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HS 209 – Growing Food in Urban Areas with Jim Kennard

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Jim was born in Vernal, Utah, the 6th of 13 children. As the oldest boy at home, he was responsible for taking care of farm animals, including the cow, as well as the family garden. Jim admittedly didn’t care much for it at the time, but through these experiences, learned valuable lessons on work and self-reliance.

Jim often speaks about his Church leaders in the late 70′s challenging every family to grow a garden, and consequently a great many people in the mountain west got serious about growing vegetables. His family was no different and they embarked on a shared life long journey of self-reliance.

They continued to grow great gardens every year, and in 1989, acquired a 3/4 acre parcel of land adjacent to Utah’s Hogle Zoo, which was near their home. Incredibly, and through some promotion, 700,000 people per year saw the Kennard’s garden. Since 2002, Jim has worked in Turkey, Madagascar, multiple projects in Armenia and Georgia, and in Colombia, and has conducted many gardening seminars around the United States.
Learn more about Jim and his family at http://growfood.com .

Narrator: Welcome to the Holistic Survival Show with Jason Hartman. The economic storm brewing around the world is set to spill into all aspects of our lives. Are you prepared? Where are you going to turn for the critical life skills necessary for you to survive and prosper? The Holistic Survival Show is your family’s insurance for a better life. Jason will teach you to think independently, to understand threats and how to create the ultimate action plan. Sudden change or worst case scenario, you’ll be ready. Welcome to Holistic Survival, your key resource for protecting the people, places and profits you care about in uncertain times. Ladies and gentlemen, your host Jason Hartman.

Jason Hartman: Welcome to the Holistic Survival Show. This is your host Jason Hartman, where we talk about protecting the people places and profits you care about in these uncertain times. We have a great interview for you today. And we will be back with that in less than 60 seconds on the Holistic Survival Show. And by the way, be sure to visit our website at HolisticSurvival.com. You can subscribe to our blog, which is totally free, has loads of great information, and there’s just a lot of good content for you on the site, so make sure you take advantage of that at HolisticSurvival.com. We’ll be right back.

Start of Interview with Jim Kennard

Jason Hartman: I’d like to welcome Jim Kennard to the show. He is the founder of a website called GrowFood.com and he has been involved in the writing of several books. And we are talking about gardening and gardening efficiency today. Jim, welcome. How are you?

Jim Kennard: Thank you. I’m great, happy to be here, Jason.

Jason Hartman: Yeah, I always like to give our listeners a sense of geography. Where are you located?

Jim Kennard: We are in North Western Missouri.

Jason Hartman: Fantastic. Well, urban gardening especially has been a topic of great interest to me, and I have seen just amazing things on the internet about how people are getting incredible food yields out of little gardens on their balconies. It’s just amazing what can be done nowadays. And what are some of the things people can do, Jim, to increase the output and yield of our gardens?

Jim Kennard: That’s a question that has a big answer. How much time do we have?

Jason Hartman: Well, enough time to go through a few good tips.

Jim Kennard: Let’s start with some of the basics. Jason, most people don’t understand the laws of plant growth very well. In our society we’ve gotten away from farming and gardening a lot, so people many times don’t realize or remember the importance of having full, direct sunlight on your garden. That’s what I would call the first law of plant growth, and it’s so critical if you expect to have vegetables that are fruiting, to have success with those that you get 6-10 hours of direct sunlight per day. So that’s the first thing. Beyond that, of course removing the weeds. Growing those plants fast and healthy by feeding them properly. That’s another area that most people just don’t really understand much about nowadays, and that’s one of the areas of expertise that the food for everyone foundation really feels is very important and we’d like to help people with that.

Jason Hartman: Okay, good. Go on. So those are two big areas, of course.

