Farmer Gigi – JP016
Farmer Gigi is an urban no-till farmer in Old Town Gaithersburg, MD. We discuss her lifelong journey of having her hands in and out of the soil, harlequin beetles and bugs, no-till tools, and her experience running farmers markets! Enjoy!
- Works Referenced:
- Montgomery County Land Link
- J.M. Fortier’s Youtube
- Richard Perkins No-Till Farmer Tools
- Diego Footer Farm Journalist
- Neversink Farms
- Urban Farmer Curtis Stone
- Gigi’s Proverb: “Pumpkin never too heavy for the vine” – Jamaica
- Milk Lady Markets
- If you’d like to get in touch with Farmer Gigi please contact her through her site https://www.farmergigi.com/contact.html or email her at email@example.com
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Thank you for listening to
- Urban Agriculture and Climate Change: “The New Normal”
- Smelling Funk to Power
- Charles Southward
- “God made the Soil, but we made it Fertile”
- Mushrooms as ߛߊ߲ߞߐߝߊ (Sankɔfa)
Pease, I am Mason Olonade and this is Jìgìjìgì africulture podcast. Here we believe building a healthy soil builds a healthy soul, and we share strategies for how to do both. We now 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?
We are so thankful to finally have interviewee Gigi, on today’s podcast. I met Gigi at the developing marketing strategies. limited resource farmers i think is the full name for that sponsored by the University of Maryland Extension. When I told you about the podcast, you said that that it sounded neat, and that was cool. And so I was really excited to have you on because when you were talking about yourself and what you were doing, you were the only person there that it talked about. No till And regenerative agriculture. And that meant that I was finally in the presence of somebody with a like mind. And so,welcome.
Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Yeah, I am glad that I’m glad that we finally got here. So, when did you first realize you were supposed to have your hands in the soil?
Well, I guess you’d have to say I got it honest. Because I was born into it. Okay, so my great grandfather had an orchard and vegetables. He also grew vegetables. And my grandmother grew as well. So I grew up in the Caribbean in Trinidad, and my grandmother grew pineapples, which was the most unusual fruit. You know, it wasn’t super common for people to grow pineapples. And that was nice. And you know, just growing up around in the forming culture you had tasks as a child I had several tests in terms of the vegetable side I would be given a bowl until to go pick fill this with green beans or some kind of bean or you know something that was going to be for dinner. And of course you sit and you pick the beans you know, so you’ve got your hands in it. And on the animal husbandry side, when I was about nine years old, my my job was to after the chicken was killed, they would, you know, cut the chicken snack, and the blood would be drained and I would be given the chicken to the feather. So my job was plucking and I graduated from plucking to cutting the chicken open and taking the guts out or unusable parts. washing it, cutting it into pieces and getting it in a Tupperware type bowl into the fridge. And that was the end of my test. And I was very proud the next day when we had this chicken for Sunday dinner. Yeah, although I’ve been a vegetarian for a few decades. It’s nothing to do with, you know, animal rights or anything like that if animals are treated properly is my main thing if you’re farming animals that, you know, animals have, if we want to call it humane treatment, you know, they actually get outdoors and you know, live in an environment that’s suited suitable for growth and health.
Yeah. Cool. Yeah. And so this is a long way away from Trinidad.
How did you get back into it?
Well, um, you know, I didn’t come to this country till I was about 12. So it’s really ingrained in me. And so I grew up in New York. Really that’s where My, my parents divorced. My mom immigrated with the four of us to New York. And so I was in the city. It was in Brooklyn growing up. So, you know, there wasn’t really farmland anymore in Brooklyn not really, and, you know, that gets to be a time in your life when something is a yearning. And it just came back to me. And what’s really interesting, although I was have been a vegetarian for so long, the first time the farming bug hit me, I wanted to farm chickens. So I want to did all this research on chickens. And yeah, they would have eventually been slaughtered, but I was thinking more like an egg farm. And, of course, you have to recycle your chickens every 16 to 18 months for them to really be healthy. So they would be killed off, you know, for meat, but that wasn’t, you know, my real thing was getting eggs to people. Yeah. And I somehow grew out of that. And then I wanted to And then I started thinking about growing vegetables started looking at videos on YouTube, I ran into JM Fortier and I was like, This is fantastic. And Richard Perkins who JM is in Canada, of course, people listening to your podcast probably know that. And Richard Perkins in Sweden, the British guy who moved to Sweden, and he’s growing up around, practically around and he also raises animals and other people, you know, just inspired me one of the best, JM most informative pieces is his interview down at the university in the Charlottesville area, and I’m blanking on the name of the university now, but it’s one of the more informative and memorable interviews a by him just really great questions. And I, I refer people to that I send them link on YouTube constantly because it is such a great interview, and I can give you the information. It’s probably on my website, but I can give you that so you can share with other people. It’s really, really good. So, um, yeah, I just, I just kind of caught the bug, and I live in Montgomery County, Maryland. So you know, there’s not a lot of real affordable farmland here. So I joined the land link group in the county, and I was able to start my first urban farm, and that was October 2017. It’s in the heart of montgomery county and the downtown Old Town, gaithersburg area. But it’s a single acre on a large campus that I was To have access to and I’ve been forming happily here since then, and I do form year round. I try to take a break between, say February or whenever it gets cold and March, but my girl thinks undercover year round and let things overwinter. So we have an early harvest like, end of March, you know, middle of April, we’re able to harvest greens and lettuces, salad greens, that sort of thing.
