Che Axum – JP020

We are honored to have today Mchezaji “Che” Axum, the Director of the Center for Urban Agriculture and Gardening Education in the College of Agriculture Urban Sustainability and Environmental Sciences (CAUSES) at the University of the District of Columbia (UDC). This is the most practical and poignant episode we have recorded thus far. Take notes!

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Thank you for listening to


Transcript (automated)

MO 0:00
Peace. I’m Mason Olonade and this is Jigijigi Africulture podcast. Here we believe building a healthy soil builds a healthy soil and we share strategies for how to do both. To do both, we ask two questions. How do you grow while you grow kale, collards, tomatoes and melons. And why do you think the healthiest soils are black?

It is my deep honor to have Che Axum On today’s episode. I met you a while ago during the Department of Agriculture in Maryland at the sustainable ag Tuesdays and you gave a lecture on aquaponics and hydroponics and what y’all are doing at UDC. And there you said that you had filed for organic certification and 97 i think when it was just a page long or something and

CA 0:54
maybe a little bit probably a little bit earlier.

MO 0:56
Okay. Well, it was whenever you did it, he said it was like a page long And that blew my mind. And then you’ve been able to sort of keep thatsince then.

CA 1:05
Yeah. Well, I mean well the thing about it early on, you know, later on the USDA got involved with organic agriculture but this was before the USDA. This is when you could just have to go to an individual state so you want to if you want to get certified in rural and you went to the Maryland Department of Agriculture, if you went to other states you went to their department by cutting USDA had no involvement with organic agriculture whatsoever, right. So it was very, you know, for emphasis stages and it was you know, like I said, Now the paperwork is just tremendous again into organic I mean, you can do it but remember early on it was probably about four or five pages to fill out to get your get your land certified.

MO 1:51
Is it was it then like how people have like the certified naturally grown that like certification? Where’s some Inspector?

CA 1:58
Yeah, yeah.

MO 2:00
They had they had because the certified naturally going thing is like you know one pager too long.

CA 2:05
Yeah no they had people who were employed at the Merlin partment of agriculture, they will come out you know, every year to kind of see what you were doing actually questions. Look at you look at your records and things like that, but it wasn’t anywhere as complicated as it is now.

MO 2:22
When did you know that you were supposed to have your hands in the soil?

CA 2:26
Well, I knew about it early on. You know, I grew up in DC and ironically, you know, we never grew any food in our house in North it’s. So my job really was and I didn’t mind doing it was to go get shrubs and bushes and rose bushes and things like that and really go to the hardware store and bring those back and my mother would tell me where she went to plant them. And all of them really did well. But it was just something about digging that hole. Couldn’t Put the plant and having the mud on my Hey, let’s use the garden hose. It was something I did I just I just enjoyed it. It just felt good. It was never like it was worth doing. I always enjoy doing so whenever she said she needed a hydrangea bush or rose bush or you know, a plum tree in the backyard or something like that. I would go we would go get the tree, bring it back. I would dig the hole knowing nothing about the planting any books about place? Yeah, just know that you know how to dig a hole and put the plan in and cover it back up with so but it’s you know, I just I just did my having the soul on my hands in the water and the soil is it’s not still know how it feels today. Yeah. Yeah.

MO 3:41
There’s so how did you make that? I guess your profession?

CA 3:44
Well, well, first, you know, if you fast forward, you know, about 20, 15 years after that it’s 20 years after that. My original goal was to go into pharmacy. Right so I wanted to go to pharmacy And I have been working in different pharmacies and clinical pharmacies around the area working and I some Suburban Hospital, sibley hospital. You know, hospitals like that working in the pharmacists as a pharmacy technician, Children’s Hospital. So I just did two things. I mean, I saw some of the farms, there were nice people, but some of them were just not happy. And so, and then this working in a hospital setting is mentally the same, you know, people would get this medication after medication after medication. So, about the same time I really got into kind of natural, you know, medications and health and herbs and things like that. So I was just getting ready to take the test. At that time, you’ll take a test to go to the Howard University School of Pharmacy, it’s called p cat and I was going to take that test. I just took some time off and I was driving what dad was driving down route one in Beltsville, Maryland. So USDA is in those roles I’m driving, I look over, I don’t know what I was doing out there have no idea why I was just driving out for. So I look up to the left, and I see the problem for agriculture. And I say I’m interested to see maybe, maybe they might have a job position or job and stuff like that. So, and two things.

Number one, I knew that, you know, in taking prom, take the pharmacy courses, you have to take chemistry by just like being a doctor biology, anatomy, physiology to take all those courses, physics, you know, calculus Freetown on it. I know two things I said number one, first thing I knew was that I took all the science courses, it was a challenge to get through those. Yeah. I said number two, I don’t want to take that again. And I don’t want to let them go to waste. So and number two was the thing I knew. I knew nothing about agriculture. I knew that I just mean as a term I knew nothing about agriculture would have entail. So I just saw drove up and went to the HR department and it was just laid out. I was it was like a black angel. So I went up there. And I told him, you know, slipping and just searching, you know, we have job openings. And she said, you know, we do, but what do you do? As I say, I took the science courses, and I was thinking about going to pharmacy school, but I’m not quite sure if I really want to do that now. She says, Well, you know, just coincidentally, a friend of mine have been working here for 30 years, and she just retired about two weeks ago, and I haven’t filled her position. She said, Well, I tell you what, you go ahead and bring your resume back in a couple of days. And when you know what you have, and I’ll see you, I’ll see you I can’t promise you anything about what I can do. Hmm. Maybe I went home, typed all that stuff up and back out there like a day or two later took and gave it to her. And then about a couple of days after that they called me and for any Oh. So I went in for the interview, met this lady who was a she was a insect pathologist. So she needed a technician to help her with some of her research. And so she, for some reason, I mean, little white Southern Baptist lady chose me to be her technician. So she said, Okay, so then about a little while after that, I got the job. But ironically after that Ronald Reagan was president. And about a week or two after I got the job, they had a three year freeze on government. Wow. So if I didn’t get that job, yeah, I could probably have ever gotten into agriculture. Totally another direction. Totally know the direction cuz I wouldn’t get that job. Yeah. The university Merlin was right down the street. Right. Then I found out about this cool turn call agronomy. I don’t know what it means. But I don’t know anybody else’s agronomist. Um, but I always try the hardest thing to do. And so I went down there saw that’s a gronomy. I said, Oh, that’s a cool term. So then I thought I found out more About It went back in, you know, motor University of MD and got my degree in cropscience and agronomy. But the end event for that time, everything started lining up and people opening up their minds and hearts and souls and led me in that little window. Yeah, we would we wouldn’t be we wouldn’t be talking right now.

