A decade ago, environmentally friendly business practices brought to mind roadside fruit and vegetable stands and arts & craft fairs. But today, earth-conscience consumers are embracing their hippie heritage at the Alamo City’s own FARM. Think homemade art, live jam sessions (local acts autosuggestion, Aly Tadros, and Mira Radar are a few of the musicans who’ve recorded at FARM), organic produce, and good causes all rolled into one eco-friendly venue.
Owner Matt Ahern had much to say about the endless possibilities of mixing art with music and food (a juggling act he couldn’t accomplish without help from his go-to girl for everything under the sun, Sarah Weeks) and the future potential of green business.
What is FARM?
FARM is a recording studio, art space, and organic garden. We have listening-style music shows and art shows that focus on root-level education. We wanted to create a space for local artists to mix music, art, food, and fun, and help the environment in the process.
What made you want to start a recording studio?
I was a media major in San Francisco and I used to play jazz music on the graveyard shift at KUSF, 90.3FM, a college radio program. It’s strikingly similar to KSYM, 90.1FM. I would play everything from Sound Tribe Sector 9 and Phish to Galactic and 20th Congress. I just always wanted to be involved with music and I started playing all the time. I decided to build a studio so I could record myself and help friends record their music.
You also host art shows here. Tell us a little about that.
I just wanted a place where artists could connect with the community and other artists. We mix art installations with performances and gatherings. I’d like to have more organic art in here, but it just hasn’t happened yet.
Do you get much recycled art in here?
Not much, but at the last Earth Day event, we had homemade arts & crafts. Vanessa Reveles is a local designer `of the clothing line Paris Ann` who makes her own clothes and bags. We’ve had people giving massages, DJs, Texas Farm to Table came and made food for everyone. We also had demonstrations, like how to grow your own vegetable garden and how to make enchiladas with a solar cooker.
What exactly is a solar enchilada cooker?
It’s just using the energy from the sun to boil water, and you can pretty much cook anything. The weather here is great for that.
You also have your own organic garden. What’s growing back there?
We have everything from basil to pumpkins. We’re going to have a hoedown and invite people to come help us harvest the goods and cook a big dinner for everyone.
Sounds yummy. Seems like you don’t need to spend much on food around here. So, how does FARM define sustainability?
We still buy a lot of stuff, but we reuse and recycle everything we can. I would define sustainability through permaculture — it’s being able to put back what you took. You don’t have to live a life that takes from future generations.
With companies like Wal-Mart and CPS leading the ecocharge, do you think it’s tough to be in business in today’s global economy if you’re not doing big business like those two?
That’s the beauty of it for the little guy. We can always make wise choices without a huge financial burden if we choose to. Companies like Wal-Mart and CPS have the power and financial backing to do a lot more than they are. Big business sometimes succumbs to the golden handcuff rule, where they spend money on equipment and technology but don’t necessarily get all the life out of it before spending more money on the newest thing that comes along, and it doesn’t have to be this way. •
it ain’t easy going green
After visiting FARM, we decided that creating an organic garden was hard work; from choosing the right compost to selecting the proper material needed to construct a greenhouse there’s a lot of work to be done ... and possibly a few flubs to be made. But if you play your recycled cards right, you may reap the benefits (even if its only a few dollars) like FARM SA’s Matt Ahern.
While Ahern’s backyard is slowly turning into a pumpkin patch, there is a small area of basil (his key money-maker) growing around a palm tree. Ahern’s organically grown basil is now being used at Oloroso, a local Mediterranean-style restaurant. Although selling his produce isn’t quite Ahern’s bread and butter yet, it is earning him upwards of $15-18 per bushel he bikes over to the Southtown restaurant. Growing the goods isn’t that difficult with basil, Ahern said but when it comes to other plants that’s a different story.
Ahern swears by Garden-Ville, where he purchases organically grown compost he uses throughout the garden. But if you prefer a more DIY approach, here’s a few basic tips to create your own organic garden:
· Avoid artifical manure and opt for the real deal. Mix the dung with natural compost for your very own homemade compost.
· Try a natural method to fix those pesticide problems, like garlic-based insecticide and fungicides. Garlic is touted as being a natural insect and pest repellant.
· Don’t just opt for fruits or veggies — do both! In fact, throw some ornamental plants in the mix, too. The more of a variety your garden has the more beneficial-type insects will be drawn to it as well.