~ The Story ~
Ki Mana Acres - Urban Farming
If I were to trace the root of Ki Mana Acres, the seed was definitely planted deep within the foothills of the Himalayas. Now this might sound a bit idealistic, but in all honesty, this farming endeavour would not be evolving without the inspiring experiences that took place in Nepal.
Confused and seeking something unknown to me at the time, I left Canada on a whim. On August 31, 2017 I bought a one-way flight to Frankfurt, Germany in search of meaning, experiences and adventure. I began my journey on bicycle. Trekking down the Rhine River and weaving my way through the beautiful landscape of Southern Germany, I felt high on life. The country side was covered with orchards and vineyards. The sight of these lush, green vine rows always took me back to my summers working at Creston Valley Vineyard, my first agricultural experience back in high school. Eventually, my admiration for these parallel rows would translate into the way I would structure my own garden when I returned back to Creston in 2018.
Seeking warmer days, I made my way South to Italy. I left the bike behind, slowed my pace and planted my roots in the hills of Umbria. There I lived with an Italian family for some time, enjoying the relaxed way of life and beauty this area had to offer. This musically inclined group shared their home and gave me the opportunity to work for them. My days were filled with joy and feelings of abundance as I built them a custom rock slab patio and helped with their daily harvests. This unique garden crawled over the uneven hillside and produced an impressive bounty each day. Looking back now, I realize my interest in growing food had been sparked here and it would carry over to my adventure in Nepal. Soon the cooler weather returned and the feeling to move on grew stronger.
Searching for an experience that would push my adventurous boundaries, I booked a flight to Nepal ~ a place I had always dreamed of exploring. The hustle and bustle of their capital city, Katmandu, contrasted perfectly with the peaceful serenity of the terraced mountain scape surrounding. In Nepal, you can't help but look around and feel drawn to the towering peaks. From Katmandu I journeyed to a rural area, following scribbled directions on a notepad and the hopeful guidance of locals. Definitely a shot in the dark, but I was more than open to this uncertainty. After a 6-hour bus ride, one river crossing and a 3-hour 4x4 trek up the mountain I arrived in Gorkha territory. I was welcomed with an authentic Nepalese feast of rice and lentil soup and a tribal dance, which carried us into the late hours of the night. The magic of getting to the village in the dark revealed itself to me when the sun rose. Pink Himalayan peaks, lush foliage surrounding, and terraced agriculture completely overwhelmed my senses. This place was special. This was the place I was seeking.
I always find it hard to describe the feeling I had during my time spent with the Gurung people. I guess sometimes we have experiences that feel like a lifetime ~ where our whole past kind of disappears, our future thoughts and projections completely dissipate, and we fall deep into the present moment. A state of peace, purpose and joy totally overwhelmed me, to the point where I intuitively knew, this was what I was here to do ~ to someday return home and grow nutrient dense food for my community, with joy and passion. This was my purpose in life.
Custom earth tools broke ground the next morning and we began cultivating the terraces by hand. Turning over the rich Nepalese soil and cropping out the previously harvested Millet sectors, we prepared it for the new plantings of Corn. A high rotation of Corn and Millet was practiced here and these were the staple crops that the Gurung people survived on. To supplement them, were Avocado, Chayote Vines and Mountain Oranges. Amaranth and Sweet Potatoes also grew in abundance and added more diversity to their healthy lifestyles. The joyful, community-oriented way of work was something I will never forget. These people were so present with every swing of the Chuuka(digging tool), you couldn't smear the smiles off their faces if you tried. They were cracking jokes, constantly laughing, and working harder and more efficiently than I've ever seen. No one was struggling or grinding, or whatever you want to call it, yet so much was being accomplished and they were actually having fun. The level of happiness was overflowing and everything about this lifestyle was in perfect harmony.
Was this success?
Was this the ideal way to live life?
These were questions that scrolled through my mind countless times as I worked beside these wonderful humans. We couldn't communicate through language, but what we lacked in words, we made up for in laughs and smiles. This was it!~ To love your work so much that it drowns you in joy and fulfillment, to the point where the monetary drive falls to the wayside and you feel rich because you are living out your purpose in life. This awareness was the guidance I was searching for. This experience provided such clarity and forced me into realization.