Timing is everything and be prepared. So yeah, so that’s how I got into it. And then I just soaked it up like a sponge. I mean, like because it was just something I embraced totally became a passion my mission. And I just totally soaked in is everything ag I was I was obsessed with agriculture, absolutely obsessed. To this day.

MO 8:52
I am sharing, probably not on the same order of magnitude, but definitely share it obsession with it and as much as like it trying to tell people to not get me started talking about plants and all that sort of stuff, just, you know, just go off never but also you’re driving around or whatever. And then Normally, I guess dudes would pause and break their neck for, you know, fine woman who say the same. Do the same thing for like, Who’s got red amaranth going in there front yard!

CA 9:30
I’m the same way, I see tractors on people tractors and fields and stuff like that. Yeah, people see a Ferrari or Porsche attractive man with a cab and it would air conditioning and light.

That’s what I want right there.


MO 9:46
yeah, I was reading about how a lot of small farmers embracing what they propose these days because they you can actually repair him as opposed to john deere because they’re not letting people repair stuff.

CA 9:58
In a cheaper Yeah. achievement. So yeah, I can see Yeah. He has some issues and you know, applause you know, Kubota probably too but you know, john deere had a tremendous issue of not having any black dealerships, and they might have one black dealership in the country now. Maybe. Maybe. So that was one of the big things for pharmacy. I was happy that the buy all these tractors and nobody who kind of looked like them they were kind of upset about.

MO 10:28
I have no idea. Yeah, it makes sense. So this is one of those. I guess it was like, those dog whistles whenever it’s whenever I see like a john deere type, somebody wearing a john deere hat orwhatever.

CA 10:40
But you know, I mean, what you know, people use john deere, a lot of black farmers use john deere. Right. It’s a good tractor.

MO 10:49
Because there are and then I think the article is also talking about how the resale market for older john deere, john deere tractors is without other software. Oh, yeah. Because those have gone up in value because you can repair them yourself. Yeah, sure.

CA 11:05
Yeah. As opposed

MO 11:07
to what is the newer models? Do you um, so when Then how did you end up at UDC?

CA 11:14
Oh, that’s another ironic story. I was actually I was I was farming and leasing land in Lana, Maryland. So I was

MO 11:25
Where, that’s where I grew up

CA 11:26
was in lanham, this guy had a little farmette. He had a greenhouse and had maybe like a quarterback and back of his house, so I had known him and actually I knew him because his brothers, they had a they had a machine called a spader, which is kind of like a tiller, but this handles the soil better and tillers the and actually when I used to farm in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, I would pay him to bring this spider out to a my farm and where I was leasing them up Mr. Brick to the spade the land, the tiller. So I knew about him and I know about this I’m about the greenhouse they have so then I kind of kept in contact with them but um so they had like a quarter Baker and back of house which they weren’t really farming but um, you also growing microgreens and a greenhouse was a 30 by maybe 60 foot greenhouse, but they were growing microgreens on a frame so anyway, I leased some of that into grow microgreens and so the restaurants and also farm there. I was growing microgreens selling restaurants and so my wife says a party at her job one night says go to the party and bring some of the microgreens. So I did took the market grains and they were a big hit. And so she came back a couple days late and said the ladies, you know, have a job, you know what? To borrow microwaves from So okay, well, I’ll just tell me what they want to bring them home and I’ll wash them up and pack them up and you take it to them. When a job and you just collect money, bring it back to me. So a couple years later, when the position came open and UDC, I said to my wife, I said, you know They have a position for for a manager and also a director for urban AG, at UDC. So I think I’m gonna apply for it. She said, yeah. She said, Well, I said what I said, Well, this is the lady right here. Who’s the dean? She said, Well, that’s that’s the beam. I said, you remember being in the party? I said, No, who’s that? She said, that’s the lady at the party who would buy the microgreens from you!

MO 13:24

CA 13:28
So So,, you know, apply for the job and because she, you know, I guess I don’t know, she knew anybody else to know something about from applied for the position and got it.

So, what time is this? What you should be doing? Hmm. And it is hitching and you know, it hit me. Another thing it’d be done the other day. We were doing interviews for administrative positions.

At my job, so a lady comes in to tell me she’s looking for administrative positions. Apply for this position so she talks amazing so you know I’m, I really want to try this job I kind of feel I could do it but she’s about 300 pounds but I’ve lost a lot of weight you know through way I changed my eating monster Well, she said oh yeah, you know, I started eating healthy about in 2013 from these a collard greens and kale that somebody in my community was wrong,

MO 14:25
and it really

CA 14:26
helped me so and that got me really healthy and I started being healthy and lost weight and you know, all my people in my family at 16 diabetes and things like that. That’s a real it’s you see, there was a pastor who had a small church they would ask him Yeah, I know the pastor, but I’m the one who taught the both of you how to go to calls and care.

MO 14:48
And that

CA 14:51
is usually hear by people that say, Oh, hey, we tried this and it worked. And you know, they try this and we work with something like that when it comes back, man. Why?

I hit me yesterday and brought tears.

