Interview with Caitlin Smith of Dynamic Farms
Have you heard of Dynamic Farms yet? If you haven't, here's your chance to get caught up. We ran into Caitlin Smith at the Central Farmer's Market recently and wanted to learn more about the farm she and her partner Tim Carrillo runs in Tempe. We love their vibe and want to spread the love of this young urban farmer couple who started up Dynamic Farms two years ago.
Here's our interview with Caitlin who shares the challenges of farming in the desert, her favorite swiss chard pesto recipe and their plans for expansion.
What is Dynamic Farms?
Dynamic Farms is a pesticide-free urban farm located in Tempe. We specialize in naturally grown produce for local restaurants and farmers markets around the valley. We also sell our vegetable plant starts at farmers markets for those who want to start edible gardens and urban farms of their own!
Who is Dynamic Farms?
The team behind Dynamic Farms consists of Arizona natives, Tim Carrillo, 24, and Caitlin Smith, 22. We started Dynamic Farms almost two years ago by transforming all 7,000 square feet of our backyard into an edible urban farm. Although it's just the two of us that built and run the farm, we couldn't have done it without the support of our families.
What makes your farm different?
Our farm is different because we took the training we received while working on a 6 acre, certified naturally grown production farm in Virginia and combined it with our knowledge of urban farming to create Dynamic Farms. We did this to ensure we're producing the highest quality, natural vegetables at a production level but doing so on a much smaller scale. We do everything by hand, we grow everything from untreated, organic seed, and we don't spray any chemicals or pesticides. We've also designed our beds so that everything is protected under shade cloth, allowing us to grow even tender greens during harsh summer months.
You mentioned that you don't have separate day jobs that that you've jumped in head first. How has that been so far?
Ditching our day jobs and jumping in head first has definitely been a heck of an experience! Farming is unpredictable which makes some months much more challenging than others. I think at the end of the day though, it only pushes us harder because it's all we're riding on. It forces us to go outside of our comfort zone because we don't have that nice financial cushion to back us up. Some months it can be really scary but we did it because we believed in it, and because it's our passion to help feed and educate others.
Where can people find your food?
You can find our produce and plant starts at the Central Farmers Market on Saturday mornings and the Ahwatukee Farmers Market on Sunday mornings. You can also find some of our produce at St. Francis restaurant in Phoenix as well as the Lobby Grill in Phoenix. We love getting to interact with the public at the markets but it's been a lot of fun getting to see delicious ways our produce is being used at local restaurants around the Walley.
What's been the biggest challenge of becoming a farmer?
The biggest challenge with becoming a farmer is that the days are long, the work can be exhausting, and the pay isn't always great at first. Farming is also very unpredictable, especially in Arizona. One particularly bad summer afternoon, or random frost in December can wipe out an entire crop of something if you're not prepared. It's also been tough for us because we're competing with big, well established farms who have access to acres of land, machinery, and green house systems. Our farm is very mom and pop-ish compared to them because we're operating on such a small scale which sometimes hurts us, and at other times helps us.
What's been the biggest unexpected reward of farming?
The biggest, unexpected reward would probably be all the amazing people it's given us the opportunity to meet. Every time we've left a farmers market or just dropped off a delivery at a restaurant, we leave feeling great because we got the chance to help others nourish themselves and their families through a local, sustainable economy. We've made some great friends, learned some awesome growing/cooking tips, and have met a few characters along the way.
Any favorite summertime recipes?
One of our favorite summertime recipes is a pesto recipe with a twist. This recipe uses swiss chard instead of basil, and you also use cilantro, jalapeño, lime, and garlic. We found the recipe here: http://www.closetcooking.com/2012/02/swiss-chard-pesto.html and it goes great on a cold pasta, or on sweet potato tacos!
Where will we find you when you're not farming or at the markets?
When we're not farming or at a market we're spending time with our animals or families. We're big foodies so we love getting little treats from the farmers markets every week and getting to cook or bake something up with it at home. I'm currently going to school at the Southwest Institute of Healing Arts for a Transformational Psychology degree that focuses on holistic nutrition and urban farming. We also love staying active and making yummy green juices with veggies from the garden!
Any special summer tunes you're listening to right now to keep you energized out in the dirt?
Our average farming tunes usually consist of Mumford & Sons, The Black Keys, Passion Pit, or sometimes even a little Justin Timberlake! It varies from day to day, more relaxing days get more of a bluegrass feel while our hard work days require something more energetic to push us through.
Any fun future plans for Dynamic Farms in the coming months?
Right now we're currently working on expanding Dynamic Farms to an acre pasture over in Laveen where some friends of our have agreed to let us farm on a small portion of their land. Right now we're just using it to experiment with different growing methods to improve our knowledge but we hope to soon use it to provide more great produce for the markets and restaurants!
Find Dynamic Farms and more like them on Good Food Finder.
(Photos 1 and 3 by Jennifer Woods, 2 and 4 courtesy of Dynamic Farms)