How did Rocky Park Farm start?
Rocky Park Farm was born out of Jim and Phyllis Kirksey’s love for plants, food, and community. When they bought the land in 1999 they did not know it would grow into Rocky Park Farm. Both always enjoyed working with plants and taking care of them on a smaller greenhouse scale. Slowly they expanded their garden on the property, and eventually had a greenhouse to keep growing food during the winter. In 2013 the Kirksey’s vision for the farm grew to be a place where great all-natural food could be produced for the local community and people could be taught about sustainable agriculture.
They knew Hector Marroquin, an agriculturist who had extensive knowledge of the industry and who had himself grown up on a farm. When Hector joined the Rocky Park team his ideas and experience helped to shape the future of Rocky Park Farm.
“I came to the United States in 2000, and have known Jim for 10 years. I had this vision of growing organic produce, a farm where people can come and enjoy picking vegetables and fruit, an experience that really isn’t normal any more. There’s not many farms left where families can come and see how cows are milked, how cheese is made, how to grow vegetables, and pick berries. We noticed this way of life is becoming more popular in the US again, people are looking back and missing the way things used to be.”
That’s part of Rocky Park Farm’s business concept, to invite people to experience this food growing culture. This also provides all natural produce to a community that is lacking it. In the grocery stores, it’s often so expensive to buy organic food, and this causes there to be many people who want to eat well but can’t afford it. The process of getting that produce is not sustainable either, there is so much fuel that gets burned just to get it across the country.
The Kirksey’s wanted to educate people on what true all natural produce is like, and learn how to do it in a sustainable way. They want to incorporate the local schools and colleges to learn this process. It’s not common for agricultural schools or programs to teach the process of doing it all naturally and from scratch. Students visiting the farm would have the ability to experience the whole journey starting from the seed to the harvest at the end. Colleges have students who come from all over the world, and everyone at Rocky Park Farm feels that working with them has been a great experience because, in a way, they are looking for the same things they value. They believe that it is very important to integrate a multicultural way of life at the farm, and to experience each other’s varying cultures.
Design at Rocky Park Farm
Daliana Mendez arrived at Rocky Park Farm in April 2015 after earning her degree in architecture in her home country of Venezuela. She came to Rocky Park in the pursuit of an opportunity that would provide experience with sustainable design in her everyday life. In her words she was,
“really lucky, because I found a family and school in my work at the same time. I have been able to learn a new language, share with other cultures, and practice new, sustainable and ecological technics to produce veggies. In my case, Rocky Park is that place and that opportunity that I have to learn, work, create, build and do the things that I always want to do, helping people to see and understand the importance of production and sensitive food consumption.”
Since being at Rocky Park Daliana has been able to utilize her architecture and design skills in a number of ways, including designing The Stand at the farm.
What truly drives Rocky Park Farm is doing something good for their community, and educating people about the different ways to produce the food they eat. Not only do they make sure their food is all natural, but also that the farm stays on the path of sustainability by recycling and reusing as many of the materials they use in their process. They have established an agronomic system, in which everything that comes out of the fields goes to the compost. Nothing gets wasted, not even water. This unique process allows the farm to grow several different types of produce. They use hay to cover up their strawberries, as well as for weed control. Throughout the year it rots and gets incorporated into the soil. It’s a system they have plans to grow overtime to become even more sustainable. They want to set up solar panels for sustainable energy that they are able to produce on their own, and are also exploring the possibility of using windmills.
What excites us the most about Rocky Park Farm?
In the words of Jim Kirksey:
“The extended family we have is the most wonderful part of it all. It always feels like there’s a party when we all get together. We enjoy seeing all the produce grow, but the most important part to us is the family and community we are starting. The best experience for us is to get to take what we have produced into our hands, cook it, and make it into an event for everyone to get together and eat. It’s such an exciting part of the process. We wanted to create a place that wouldn’t only be for one culture, or just vegans or vegetarians. We wanted everyone to be able to experience the best food in their every day lives. Where everyone can walk in and have a great meal. We are excited to continue to grow our business to make our vision of this farm come alive. It’s an opportunity that’s worth taking a risk for, and we have great plans for the future with our strong and talented team. We want to invite people to get together and be a part of the family we have formed, and community we are growing. We hope the farm will become a destination place that is centered around food, and most importantly, family. Because that’s where we all come from.”