Urban Roots Farm is a 1.5-acre micro farm set in a residential neighborhood in downtown Springfield, Missouri. In 2011 Melissa and Adam Millsap are offering interns and apprentices the opportunity to participate in building the foundations of an urban farm. 2011 will be our first production year. We plan to have about 1 acre in vegetables, and intend to farm organically, bio-intensively, and sustainably. Through 2011 we will be selling our produce primarily at market, and to retailers, but we will be keeping records as though we were a CSA, as we intend for that to be our model in our second and ongoing years.
The Vision- Our goals in farming
- We want our farm to be a learning tool for all who are willing and interested whether they are residential apprentices, casual passers by, or anyone in between.
- We intend to demonstrate that urban farming on our scale can be not just a token of interest, but a viable way for a family to make a living on a small piece of land.
- We will employ and demonstrate techniques that allow our soil to remain in place, while improving fertility, health and productivity over many years to come.
- Neighborhood Improvement
- We believe that our constant neighborly presence out of doors has great potential for building relationships, community, and accountability, among neighbors.
- Environmental Responsibility
- In all things we do may our first question be, “Does this make sense for the health of our natural environment?”
- Constantly on all fronts.
We (Melissa and Adam Millsap) took interest in starting a farm sometime in 2009. We both have parents who lived on a farm as children, but moved away from that life in adulthood, so as children we had a connection to farming through our grandparents. Unfortunately we were still very young when our grandparents retired, and sold their properties, so we never had the opportunity to farm alongside them. As we matured, and began exploring the disconnection from food sources that our culture continues to experience, we took interest in turning that trend around. It was this interest that led us to pursue an urban farm.
We believe an urban setting will allow us great opportunities to expose a variety of people to the important relationships that lie between our food, and our health whether it be societal health, personal health or environmental health. We also hope to provide an example that demonstrates the effectiveness of micro farming. We want people to understand that farms don’t have to be big to feed many people. When Urban Roots Farm is in full production (when we have worked out the kinks, and know what we are doing) we hope our single acre will supply 60 families with their produce needs year round.
As stated above, our farm is very small. With lofty production goals, and limited land we will make use of many practices that allow for maximized yields year after year while maintaining sustainability and environmental responsibility. Some of the techniques we intend to employ are:
- Season Extension
- Heated greenhouse
- We will make use of a heated greenhouse to grow healthy transplant that are field ready at appropriate times.
- Movable high tunnels
- Passively heated structures under which crops are planted directly in the ground. These structures will allow us to extend our growing season significantly at both ends (we will grow earlier and later). The structures rest on tracks, and each structure will have three plots, one of which it will cover at any given point in the season.
- Row Cover
- Covering crops with a thin textile in the field, allows them to endure ambient temperatures that would otherwise kill them. This can be used to get an early start on production, to extend production, and to overwinter some crops. This technique can also be used to combat some pests and diseases.
- Heated greenhouse
- Productivity and Soil health
- We will compost on farm, and make use of local composting resources to improve our soil.
- Bio-intensive techniques
- Organic Soil Management
- Cover Cropping
- We will make use of cover crops for soil health, erosion control, and weed management.
- Ecological impact
- Water Conservation
- Rainwater harvested from an onsite apartment building will be used for irrigation before water from the public water supply.
- Drip irrigation
- Drip irrigation places water directly where it is needed, and minimizes water waste.
- Small scale equipment
- Walk behind tractor
- Lots of handwork
- Water Conservation
- Intensive record keeping
- Thorough record keeping will allow us to constantly review our practices, and determine what is working, and how we can improve.
- Our records will also be made available as learning resources for others.
We purchased the property next door to our house in June of 2010. Since then we have focused on preparing the property to be a productive farm site, and on remodeling the 8 apartments on the property.
The property had received little care in recent years. The perimeter was grown up with brush, and undesirable trees. There were massive piles of junk and trash strewn about. The first layer of soil was fill dirt that was brought to the property when apartment construction took place in the 1960s. We mechanically removed tons upon tons of rocks that were fist sized to basketball sized. In short the property was an unused eye sore.
