We employ a sustainable, hand-scale system of production agriculture that considers the health of the soil, the careful and conservative use of resources, and the human impact on the land and surrounding ecosystems. Our methodology aims to mimic natural processes, encourage biodiversity, reduce off-farm inputs, and cycle our nutrients on site. We use innovative technologies such as aquaponics that are well suited to urban areas, and our infrastructure includes extensive greywater and solar electricity systems to reduce our ecological footprint.
The foundation of our farm is our soil, and like much of the Bay Area, our native growing medium is heavy clay. We have done extensive testing for a wide range of contaminants and were fortunate to find that, despite many uses over the decades, the clay soil in our production areas is clean. After years of non-agricultural use, however, our heavily compacted clay required a year’s worth of mechanical tillage, compost application, irrigation, and cover cropping to reach the desired tilth and workability that we’re now enjoying. After almost 2 years on site, diligently stewarding our soil, we retired our rental tractor, hand dug our beds and put the first seedlings in our native soil in late Spring of 2018. (We do have a few growing areas for which we imported soil so we could resume some food production shortly after relocating our operations to the site in Fall, 2016.)
How we grow
French Intensive Method
The farming system we use at Urban Adamah is the French intensive method. It shares a basic value system, and in some cases a history, with other methods of sustainable production such as Biodynamic, Biointensive, Permaculture, and Indigenous farming traditions, in that it eschews the use of synthetic chemicals, considers human impact on the land, and focuses on resource conservation and agroecological principles.
The ultimate aim of the French Intensive method is to steward the soil as a living medium wherein diverse inhabitants and complex processes work together to support healthy, nutritious plant growth. We use digging forks and spades to develop deeply aerated, well-drained, biologically active, fertile soil that can support highly intensive plantings. Deep initial cultivation and frequent compost application yields the loose tilth and the air-filled pore spaces that encourage deep and vigorous root growth and support the chemical and biological processes that aid the availability and uptake of air, water and nutrients. Some of the hallmarks of French Intensive agriculture include double digging (initial cultivation down to twice the depth of a digging fork), perennial bed ends, permanent raised beds, integrated pest management, hand-built actively-managed compost piles and the application of finished compost, intercropping, intensive plantings, and the use of greenhouse-raised transplants.
Here at Urban Adamah we have developed and built a state-of-the-art aquaponics system housed in a commercial-scale greenhouse. Aquaponics is the combination of aquaculture (the raising of fish) and hydroponics (the raising of plants in a soil-less medium. It is a beautiful example of a new and innovative style of greenhouse-based agriculture that utilizes nitrogen-rich fish excrement to fertilize crops. Our aquaponics greenhouse is also incredibly water-efficient as it continuously filters and recycles irrigation water.
Our farm is cultivated by our farm manager and assistant manager, who oversee the work of the 12-14 young adults participating in our three-month residential fellowship. Fellows learn experientially about urban organic farming, food justice, Jewish tradition, and mindfulness – both through their programs and work on our farm as well as through internships in local urban garden and food justice organizations. Our farm, in turn, also depends on the generosity of many volunteers who help it thrive. Educational programs – youth camps, school groups, and workshops – also contribute to the success of the farm.
Some of the most important farmers here at Urban Adamah aren’t humans at all! We rely on the significant contributions of our chickens, goats, bees, and worms to grow healthy soil and healthy food. These animals also bring us calm and companionship and help teach us about animal-supported agriculture, food origins, responsibility, stewardship, and husbandry. We raise these animals as a demonstration of what we believe is a thoughtful, ethical, loving, and reciprocal relationship, in active contrast to the industrial-scale, destructive methods of animal agriculture so prevalent in our current food system.
Our flock of egg-laying hens roam free in our fruit orchard during the day, fertilizing the trees with their manure and scratching for insects. They help us to control our pest populations while also fulfilling their dietary needs for protein. They return to the shade and safety of their coop and their protected run whenever they need.
Worms of many kinds are native residents here and are happily inhabiting our beds and our compost piles. We also raise California red wigglers in a designated vermicompost bin, which we harvest for greenhouse fertility and use for educational purposes. Worm castings are gardener’s gold!
Our small herd of dairy goats brings us great joy and provides manure for our compost piles. They help us teach our fellows about leadership and farm responsibility, and provide us milk for drinking and cheese-making.
Our honey bees, located in the native plant bioswale, provide the vital service of pollinating our crops, and in times of nectar abundance, we are able to harvest honey.
Sustainability is a core value across our organization and we strive to be as thoughtful as possible about resource conservation, reuse, and repurposing as well as opportunities for education. Sustainability is clearly visible in the context of our farming practices. We use water-conservative drip irrigation for our annual crops and recycled greywater for our perennials. We recycle our farm waste products (manure and crop residues) into compost that is returned to the soil. We are committed to buying organic feed when possible. We also have solar panels on our administrative building and the Camp Street Community Residence.