MO 15:04
Yeah, as I was about to ask you, I didn’t know how to ask you if you cry or not.



CA 15:10
Hear me cry now. It’s just because as a as an agronomist or a person like that man, you have a, you know, they have so you want to, you want to grow two blades of grass where one has been grown before. So as a grown man, that’s what you want to do. You want to go out and teach and show people how to grow, how to grow food, grow healthy food, things like that. So I’m going to come back to you to somebody whose life has really been impacted by something that you did agriculture’s

that’s, that’s one of the most beautiful that’s spiritual,

MO 15:39
right? Wow. That’s I mean, I’m, I’m proud of you.

That’s really cool.

CA 15:48
That’s that was deep. I was truly dig. I just have an edge today. Wow.

Yeah, so so yes.

MO 16:03
what all do you have growing on this year?

CA 16:07
Well, we’ve gotten into a lot in the past couple of years, we’ve gotten into hydroponics and aquaponics. So we’re going to continue to do quite a bit of that in trying to get that down to the point where we can do it very well and grow very healthy crops from that, and then the traditional soul growing stuff will be growing. And one of the things I’ve been concentrating on is continuing to try to concentrate on is, you know, when you go on, but it’s not really so much sometimes. You know, yield is important, how much of this or that you grow per acre? That’s important. But in urban areas, we really need to look at how much nutrition that you’re growing per acre. Yeah, that’s key. You could grow up you can grow acre license, Iceberg lettuce, right? Anyway, I have no no nutrition, nutritional benefits to you at all. But if you go these are the types of letters With a high phytochemicals and high nutrient density, things like that, that’s kind of what you want to look at. So we’re looking at, you know, everything we’re trying to grow now, picking crops with half, you know, specific high nutrient density. And also working with Tuskegee right now on a grant. And that’s one of the things that we’re doing to crops. The two systems we’re using, we’re looking at high nutrient dense vegetables and we’re also looking at climate smart crops, crops which can be really still produced and a very high temperatures which we have now, all the time, right. Because down in Tuskegee, Alabama, I was told that some of the farmers have greenhouses down there, but some of the greenhouses they don’t grow anything those greenhouses from saying may and so sometimes like September because that’s too hot. But what we have found out is that you know, you can grow certain crops in greenhouses even though it is very hot, but they have to be the heat tolerant crops. Yeah, and you have to have the water So and so has to be moist and things like that. So you can grow crops, specific crops in the very high temperatures, consistent high temperatures if they’re the right variety selections. Yeah, that’s what we’re looking at continuing on this is the last year the ground. Okay.

So those kind of things kind of interest me is trying to get better food not always grow more food but grow better, right?

MO 18:22
Yeah. There was, um, on another podcast, I listened to regenerative agriculture podcast they were talking about that they partner was I don’t remember the name of the company, but they have a mobile nutrient density meter. Then

CA 18:39
I’ve heard about it and I’m, I’m a member of a group called the bio nutrient food. I

MO 18:47
think that’s Yeah,

CA 18:48
yeah. Yeah. They just had a

about two months ago, they had a big conference up in Boston

I know that I heard they worked on a meeting they have something so We’d have to, you know, yeah, I really want to see and get my hands on it and test it again.

MO 19:05
They’re available for like 300 bucks. Yeah,

CA 19:07
yeah, I’ll definitely get one and test it out and see how it works. Yes. You know, test drive it and see if it does what it’s supposed to do. Yeah.

MO 19:16
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Cuz that that podcast is quite fascinating because the, I guess the president of that group or whatever it was i don’t i don’t i don’t remember. But whoever was on there was talking Well, the guy who runs a podcast was talking about that said like, 40% of organic food in the grocery store is the same nutrient wise as like in giant well, because of the lack of the nutritional profile because yeah, most people you know, ganic farming since just do one, one to one replacements of the Sunday.

CA 19:52
I know and I noticed that too, because a while back, you know, before that we had this apparatus called a refractometer. To embrace it basically it takes a Brix reading which takes the reading of the amount of soluble sugar. So in a liquid from that plant or or fruit. So you put that on the apparatus with the digital or the analog type of apparatus and you look it up and it gives you a readout and a reading the charts out about you know if it’s good, excellent or bad and so, you look at that not many times, but you know, conventional produce from conventional store and then bought the same kind of thing from organic store which you pay more for and tested both of you. In some cases, the conventional produce came out with a higher birth rate. Now, they might have some pesticides and more nutrition. So yeah. Testing, we know we have to do further testing. Right, right.

MO 20:54
I remember when I came last time, and I because I also took the agroecology start with Mamtha. Yeah. And I think this this the first iteration of the soil is one with Victoria. But the enduring the agro ecology when she she gave us the Malabar spinach. Yeah, he’s talking a lot about Fs.

CA 21:23
That’s one of the that’s one of the climate smart crops that we’ve grown because it’s a very heat tolerant crop and there aren’t many leafy greens that you can grow right in the summertime without them getting bitter right? From the combination of the mess almost the sunlight but it’s just the long days the light intensity like lettuce gets good at some time. It bolts amazing to see and it is to heat somewhat too but when you have the heat and a long day of daylight, that’s what causes the plant evolve and get better. Some some varieties of medicine.

MO 22:00
Yeah, looking through some of the C catalogs they have the I didn’t I didn’t know what it meant before I saw it happened about like the slow slow bolting.

CA 22:09
Yes, they have. So I think they have a few knows where it is now like I’m writing an article now about commenting changing overnight so we think robots can do I mean just they have this shade that is that you can put over lettuce which kind of you still you don’t need a lot of sunlight but if you can shade it and motivate you get a nice coffee taste.

MO 22:31
Yeah, because that’s what I was. I was wondering is it just mean that you can’t eat leafy greens in the summer?