So, on Saturday when we initially met you gave me a Sunday, give me a bunch of beats and garlic. I gave all the garlic to my friend who was suffering from some sort of cold, but I remember getting back in my car before I got to my house. My car smells so nice. And so it’s uh, you know, I’m very thankful I haven’t had a chance to yet cook the beets, but um, you know, Just it’s a it’s it’s cool to think because even I go through it with like, oh man, it’s slowing down the sun’s not out, you know, growing is it’s going to be so much slower.
Because you know, just the time has changed, but they that doesn’t stop fine trees from growing or any of these other things from growing so why should it stop me? I mean, all of my houseplants just sort of stop actively growing but be if they’re not dying, and they’re still sort of doing some That’s right. They’re staying alive. Yeah. And so it’s, you know, or even like this. There’s all sorts of different things that are growing especially edible, edible, I guess, weeds or whatever, that are always out there. So I have some, I guess in later I don’t remember what it was. early October, I started some kale, and actually, stuff like that. Hopefully, I mean, they’re still just past the Cotillard on stage so we’ll see if they if the deer won’t come out of Rock Creek Park and eat him up because that’s usually what happens and but it’s it is it is really cool to have stuff going through throughout the winter. I had some bok choy going from moms last year that I kept under a light cover and then when it snowed I was really worried but then I realized the snow is all insulation. So you know it kept it going and as soon as it the temperatures broken March everything flowered and went to seed which is really cool to have. You know the cut bok choy from the grocery store go to see I was really cool, but I only got one. I only got like two pots because the deer came out and ate them all up. But you know, everybody’s gotta eat. Yeah, there’s them and then the Harlequin beetles. Oh yeah, those
They like back joy.
have you dealt with them?
Well, I will hand crush each single little thing. I don’t. I am a killer. I do not mind killing insects. Okay, so yeah, I’ll hand crush every single one that I can but that’s not enough. But really what I it’s prevention is better than cure so everything that we grow as undercover immediately from the seed stage on we cover within sackcloth that is not foolproof. It’s just super, super helpful. Yeah. And some things get to the point where my insect cloth is just too small. So I’m going to take it off like my I don’t know my eggplant, you know, they’re gonna go to my peppers. They don’t bother the peppers, but they and I don’t know they try to go after that plant but they don’t seem to be super interested in that. But the excellent leaves but the kale, you know, any of the Because they go to town on those and you know, we had a really moist spring. Yeah. And we had put down some straw. And that kept everything super moist like we didn’t have to water the spring. But it also meant we had to uncover take the incident sackcloth off because the insect cloth was creating a more humidity inside. And I didn’t want to have a hole out of balance bacteria. So I uncovered my bok choy, my turnips, and my kale. And then they came, you know, so it’s a balance. So I’m thinking, Okay, I cannot have straw, which helps me with weeding tremendously. Yeah, I can. It helps me I don’t have to water. You know, the only thing is when we have a moist season like we did. I can’t keep those poor plants, you know, under the insect cloth. So, um, yeah, so it’s either straw for me in my location or in sackcloth, and I think inset cloth is the winner. Okay, yeah. Okay, that helps a lot. Yeah, it’s not 100%
Yeah, nothing, necessarily is it takes a whole lot to get to 100% but when I first saw the Harlequin beetles it freaked me out because they all seem to move in sync. Have you noticed that with them that they just like they all like you know if there’s 10 of them on the on the thing they all
ten is too many you have that many at once. So in looking at my
house, there’s wild canola or rape or whatever, okay, they’re on the side of a house because it’s pretty early on. I have no idea why it’s there. Yeah, but I saw it and I was like, Oh, this is some some brassica thing. And then I saw those Harlequin bugs on there and yeah, like it’s just a matter of time, right until they Yeah, I purple kale and about joy in the purple kale. They didn’t want any of it until the deer came once a deer came and ate it immune system super compromised, and then the Harlequin bugs soon and they just loved it. And it was so disappointing. Yeah, so this is Yeah.
