Though she is growing in garden-size plots, Linda Borghi thinks of herself as a farmer. At her backyard-based Abundant Life Farm, in Walker Valley, NY, her growing recipe is equal parts SPIN-Farming, biodynamics and terraced gardening. Carved out of a wooded hillside, this 58 year old got her 20,000 sq.ft. farm was up and operational in 6 months. Though records aren’t kept on how quickly farms can be created, this must be some sort of record. Her motto is “no excuses!” If she can convert a rock strewn hill into a productive farm in 6 months, you can grow wherever you were planted, too.

Q: Your interest in farming traces back to your grandmother, right?

A: Yes, I lived with her outside of Venice when I was 7 years old. The first day I arrived she said, “If you are hungry, go out and catch a chicken.” Coming from the world of fine art dealers in midtown Manhattan, that was not in my skill set.

Q: How’d you do?

A: Not well. I was out in the yard for what seemed like hours, though being young, everything seemed longer. Finally she came out of the house and was a little aggravated. Without even looking she picked up a chicken and twisted its neck. We went into the house, she cleaned the chicken soup and before long we were sitting down to a bowl of chicken soup. After that I followed her around like a goddess.

Q: But the road to Abundant Life Farm was a winding one?

A: Yes.  My first career was managing 4 star restaurants on the upper east side of New York, including La Grenouille, and Bruno’s. But, I always felt like a farmer managing restaurants. I liked physical work, and just wasn’t cut out to sit behind a desk. I became burned out working in New York and wanted to live a different lifestyle.

Q: We have heard that before.

A: My husband and I went to Block Island RI for our tenth anniversary, and that was it. I knew this was the place we were looking for and that we just had to live there.

Q: And that is where you became a cheesemaker?

A: Yes, I was the only farm in the country with a “herd” of one cow to be licensed to sell cheese to the public.

Q: Now that’s artisanal!

A: I always was ahead of my time.

SF photo Linda Borghi in SPIN bed

Linda Borghi grows lettuce in a 1,000 sq. ft. garden space and makes $3.000 from just that one crop. She also grows garlic, drys it and sells it online for $3 per head.

Q: You were a bit of homesteader, too, right?

A: I had 23 sheep. I raised the sheep for wool. I sheared them, carded and spun the wool, and then made sweaters, scarves and hats for sale. And I had a flock of 50 Rhode Island Reds. I grew crops on a/14 acre by hand.

Q: What made you return to the mainland?

A: My daughter entered high school, and we wanted her to go to one that had more than one room. So we returned to Bergen County NJ, my home turf. We had a 75 x 11 foot lot. Burpee must have thought I had a palatial palace by all the seeds I bought. Every square inch of our property had something growing on it.   From there I also managed 26 Costco wholesale locations in 6 states for their cut flower business.

Q: And that led you to biodynamics farming? Tell us about that.

A: The cut flower industry is very chemical intensive, and I know there had to be a better alternative. I was the first intern to be accepted at the Pfeiffer Center for Biodynamic Agriculture in Chestnut Ridge, NY.  In that first year, I helped them transform it from a junk yard into a garden of eden following Dr. Rudolph Steiner’s principles. For a long time I had a sense that a plant was not just physical, that it had a spiritual side to it. I had had different encounters in my life with the plant world that were not normal, sensing the nature spirits, having them around me, seeing them. But I didn’t share this with many people because then you are verifiably nuts.

Q:  This is Garden Heroes. We understand.

A: I do feel like I am no longer like a fish swimming against the current. More and more people are coming to me to learn about biodynamics and SPIN-Farming. So Abundant Life Farm is becoming a  training center for these two practices.

Q: I guess being named Queen of Manure by the Orange County magazine helped get your name out there.

A: Yes. Like flies to, well, you know.

Q: You went from forest to farm in 6 months. How?

A: We cleared a half-acre of hillside and terraced it in SPIN’s standard size beds, which are 2 ‘ wide by 25’ long. I had 150 yards of composted cow manure delivered, and with the use of biodynamic sprays and preparations, including “Three Kings Preparations.” the worms started showing up within weeks.

Q: What do you grow?

A: What don’t I grow? (See below)

Q: You also spoke at a gathering on “Food, Famine and the Future of Food Technology” at the United Nations in 2009. What was your point?