Happiness = Success and I was happy with a shovel in my hand! Planting seeds and harvesting the bounty.
It really hit me hard. The peace and purpose I felt farming with these people inspired me ~ to a point where I decided to seek out as many agriculture experiences as I could.
Taiwan. One month later. I found myself working at a permaculture farm in the southern part of the island. With my eyes and ears wide open I absorbed as much information as I could. Papayas, Bananas, Dragon fruit, and Coconuts grew in excess. Methods of creative companion planting were on full display here. We slept in crew bunkers and rose early every morning to put our hands straight in the dirt. Planting, harvesting, and prepping new areas for organic food production were always in full cycle. "No Till" methods were practiced religiously at this permaculture farm and I became intrigued by soil regeneration and the massive yields that resulted from these natural methods. I realized how much more knowledge I could absorb through inspiring, hands-on experience, rather than in a classroom setting. To say the least my time spent in Taiwan completely juiced me up and set me on my next journey... Hawaii!
Another warm place… Go figure! I landed in Hawaii just after the New Year, in pursuit of more hands-on agricultural experience. Before arrival I had setup two places to stay. The first was a permaculture farm located on the west coast on the Big Island and the second was a self-sustainable homestead perched higher up the volcano, which also focused their efforts on natural farming methods. I was so stoked.!! The site called "Workaway" gave me the opportunity to live with these families on a work trade agreement. During the two months stay in Hawaii, my passion for farming grew immensely and plans of starting my own operation were already brewing. March was coming, and I felt a sudden urge to return back home to Canada. I packed my bag, grabbed my ukulele and on March 1st I was on a flight to Canada to see my family again!
Spring of 2018! The birth of Ki Mana Acres! I fenced in a 1/4 acre plot out in Erickson on my Baba’s property. My seed order was evidently inspired by my farming experiences I had overseas. Any and all vegetables that could grow in our Canadian climates were on the table. I was so pumped to start throwing seeds in the ground when warmer weather arrived! I was getting antsy.
I began building compost, starting my seedlings indoors and utilizing the "No Till" methods I learned on my travels and got to it. By "getting to it" I mean, MISTAKES! Lots of them! This season was full of humbling mistakes, but mistakes that were more valuable than anything I could have ever read in a book.
The goal was to provide weekly bundles of varying vegetables every week to my customers. Natural, nutrient dense produce, grown with love was the mission behind Ki Mana Acres and it is still the root of this establishment. As the summer went on, I met more local farmers and I became more aware of the market. I realized I needed to diversify and find a niche of my own.
Baby greens... Microgreens...? Could this work in Creston?
No one was specializing in Greens production and with the way Ki Mana Lettuce, Swiss Chard, Kale, and Pak Choy received positive feedback this season, I knew it was the direction I wanted to take!
I began to refine my research and focus my attention on Profitable Urban Farming. What would it look like if my front lawn was converted into a sea of Baby Greens? What would it look like if Ki Mana spread its production to other underutilized urban plots? These were questions I knew could come to fruition. Baby Greens/Microgreens and Baby Root Vegetables have a quick DTM (Days to Maturity) 8 - 60 days. These were the crops I wanted to focus my attention on, due to their quick turn over and "high efficiency" potential.
The Mission of Ki Mana Acres - Urban Farming is to convert "Lawns to Lettuce". ~Turning underutilized urban spaces into highly efficient, nutrient dense Greens production, using natural methods ~
Everyone eats salad... and making it possible for the people of Creston to have access to a local supply of fresh Greens is an endeavour that motivates me to wake up in the morning. Imagine if we were able to negate the shipments of spinach, kale, arugula... etc. from the mega farms of California and become self-sufficient in this area?? What would this concept look like? Give this some thought and ask yourself how much of the food you consume is local? Creston is moving in such a positive direction and I get excited about it. We can totally live and thrive within this area and it always comes back to choice. What do we actually value, and what are we doing to contribute every day to a healthier community and planet?
Well, we are shooting for it and to think that this vision stemmed from a life-changing experience in the Himalayas, will always humble me and bring me back into the present moment... to what is actually important.
Kieran Poznikoff ~ Owner of Ki Mana Acres ~