While yeah and so after a couple of harvests of the bok choy, the turnip greens, the kale and, and the the Swiss chard I just decided, you know what, it’s getting really hot. They’re here and they’re here in great numbers. Just forget it. So I just, you know, cut everything back, pull everything out, covered the bed and black tarp. And then after a while I wanted to try to see what I could grow so in July, I flame weed at the bed, just kill off anything that might be there and I did a little more flame reading In terms of length of time, I’m holding the flame reader, then, you know, just for weeds because weeds don’t need any time. So I think that helped. But I came back I think I came back too early because they returned. I replanted some. I planted some swiss chard, and they returned. So I said, Oh, screw it. I’ll just wait, you know. So everything got pulled up, covered over. And the only thing that stayed that we kept going in the heat of summer was eggplant, peppers, carrots, beets, the beets, they didn’t like as much as the other things Plus, the beats thrived. And maybe it’s because they grew enough early in the spring, but they thrived even though they were under attack. So I was happy about that. And then we had some things that we were able to put in sackcloth on that we planted late so they didn’t Hasn’t lettuce aerostar lettuce, they did not touch it. So that was great and that thrived in the summer. And the herbs they didn’t bother like we had oregano, basil, you know, that sort of thing. Calendula, they didn’t bother certain things. I just didn’t bother. Yeah, yeah.
I mean dealing dealing with those two other other beings that want to eat. Yeah. Yeah, me sort of turned me off growing brassicas. Because
Well, now I’m growing them.
Yeah, well, it’s the right time. Oh, yeah.
You know, so yeah, I told a friend of mine night farmer friend I said, I think I’m just a cold weather farmer. Screw the summer. Yeah,
yeah. go on vacation in the summertime. Maybe that’s the best way
Yeah, um, that’s that’s, that’s interesting. Yeah, I have the I had the Purple bok choy coming up and it looks good, you know, but, you know, it’s only two true leaves on it so, so we’ll see. But I mean, it’s a man and expecting to eat from it all until because it’s not gonna. I mean, it’s first of all, it’s in a pot, and I’m not really paying any attention to it. Oh, okay. You know, because my schedule is all over the place, but then also Well, I can keep making excuses. But ultimately, I’m not really paying that much attention to it. So it doesn’t have that much reason to thrive outside of its own sort of programming, I guess. Yeah. But um, but I mean, because I’m just happy. I just right now because I’m sort of renting and everything rented. Well, you know, living in a house and renting a room. I’m just happy to grow stuff for seed so that when it is time for me to do more density planning since I’ll have I wanted to keep going to Baker creek or Johnny’s or whatever, you know, but so yeah, Having having the bok choy last year was my sort of big accomplishment. It’s like okay, I can do this. I can do this. Oh,yeah. Because I hadn’t I hadn’t grown anything outside and the kale that I had in the ground. I planted it. I obviously didn’t know this then but I planted it in April and then so for the summertime, they kale was so small, you know, maybe guess the size of my palm. And then when it got cold, finally it started started really taking off again. And then and then it had gone to seed by Yeah, this April. And so I went back to where I used to live to the to the backyard that was in the alley and ripped some of it up so that I could take it back home to get the seed. And it worked. And it worked.
So that you basically answered I guess the second question, which is what all do you have going on this year?
Oh, Right now because we’re we’ve started I guess we started seeding again towards the end of September when we got rid of the majority of the insects and yeah, you know, raked up the beds a little we don’t tell but just to stir it up to see if it was anything in the soil and then flame weeded those beds and you know, started planting again. So we have the winter greens of course you know the vegetables the lettuce, and salad greens so we’ve got lettuce we’ve got salad mix, we’ve got mizuna, we’ve got a arugula we’ve got spinach. Let’s see kale. Swiss chard. I’m leaving somebody out, but you get the picture.
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I was. How did I What was your year Like on those Canary melons,
oh, the canary melons? No, we just had two plants. They were just some plants that I got on. And I just planted them to see how well they would do because it’s a shady area and I wanted to know, hey, should I do this next year so I just put these I think there were three or four plants and two survived. And of the two one gave us two melons. So that was it. That was delicious considering we had not quite a freeze yet but very chilly nights. And you could see that it was too cold for these poor melons. So I rescued them and harvested them, you know length of time, they should have been in the ground, maybe another three or four weeks. So I should plant them like in maybe mid May. I don’t think we put them in the ground till July. So
you get plugs or you started somewhere else.
There were some little plants as well. have like maybe four or five leaves. Okay? Yeah, okay yeah,
I amI’ve got my first watermelon this year Oh yeah. Oh yeah growing watermelon. Okay I’ll show you pictures afterwards but it was it was fun huh it was in a one gallon pot all year Oh poor thing they got knocked over by the like people who came cut the grass at my house a couple times and then I didn’t I didn’t know why all the melons that I was getting wood turn black on the bottom and but that’s because the moisture difference. Yeah. So then I took some of the old was it that I was going I think the dill the delay kicked the bucket. So all this straw from the Dell put that underneath. Yeah. And then that sort of helped cancel all that out. It had like 12 seeds in it. It was pretty good. It was like a candy. Yeah, candy water. melon. sounds really cool. But you know the seed stock is supposed to be like a 40 pound melon. Do I got this? Okay, golf ball size watermelon. It was really cool though I, you know made me think about whether or not like this is something that could be you know is that is this something like how people have like toy poodles or whatever? That’s some sort of like you know, tiny, tiny, tiny super tiny melon.Yeah, I don’t know, just, I mean, I ate it and it was just like two scoops within you know what he sweet, huh? Good. Yeah, it wasn’t, you know, it wasn’t like, wow-wee! Yeah. But it was it tasted like watermelon was a novel. It was novel. Okay. So that’s what I’m saying. You know, and maybe, I don’t know how like novelty crops do at farmer’s markets. But since you have so much experience with them,
Well, our farmers bring real melons
Mine was a real melon glow seeds in it.