A: My point was that we are doing it all wrong. We have to grow the food where we are and we have to eat the food where it is growing.

Q: That was 4 years ago. Do you see progress?

A: Big time. People want to know what color their farmer’s eyes are. And they are coming from far away to Abundant Life Farm to buy from someone they trust and so they can see how their food is being grown. They are using their choicemakers, and creating the reality they want, not the one they were given.

Linda Borghi’s Backyard Crops

  • Beans 1500 year old cave
  • Beans Aquadulce
  • Beans dragon tongue
  • Beans Four Corners Runner
  • Beans Heavyweight ll
  • Beans Kentucky Wonder
  • Beans Provider Green
  • Beans Roma ll
  • Beans Tekomari
  • Beans tenderpod
  • Broccoli Health Plus
  • Brussel Sprouts Roodnerf
  • Cabbage Early Jersey Wakefield
  • Cabbage Early Jersey Wakefield
  • Cabbage Golden Acre
  • Carrot scarlet keeper
  • Carrot tendersweet
  • Celery Pascal Giant
  • Celery Dorato d’Asti
  • Corn Bearpaw Popcorn
  • Cucumber Cetriolino Beth Alpha
  • Dandelion Red Rib
  • Fennel Fennel
  • Flowers Morning Glory
  • Flowers Bleeding Heart
  • Flowers Safflower Zanzibar
  • Flowers Iris Blue Flag
  • Flowers Liatris gayfeather
  • Flowers Yarrow
  • Flowers Yarrow Official
  • Flowers Dusty Miller
  • Flowers Columbine, wild
  • Flowers Chamomile, Dyers
  • Flowers Daisy, Oxeye
  • Flowers Bleeding Heart, Fringed Pink
  • Flowers Ballonflower
  • Flowers Skullcap, Baical
  • Flowers Skullcao, Barbat
  • Flowers Skullcap, Official
  • Flowers Mallow, High
  • Flowers Hollyhock, Breitenbush
  • Flowers Chinese lantern
  • Flowers Khella
  • Flowers Passionflower, Official
  • Flowers Four o’Clocks
  • Flowers Calendula
  • Gourd Hopi Rattle
  • Grains Ethiopoan
  • Grains Quinoa
  • Grains Quinoa, Red Fargo
  • Herbs Calendula
  • Herbs corriander
  • Herbs dill
  • Herbs Lemon Balm
  • Herbs Valerian
  • Herbs Tansy
  • Herbs Bouquet Dill
  • Kale asparagus
  • Kohlrabi Purple Vienna
  • Leek Winter Giant
  • Lettuce Australian Yellow Leaf
  • Lettuce Brown Winter
  • Lettuce Cicoria
  • Lettuce green leaf
  • Lettuce Green Romaine pelletted
  • Lettuce Green Summer Crisp pelletted
  • Lettuce Jeanne
  • Lettuce Red Romaine pelleted
  • Mellons Hopi Yellow
  • Mellons Pike’s
  • Mellons Sardo di Zio Franco
  • Mellons Sugar Baby
  • Mint Peppermint
  • Mint Spearment
  • Parsley Italian
  • Pepper California Wonder
  • Pepper Healthy
  • Pepper Early Jalapeno Hot
  • Pumpkin Atlantic Giant
  • Pumpkin Kakai naked seeded
  • Sage Common
  • Sage New Mexico
  • Spinach Bloomsdale
  • Spinach Covair
  • Spinach Frog Hill
  • Spinach Tyee
  • Squash butternut
  • Squash Crookneck, early golden summer
  • Squash sugarloaf
  • Tomato Amish Salad
  • Tomato Black Cherry
  • Tomato Galina’s Yellow Cherry
  • Tomato Peacevine cherry
  • Tomato Pearly Pink
  • Tomato Slavia
  • Tomato Andrew Raharts Jumbo Red
  • Tomato Beefsteak
  • Tomato, Plum Black
  • Tomato, Plum Ropreco Paste

Find out more about the growing plan and business model  Linda Borghi uses here.  If you’re not ready to go all-in just yet, get a taste of what starting a backyard-scale farming business is like from our members like Linda with a month-to-month membership here.

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