Although neither Maggie nor Adam Pounds have an agricultural background, they both enjoy people and sharing their gifts with others. In 2015, they started an adventure – running a small micro farm in an urban area.
The couple began growing vegetables on the lawn of their apartment complex and cultivating micro greens in the building’s basement. Eventually they bought a small parcel of land and began growing all types of vegetables – from zucchini to bok choy to Shishito peppers.
The Pounds are part of a growing nationwide movement of farmers wanting to provide others with local, sustainable goods.
In Kansas in 2017, according to the U.S. Census, there were a little more than 2,500 farms with nine acres or less of land. These farms make up approximately 4% of the farmers in Kansas.
Vegetable farms are increasing in Kansas, but they are using less acreage to grow their vegetables on. According to the census, from 2012 to 2017 there was a change in both land and farmers. During that five-year period there was a 12% decrease in land these farmers grew vegetables on, while at the same time there was a 12% increase in the amount of vegetable farms in the state.
This trend is similar nationally — but to a lesser extent. Nationally, the vegetable farms increased by 2%, while the land they tended decreased by 4%.
The Pounds, who run Simple Abundance Farm in the warehouse district of South Hutchinson, Kansas, farm on one acre. They are able to keep their farm stand going year round because of high tunnels, which they obtained through an NRCS grant through the USDA.
"People starting farms tend to be small scale," said Maggie, who is also president of the Central Kansas Young Farmers Coalition. "We wanted to build a farm around sustainability and good environmental practices."
The coalition, which started last year, also gives the Pounds a sense of belonging. The group’s mission is to create community, learn from one another, build each other up and collectively assemble a healthier community.
Starting out, Maggie and Adam purchased a dilapidated parking lot, which was loaded with gravel. They dumped tons of soil and mulch onto the land and rejuvenated the soil through non-chemical means.
Eventually, they bought a house adjacent to the property and opened a farm stand and industrial kitchen nearby.
"We just decided we wanted to settle down and do something sustainable," Adam said. "We wanted to work outdoors and provide healthy food."
In addition to growing a full array of greens, tomatoes and squash, the couple has expanded into garlic. One of their neighbors, a machine shop was tired of seeing his land adjacent to his business fill up with weeds. He offered to let Maggie and Adam use the small plot for vegetables. Now the lot contains 400 feet of garlic.
"We’re trying to get as much life back into the soil as we can," Adam said.
The Pounds are cleaning up the inner city, showing their neighbors how to grow inventively, and use regenerative agriculture to build up the soil. They are also providing a place for other farmers to sell their goods.
Maggie makes hummus and sauerkraut in their industrial kitchen. She hopes to eventually increase the product line. In addition to selling locally roasted coffee, Simple Abundance sells sourdough bread, soap and kombucha – all from local entrepreneurs.
"We wanted to create a space for local growers to share," Maggie said. "It’s been really great."
Other micro farmers sell at farmers markets or have a buying cooperative. The Pounds started at a farmers market, but now they rely solely on the locked farm stand they operate. Each person that takes a tour of the farm stand is given a special code and is able to buy products from early morning until late at night.
Because of COVID-19, Simple Abundance has increased their customer base. Now at more than 400 members, the couple works hard to fill the small market’s shelves.
"We’re a farm growing for our farm stand and our farm stand serves our customers," Adam said. "Part of the beauty of urban farming is that you’re a part of the community."