Okay, okay. I haven’t I don’t know. I don’t know. Yeah, I mean, the first time I grew watermelon, I knew I didn’t have enough sun. Yeah, but I wanted them. Yeah. So I got like, four to six inch, maybe eight inch at the most like watermelon. Okay, okay.
Yeah, I have no idea. I mean, I I’ve seen people from here bring melons, but I feel like a lot of melons come from down south. Yeah, like, at least from North Carolina. Yeah. Because they just had more time early in the year. Yeah. Especially again to
There are you know, Michigan growers have watermelon too. Yeah.
This start them in greenhouse?
I have no idea.
Mm hmm. Ideally, I’ll get the interview some some farmers up there in Michigan who are doing something like that.
How have you grown while growing all that you’ve got growing on
i think I’ve grown more independently. more independent. Yeah, like Okay. What’s the best way to put this? I care less about for trivial things. Yeah, like what really matters? I think that’s kind of growing lesson for me. Watching things grow. Yeah, yeah. And hoping they’ll grow you know not being sure. Yeah. You know what the germination rate it’s going to be?
Interesting. Interesting. Yeah.
Like, I really don’t control that, you know, right. I tell people, um, I don’t grow things. I provide the soil for those things to grow that the real growth is above my paygrade. How it goes from seed to flower to fruit.Yeah, that’s beyond me.
Yeah, we just want to provide the right environment, facilitate everything for them to do what they do.
There you go. Yeah. I’m a supporter I’m a supporter. Oh yeah,
absolutely yeah. Yeah once once I planted in the ground you know, it’s it’s literally out of my hands
there you go.
I we had some we had some corn that I transplanted people say don’t transplant corn but I had to because I started in one gallon pots again. Okay. And when I put in there they were they sort of corn is it that sickly green, you know, the two little nitrogen kind of colored green, yellow green, and about two weeks
a little potassium.
It just took off
Wow, that’s great,
you know, and then you know, got I got a pretty high pretty. I mean, there were significantly taller than myself. Like probably one of them was about I think it was a close to at least 10 feet tall. Wow. 10-11 feet tall
and how many corn that they yield?
Well, we had to exit where we were going early. I just took the plant we just cut the stocks and took the plants with us. Okay, so I don’t know because they were still producing corn. Like from a month after when after we took them out the ground. It was a like purple corn black corn just sort of just flour corn. So the the cops only about you know, okay, they were they weren’t very big at all but I was sort of Mad seeing it because it was like each one of those stocks was basically showing about eight to 10 years nice. It was awesome. Yeah, I can’t wait for next year. Okay, I got I mean, I planted six plants. And I definitely have more than six kernels that are you know, ready to go. Hey, so having a good healthy standard, those would be really, really awesome.
Uh oh, my screen is not working. Do you believe that we as black folk have a special relationship with the soil?
Hmm. Wow. How do you determine how a relationship is formed? So, you know, it’s like when you asked me about me getting into agriculture, how that happened, and I told you I was kind of born into it. So my relationship with my family and the ownership of land helped me to be born into it. But I had friends who grew up in the city, you know, and, and the country where I lived in Trinidad, there were other girls in my class who didn’t have that kind of land. But I mean, my grandmother, my my paternal grandmother lived in the city and the town. You know, the suburbs of the town and she had a backyard with chickens. I think there was a goat I seem to remember of goat or goats or something. And you know, there were some patches of vegetables and that sort of thing. You know, so even in the town I had a relationship with chicken eggs hatching and mother hens and feeding baby chicks and that sort of thing. I don’t know if I don’t know if anybody doesn’t have a relationship with the soil. You know, even if you’re born in a high rise in New York City, I just, you know, feel like most people are, gravitate towards, you know, a garden, a place of beauty a farm, you know, picking strawberries or something and
maybe in the United states, which has formed in its own unique way through the experience of enslavement of black people, maybe there’s a relationship we had of comfort. Of course, there was a lot of pain regarding working the soil as well. But maybe, you know, there was a period of time when it was a source of comfort that we might have had some land. It’s a really tough question to answer, you know, because what forms your relationship has to do with, you know, in my thinking of the world, where you’re born, what you’re born into your family, you know, happenstance, as opposed to a specific connection. My personal feeling is that everybody should grow and when I think about the term to a state of the majority of African countries, you know, I think about, you know, people having access to land and being able to feed their own families as well as you know, others. So I feel like and, of course, any country you go to, you can kind of think that. So I don’t know, I don’t have an answer. I don’t think there is a an answer a single answer. I think that everyone has a unique experience of relationship, or maybe they haven’t had that experience yet. Because the soil is where we get our foods. So even if you’re born in the city, when you get out on the soil, it’s gotta be some reaction. Oh, yeah. You know, and is that reaction always positive? I don’t know that. Not for everybody. You know,
the question Does not? Although it it, although everything I try and do I try and embrace new ones as much as possible, it is quite a quite a pointed question. But there you you’ve, you’ve raised a lot of really great questions in response to that one. I’ve seen in my relationship with science as a molecular biologist, a lot of the questions that we answer if somebody asks, Why is, you know, why is my leg hurting? Mm hmm. And then the answer is your leg is hurting because of this. Some, I too, has also sort of ascribe a spiritual and, like material cause to both of these sorts of things. And so when that sort of tie When both of those things are the case, it it sort of makes me think that a lot of the questions that I’ve been answering as a scientist, scientists are really how questions that are disguised as why questions so the pain response that is talked about say on Web MD is actually and how to answer and not a why answer. And so I say all that to ask you why do you think the healthiest soils are black?