CA 22:39
Like is Asian mustard you can use and monster greens some of those things and don’t go boating. I know you can definitely eat chard and vegetable amaranth there’s a number of them you can eat Yeah, yeah, cuz

MO 22:52
but, you know, I guess you know just learning more about it and people talking about your greens but then just show off a bunch of brassicas and stuff like that.

CA 23:01
There’s a few leafy greens that you can grow in the summertime that you can grow successfully

MO 23:10
How? How have you grown while growing all that you’ve got going on meaning how has your well being improved being in the soil?

CA 23:19
Well, for me as I go to my high school reunion or see guys my age kind of old and I see I see what sometimes city have these these jobs that we have some of these desk jobs, office jobs and things like these guys and I know these guys were athletes A long time ago that I describe very sedentary and their day to day activity. And I’ve never had a chance to do that. I just sedentary a little bit after I finished working on that. Yeah. But the fortunate thing about agricultural farming is that in hard work as well. To turn for me to sit, sit behind a desk for eight hours will be very hard work. For me working out planting and harvesting and doing ag related stuff is not hard work. It’s never it’s never been for agriculture for you to be anywhere near successful added. It has to be something that you enjoy doing because you can’t be good at it if you don’t enjoy doing and that’s what that’s what it is for most and some people are very good at things The only things that they don’t enjoy to do and I’ve never been one of those people so

but it’s kind of difficult to do egg and things like that if you don’t really enjoy it you don’t like the hate, you know like the sun like an SEC. I mean, it’s just right. It’s very difficult

for you to do that and the time goes so fast. Sit in this job, you know the clock is ticking

to be looking at Oh is it still 10 o’clock

and I’ve never had any days like that as far as this before as far as four o’clock around where did the day go? And I still have a lot more to do.

So it’s just one of those things I just I’ve never like had been sedentary disunited helps you to eat right now not all people in pharmacy good. Yeah, it’s really not so. So it’s not you know so you find some farmers who you know overweight you’re very unhealthy sometimes. Yeah, I just for me I just chose not to go in that direction because I mean that wouldn’t be a good thing for me to try to sell health to people and I’m happy Oh, no. Yeah, this would make too much sense. Yeah. So like

MO 25:48
do you also have garden in your house?

CA 25:51
I have in the past I’m starting again this year to have, hopefully have garden classes called backyard food factory. Nice. So I’ll have classes there maybe once or twice a month and people come and go tell them everything they need to know. Everything that I know about growing healthy, nutritious.

MO 26:15
I want to be there for those. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. All right even to help facilitate or

CA 26:19
Yeah, absolutely.

MO 26:21
Yeah, whatever whatever I can do.

CA 26:23
Yes. Then I’m currently doing some things at the home homestead just to fix that up so I can do okay, yeah. Are you live in the city? I live in the city. So yeah, more seven soffits Okay. Okay, it’s a call back right backyard food factory so they could probably be on Saturdays around for one to maybe like three maybe come and sit and talk about food show you how to grow food. So you just short short your learning for Yeah, yes, for tremendously short and I learned so you can be successful. Yeah, because a recession is coming again.

MO 27:02

CA 27:04
To see people in food lines, government workers and people like that include line and getting food and handouts and stuff like that. Well, I think a lot of people, you know, come in psychologically, you know, it might help some folks to if they can go through some hard times you go on your back yard and go some carrots and some potatoes and stuff like that man and sit down meal with the family and eat the stuff that you grew. Yeah, that’s a little psychological advantage, as well as a helping hand.

MO 27:33
Yeah, it is. It is. I don’t. Although I am sorry, I’ve just usually caught up in the beauty and mesmerized by it all the time growing food, and I haven’t necessarily, I guess I’m going more for experience rather than sustenance. So it gets kind of interesting, but I mean like this I just my my Mandela and I grew the first watermelon that we, you know, ever got and eating that. I mean, it’s The Sweetest watermelon, you know, that I’ve ever, ever had even as compared to ones that I bought from friends who have grown or whatever. Yeah. It’s like, you know?

CA 28:20
Yeah, I mean, it’s just incredible sometimes stuff that you can grow and it takes and you get, you can’t lie. You can’t evolve if you have money if you went to the store, and you went to five different grocery stores, you couldn’t find it. Yeah.

MO 28:35
I mean, I’m I’m really glad that you’re doing that project because this is kind of interesting. Where there is still a lot of tree cover, and in people’s backyards, but the way that the city is laid out, usually with like alleys, that really opens it up for all day signs and a lot of people’s backyards,

CA 28:55
would you be surprised? I mean, that’s one of the things that would be in the garden of course, is that foods that you can A lot of crops that you can grow in shade and in kind of you know without too much sunlight you know as some crops need a lot of sun like watermelons and things like a whole list of crops which don’t require you know sun so the things I tell people to do first thing they do is son audit of the yard. And they go out say in April May they got in their yard kind of look and see what the sun comes up or shine in it at nine o’clock in the morning. Go back again at let me mark it off, took some like sticks and you mark it off and connect string and you come back again it may be like 12 or one o’clock see what it is. See what sunlight is again, in the shape wise this might probably mark off the Sun God come back again around five o’clock again and then mark off where the sun is is because the sun moves sometimes right? Sometimes you move so you know, then you know and sometimes they have light meters too You can take the intensity of the light At that time, so they’ll tell you, you know what you can’t grow and what you can’t grow once you want us to waste your time trying to grow. So we’ll talk about that in the backyard.

MO 30:13
Very cool. Why do you think the healthiest soils are black?

