KYLE & MORGAN
EAST SAC FARMS
Urban Haven in Sacramento, California
It was a cold December morning when Urban Exodus visited Kyle and Morgan Hagerty’s East Sac Farm. Despite the time of year, their urban farmstead was still thriving with pomegranates, citrus, cold hardy greens, herbs, peppers, and strawberries. Pulling up to their house, other than the handsome landscaping, one would never guess the edible backyard paradise that awaits once you walk through their side gate. Kyle and Morgan moved to Sacramento in 2014 so Morgan could study Sustainable Environmental Design at UC Davis and Kyle could work for the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire Department as a firefighter. They bought a modest two-bedroom home on a 6,000 sq. ft. lot and immediately got to work digging up their entire parcel to transform it into a peaceful and fertile food-abundant retreat. They designed, built, and planted a water-conscious and mostly edible organic garden and an inviting and water-permeable patio for entertaining with drought-tolerant landscaping.
They planted a variety of fruit trees: avocados, blood orange, persimmon, lime, Meyer lemon, nectarine, peach, fig, pomegranate, and multi-grafted cherry, apple, and pear. They dedicated 500 sq. ft. of space to their vegetable garden; building seven 4x10 raised beds. Using books, Kyle’s gardening ingenuity, and Morgan’s sustainable design knowledge, they thought up inexpensive and clever vertical growing solutions to make the most of their limited space. An arched trellis consisting of two 4'x16' bent hog wire panels allow them to grow squash, watermelon, tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, and peas. Attached to the trellis are basic rain gutter planters with holes drilled in the bottom. When the trellis is covered in sun-loving plants in the summer, they grow plants beneath in the gutters that prefer more shade. In the winter they cover the trellis with transparent polyethylene to protect their winter crops from frost.
Every year they continue to improve their urban farmstead. Working in the garden every season, they make their own compost, till and amend the soil, install drip irrigation, and build furniture for their entertaining spaces. After they constructed their sectional seating and built their outdoor dining table, they used repurposed materials to create cooking area with a pizza oven and added a salvaged claw foot tub for a relaxing cool dip on sweltering summer days. Their next door neighbor, impressed by what they created, offered up an unused piece of her backyard so Kyle and Morgan could keep chickens. They share eggs and produce with her in exchange for her square footage.
Impassioned by their shared belief that urban farming is capable of reconnecting people with their food, combatting food insecurity, and building community, Kyle and Morgan want to inspire others to follow in their footsteps. They share their produce bounty, seedlings and gardening knowledge at their donation-based farm stand that they host. In addition, Kyle and Morgan offer gardening advice and tips on their Instagram accounts for people wanting to grow their own food. Their urban haven proves that you can still grow a significant amount of your own food without having to sacrifice entertaining space on a small city lot. With their urban farm they want to continue to inspire and educate others as well as contribute to the strong sense of community that exists in their East Sacramento neighborhood. (Click here to jump to their interview)
Did you grow up growing your own food or was it something you came to on your own when you were older?
Kyle: I didn’t grow up growing food, but I did grow up growing other plants and working in the garden with my mom. After high school I had a job working for California State Parks where I learned more about working with plants and it was then that I planted my firsts vegetables. I was not successful in that first attempt at growing food but I was successful in learning from the mistakes I had made during the process and as I continue to learn it is the failures that have taught me the most, and the successes that keeps me going.
Morgan: I started growing food pretty much immediately after meeting Kyle and being inspired by his garden. I was taking culinary classes at the time and became interested in knowing where my food came from so I went out and built my own raised bed and planted kale, lettuce, carrots, and strawberries.
What made you decide to build your Urban Farmstead?
We both had the desire to continue to grow our own food while learning along the way. We bought our home 4 years ago with the intention of growing as much food as possible on a small lot while also having space for entertaining. About a year into having our urban farm the city of Sacramento passed an urban farming ordinance that allows residents to sell their homegrown produce from neighborhood farm stands. Since we were already growing so much we had plenty to share with our community so I just made sense to open up our own farm stand. We decided from the start that our farm stand would be focused on helping our community grown by offering our produce for donations only and inspiring others to grow their own food with tours of our farm ever time we’re open.
How has your family/friends/community responded to your farmstead?
We always enjoy sharing our bounty with our family, friends, and community and they are very supportive of our farmstead. We have been able to connect with neighbors and new friends through our farm stand, many of which have started (or not given up!) at growing food in the city.
What has been the hardest part of your journey thus far? What has been the most rewarding?
Kyle: The hardest part of farming for me has been keeping up with all of the critters that seem to think were growing the food just for them. One summer we lost our entire crop of nearly 100 peaches to the tree squirrels, and last fall it was our persimmons. We’re finding human new was to manage these problems but it remains a constant challenge.
Morgan: The most rewarding part has been hosting the farm stand and inspiring others to grow their own food.
Do you feel like there is a movement underway of more young people being interested in learning to grow food?
Yes, we think that people, especially young people are becoming more aware of where their food comes from and how it is treated before it ends up on their plate. With so much highly processed and chemically treated food traveling long distances, we’re finding ways access safe, healthy, local food. Fortunately this sustainable food movement has increased access to this food but many of us are take things in our own hands by learning to grow our own food the same way our ancestors did when all food was organic.
Do you have any advice for people interested in growing their own food or starting an urban farm?
Kyle: Just go for it! There are a lot of great resources out there to help you get started but you’ll learn the most by getting your hands dirty.
Morgan: I agree with Kyle, just start! There will always be bumps in the road but we have primarily learned through trial and error.
Where do you draw your inspiration and passion from for your work?
My inspiration literally comes from everywhere but I draw a great deal of inspiration from others farmers and gardeners who share what they are doing on Instagram. Passion though, that’s burning inside all of us, you just need to stoke the fire and steer the engines.
What hopes do you have for the future of food and farming in America?
(Oh gosh, that's a big question, I could go off on many tangents) Although the sustainable food movement is gaining momentum there are many obstacles ahead. Tackling the issues from the top down seems almost futile at this point. It is ultimately up to the consumers to make a difference. Consumers need education about the risks and benefits of what they eat in order to make healthy choices at the grocery store. I hope that more food literacy organizations start popping up in public schools.
Are there any books, mentors, or podcasts that you would recommend to people wanting to start growing food?
Sunset Magazine, groworganic.org, and Encyclopedia Botanica Podcast.
What are some common misperceptions about farming that you would like to dispel?
The biggest misconception that comes to mind about urban farming is that an urban farm doesn’t need to look like a farm in order to function like one. We grow hundreds of pounds of food in our yard and it’s still an attractive, functional space that we can enjoy.
If you could plant roots anywhere in the world where would you go and why?
Kyle: We could have planted roots anywhere in the world, and we chose Sacramento. Sacramento is the Farm-to-Fork capital of America and although that’s not what brought us here, it’s certainly one of the reasons we’ll stay. Farm-to-Fork is not just a title, or trend, it’s the spirit of Sacramento. Our city’s economy was founded on farming and today its culture thrives on the community that has grown together by our connection to local food.
Morgan: Yep! We're pretty happy where we are! Someday it would be nice to have a farmhouse on acreage but for now, there is no place we'd rather be.
What plans do you have for the coming year?
We have some big things happening this year in other aspects of our life so we don't have many big plans or changes for the garden. We're getting a couple more chickens and aside from that just the usual crop rotation, compost making, and general maintenance.