A North Diamond Bar family has converted their home into a sustainable backyard farm that will now offer public classes in gardening, permaculture, and sustainable living classes.
Posted 28 June 2011, By Darren Fishell, DiamondBar Patch, diamondbarpatch.com
It’s not often that parents see eye to eye with their children.
A shared vision is, however, what brought Pearl Kumar and her sons Ro and Rishi together to build a backyard farm in Diamond Bar that Pearl said she had long dreamt of.
“I always had the vision,” Pearl said, “but I didn’t have the manpower.”
After six months of work dedicated to building the Growing Home, Pearl’s sons took the vision a step further by opening the home garden and learning center to the public on Friday.
Ro’s childhood friend Jeff Li, who attended South Pointe Middle School with the two brothers, said he remembers playing basketball on a paved portion of the backyard that abutted a generous lawn.
“They’re changing the mentality,” Li said. “If you’re going to water grass, why not water something providing some sustenance?”
Visitors to the garden’s opening learned about sustainable urban agriculture and Rishi and Ro announced a full lineup of instructional summer workshops on gardening and do-it-yourself sustainability projects hosted at the Growing Home.
“In this type of suburban environment, it’s great to see that it’s generating a lot of buzz,” Li said during Friday’s public opening of the garden.
Last week, Patch took a video tour of the Growing Home.
You can’t eat the dollar
Rishi is a computer scientist and graduated on a full ride scholarship from UC San Diego. Ro was accepted to law schools including Stanford, Yale, and Berkeley.
Given the potential to go on to live traditionally successful lives, Pearl said some might feel her sons’ choice to dedicate their energy to the Growing Home a waste.
“We (as a society) chase the dollar,” Pearl said, “but you can’t eat the dollar.”
Nurturing the soil
Pearl said the shift to farming is, in a way, a return to her family’s farming roots in India. However, the shift was not so much a decision to reach across continents and generations, but a shot at digging into the soil right at home, which was difficult at first.
“Diamond Bar soil is very hard,” Pearl said.
The yard was barren and stubbornly refused tilling when the family first arrived in Diamond Bar 22 years ago.
After being overwhelmed with thoughts of how she could make a difference in an ever-expanding world, Pearl said she turned her focus to the garden, starting small by burying kitchen scraps in the yard.
Before long, Pearl said the best crops were growing over those spots. A few years ago, after Rishi had taken to organic gardening in college, he returned one summer to pull out the rest of the backyard lawn and expand the garden.
Pearl and Rishi arranged for a load of plant clippings from local gardeners to be delivered and later added a truckload of manure from a local farm, which was covered and cared for as nutrients returned to the land.
“Even the soil is alive,” Pearl said. “It needs to be covered and protected — it needs water and food and air.”
On the modestly-sized lot in a neighborhood near Peterson Park, Rishi has managed to find a place for 40 exotic and domestic fruit trees, vegetables from zucchini to squash and potatoes, and an array of flowers that he said are both decorative, but with a distinct purpose.
The flowers, Rishi said, bring in bees that are necessary for the garden to flourish.
At Friday’s opening, beekeeper was on hand with samples of fresh honey and information on his push for cities across Southern California to approve methods of urban beekeeping.
“Around 30 percent of all food you eat depends on (bee) pollination,” said Robin Theron, a beekeeper who was on hand at Friday’s opening of the garden. “So, every third bite you take is because of bees.”
Pearl said the garden has also allowed the family to cut their grocery bill down to nearly nothing. But the garden provides more than just food.
“Sometimes Ro and I pull up chairs in the garden and play music,” Ro’s friend Li said.
“We’re trying to create community here,” Pearl said. “We’re looking for teachers that can help get back to the basics.”
The Growing Home’s first class will be July 2 covering food fermentation from 10 a.m. to Noon. The second will be at the same time on July 9, covering natural building. Both lessons are $30.