CA 30:22
Was it’s definitely you know, the organic matter I mean, you know, one of the things you know, I’ve always kind of I don’t feel good about it, but in the summertime, when you see when we have dropped conditions, whether that be in eastern show and rural and drought conditions, so go to farmers land they say the drought is really bad this year, farmers might lose all their corn or the crops and then they’ll pan the camera to the to the crops. And do you look down at the soul and the soul is is very light around sadness. Without organic matter allowed and so that’d be one stairs. I mean if saw doesn’t have as much life as it needs to happen, but it’s definitely not holding so much moisture anymore. So it also means nutrients students, organic matter holds a lot of nutrients. So he knows Dhaka soil souls or you know we’ve had maybe 510 15% organic matter either DACA zones. They’re just healthier soils for plants. And they do better they do better in the drought conditions, they do better on many conditions ain’t gold pH the whole pH better, a lot better. And some of the light lighter colors on the Dark Souls and I had my choice I’d have so very dark souls have maybe 1015 20% organic matter as much as I could about this, you know, quote, grow healthy crops.

MO 31:57
In the Master Gardener class, the there was a The woman she was saying that anything higher than 5% organic matter is like, you know, not

CA 32:10
Not really. Because, I mean, it really depends, I mean, depends on the city nutrient cycling that you’ve done with the soil because sometimes, you know, you can put more organic matter in the soil, but that doesn’t mean it necessarily mean that the organic matter has a lot more nutrients in it. Sometimes it could just be leaf mulch. You know, decayed leaf mulch. Yeah. Which doesn’t have a lot of NPK in it. Yeah, but it will hold it if you put it there. Mm hmm. No, doesn’t mean it has more nutrients in it. Just because you have more organic matters. You can have to measure and evaluate the organic matter the nutrient low by doing salt as you can tell us all by the salt as you know How much nutrients you have in there, but that organic matter is going to hold, you know, the nutrients that you put in, you can put as much nutrients as you want to put in there, you can have a lot of nutrients in there you can have, you know, a little bit. So it really depends. So I’ve seen some, and you got Michigan and some of those, you know, people updated farmers in places like that where the organic matter doesn’t really oxidize quite as readily as here in the southeast. And as you go south, some of those hustles are very high and organic matter is black souls grow tremendous amount of soybeans and grains and things like that. So I’ll think of swans with tray where they they can have up there for anything. And some of those some of those sort of very high

black black stones.

MO 33:52
So, the I guess the way that I’m asking this question, so you and I talked about like natural medicine or There was for a hot second. But so, in science, I’ve seen a general conflation of why and how questions like questions are asked. So five word is saying, you know, I guess why does Why Why does my back hurt or something like that they would tell me about what’s going on in my bag, but not necessarily about in that just telling me what’s going on in my back is more of a house sort of answer as to why that’s happening. And so when I’m saying the Y thing I am heading towards more of a less quantifiable but scientifically maybe more spiritual understanding of my alaria backwards maybe for me, you know in that situation because I’d maybe not be as confident as I thought that I am so I slouch or whatever who to fast slow slouch or something like that, which is the real sort of why so Want to ask why do you think the healthiest oils are black? That’s more of the things about why rather than the

CA 35:09
well, I just think the amount of Okay, we have the source of the black so it’s organic. So organic matter was played some way by something. So what it basically it was created through photosynthesis. So maybe it’s the energy, the energy of photosynthesis, the quantum energy that was created to create create that material. What makes us so so powerful, you know, because you have the plant matter, you know, you have photosynthesis photosynthetic energy is probably in these tissues and leaves and plant material, stuff like that. So maybe some of that still remains. Huh. After you do the composting quantum The interesting molecular data are still in there, the energy could be still in there, locked in. Yeah, just slowly released. And as you put it in the soil, so if you made it on top of the soil and it just kind of drive and evaporates when the rain reaches out, I guess it kind of gets D configured somewhere. But maybe when you put that into a soul and you wrap it in, then the energy possibly still might be just locked in it and it just slowly released the electrical energy this way.

MO 36:34
I’ve been really fascinated with Piezoelectricity recently. After because I see a lot of people talk about quartz and are not quartz, but just like crystals, Crystal thing, but it hasn’t. The amount of information that they present to me hasn’t appealed to me, okay, I can’t sort of get it as a scientist. But then when I learned it, and then I was like, wait, what is As is like quartz watch work, you know? And then I realized, Oh, that’s in so they using the crystal and you know, the vibrations from the crystal. And so that I do you know, about how the quartz watches work?

CA 37:14
I know a little bit of what I know, some quantum stuff.

MO 37:18
Yeah, so they so you run the charge through this quartz crystal that shaped like a tuning fork. Okay. And then it vibrates, you know, to the 15 hertz. And that is strong enough forever to set your watch by. Okay, wow. Yeah. And so and then in, you know, ultrasound, they use the same piezo is electricity. So they can send the, send the current through the crystal, which will then vibrate, and then you can, that’ll go out, and then it’ll vibrate the crystal back, that will turn into a current that they can apply to make an image.

CA 37:56
Yeah, so I guess that has something to do with atomic particles in like on the level of like quantum when they deal with atomic particles and spin one spin down way the other one spins the other way, you know, put in different orbits, and they Yeah,

MO 38:12
yeah. Yeah, I was I had I was just learning more about this because I, you know, I guess some of the stuff he told me to go look into the acres in US Rodale, all that sort of stuff and so reading about, I guess there’s sort of quantum agriculture and bio dynamics and stuff like that led me all sorts of different ways. Of course, and this sort of stuff about how a lot of Chinese are using electrode culture and setting up and spraying their plants with like 50,000 volts, rove just ions, you know, it’s like no buds, you know, improved, highly improved growth, all this all this sort of stuff because the just, the vibrations are very different around me. Immediately surrounding that plant. And so it really made me think a lot about what electricity is and like we were talking about with photosynthesis. You know, it’s in biology as a biologist as biologists, right? You know, we learning about energy and mitosis and ATP going ADP, and they say that the energies released, but that energy’s actually electricity. Right. You know, and I didn’t get that until, you know, seeing this sort of stuff. It’s like, Oh, my gosh, you know, you get it caught up with like action potentials and all that stuff. All that stuff is electricity, no electricity, no anything is sodium potassium pumps, but there’s like negative positive charges that are being recycled all through your body. And so like you’re saying, you know it, these sorts of long chains of organic molecules are breaking down over time, or just recycling themselves into what they used to be. You know, it’s really, really fascinating. Yeah,

CA 39:58
I read a recent article. A guy talked about, you know, talks about pH. So we talked about pH with plant growth and things like that. But also, one of the things that people don’t talk about that much is the Redox. Oxidative properties in the soil. He told me talk about me getting really into electro Yeah. Electricity in the soul. The ions, plus and negative charges moving and passing and changing and things like that. Yeah. And he was saying that that is almost as important as Ph. Yeah. Having your soul to have that potential to have that redox and oxidative potential.