Well, I think in general, the deeper colored everything is the richer more nutritious version of that thing. In general, I’m sure there are exceptions. I think there’s a place for almost all soils to to grow something that is the best of itself. Even when we go to the beach. There are you plants growing and that’s pretty much white sand. Yeah, um, you know, there’s certain foods that grow in the key areas like, I love coconuts, right? And drinking coconut water and the soil that it grows really well in is very Sandy. Yeah, you know, not the typical black soil. It wouldn’t even I wouldn’t even consider it.
So, oh, for the most part, I was like in Aruba, and we saw Seagrape growing, basically right, up until where the water came on to the shore. It’s like, you know, and it fruiting is just like, how is it surviving? This, you know, it’s not like
Yeah, yeah. No, I mean,
a very unique.
Absolutely, absolutely. But seeing seeing that fruiting when nothing else on the island was really fruiting. You know, there are some coconuts on palm trees. But
yeah, but those are not edible coconuts. They’re not really.
they look weird. They look more like mangoes, but they’re also super high up in the air. So but um you know the one of the taxi drivers was pointing out cashew trees and mango trees and noni trees and all these things but she said, I mean it never rains anymore so so you know there is there is a but it was still pretty crazy to see those Seagrapes growing in in that in that soil All right, uh huh yeah yeah
our our podcast is based on this Yoruba proverb Jigijigi ko see fa tu firmly rooted plant cannot be uprooted. What is your favorite agriculture plant related proverb saying?
Well, there’s one that I heard a long time ago, and it was attributed to being a Jamaican proverb. Okay, I don’t know if that’s the origin but it’s pumpkin is never too heavy for the vine. Probably said something like pumpkin, never too heavy for the vine. Okay, probably said that way. And, you know, it’s all about our troubles, or what we think are our troubles that we haven’t flipped into blessings yet. Mm hmm.
Yeah. I when I was growing my butternut squash last year, I was thinking about that, because, you know, the squash was as big as my head. And it was sort of just dangling right here and it was like this. How is this happening?
didn’t make any sense to me because it was the weight of that was bringing down the trellis that it was on and the vine had been, you know, it had been opened up in some parts and all this sort of stuff. And it’s like how what, you know, it’s just like, like spider webs like candy, how strong they are for how light they are. Pumpkin is never too heavy for the vine. Right. I really like that.
Yeah I like that too. Yeah, sure.
What is a resource that you’d recommend for those looking to increase their agricultural understanding?
Well, depending on what direction you want to go, I, I love YouTube. The problem is there’s so many people out there that have one thing to say and they take 45 minutes to do it. Yeah. So I’ve narrowed down like four or five, six really good teachers. Okay. And, you know, JM Fortier, especially his interview by Michael Carter, who’s a community leader, and I think he might also be an instructor at VSU vsu.edu. That’s where he is. And that interview is very powerful. And you can google that and I’m happy to put that resource on my website, too. So people can find it. JM Fortier has a training class for farmers. If you’re not ready to take a whole commit to a whole program like that, there are probably 30 40 50 videos that he has on youtube for free.
Then Richard Perkins, one of my favorite videos by Richard Perkins is called no till farming tools. There’s part one and part two. If you find one of those parts on YouTube part one or two, you’ll find the other. Okay? But if you google Richard Perkins, no till farming tools, you’ll be sure to get to him. And he has other videos on his site that are just terrific.
And there’s a guy. I don’t watch him that often, but he’s pretty good. He goes around interviewing really great farmers that are all over the country that are doing no till and regenerative farming or urban farming, and his name is Diego. So if you if you google farming Diego, you should be able to find him on YouTube if you search on YouTube.