Jim Kennard: Yeah. The plant spacing is important. So many times people will sprinkle seeds in the ground and they’ll come up and they’ll either be too far apart or much too close together. And so you end up then with pulling out plants, which damages all of the plants, not just the ones you’re pulling out. So that’s something that a gardener needs to learn how to do properly, and we learn how to do properly, and we teach that. Also growing vertically – particularly in confined spaces, if folks will pay attention to the best methods, for example such as hydroponic growers do. They will grow many plants vertically growing them up entwined type strings, polypropylene string and we do that and we increase people’s yields anywhere from 3-5 times the amount in a given space, just by that one thing by itself is growing vertically.

Jason Hartman: Right. Fantastic. well, tell us about your method and what is the name of it? And what makes it unique?

Jim Kennard: The Mittleider system of growing was developed over the course of many years by Dr. Jacob R. Mittleider. He actually was a commercial grower in Loma Linda, California back in the 40s and 50s, into the early 60s. And he then at that time made all the money he needed I guess, and determined he wanted to devote his life to helping other people. And so he spent the next 40 years pretty much going around the world conducting gardening training humanitarian projects. He established agriculture schools – he changed the economies of several countries and the lives of millions of people by teaching efficient, highly effective healthy gardening procedures and principles.

Jason Hartman: That’s fantastic. Tell us about his method then. You mentioned a couple things at the beginning, and I really like hearing more about the vertical growing opportunity. And also I want to ask you, with some of these, you also mentioned initially direct sunlight. And what does one do if… I’m particularly interested because so many people are living in urban settings nowadays, in high rises, in high density living. What can they do if anything, if they don’t have the opportunity to have all day sun? If they’re working with a balcony for example in a condo or apartment? I’m just particularly interested in that area, but start wherever you like.

Jim Kennard: Certainly the use of containers is a big element in the urban growers gardening arsenal, and we help people to do that no matter what size space they have, we want to make it most efficient. So we show them how to grow in containers of any size, and we do it in lightweight materials that are clean without disease. And you can put them on a patio or a flat roof, or a driveway, anywhere. And then of course the feeding becomes critical, and so the foundation and Dr. Mittleider created a natural mineral nutrient mix called Mittleider Magic that gives plants everything they need for healthy growth. And so we feed small amounts of these natural minerals to our plants during the peak growing season, and they grow healthy and fast. That’s of course another element that’s rather unique to the Mittleider method, is the way we feed and the specific materials that we use to feed the plants.

Jason Hartman: So Jim, tell us how we can apply some of this stuff particularly in that urban setting. Because again, like I mentioned, so many people are living in that setting, and I think these people are most susceptible and most vulnerable to interruptions in food supply, and in general civil unrest and things like that that are probably bound to come our way.

Jim Kennard: Yes. I certainly hope that when the stuff hits the fan, that someone can get out of the big cities because it won’t be a safe place to live. But in the meantime, we garden wherever we are. And if all you have is a patio, a flat roof, a driveway, then I encourage you to build yourself an 18 inch wide box, preferably out of treated two by eights and if it’s going to be on the soil, then you can leave the bottom open – if it’s going to be on a patio or roof or otherwise, you need to put a bottom on it with many holes drilled in that bottom so that it will drain properly. Then we suggest that you fill it with something like sawdust and sand, or peat moss, perlite, vermiculite, rice hulls. Those things that are clean, lightweight, they hold water but they also drain well.

And the instructions in the book of course tell you that you can use any ratio that you want, anything from 50% sand up to 75% saw dust, or these other materials so that sand is no more than 50%. That adds weight and helps the drainage. And then we show people how they can grow most anything in straight sawdust and sand.

The thing that a person really wants to do, is they want to choose wisely and carefully what it is they’re going to grow. For example if a person, just say they have ten feet of space in which to grow and they want to maximize their yield, I would strongly recommend they do something vertical. For example tomatoes, we would plant our tomatoes nine inches apart, one row in an 18 inch wide box like that. And we would grow them vertically in what we would call a T frame, that would have strings of these baler twine polypropylene strings attached, and the tomatoes then would go up to 7-8 feet tall and in ten feet, that would be about 14 tomatoes so you could grow 5 or 6 hundred pounds of tomatoes in ten feet.

