How An Arizona Farmer Makes The Best Organic Compost

Ken Singh cares for his soil, and it cares for him.

July 17, 2015
Ken Singh crops
1/9

PHOTOGRAPHS BY ANTHONY LASALA

 

"On our 60 acres we grow about 90 varieties of organic crops, 99 percent heirloom, whose seeds we save and give away. We also host a weekly market, run a nursery, and make compost for our own use and to sell.  In the last decade or so I’ve started to better understand that the condition of the earth is the condition of my own health and welfare. I want to improve them both. I want to leave this land better than I found it. I want to give back."

compost pile
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"Part of our business is large-scale compost production. I haven’t quantified it, but it’s quite a lot! We work with Arizona State University; they bring me raw materials to turn into compost, which I then send back to campus. I also deliver to area golf courses and to lots of local homeowners. I feel good knowing people are using our rich, organic compost to feed their families independently. Composting is a business that can protect nature, one that can put carbon back into the soil."

Ken Singh tests his compost
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"The microbes in our compost are the best employees I’ve ever had. They work tirelessly. They don’t complain. They never go on strike. By golly, I love ‘em! All the networks of fungi and microbes in soil are interconnected. We’re part of that, too. One day we’ll end up back in the soil ourselves."

Ken Singh amending his garden
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"We use kelp, minerals, worm casings, and our homemade compost to amend the garden beds. It all works together to enrich the soil so that the vegetables have everything that they—and we—need to be healthy.  When I inherited this land it was in terrible shape, but by adding organics over time, we’ve created absolutely beautiful loam. I’ve put my life and soul into the soil."

Ken Singh harvesting chard
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"A lot of folks are sick. I want to tell them, “Go back to Mother Earth.” Food is medicine. I don’t care how pretty a plant is! I care about its nutritional value. Vegetables are best consumed quickly after picking, when all the nutrients are still alive. Your body is more valuable than anything else you own. Protect it."

Ken SIngh's market
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"On Saturdays we host a market for the public. We have flowers, pressed juices, and our homemade compost for sale, as well as organic produce, honey, baked goods, and hand-tossed pizzas. In this life, there are signs everywhere telling you where to sit, where to drive, and where to eat, but the market is a free zone, a gathering space for both kids and adults. Have a little fun! If you’re happy, I’m happy."

happy horse
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"We have a peacocks, chickens, and two rescued Mustangs on the farm. The horses don’t have any work duties. To me they represent freedom and the resources that built this country."

Ken Singh
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"When I was younger, I’d sit in our fields with my father and he would say, “Do you hear the soil speaking to you?” I’d say “Dad, of course not! I hear the tractor, I hear the cars.” But now I hear it talking to me all the time. I go when it rains. I go in the morning or at night. I sit quietly, and I listen, and I ask. Land will reveal itself to you very easily if you’re willing to pay attention."

Ken Singh raking
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"After World War II, we took the fast route with food production as if we had somewhere to go. We have nowhere to go. This is it. Quit looking over the hill for heaven. Just look down—it’s right here."

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