After nearly a year of work we feel like we are finally making progress. We have transitioned from an eye sore to a blank slate. The apartments are much improved, and the land is mid transformation. Much work is still to be done. We hope that by the end of 2011 the property will be hardly recognizable as the one we purchased in early 2010.
Interns and apprentices
We are currently seeking apprentices and interns for the 2011 growing season to start ASAP. This work will involve working along side us on all manner of tasks:
- Building farm infrastructure and continuing to improve the condition of the property
- Planting, caring for, and harvesting crops
- Washing, storing, and marketing produce
- Caring for chickens, harvesting eggs, and preparing eggs for sale.
2011 will be our first production year. We have a lot of knowledge, but not a lot of experience. We are prepared to learn volumes in this coming season, and interns and apprentices should expect to learn as much with us, as they learn from us. The hours will be long, usually 6 days a week, and 10 hours per day. The work will be physical, carrying heavy items, and using hand tools. The conditions will be whatever Mother Nature provides, whether it is hot and dry, or wet and cold. Farming work can be repetitive, monotonous, and tedious, not to mention uncomfortable. BUT We are going to accomplish amazing things, and it will be as rewarding as it is difficult for all involved. You will work alongside people who are passionate about what they are doing, and with every days end will come visible proof of your efforts.
The CRAFT program
Urban Roots farm is one of the founding farms of Ozarks CRAFT (Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training). As part of this program, we will tour other farms in the area, attend monthly seminars about topics related to farming (such as weed and pest control, soil fertility management, farm business planning, small fruit management, livestock on the farm, marketing, etc.) and attend a statewide conference in the fall. For more information about Ozarks CRAFT, check out the Ozarks CRAFT website.
In return for 60 hours a week of work apprentices and interns will receive a hands-on education in sustainable farming. Interns will receive room and board and a $200 monthly stipend after their first month on the farm. Apprentices will receive room and board, plus a monthly stipend to be determined by experience and commitment.
We will provide housing on the farm. We have a furnished 2 bedroom apartment with a kitchen, bathroom, wood floors, and central air. These accommodations will be shared by Apprentices, interns, and volunteers who are currently working on the farm. Sleeping quarters will be segregated according to varying occupancy, and the preferences of the occupants. Breakfast and supper will be self provided with access to the farm house pantry, and freezers. Lunch will be provided at the farm house, and will be eaten with our family.
Interning Vs. Apprenticing
Intern candidates are people who want to explore agriculture from the inside out, with a relatively short commitment (minimum 3 months). Interns should be willing to work hard, learn fast, and adapt. There is a lot to learn if you’ve never worked on a farm before, and it’s important that intern candidates be willing to jump in feet first, and learn as they go. Sense of humor is important, and goes a long way toward making the work enjoyable, along with an appreciation of the outdoors, in all different scenarios.
Our ideal apprentice candidate is someone who desires to farm on their own at some point in the future, who wants to learn sustainable agriculture from the inside out, who is willing and able to work long and hard, who has a sense of humor, who is able to take instruction and give constructive feedback, who can interface with our customers in an intimate setting, is responsible and committed, and able to live and work closely with us. Ability to self-educate about particular areas of interest, plus interest in talking about why we do things the way we do are also important to the apprentice experience. Experience farming and/or working with equipment including tractors, hand tools, mowers, construction tools, etc. would certainly be a plus, but is not completely necessary, flexibility is key, and we will provide the know-how.
Couples and families are welcome to apply.
Internships will run a minimum of May 1 to August 15, and preferably longer. (Some could start as early as March).
Apprenticeships are longer term, at least 6 months, and filled as available. We have an apprenticeships open right now, to be filled by the first qualified applicants, as soon as February 1.
Interested persons should call or e-mail to have an application sent to them, or download one here.
thank you for your time,
Melissa and Adam Millsap
Urban Roots Farm,