Jason Hartman: And in one season, what’s the turn rate? What I’m looking for is how we get to the equation where, take for example you have a single person or a couple and they are apartment or condo dwellers and they’ve got a patio and maybe the entire patio space is 5 feet by 10 feet, just for example, so you’ve got 150 square feet. Of course if you’re smart you’re going to store some food, but what can you yield from a garden that’s sustainable, how fast can it recycle… so that’s all the stuff I kind of want to get into with you as far as we can. So go ahead. That’s very interesting.

Jim Kennard: We really encourage people to start their own seedlings if they’re serious about growing. That way they can get them when they want them, they know exactly what it is they’re growing, it can be healthy and done correctly. So growing seedlings is kind of another subject, but it’s very much related. Because if you start, for example, in the early spring and you get tomatoes started it takes them about 6-8 weeks from seed to a garden sized nice transplant. That means that if you’ve done it in your house under grow lights, you can have a healthy transplant out in your garden when other people are planting seeds. And so then you’ve got 7-8 months of the yield from that crop instead of 3-4 months. Again, depending on where you live. So let’s say this 5 foot by 10 foot section that you describe, I would suggest that someone, for example a couple living, they might want to have 4-5 feet of tomatoes on one side of that 5 foot section, and that’s going to produce them 253 hundred pounds of tomatoes. Then they could have cucumbers, a couple of cucumber plants can produce many, many pounds of cucumbers grown vertically the same as the tomatoes and then squash, vining squash, so that you could take up 10 feet with 3 or 4 different varieties like that and get several hundred pounds of fruit.

Now, on the front side of the garden you want to make sure that those tall plants are of course, north or east so that they don’t shade the shorter plants. So let’s suppose then that they’re going to be planting shorter plants south or west of the tall plants, and things like kale, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, lettuce, beets, all of those kinds of things can be grown again most of the year if you’ll grow your own seedlings and put healthy plants out into that space. Most places you could be growing for 8 or 9 months.

And what most people don’t realize is that those grains have tremendous value. For example, Kale is one of the healthiest plants in the world, and you keep those greens picked and you can eat them every day in smoothies, in salads, on sandwiches, in soups, and quite a few of the other grains are the same. Even something like turnip – the turnip tops are very healthy and very tasty. Beet tops – people think of them as not having great value, and yet you can eat beet tops one or two leaves a week off of a single beet and live on it for months.

Do you see what I’m saying? So that small 5 foot by 10 foot space can really produce a tremendous amount of food. And as a matter of fact, the book that I helped publish called the Mittleider Gardening Course book talks about how a family can live on very small space, just by doing the things that I’m describing, and so you need to choose wisely the kinds of things that you will eat, but also choose what’s healthy and then learn to like it and learn to live on it because when the stores aren’t available, you’ll be amazed at how healthy you can be if you’re eating the right foods.

Jason Hartman: Maybe a lot healthier.

Jim Kennard: Exactly.

Jason Hartman: Our corporatized Monsanto food supply.

Jim Kennard: Yeah. Most of us will lose some weight, which will be healthy. And most of us, if we’re doing any green smoothies or munching on the raw grains will be a lot better off than we have been with all of the processed foods that we eat so much.

Jason Hartman: Yeah, no question about it. Okay, so can we drill down a little bit more on this equation? So with what you just mentioned, and that sounded like a great mix, how much space did that take and who will that feed? Because you’ve got the… like if it’s sustainable, if you never want to go to the store again and you have this garden and that’s it, can that feed one person indefinitely?

Jim Kennard: Let me give you the extremes Jason. Some of the traditional growers and the “experts” say that a family needs a hector of ground to be self-sufficient in their food production. Now that’s 2 ½ acres, and of course that would include some animals. Obviously the urban dweller is not going to come close to that because a 5 by 10 space is not much more than a hundredth of an acre.

Jason Hartman: 42 thousand square feet – I remember this from real estate school of course. Yeah, for an acre. So you’ve got a hundred thousand square feet there probably in a hector.