And then there’s Curtis, up in Canada. There’s a, an urban farmer who he drops like one or two YouTube videos every week. And now, what is his last name? I’m blanking on his last name, but you can just google urban farmer Curtis, Canada and you’ll run into him. He’s got hundreds of videos out there, and he does a lot. He’s just beginning to turn around and the last couple of years or maybe the last year to be into no till farming. But even before that, he had a lot of good tips on getting started in the greenhouse. Some of the companies that sell no till farming tools or regenerative farming tools would allow him to test their tools. So you could see, you know, which tool Do you really want to get? You get a good, you know, pro and con.
And of course, upstate New York. They have never sink farms. And never sink is actually a town in New York and this guy from Brooklyn from Park Slope, Brooklyn, moved up to never sink and started a farm there never sink farm. And you can google never sink farm YouTube videos. He also has a training program that some you know these programs are anywhere from 2000 to 2500. And you know, you just kind of look at their videos and pick your teacher who do you think is more thorough, who speaks to you and terms of your learning style and you know, buy into one of those.
I bought into JM Fortier. Personally, I thought he was the best teacher for me. So that’s been working well. And I like his tools, the way that the class instruction is laid out, and the resources that are available to me, as well as the network of farmers, which are international people in many climates, many countries that are, you know, following Him and who was taking his training that I’m connected to, and we can ask each other questions, so, yeah, he’s sort of the one I lean on. Yeah.
Wow. Okay. That’s, that’s, uh, I’ll definitely be sure to include all of these in the in the show notes. Um, before I ask my last question, I haven’t asked you any questions about how you came into milk lady markets, and especially how you came up with that name.
Haha, so that’s interesting. Oh, I just want to add one thing about the farming information for sure. Uh, so. So, you know, in terms of the never sink farms. What’s great about that particular farmer in upstate New York is that he has come up with some tools based on his experience forming doing small farms. So he has a bunch of, let’s call them new tools. Look out for something called the gritter. It’s going to cut your farming time, your seeding time down and your ability to get go from prepping the field to actually planting. Yeah, it’s a simple tool. Um, you know, his tools are not you know, super cheap but they’re not super affordable you know some things are around $100 or so and some things are several hundred dollars but they save you a lot of time hmm and Connor quick more that’s his name huh? I never sink farm so Connor correct more. You can Google him and you’ll see the tools the never sink tools. He has a bunch of videos demonstrating the tools so that’s really cool. And I would want to share with the audience your listening audience that if they’re interested in they’ll tell farming to take a look at the Jang cedar JMG it’s a Korean made cedar that is so time saving. The first time I used it. My beds already prepped. So basically I went in and set up my cedar and I planted five beds in less than a half an hour and in each bed I had five each 30 inch bed. I had five rows of that crop so I planted radish What did I plant that day? radish kale swiss chard I can’t remember anymore. It was like four or five different crops but it was five beds. I think two beds might have been kale and you know in less than a half an hour so it’s super you know and it’s a few hundred dollars you can get it a Johnny’s you know it’s pretty much easy to get these days. And just for a basic kit, start up at my cost you $500 for a single bed cedar they may come in three row five row, you know, I got one row You know, I wanted to make sure it worked for me. Yeah.
When, in one of the Master Gardener classes, the so UDC Firebird farms, they they grow bio intensive over there. Mm hmm. And the program manager, a farm manager, he had like this, this triangle with like all these nodules cut out of it, so that you know, for, I guess certain plants at their like Final like a radius or their final diameter so that you could, you know, rotate it right back and forth like that. Because before, when I read about violence as if I was like, do you have to have a ruler out with the whole time to do all these companion planting, but that and you know, especially what I imagined that the dating scene it would be, it seems that you can plan pretty densely extremely quickly.
Yes, very quickly, just just the time it takes you to walk down the row, and then walk back for row two and then walk back For three, that’s it. So literally it’s seconds, you know, and what you’re describing instead of having to do a single cut out with a triangle to space, everything. That’s a lot of time the gritter. It’s like the time it takes you to walk down the bed, your spacings done, and you just go in and drop your seed or your transplant.
So, how did you get a How did you get started starting farmers markets?
