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Self Reliant Living #022 – Interview With Greg Peterson

Jennifer: Greg Peterson is the founder of the Urban Farm and Urban Farm U and is a green living and sustainability innovator, who is well known regionally as a resident of Phoenix for the last 48 years. Greg is well versed in urban sustainability and food production in dry lands. This is really wonderful, guys, because you’re going to get to ask him questions about gardening in the desert or dry areas, because I know I get a lot of questions about that. He is an expert in that area. I can’t wait to ask him some of those questions.

He was first introduced to desert gardening at the age of 12, in 1991. He discovered the concept of permaculture, bringing together many sustainability concepts into one cohesive system. Yes, also going to talk to him about permaculture. In 2001, Greg created a new concept called the urban farm, which is at UrbanFarm.org. A real world environmental showcase home in the heart of Phoenix, Arizona. He applied all of his extensive background to transform this 1950s built track home into an innovative holistic home site. The urban farm, featuring an entirely edible landscape, get this, including over 70 fruit trees, rain water, a greywater harvesting, three solar applications, and extensive use of reclaimed and recycled building materials. The site is opened periodically throughout the year to the public and offers classes, lectures, and tours. If you’re in that area, this is something you might be interested in. Greg is the host of the Urban Farm podcast and that was launched in 2015. Welcome, Greg.

Greg: Thank you for having me. I’m very excited to be here.

Jennifer: I read your bio and I’m just so intrigued by all of those things that I mentioned there. Can we just hear from you about what your mission is and a little bit about yourself and how you got to where you are?

Greg: Absolutely. How many hours we got? When I was 15, I started gardening. That was 1975. That same year, I had to write a paper for a biology class and I actually wrote it on lined paper and pencil. The paper I wrote was on how we were over-fishing the oceans. To this day, I don’t know where that came from. I just knew that there was something really wrong with how we’re living on the planet and how we’re eating on the planet. That has really stuck with me for most of my life. I’m 55 now. Along the way I discovered permaculture. I read a book called Ishmael by Daniel Quinn and Ishmael talks about, it’s a conversation between a gorilla and a man and the gorilla is the teacher. It’s a work of fiction. It really frames out how we came to be where we’re at, over the past 10,000 years, and how we’ve become really consumers of the planet rather than contributors on the planet. That’s where permaculture really plugs in for me. I like to call permaculture the art and science of working with nature. How do we plug in and work in the flow of nature rather than against nature?

Over the years I have started the Urban Farm. The Urban Farm is the house where I live. I’ve been here 27 years. I started calling it that in 2001 and it was out of a project that I had to do when I was … I went back to college and I got a Bachelor’s and a Master’s, so I had to write a, what’s my mission in life? What am I going to do here? I realized I was already doing it, here in this space, at the Urban Farm. I like to call the Urban Farm an environmental showcase home. I just invite people here to see all the cool things we’re doing.

I have over 80 fruit trees on the property now, so I need to update my bio. Thank you for that. We have three different kinds of solar panels on the roof. I do rainwater and greywater harvesting. The landscape is primarily edible, or it supports edibles. Really, over the past three years, this has become a thing.

Jennifer: Wow. It’s awesome. I’m just so envious of those fruit trees. Oh my goodness. That’s just such a blessing. Since you are totally invested in this and this is your life, can you explain to me, for somebody who is maybe new to these concepts, about growing your own food. What’s the benefit of that versus just going to the grocery store or trying to be good, “Oh, I buy organic.” What is the motivation that you have that growing your own food is the way to go?

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