Page 10 - June 2017
P. 10

nip, snip, the scissors clip the first harvest at Roots Micro Farm just one week after a May
snow storm blanketed the field and provided nutrient rich moisture to this recently plant- ed field of various leafy greens.
“It’s a testament to how sturdy these greens are,” notes Josh Chance, “principal dirt lover” and the farm’s co-founder. He and his wife Madelyn envision the reality of urban farming coming to life. The young dynamic couple exhibits a mixture of pragmatism and hyper-opti- mism when discussing the challenges and advantages of planting in high elevation.
They honed their skills while working farms in Hawaii, and have turned their knowledge of micro-greens farming into a working 15x8-foot indoor greenhouse in Flagstaff. Expanding to grow for eight local restaurants, they are harvesting a multiplicity of produce as of this writing, including delectable red acre cabbage and a slew of lettuce varieties like spotted trout, mei-mix, garrison, sulu and coastline.
Fresh off a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised over $5600, the two are on-site, beaming with excitement about the community support and the project’s next phase.
The space for the farm was found quite serendipitously when the couple was cruising around the neighborhood on their bikes and noticed the open lot and thought, “Hmm ... wonder what is going on there?” “This one is the one he really liked and that he dreamed about,” Mrs. Chance enthusiastically explains. After a search on parcel finder, they contacted the owners, wrote up a letter expressing interest, and the owners immediately responded. After a fruitful meeting, where the business plan was outlined with how their vision could take root, the owners were immediately in.
“They are gardeners too and think it’s a really fun idea and they didn’t have any immediate plans for the lot, so it was perfect,” explains Mrs. Chance. Creativity and ingenuity typify this project through the use of gravity fed water irrigation systems, along with water donated through a local delivery service.
Amending the field’s existing soil was the first step, with soil provided by a nearby deer farm, NAU greenhouses and by a cannabis cultivation facility that has previously donated soil to the Terra Birds, an organization that teaches high school students farming techniques. Terra Birds was an important relationship, as Mr. Chance participated in the organization’s educational workshops, and from which Mrs. Chance sourced the farm’s first starts.
Phase two of the microfarm plan is currently under way, with high tunnel hoop houses that will allow for high heat thriving veggies — tomatoes, pepper varieties, cucumbers and okra — to take off. The ultimate goal is growing in all four seasons to supply local restaurants. Speaking to the climate and soil compositions Mr. Chance notes, “If you can grow in Flagstaff, you can grow anywhere.”
story & photos by joey bono
The urban farming movement has been gaining momentum the last decade throughout the entire country, from New York City to Oakland, California. Fueled by chefs creating sea- sonally derived dishes and wanting to get their hands in the soil and use locally grown pro- duce, today’s diners are driving the demand for delicious, low-environmental-impact food.
Roots Micro Farm is a local representation of this movement and is on its way to the next step of laying out the infrastructure with vegetation beds and planting starts. Volunteers and further donations are welcome to ensure success. “If someone was to come and help, they will always leave with some food,” Mr. Chance notes with a head nod and affirmative grin.
According to the US Department of Agriculture research, the US farming population has declined steadily over the last 50 years; as of 2012 the average age of a farm’s principal opera- tor was 58 years old, and has been greater than 50 years old since at least the 1974 Agricul- ture Census. The next crop of US farmers are being cultivated right here in Northern Arizona.
Mr. Chance notes: “People aren’t going to farm if they can’t make money farming, so we want to create a viable model, building on other systems, for people to farm and make a liv- ing doing it, especially younger people.” The Chances chime simultaneously: “they need to be inspired by it!”
The two are eager to educate and have others utilize Roots as a model. With a shovel turn of the soil, Mrs. Chance explains: “We have so few growers in Flagstaff, so the hope is that this inspires others who have open space or vacant lots to say, ‘oh, we can grow food too!’” The couple believes a big change needs to happen with human eating habits, as far as eating seasonally and regionally. As the couple will point out, there are crops that do better during different times, and working with a space where there isn’t electricity or an abundance of water makes the farmer really tune in, “Which we really enjoy.”
The ingenuity Roots employs with this project takes into account crops better suited to low and high temperatures while taking advantage of summer monsoon rains, all in a rota- tion that provides various crops being harvested throughout the growing season. “It ulti- mately comes down to plant selection,” Mr. Chance states.
Making quality produce available to the community on a larger scale is the central mission of the Roots Micro Farm business model; they aim to accomplish this through expanding the number of restaurants supplied, offering harvest vouchers, and potentially, making weighed boxes available for purchase, as well as sharing with low-income families. Mr. Chance notes there is a bit of selectiveness with the more fine dining establishments, and they want to make sure their food is accessible to many.
The first taste of the Roots Micro Farm offerings will be at the Flagstaff Community Market Sundays, June to October, at the City Hall Parking Lot. And the farm’s first workshop is scheduled for June 1, at 615 West Birch Avenue.
10 • JUNE 2017 | the NOISE arts & news |

   8   9   10   11   12