the farmers market so and September 11 2008 was my last day of full time employment. So I worked in human resources for about 18 years. And the last 10 years I worked independently for directly for different companies, mostly tech startups. And all of a sudden, that was the day my My contract ended with a relatively large company. And they didn’t renew my contract. And I thought, Hmm, that’s weird. Everybody renews the contract with me, but it didn’t happen. So I was like, Okay, that’s good. It gives me time to fix the basement. A week later, john mccain and Barack Obama were arguing about the fundamentals of the economy. Two or three days later, the markets crashed around the planet. Hmm. Even China was affected, except they had cash. So, you know, they didn’t have the same challenge that everybody else seemed to have. And I thought, Oh, man, this is gonna take a while. Okay. Then I thought, Oh, this will be a few months and I’ll be back at work. So I thought, well, in the meantime, what could I do you know, this may take a while meaning three months or so. So what what do I love? What’s the thing you know, I’m thinking hobby. Yeah. And then I was like, the thing that I love, that’s things were As healthy eating healthy loving, so how do I express that? You know? So I thought about why don’t I, I started with this food company. So I did a vegan meals, great foods by Gigi. And I was selling them through health food stores in the area. I rented this commercial kitchen and I had these part time culinary students and culinary graduates working with me. And I realized I really didn’t love the production. It was a lot of fun getting it started and reaching out and doing the marketing and getting into the stores. But the production was like a market. It was like manufacturing, you know, weighing every portion of this and that and I was like, No, this is not working. And one of my customers said to me, why don’t you go to the farmers market? I’m like, What would I do there? I don’t know what she’s talking about. She said bring you food. And I’ll introduce you to this market manager. So she takes me On Sunday and introduces me and they love my sample and they like when can you start? So I started a week or so later and I was loving it. I could sell so much food in one day. And so I joined in second market that was good. And as I looked around, I thought, you know, this kind of reminds me of being in New York and having access to fresh produce, because when you’re living in Brooklyn, you go to the intersection of, let’s say, church Avenue and Nostrand Avenue, and there’s at that time anyway, they’d be like, two, three, sometimes four, and big intersections, greengrocers, and it’s not too much because of course, the city is so densely populated. And my mother would send me to the butcher shop to get meat. So I would walk to the butcher shop and wait for him to cut the cuts and take that home and sometimes she’d send me to the fishmonger and I’d go, you know, so we had all things going on. And now of course, New York has converted to supermarkets. So people go to places, you know, with a lot of old food and old meat, you know, so but you know, while I was sitting there in the farmers market selling my food, I thought, Man, this is a great idea every neighborhood should have their own farmers market. And that’s kind of how it got started. And you know, when I the name milk lady markets actually came from an iteration of, you know, when I was first getting started in trying to figure out how to interpret this desire of healthy living and healthy eating. I started what people now call CSAs, if you want to call it that, where they deliver food, so I made these connections with a lot of farmers in Maryland and Pennsylvania and I would go pick up the milk and the cheese and the fresh produce and deliver it. You know, to people, it was like, that’s not even a workable model and a 2006 Saab.
Going up over the mountain, I needed a bigger truck. And it was like, No, I don’t think that’s it either. So I just kind of found my way to farmers markets. And I had a good time, you know, getting there. And we’ve been doing it since 2011. So this is our 10th season. Yeah, yeah. So the shady grove Farmers Market we’ve been doing now is our 10th season coming up this 2020 and the derwood farmers market, we actually only started two years ago, at one time I had five markets, because I thought was blessing the world because this one this one natural food market was having trouble getting customers when they first started. Mm hmm. And they asked me to bring a farmer’s market in front of the store. So we did that for their season, they wanted a Christmas market. So we did that. And at the same time, we had a church had and burtonsville had asked us to start a market there. And, you know, it was just like all these markets at one time, it was really too much stress. We have to now and I’m totally happy. And I just got a request to start a market in another neighborhood. And then a big building of employees, they want to do something. So it’s like, maybe we can find a way for me to do it. You know, if with staff with more staff. Yeah,
Very cool. That’s very interesting. It’s sort of just sort of creating all these opportunities for yourself. Yeah. Through all your connections.
Yeah. Cool. Creating. I like creating.
Yeah. What is one question you wish I would have asked
about the tools probably. Okay. Tools because I I think when I was getting started, that’s what I didn’t know. Um, you know, I mean, no till was a concept. It was something I was reading about the benefits of Nortel, but I couldn’t figure out how to I know how to do it on a tractor how big farms do it, you know, but I couldn’t figure out how I do it. So Richard Perkins video was the one that really flipped the world for me and had me feel like wow, I’m ready. I can do this, and his tools video. And then everything else after that was just more and more information more support. Even my mentor JM Fortier wasn’t initially into Novotel. He was using the some sort of one man tractors, you know, the rototiller and things like that. And now he’s starting to change you know, away from that, which is great. But he has great technique. on growing vegetables as in the best way to do carrots, yeah, beets, you know what, you know. So, yeah, I love this method of teaching. And even never sink is very good. I mean, he teaches a lot of, you know, how to lay out your farm, how to lay out your beds, if you’re in a greenhouse, how to use that space, because I do know people with greenhouses with I’m saying greenhouses, but these are high tunnels, you know. And I feel like when I go in, there’s a lot of wasted space. Yeah. And I also feel like their vegetables don’t seem to be getting the light that they need. Like they look really pale, you know, and I think about how to make that better. You know, and, and never sink farm. Conner Crickmore really addresses that nicely. Also, in terms of, you know,yeah, I guess Getting Started and being all natural. There’s so many. There’s so much information out there on YouTube. Yeah.
Paul Stamets is one of my mentors. He’s mycologists of mycologist. And really does a good job of helping us to understand the fungus community, the mushrooms, he’s now come up with something that may, hopefully he’s correct about this. And it can be proven over and over how to help the bee colonies through the fungus balance. So that’s pretty new. There’s a new book out. Yeah, yeah. And I think there’s also recording I’m not sure. Okay. Yeah.