Jim Kennard: Right. More than a hundred thousand.

Jason Hartman: And here you’ve got 150 square feet.

Jim Kennard: This 150 is a thousandth of it, or something. So a person cannot expect to really feed themselves exclusively out of a tiny space like that. But what they can do is they can supplement their food with very healthy fresh things. I think that’s the key for the urban dweller. If they’re going to grow things, choose wisely and choose things that are very healthy that will grow in a very small space. That’s why I suggest greens and I don’t care much for lettuce, just because it is not as nutrient dense as things like kale and beet tops and Swiss chard, turnip tops, collards… so it’s not a matter of being self-sufficient out of a 5 by 10 space – that is not a practical idea, and we don’t want to give people the idea that they can continue living in the city and live out of a 5 by 10 foot space.

But they can supplement their food substantially during the extended growing season if they will do these things I’ve mentioned, if they will then replant whenever a crop gets finished, mature and no longer producing well, get it out of there and put something else in so that you always have something growing. So grow the healthy things, grow the nutrient dense things, of course grow those things with the greatest value and grow vertically whenever you can, and then continue growing throughout the growing season. So those are kind of the generalities of what a person needs to do. And the Mittleider growing system, I believe is the best on the planet to teaching that and really guaranteeing success because using the natural mineral nutrients that plants need, exactly in the ratios that they require means that you can grow healthy food even in saw dust and sand.

Jason Hartman: Mittleider is obviously you favorite, as you’ve mentioned. What is the competitor? What is the second best system, or maybe another popular system? I just want to do that for the listeners to give them another option so that they can look at 2 or maybe even 3 methodologies and come to their own conclusion. If you just shove one down their throat and say, this is the best one period, they’re not as likely to give it credibility.

Jim Kennard: Sure. Well you have to understand Jason, that I started out as a boy growing using manure. I was in charge of the cow and the chickens and the pig, and all of the animals, and the family garden. So I grew a garden using organic materials, and I got prizes at the state fair for my pumpkins and things like that. So I know a little about it, over the course of the last 40 years I have gravitated toward this particular system. But other methods are many, as you know. There is one called the French Intensive Double Digging Method. It requires people to dig 18 inches deep. There’s one that’d called Back to Eden that suggests that the ground up parts of a tree when they’re composted will feed a garden.

There’s one called the Lasagna Method that suggests that people layer their growing medium with compost, then manure, then newspaper, then… I’ve forgotten what all of the layers are, but 5 or 6 different layers. What my experience shows that those other methods fail to address properly is proper plant nutrition. You see, this is a subject that we could talk about for a while. But it’s such an important subject that I’ve got to keep coming back to it, because if somebody puts manure or compost in their garden, they do not know what they’re feeding their plants.

And so they’re guessing and they’re hoping. And if the compost was done properly, then it’s likely to have some nutrition. If it sat out in the ran for a year while it was composting, most of that nutrition has gone leached down into the subsoil and into the water supply rather than being available for the plants.

So Dr. Mittleider saw this all over the world you see. He taught people in the developing countries and he saw them starving, and dying from diseases because of lack of nutrition and so he brought them correct nutrition, exact nutrient mixes so that they had no guess work whatsoever. They knew that if they used this method they could have a healthy garden. And I see these other methods all the time, and as a matter of fact people are constantly coming to the Food for Everyone foundation with please help me, I’ve been doing such and such gardening method and we can’t really get much production out of it or we have these problems.

So I can’t recommend those others, and if anyone has more time I would be thrilled to tell them particulars about the nutrition, why this is sometimes called the best of organic and yet on the other side of the spectrum it’s also called the poor man’s hydroponic method.

Jason Hartman: Yeah, okay. Well can you tell us quickly about that? Our time is limited of course, but if you want to just take another minute or two that would be fantastic.

