How It Started
It all started innocently enough with a drop-in dinner party at our friend Eliza’s house many years back. As we drove into downtown Greenville, South Carolina, we had no idea that we were heading towards a dinner that would feed us for the rest of our lives.
Unbeknownst to us at the time, Eliza was an organic gardening expert. Upon arrival, Eliza invited us into her backyard with an eager smile and a wave of her hand. As we soon discovered, hers was no ordinary back yard.
We walked into the center of what seemed an overflowing produce section at a grocery store, only instead of the typical varieties of food that one is accustomed to seeing at a grocer, we were greeted with varieties, colors, and tastes that we had never experienced before—all organically grown without chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides.
Dinner was delicious, consisting mostly of unusual heirloom varieties of summer delights from Eliza’s garden, each picked at the peak of ripeness and nutrition. It was a sumptuous dinner we’d never forget.
During the drive home as I was recalling fond childhood memories of my mother’s and grandfather’s organic gardens, Susan uttered the now immortalized words, “Baby, I want a garden too.”
Shortly thereafter, our back yard garden, “Tyrant Farms,” was born (named lovingly after “Susan The Tyrant,” who still claims to be a benevolent dictator in our relationship despite compelling evidence to the contrary).
Our garden has been one of the most fulfilling, enriching journeys we’ve ever gone on in our young lives; a journey that has brought us closer to each other as well as the natural world. After many years of trial and error and reading piles of research, our half acre purely organic *back yard “farm” now produces more food than we can possibly eat throughout the year, despite our unremitting passion for eating it.
This abundance has created a strong desire to share our food with friends, family, neighbors, and others. Moreover, we’re passionate about sharing one simple idea with anyone with a yard or even a sunny window: you’d benefit yourself and the planet if you viewed your small piece of earth as a natural, edible garden rather than a monoculture grass farm.
The initial response we get during these conversations is typically a sigh coupled with “that sounds like a lot of work,” followed closely by “I just don’t have the time or money to do that right now.”
We used to think the same thing: from the outside, gardening seemed a daunting, grueling task that is no longer essential in a modern world where grocery aisles full of cheap, plentiful stuff that is often labeled as food abound. However, as we’ve come to find out through studying (and practicing) organic gardening and permaculture methods, gardening can be a fun, family and community-oriented science lesson that requires surprisingly little money or labor from the people involved. As we continue to learn more about how to work with nature rather than against it, we’ve seen nature start doing most of the work for us, and its work produces delicious food that is as good for our health as it is for our pocketbook.
Under this approach, the gardener’s job becomes that of a steward, tending to the natural ecosystem in their garden that continues to improve year by year with less and less input required. After all, nobody has to plow, fertilize, water, and spray deadly chemicals on forests for them to do just fine without our “help.” Your garden can ultimately work as efficiently and effectively as a forest, and yes, it can be stunningly beautiful too.
The hardest part for most gardeners—including us—is simply getting started in the first place. So, even if you decide to start your garden by planting a single seed in a pot, do it now. After all, “now” is the best time to start your garden, and starting small can make your first step that much easier.
The knowledge we’ve gained through many years of research and hands-on experience inspired us to start GrowJourney, a USDA-certified organic Seeds of the Month Club. Our members get to discover new organic heirloom seeds and use our expert online growing resources to learn to garden using organic/permaculture methods. We’d love for you to come on a grow journey with us! Click here to get started.
We also look forward to sharing more of our “KIGI” (Know It or Grow It) journey with you over the months and years ahead through the Tyrant Farms blog and other social media outlets like our facebook page. Hopefully, we’ll inspire you to start or continue your own KIGI journey as well. You’ll be glad you did, and so will we!
Aaron & Susan von Frank
*Update: Our family has grown to include a small flock of hilarious heritage breed Welsh Harlequin “ducklings” and ferocious rodent-controlling “kittens”. These are full-grown adult animals now, but they’ll always be ducklings and kittens to us. And, yes, you can keep your cats from killing birds outdoors, as we’ve written about here.
Why We Care
We’re “normal” young urbanites trying to live and share a conscientious life while passing on a better world to the children we hope to have one day. We’re thrilled to be part of the groundswell of people around the country and the world who are starting to reconnect with their food, realizing how the seemingly simple decision of what we eat can have such a profound impact on other systems that we (and future generations) depend upon. Even mainstream scientists and policy experts are increasingly realizing that local, decentralized, ecologically-minded food production is the future of agriculture, and the key to healing a world in which billions of people unnecessarily starve while others eat themselves to death via addictive “cheap” food produced in ways that concurrently ravage the environment. These aren’t faceless, nameless people: these are our friends, family, and neighbors. This isn’t some other planet we’re talking about: it’s ours, and it’s the only one we’ve got.
Our ideas aren’t fringe delusions aimed at moving society backwards; they’re part of a growing cutting-edge zeitgeist that is tapping into a more holistic, scientific understanding/appreciation of ecology and how our food production and delivery systems can be thoughtfully upgraded to better allow people and communities to thrive—becoming regenerative not simply sustainable. Food is the foundation of every civilization, and we can each make choices (usually at least three times per day) that will determine what our society’s food foundation will look like and what downstream impacts it will have on human health, the economy, and the natural ecosystems that sustain life on earth.
We have to start planting seeds today to help grow a better tomorrow, rather than solely relying on companies, government agencies, or other people to make the right decisions for us. The problems are large and we are small, but we’re doing the best we can.
So, pick up your fork, and grab a seat at the table. Let’s learn, grow, and eat some great food together!
The Tyrant Farms hummingbird logo was inspired by a story from Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai. Click the hummingbird image (below) to watch a short video of her story.