MO 40:37
Me and think makes a lot of sense because that’s, that’s what a lot of people talking about in aquaponics with a the EC Yeah. Oh, yes. It’s roughly the same thing. Yeah.

CA 40:47
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. The EC aquaponics. And hydroponics is so important. So important, the EC is often and I get a healthy crop I’ve been

MO 40:57
for my job would have been you A lot of coral and stuff like that. Yeah.

I can tell you about that off of the podcast but it’s really fascinating growing these things and you know, knowing that the algae the the coral themselves have the algae inside of them. Mm hmm. Which is because we were studying while we were studying skincare and stuff. And so a lot of like Hawaii is banned. You can’t bring suntan lotion or sunscreen to Hawaii, they have to give you that you have to get the natural ones they’re made of like, you know like a lot of like coconut oil and shea butter and stuff like that. And then with the titanium, titanium dioxide and zinc oxide and stuff like that to just either refract or turn that into heat on your on your skin. So we were studying the skin, this stuff that we made with the pillow because the contemporary, the main ingredients in most skincare or most sunscreens, what they actually do is prevent those algae from completing photosynthesis. So the algae die inside of the coral. And then when that happens in the core bleaches the coral themselves give the algae or the algae themselves give the coral the color. Okay, so then the coral bleaching is that algae, you know, coming out and then dying now they have no space to live. Right, right. Ah, so it’s Yeah, it’s it’s really fascinating, all that sort of stuff. And so taking that in seeing these fish and starts that stuff and then going over over to campus, and seeing you know, the tilapia grow and all this. Wow. You know, obviously freshwater and saltwater, two whole different things.

CA 42:51
It’s all related,

MO 42:52
right? Because and especially because now with the salt water, there’s way more ionic things going on. And you know, it’s not just It’s not just pH or you know, there’s the salinity and then the temperature determines what the the specific gravity of the water is. And then you have to have depending on what you’re growing and we don’t eat too much copper too little copper, magnesium, all these different things contributing to the bones and, and, and always have to have so much calcium and all that sort of stuff so that these sort of these shells can be made. Yeah, it’s really, really interesting. Really interesting.

Do you believe that we as black folks have a special relationship with the soil? And if so, how do we potentiate that if it is to be potentiated.

CA 43:44
Well, we definitely have a definitely a relationship. So I mean, since since you know, we always you know, we’ve talked about this before, you know, we are the first farmers. You know, from all the information I’ve read this the research I’ve done in our farming Truly starts, you know, in Nile valley civilization. So this was formed by people of African descent, African farmers, Kemet, Nubia and places like that they were farming and they had a true kind of sustainable agriculture for a long, long time. So that’s in our DNA maybe we are the ones to really, who should be really promoting most of that on the planet and trying to do it in a very natural healthy way which also sustains the planet at the same time. So once one thing you know, we can talk about, you know, can we grow food obviously grow food, but okay, we need to grow food and how much food is one thing but you need to grow food to sustain the planet at the same time. So we definitely need to be on that day because it’s just a you know, like, we talked about this before, you know, Kemet, you know, the Egyptians you know, the reason why they had their sustainable agriculture because they had a different Look at the planet, right? Everything was a god or goddess the soil was a god the sun was a god or God is the trees were gods and goddesses. The water was a god or goddess. So they respected everything. Everything they had a level high level of respectful was they didn’t really kind of, you know, disrespect, tear down or you know things like that so they looked at it totally different than the way we look at the earth.

MO 45:31
So we would if

CA 45:33
we were the first ones to to really recognize that the earth is sacred. So how do we get from that to driving down the street in our car and open the window and not trash? Yeah.

MO 45:47
It’s bizarre to still see people littering just like that.

CA 45:50
And mostly in our neighborhoods. You bet in your own neighborhood.

We i think i think we could get back to that, but that starts at the very low young folks just explaining to young folks when they’re very young, this is something that’s sacred. You know, this is something that you need to protect even though you, you might not own it. But not to own it, you still need to protect it in and the sacred you don’t, you don’t need to buy it. And that’s where we met where we were at mentally. Yeah, at one time.

MO 46:21
It’s really interesting seeing a lot of people my age, talk about working the land in it and his stewardship capacity as opposed to land ownership capacity. And it’s not even so much about the political dimension of it, but more about the spiritual the essence of land stewardship, is like I can never own this land. But you know, for the time being is mine to work, you know, and work with more and more importantly, And as long as I’m saying, you know, if that is the case, if that’s something that you’re not really into the ownership of it than what you really need, you should Also be about is that explaining how people can benefit and get out there. You know, whether it be economically, physically mentally or spiritually from that work that you do online.

CA 47:14
And that’s the capital that you need to derive from that.

MO 47:19
There’s there’s there’s somebody in I think it’s Togo, brother in Togo that has done. I don’t know what he was before but he’s basically has his land it’s like completely sustainable doing a lot of

CA 47:39
Yeah. Yes. So Benin

MO 47:44
I think it isn’t really got the name of those folks. But he had this really interesting talk about agriculture, which is the management of bioenergetic Capital, I was like whoa! That was a very interesting way of describing this whole thing.