Jim Kennard: Yeah, okay. Well, one of the reasons that it is called the best of organic is because the natural minerals that we use are in fact approved for use by the certified organic growers. The certified organic grower however, has to start with organic materials, then when they see deficiency symptoms and problems with their plants, they soil test and then they’re able to add zinc, manganese, boron, whatever the nutrient is that they see the plant needs. I’m saying the family gardener, the home gardener, can’t take the time nor the money, nor the risk of doing that and then waiting for the soil test results and then trying to get those individual plant nutrients to solve his problems.

Most soil has deficiencies and so we give the plants exactly what they need and we avoid all of that time, effort, expense that the organic grower has to go through in order to jump through the hoops of the USDA to be certified. So that is why we sometimes say that it’s the best of organic. The poor man’s hydroponic method really has to do with growing vertically, and again feeding the plants what they need on a regular basis. Because that’s what the hydroponic growers do. However, we can grow yields that approach hydroponic yields for a tiny, tiny fraction of the investment cost that a hydroponic grower does because we can do it right out in the yard. We don’t have to have big expensive greenhouses, and all of the temperature controls and all that stuff.

Jason Hartman: Fantastic. Well, very good points. Give out your website if you would – I announced it at the beginning. And any other resources you want to share where people can get your books, etc.

Jim Kennard: Oh, thank you. I appreciate that. The foundation website is www.GrowFood.com and we have free gardening groups – the Yahoo group’s website is [email protected] We also have a Facebook group. On Facebook it’s Mittleider Gardening. Those are all free of course.

Jason Hartman: Tremendous. Well Jim, thank you so much. This has been very enlightening and I’ve just got to tell you: everybody needs to start engaging at least a little bit in this stuff. If not doing it fully of course, and many of our listeners are gung-ho. They’re way past this whole conversation we just had and doing incredible things. But at the very least, just dip your toe in the water, develop some familiarity. Subscribe to the Facebook page and look at it in your newsfeed if nothing else. Read an article once in a while, just so there’s some. It’s amazing how detached we’ve become as a society to all of this very basic stuff.

On one of my other shows, the Creating Wealth Show which is a personal finance and investing show, I’ve had Jim Rogers on the show a couple of times, and I’m sure you’re familiar with Jim Rogers. He’s a finance guy and a hedge fund guy. He says, “Forget about becoming an investment banker and going to work on Wall St. – learn how to be a farmer and do something real with your life”. That’s where the growth is going to be.

Jim Kennard: Good for him.

Jason Hartman: I agree. We are so detached from just simple, basic realities of existence nowadays, that this is very important. So thank you so much for sharing this, and maybe you had a comment on that.

Jim Kennard: Well, yeah if you’ve got just another minute. The very fact that we are so detached and unfamiliar with gardening, as an example, makes us vulnerable to the inaccuracies and misrepresentations that are out there. For example, people are afraid of chemicals because the organic growers say oh chemicals are bad and they’re dangerous. But people fail to understand that everything in this world is a chemical. And so if people can get over that fear and just jump in and feed their plants accurately with the natural minerals that God intended the plants should have, then they won’t have to have the unhappy experiences that are so common when people are guessing, when people are trying to figure it out.
Follow somebody who’s been all over the world and done it for millions of people, and you’re guaranteed success. I promise the world on my website a great garden in any soil and in virtually any climate with no soil amendments.

Jason Hartman: Yeah, fantastic. Well, Jim Kennard thank you so much for joining us today and I really appreciate it. Keep getting the word out there.

Jim Kennard: Thank you Jason. It was good to visit with you.

Narrator: Thank you for joining us today for the Holistic Survival Show. Protecting the people, places and profits you care about in uncertain times. Be sure to listen to our Creating Wealth Show, which focuses on exploiting the financial and wealth creation opportunities in today’s economy. Learn more at www.JasonHartman.com or search “Jason Hartman” on iTunes. This show is produced by the Hartman Media Company, offering very general guidelines and information. Opinions of guests are their own, and none of the content should be considered individual advice. If you require personalized advice, please consult an appropriate professional. Information deemed reliable, but not guaranteed.

Transcribed by Ralph

The Holistic Survival Team


Episode: 209

Guest: Jim Kennard

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