Whisper Farms
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WHISPER FARMS

A Backyard CoopErative


 
 

Whisper Farms is a cooperative of local urban growers with locations in Pasadena, Altadena, and Sierra Madre. Our mission is to support local and sustainable urban agriculture and to serve as a community development resource.

We’re a diverse group of city dwellers, bringing our backyards together to provide fresh produce to farmer’s markets and local restaurants.

We think gardening is the great way to get exercise, eat healthy, make friends, and challenge yourself physically and mentally, in a never-ending search for wellness.

 
 
 
 
 
 

How We Grow

A Sustainable Approach

 

 

At Whisper Farms, we utilize hydroponics, water gardens, wicking soil beds, and food forestry to grow food on a backyard scale.

Our farms emphasize a thoughtful approach to growing fruits and vegetables.  This means taking a hard look at both conventional and organic growing methods, selecting ideas that work and are safe, and avoiding other practices that harm the environment. If you are too conventional, you risk destroying the life of the soil; if you are too organic, you risk not being productive enough to make the farm economically sustainable.

How we grow with both soil and water:

Soil is the most important part of gardening, and it is our belief that soils must not be excessively disturbed, such as through tilling, applying toxic materials, and baked in full sun. The hardest part to growing food in Southern-California is the fact that for most of the year, it’s inhospitably hot.

Here’s how we beat the heat:

  1. We build shadehouses, not greenhouses. Shadecloth, and the metal pipe structures we bungee them to can reduce summer air temperatures by 15 degrees F, allowing tender leafy veggies to grow without too much stress.  

  2. We use multiple water-saving techniques to reduce water usage, which includes wicking beds, hydroponics, composting, and dew harvesting.  With these growing methods, we use ~90% less water than with traditional farming techniques.

How we fertilize our plants:

  1. We fertilize our veggies primarily with a hydroponic mineral-based fertilizer (containing 12 essential minerals for plant growth), solar dehydrated ocean water fertilizer (containing 90 trace minerals), and a silica fertilizer to increase plant cell wall strength.  

  2. In addition, our veggies and fruit trees/vines are given generous amounts of compost that we generate on-site through kitchen scraps, crop residues, and mulches. We view composting/mulching as a long-term way to regenerate nutrient-rich soil and hydroponic minerals as a short-term tool which can be used to generate biomass and build soil.

How we deal with weeds/pests/disease

  1. All weeds/plants out of place in our gardens we pull by hand.  In many of our hydroponic growing areas, weeding is not needed b/c it is growing in water.

  2. The three main pests we get in our gardens throughout the year are the cabbage looper (green caterpillars), aphids, and spider mites.  We encourage beneficial predators to help reduce the population of these pests by having plants that provide nectar to predatory insects as well as offering hanging seeds for wild birds.  We will occasionally get pest damage on our veggies, which is something we tolerate, and the veggies can grow out of this if they are healthy.

  3. We have learned that the main reason plants typically get diseases is because of too much/too little sunlight, water, and nutrition, which is why we focus on growing healthy plants to prevent disease.

Where we get our seeds from:

  1. We order all of our seeds from Johnnyseeds.com, which is an employee-owned seed company based in Maine.  We have never used and do not plan to use GMO (genetically-modified organisms) seeds, and to our knowledge Johnny’s does not sell them.  Whenever possible, we order OG (organic) seeds from Johnny’s seeds. We also save our seeds from year-to-year, making our veggies more specific to our region.


Want to dive deeper? Visit Farmer Mike’s “Words of a Farmer” for more in-depth articles.

 
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Meet the Team

The Farmers

 

 
 
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Scott Henley and Mary Anna Soifer

Scott and his mother Mary are the founders of Whisper Farms, acting as benefactors and guides to the cooperative. As former residents of Hawaii, they were inspired by aquaponics farms they observed there, and began their own aquaponics operation at their residences in Pasadena/Altadena, selling greens and fish at the Altadena Farmers Market.  Through workshops and farm tours, they discovered neighboring backyard farmers who teamed up with them. Eventually Scott decided to focus more on teaching agriculture at public schools, while allowing the cooperative to grow.


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Michael Wood

“Mike” is an LA-born naturalist and plant scientist trained at Citrus College and Cal Polytechnic University.  He is a stay-at-home dad, urban farmer, and vegetable vendor at the Atwater Village Farmers market. Mike spent much of his youth in the Bitterroot Valley of Montana, where he developed a love of rivers, forests, and wildlife.  He discovered Whisper Farms through a series of farm tours/workshops hosted by Rishi Kumar, founder of the Growing Home and Sarvodaya Farms.


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Edwin Tomyoy

Edwin is a Trinidadian-born trilingual chef who came to Los Angeles in his youth to continue his family’s restaurant business. He later became a school teacher, solar-panel aficionado, and gardener. Edwin is constantly gardening and cooking at his home in S. Pasadena, always willing to share his recipes and farming techniques with the younger generations.  Edwin is an active grower and vendor for Whisper Farms at the Atwater Village Farmers Market.


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DAN Farnam

Dan is a Chicago-born Hollywood cinematographer, drone pilot, market gardener/compost builder, and vegan, who travels the world to film/photograph farming operations and much more. Dan joined Whisper Farms to get his kids more involved in growing veggies and cooking at home.


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Dr. Brian Blackburn, PhD

Brian is a Chicago-born clinical physiologist, vegan chef, and MMA fighter, whose primary focus is counseling others with chronic illness (heart disease, diabetes, and cancer) on how to use a plant-based diet and exercise to help reverse disease. Brian has been a benefactor to the expansion of Whisper Farms backyard locations, and heads The Plant Based Riot podcast.