CA 48:04
Well, we knew if we kind of do that we’re getting to that on our farm. We talk about managing the biological capital of the earth And the soil and particularly this managing that correctly. Because if you put if you if you if you were to put $1 amount so what it’s really worth billions of dollars, but so it is a biological capital. So managing that and just seeing where you don’t really kind of, you know, disrupted or not see it’s full worth. Yeah, yes. I understand what he was saying. Yeah, yeah.

MO 48:38
Yeah, I hadn’t, I hadn’t sort of thought of it like that. But when he said that, it really did in terms of practical application of farming, because I mean, I’m quite, I guess, lazy with it. You know, like I said, I’m not I’m just growing to it for experience, rather than for you and everything, but it’s a bit net, really putting in

CA 48:59
To a perspective that I would like but I mean first thing if you even on a small scale if you say you’re going on a small scale and if you wanted to practice that in a smaller scale using something like a cover crop and you know see us you know, using this summer cover crop on your on your where you’re growing you’re going into the fall putting on a fall cover crop and just you know like you got the nutrients in the ground so they’re going to be coming up the plants cover crops gonna uptake those nutrients and hold them in that bank account for right and then when you reincorporate them back into the ground in the spring, waiting you know few days and then plant into it I mean, you’d be surprised it’s just it’s just like it’s just amazing. I mean, I have some cats you know, a guy who hasn’t dealt with too many cover crops is it is a this one extension agents in this Mr. Yaa, he was from Togo and so I kind of kept asking him Mr. Ya We got to do some cover crops on your plot so small plots this year so we did cover crops one year we put them in summer in the fall with the cover crops and we did with a rye and red clover. And so then overwinter they grew up a little bit held the nutrients and then springtime came they sort of grown a bit more so then we cut it down, cut it down to the smallest pieces possible then reincorporated back into the soil. And then he bought his plants and planted his seedlings back into this these these beds and plots and he was just he was forever a fan of crocodiles as he use no fertilizer that year at all. Yeah, just what was available from previous and what the plants were taken up and held andput back in

MO 50:47
and re-released Yeah, yeah. And yeah, that was when I when I came to you. I was I was like I just found out about you know, no till cover crops. Yeah, all that sort of stuff. like yeah we got we got the you had a transplanter I think Yeah. It just arrived or something like that.

CA 51:09
Still, we’re still looking to do a lot more of that hopefully last year we weren’t able to get a cover crop down so hopefully we just kind of plan right cover crop Timing is everything so just get in a good cover crop stay in at the right time. Yeah. In the you could do it in the summer but definitely in the late summer going into the fall and getting that really in thick and then coming back in the following year and just rolling it crimping it was this flame moral flame flailing in it and cutting it up into small small pieces and coming back and flattened into I could do a lot more of that.

MO 51:47
We had a we tried to put down we had so we had like 1200 square feet this summer Mandela and I and we went in we were only growing a little bit of stuff because we there was a long story with with But we bought, I guess, like nine pounds of a summer mix from green cover seed. We put that out, man. And I was like, Well, you know, it’s crazy. Once you start growing all the birds come back and I didn’t realize it eating all of our seed

CA 52:19
that’s it. You do that. But I mean, as like I said some cover crop seeds. You don’t have to worry about that because it’s so small, like clover seed, right? They’re so small the the birds can’t eat the seed,

MO 52:33
I mean we had these sunflowers like that.

CA 52:37
And that’s when you that’s when you have to drill the seed in. Yeah. to drill. Yeah. You can’t just broadcast, because there’s no way if you broadcast and try to go over there and break it and cover it up again like that. You still it’s still gonna be a certain amount of the bird is going to get,

MO 52:52
right. Yeah,

CA 52:52
so that’s why I like the drill seed. unless it’s clover, okay, which is something that’s really small and the birds can see By the time of rain clover by time the rain comes down and it fits the soil the small splashya lil soil on the seed so they don’t see it. once they see it? it’s done.

MO 53:11
yeah, yeah, we’ve seen a whole whole whole bunch of birds. Yeah. At that point in time.

Oh, so the So then how do we how do we potentiate this connection, this ancestral connection that we have?

CA 53:28
I guess this by understanding, you know where things are is really kind of helped me and just understanding, you know, what they, what the Egyptians didn’t kill and then also my reconnection with understanding what cargo is trying to get in the car and his spiritual connection to the land and he defends how he looked at them and all of that. So there is a lineage that you just have to notice this tremendously for me. I mean, that’s one of the things I probably would have been, you know, the agricultural journey that I’ve been on. It’s been Very interesting one, but it’s been a much more interesting one, by looking at a car over there. Yeah. Turning a book or reading an article or looking at a video and looking at somebody who looks like me. Yeah. And that has helped me tremendously.

MO 54:17
One of the previous guests, my, my friend, Geo Edwards, told me about Thomas Monroe Campbell, and the moveable school that Tuskeegee had. And I read his book, and that was fascinating about what they were doing alongside and not only just teaching people how to farm but really teaching people how to live and and

CA 54:38
I don’t think there were extension agents, but

MO 54:40
he was the first. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah,

CA 54:44
exactly. Yeah, they were the first extension agents, right. And it covered wagon and in no truck. Yeah, wagon was horse drawn. And it wasn’t it wasn’t something that drive and wasn’t a car or truck.

So they will get anything. I just go throughout the county man. Yeah.

MO 54:59
And yeah. I mean, his his book is really intense. Some of the describing some of the conditions that we were in. But yeah, it is.

CA 55:06
Yeah. coming right out of it is right oout of slavery.

MO 55:09
Yeah. And then through reconstructions

CA 55:13
on some of it was hard to read. Yeah. So I’m sure you know, a lot of folks did benefit. Oh, doing an ad in Yes. tremendous benefit.

MO 55:27
Our our podcast is based on this yoruba proverb, Jigijigi ko see fa tu means a firmly rooted plant cannot be uprooted. What is your favorite agriculture plant related proverb??

