founder of Label Networks, the leader in global youth intelligence and branding for clients ranging from Apple Computer to Adidas Originals. Formerly Kathleen worked among leading youth culture magazines, as the Senior Editor of Powder and Snowboarder magazines, and the editor of Women's Sports & Fitness. She was the technical writer for the IMAX movie “Extreme,” and is the co-founder of the non-profit youth-focused foundation, Boarding for Breast Cancer, for which she received a Humanitarian Award from Snow Sports Industries of America.



Related Content

Future of Urban Gardening

The path to a sustainable New York City will involve covering much of the urban space with food farm...

Quoting Liberally

Service Unavailable

Tales from an Urban Farmer: Broccoli As Big As My Head

Guest blogger Kathleen Gasperini shares one of the challenges of urban farming: traveling while the ...

A Hard-Working Family Wins Our Ultimate Garden Giveaway

Kriste Misiak and her family won our Ultimate Garden Giveaway, receiving farm equipment and tools fo...

Content Tools




Post a comment below.

 

BrianSmith
7/14/2014 4:33:54 PM
I really enjoy to read articles that have good information and ideas to share to each reader. I really enjoyed this article. Keep up the good job. http://www.researchpapertown.com/research-paper-writing-service/ :: http://www.researchpapertown.com/research-proposal-help/

Ali
7/7/2014 7:27:12 AM
Congratulations Miss Kale, for your challenge because all teens are going for studying engg &medicine. I think your decision is very correct and you proved it also. I wish you a good future for you, all the best, you must upload your future projects also in this blog http://www.clickintobusiness.com

Gibbs
7/2/2014 12:31:16 PM
The sensible ideas and market value will give right approach to term the big solutions on the nice skills. https://www.facebook.com/howtotreatdiabetes

Gibbs
6/21/2014 11:06:38 AM
The power big points and simple calculations will give big bonuses to make your present neat and perfect to solve. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w4cF9CPoVto

macbooster
6/10/2014 9:18:31 PM
http://net19216801.blogspot.com

Gibbs
6/6/2014 12:03:35 PM
The all new system work to cover the super and extreme work to control new system package. http://www.linkedin.com/groups/Buy-Facebook-votes-Get-Online-6655737

Gibbs
6/6/2014 11:03:48 AM
The solved new portions will give best opportunity to make the chances better with high portal waves. http://www.linkedin.com/groups/Buy-Facebook-votes-Get-Online-6655737

Robert4s1s
6/1/2014 6:49:54 AM
Your site contains useful information on this topic as I am working on a school project. Thank you posting relative information and its now becoming easier to complete this topic. http://performancewithoutpain.com/diet-for-acid-reflux-permanent-healing

Anna4s1
5/27/2014 12:34:48 PM
I like the way you described the topic with such clarity. This is something I have been thinking about for a long time and you really captured the essence of the subject. http://www.balmainchiropractor.com.au/common-conditions/

Davids4s1
5/26/2014 1:18:59 PM
There are a lot of blogs and articles out there on this topic, but you have captured another side of the subject. This is good content thank you for sharing it. http://www.5starwarranty.com/

Jason4s1
5/25/2014 6:35:55 AM
I am currently working on an assignment and I have been exploring your blog for a few hours. Thank you for your post it proved helpful for me. http://www.ionssys.com.br​/

Dennis4s1
5/21/2014 10:35:15 AM
Your knowledge of this subject comes through clearly in this article. I love to read this kind of articles, I hope you will update it. Thank you for sharing it with me. http://georgetowndentalspa.com/dental-implants-brooklyn-ny/

macbooster
5/18/2014 5:49:01 AM
Its really annoying when you are trying to make payment using Credit Card.http://www.freeautoloancalculator.org

Hilda4s1
5/15/2014 8:58:39 AM
I found useful information on this topic as I am working on a business project. Thank you posting relative information and its now becoming easier to complete this project. http://birthdaywishespoint.info/

Mary1s4
5/5/2014 10:02:02 AM
I am interested in this topic and would like to find out some more information as my friend need information on this topic. Do you have any other articles about this? http://www.lenslends.com/

Megan1s
5/1/2014 6:01:58 AM
This topic is something that I have been looking into for a while now and your insight is exceptional. Thanks for sharing this information. http://www.whichwaytopay.com/

AmyWS1s
4/25/2014 10:06:38 AM
I am currently teaching a class and part of the curriculum involves this subject matter. Do you have any other posts I can look at regarding this? http://asgoodasitgets49palm.com/

Gibbs
4/25/2014 7:36:41 AM
The neat performance that you provide to us for great help and your content has higher quality to beat any services further. Top class idea to share with friends. https://www.facebook.com/buyrealinstagramfollowers

KatherineDS1s
4/22/2014 6:08:40 AM
I am in the middle of working on a school report on this topic and your post has helped me with the information I needed to complete it. Thanks. http://www.cushyoffice.com/products/category/desk-chairs/?brand=Mayline

Aramina
4/2/2014 4:16:11 AM
Congratulations to your new hobby. I know it was a bit different from what you really do but I guess its a new challenge its a way to live. You got the passion on it then continue that. I believe you are an inspiration to many people. Keep up the good work. -http://socialformula.com/twitter/packages



Subscribe today and save 58%

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
Country:
Email:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Subscribe to Mother Earth Living!

Welcome to Mother Earth Living, the authority on green lifestyle and design. Each issue of Mother Earth Living features advice to create naturally healthy and nontoxic homes for yourself and your loved ones. With Mother Earth Living by your side, you’ll discover all the best and latest information you want on choosing natural remedies and practicing preventive medicine; cooking with a nutritious and whole-food focus; creating a nontoxic home; and gardening for food, wellness and enjoyment. Subscribe to Mother Earth Living today to get inspired on the art of living wisely and living well.

Save Money & a Few Trees!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You’ll save an additional $5 and get six issues of Mother Earth Living for just $14.95! (Offer valid only in the U.S.)

Or, choose Bill Me and pay just $19.95.