Well, if it exists, I’ll definitely have it. Yeah. Yeah, because I have a lot of learning to do. You provided us with a whole bunch of stuff. Tools and just overall efficiency is something It’s It’s very, it’s very weird because I, for a lot of people, especially like my age, we’re sort of getting into this sort of stuff. We don’t necessarily think about how to do stuff efficiently, because you don’t have enough time to realize how much time you haven’t had enough time to realize how much time you’ve wasted on doing. But I’ve been learning about, I guess, like lean in and, you know, just continuous improvement in general. And sort of seeing how many steps I take in the font in my plots. Oh, my God, I’m really wasting so much time going back and forth. Yeah,
it’s, it’s, it’s really it’s really interesting. And I’ve definitely been in places also where it’s like, this whole thing should be this. It’s like, everything here is structured, as if you were left handed your right hand. You know, I mean, when people’s things is just often it’s because then You sort of realize like, oh, man, in order to make all of this right handed, it’s gonna take me an entire growing season.
Right to really and that’s what winters for maybe, you know, or maybe those months in the summer when you want to avoid those insects. Those Harlequin Harlequin bugs Yeah, yeah, maybe that’s when you do it I don’t know.
Yeah, but I mean, these sorts of things I hadn’t I hadn’t even considered tools and stuff like that for making these sorts of things easier. Because I guess you know, like, like you said, I mean, no, no till is very much a concept for me also. So, you know, the more I go back to our like Masanobu Fukuoka stuff whenever, it’s still very much like, you know, if you don’t have your dirt in your fingernails, you’re not doing you know, I know.
An extreme like it’s got to be this way. You know, I don’t know. Even though till people are doing different ways. I mean, no till the Doesn’t mean no dig, you have to get your carrots out if they’re too compactly planted, so you have to use some kind of either your broad fork or a pitchfork or something. So, there’s that. But um, you know, so don’t plant your carrots too close. Yeah, yeah,
yeah. Yeah, it was like that with the sweet potatoes when I was literally digging them up. I was like, how do I rectify this? No till dogma? reconcile it. It’s right. It’s impossible. Because, you know, all the way all the way in there.
Broadforks are handy
Yeah, yeah. I mean, you know, for me, is it? Well, I definitely have to invest in some quality tools. I mean, even last year, I had like a, I didn’t have a spade shovel. I had one of those, those flat ones. It’s better for moving things. Right. Right. But you know, it’s just like, Okay, well, this way I’ll just, you know, gain some muscle or whatever. Just way quicker. Okay, doesn’t work like that. Oh,
yeah, so one of the teachers, my, I call them my YouTube mentors Connor Crickmore who I’ve been talking about with never sink tools. You know, one of his YouTube videos I saw very early, he was just so helpful to me it was all about organizing the tools on your farm, and how in some cases, he would have more than one tool area and how we should be washing the tools at the end of every day, every use, you know, and putting them away and that sort of thing, taking care of the tools and, you know, organizing them and how to do it, you know, so that you, you don’t waste time,
The person that interviewed before you, Gio of new healing arts. He’s an acupuncturist and further in southern part of montgomery county, he put me on to Thomas Monroe Campbell of Tuskeegee. Are you familiar? No, I don’t think so. So Thomas Monroe Campbell was a sort of protege of Booker T. Washington and Dr. Carver, Okay, he was the first Negro extension agent in the country, okay. And they had created, he drove and facilitated the instruction of the moveable school. So they had basic that was like the sort of Tuskeegee extension so they went out into all the super rural parts of Alabama and taught people everything and one of the things that people were most excited about was basically getting their saws to be brand new again by cleaning them and then finally cutting straight you know, and actually improving just like Oh, now I actually work I don’t have to, you know, like I said them. Oh, I’m just going to get I’m just going to get muscle anyway. Yeah, no, you’re just wasting so much energy. Yeah. doing so. So when I when I read that, it was It was, it was really fascinating to see like, man, I mean, but I know what it’s like trying to you know, just at my job trying to open up a box with a dull box cutter as opposed to Oh, fresh razor. It’s so different. Yeah,
keep our tools sharp. All of that. Yeah, yeah. Yeah.
If you would like people to how can people contact you?
Oh, they can send me a note through the website farmerGigi.com FArmgigi.com. They can email me at gi.on the firstname.lastname@example.org that’s gigi.on.The email@example.com that’s usually the best way. Yeah, if I give you my phone number,
it’s going on the internet. And I wouldn’t recommend it. Yeah,
well, my phone numbers on the internet but yeah, okay. So this emails best and we can always hook up and call Yeah, yeah.
All right, many many thanks to Gigi for sharing her wisdom and experience please visit africulturepodcast.com/gigi for the full show notes. Leave us a five star review on all the streaming platforms you listen to. And we will say then as we say now, Asante Sana. Medase Pa, Modupe O. Thank you for listening to Jìgìjìgì. Peace.