CA 55:43
Hmm. I have to say, for me, I mean, it’s always the Sankofa. Just just reaching back, you can always no matter what it is, you can always go back to what you what your ancestors did before and learn something from it and bring it forward. So that’s all I mean, that’s all the what we’re doing now. I mean, we’re bringing in a few new things agriculture and planting, and we’re bringing a few new things, but a lot of the basic stuff is already there. And just going back and reading some of the early early stuff and bringing that back and just applying it to today. Cover crops, you know, yeah, people don’t understand, you know, speaking the car again, you know, the green revolution that we’re kind of looking at now is so low that it means the technology is new. But the two fathers of the Green Revolution in this country our single handedly, Carver and Henry Ford,

MO 56:41
yeah, I got that book after you told me about it. I read it I

CA 56:45
Isn’t that booked deep?

MO 56:46
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Other reading about the especially the the cars made out of soy is a perfect paint and harder than steel. And

CA 56:59
think about Man. these cats were really trying to what, what if they could have they were trying to make a car, which could have as many products which were made from the many parts which were made from the farm as possible. That’s what they were trying to do in a accomplished it in many cases, and also the bumpers and doorknobs and gear shifts and things like that. And so they were they were into zero waste. Yeah, whatever they you know, they cat be driving down the street. These guys, you know, frozen millionaire, drive down the street to the road in Georgia, see some bottles on the side, take the bottles back to the factory, put them in the back of this car and take them back to Dearborn it put it into play and they were built use it to build cars something zero waste, zero waste casting in a car. So you know, so just getting back to that kind of stuff just going back somebody that sankofa proverb, you know sankofa is going back reaching back

MO 58:00
What is what is the resource that you would recommend to those looking to increase their agricultural understanding?

CA 58:10
Well, I’m just getting out and making mistakes. You know, when I first started actually growing I didn’t. I planned on really being when I got into agriculture I planned on just being a agronomic for me for agronomic crops like corn, soy beans, you know, agronomic crops but then there’s a quarter or cultural crops which are your vegetable crops and things like that there’s two different related but these are two different types of crops. So horticultural crops will be more your garden grass, tomatoes, peppers and a planting hair so I wasn’t really into that too much until I had some folks on say to me Come on garden. That’s it. Um Okay, you know, then corn and soybeans I want to do so I’ll go anyway. So I did that and so just looking at that within this just trying, trial and error. I had I had the when I worked at the USDA for 20, some years one of the greatest assets that I had was and it’s still there too when people can go there today. It is called the National Agricultural Library is a 13 story tall building in Beltsville, Maryland. any and every book that has ever been written about agriculture in that building. So consequently, on rainy days when I didn’t have any kind of stuff to do at USDA in the fields or research like that, I would spend eight hours a day, I would be there when the people were opening up when they were closing, turn off the lights I’d be leaving, so I would just read look up subterranean articles, books about people. You know, Dr. Albrecht and people under these people like echo brick stuff really, really stuck back in the 30s and 40s. You know, there’s a book every year the Agricultural Research Service puts out a year ago for agriculture. They do it anymore but in the 30s or 40s they put out a book on soil is the year of soil so everything in his book is like a thick Bible. I was just on soils I would just sit there and have some articles by Dr. Albrecht and unfortunately kicked out of the USDA because his new notions about what he was doing things but I mean, I’ve just read stuff I was reading everything I could I mean I like I said I was just a sponge I would just soak up as much as I could. But the thing about today, you know, sometimes you know, a lot of that stuff is online now. Yeah, you just need to find it up. Yeah. Yeah, he’s a guy. Soil health website and he has a lot of those older books reprinted online so PDF form, so you can read

a lot of stuff you could read and then just go out in this, you know, look at videos and just play with

Don’t Don’t get too fancy

MO 1:01:06
What is one question you listen, I wish I asked you.

CA 1:01:15
is what I would like to see in my next lifetime?

MO 1:01:19
And if I were to ask you that, what would you have said?

CA 1:01:22
I would love just to be an agronomist or agriculturalists or farmer for the rest of millennia. Yeah. Each consecutive lifetime that I can deal with the soil. deal with farming.

MO 1:01:36

That would be cool. one day one lifetime I would come out be like Carver, again almost maybe happy. I think I think that’s what CArver he was. Yeah, he definitely has some ancient standard thing going on. Yeah, maybe he was one of those priests in ancient Egypt who did the Royal gardens and things like that. And that’s over lifetimes. over many, many lifetimes, he just gets all this knowledge because I mean, that’s if you know about him and things he came up with. And I mean, it was this this hasn’t been a mind like his since. no, I don’t know if there will ever be a mind like is considering the conditions that he worked in and the apparatuses that he had imagine going in your kitchen and trying to discover something with basic pots and pans, as well he did at Tuskeegee and he didn’t have any laboratory testtubes maybe a whole lot of stuff like as a pots and pans a burner. Yeah, and just the most one of the most.

The one of the most splendid tools that any agriculturalists can have is imagination. Carver had a tremendous imagination, which allow him to think about things and dream about and see things. Most people didn’t see and you can only do that with imagination. Plus, you know, you have to have some background and you know, lahrman but if you had that, imagine To dance, all scientists, Einstein you know all scientists imagination is such a key component for development as far as research and is taking what you do on to the next level.

If you would like people to how can they contact you?

CA 1:03:17
Oh they can contact me through my email which is my first name spelled out send me an email.

MO 1:03:43
Okay, cool. Many, many thanks to Che Axum for sharing his wisdom and experience. Please visit for the full show notes. Share JIgijigi with your friends family and closely related siblings have a solid And we will say then as we say now. Asante Sana Medase Pa Modupe O. Thank you for listening to Jigijigi

CA 1:04:08
Thank you.

MO 1:04:09