Kevin Muno is a simple man, often in jeans, sometimes even a bucket cowboy hat on his head, often rides a bike and horses—and the simplicity of his life also echoes the simplicity of his ideas. And though he may not have come from Central California, the San Diegan by way of Los Angeles is asking for a farm.
Even four years as a Torero outfielder couldn’t pin the man down in sports.
Asking for a farm in today’s market is, when first meets the eye, a bit audacious: we have a time with rocketing land prices and, far more eyebrow-raising, a time where a governor-issued statewide drought was declared. But it precisely that latter issue—the drought—that Muno wants to tackle.
“When you mimic the natural ecology, you can use a significantly less amount of water than, say, a field of all almonds or a field of all avocados.”
“I have a drought-proof model that I think Californians might be interested in,” Muno says cooly.
Drought-tolerant farming practices, largely referred to as permaculture designs, are not necessarily anything new, having begun in Australia in the late 70s. And the idea is logical if not outright naturalistic in its approach: rather than the sprawling “monoculture” farms which grow one thing on massive parcels of land, one should look to the variety of things that are naturally growing in an area and cater to those multiple crops.
“We work with the local ecology,” Muno said. “Permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature… And with the majority of the world now living in urban centers, this can be a way feed places like Los Angeles and San Diego Counties.”
Part of the many issues with farming annual grains—soy, corn, wheat—is that the soil is tilled continuously—something which Muno claims “robs the lands of organic ingredients”—and eventually turns the land into desert (Dust Bowl or Fertile Crescent, anyone?).
It is not that permaculturists have not tried to implement their ideas—quite the contrary with some even to amusing degrees; but they have faced severe criticism in the eyes of Monsato-like monoculture monoliths, who not only fear the possible override of a monopoly on easily accessible grains but cite that not enough data is out there to support it (which means no money).
That’s where Muno’s project—through which his Kickstarter is only asking for a small start-up portion of the expected $500K to $600K that will be needed to actually launch the farm—becomes personal: his attitude is far less about seeing if it is possible rather than just making it possible.
Muno believes his keyline design—largely inspired by Australian farmer P.A. Yeomans and practiced by permaculturist David Holmgren which create ditches that creates an irrigation system for hill run-off—will be key in creating a sustainable farm. This water management system will then make way for mimicking the oak savannah biome in San Diego County: multiple layers of trees and shrubs which then make way for perennial grains like acorns, chestnuts, and hazelnuts, in addition to pomegranates, apples, raspberries, and vegetables. Livestock will also be introduced to “rotationally graze”—that is, graze but not to the point of annihilating the system—and thereby completing Muno’s own sustainable ecosystem.
“We work with the local ecology: permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature.”
“We can then not only sell grains to cities but also accommodate people who are searching for crossfit-friendly and Paleo-friendly, as well gluten-free communities,” Muno said.
But more importantly, besides what is being offered, is the structure.
“Oaks and chestnuts will be our tall trees while apples and pomegranates will be shorter; then we get into shrubby crops; and then brambles—each layer has its own function to play,” Muno said. “When you mimic the natural ecology, you can use a significantly less amount of water than, say, a field of all almonds or a field of all avocados.”
Muno has started his own Kickstarter and in less than two days, has already garnered over half of his initial $30K to upstart Montado Farms. If his dream (to start approaching that nearly million-dollar mark) to start a full-fledged operation comes true, Muno plans on spreading his perennial grain and healthy grub from Santa Barbara on down.