Ebony S. Muhammad (EM): What is Muhammad Organic Farms and what types of produce does it provide? What is your certification and how did farming become a passion of yours?
Ray J. Muhammad (RJM): Muhammad Organic Farms is an Urban Farm located in the inner city of Houston, Texas. We provide all types of produce that can be grown in this region and in the current season. I’m currently a Certified Organic Gardening Specialist, and I just recently graduated from Growing Powers five month course in Urban Farming.
Farming became a passion of mine by having the desire to be a servant for the people, and God lead me in this direction. About five years ago I decided I was going to help Brother Kelvin Muhammad on his dairy farm, which at that time located in Alvin, Texas. While I was there, I decided I didn’t like cows; therefore, I looked for something else. I decided I’ll try helping out in the garden. That’s where it started.
EM: Recently we’ve seen an increase in the general population growing their own foods and taking an active role in living healthier lives. However, not everyone resides in a house with a backyard for such gardens. How can people who live in apartments or townhomes facilitate organic gardens?
RJM: Container gardening is the way if you are in a apartment or a townhome with a porch or balcony. The good thing about container gardening is you can use any container. Just put hole at the bottom to drain water.
EM: There are countless products that have “organic” on the label. Are organic items in the grocery store 100% safe? How can we be sure that what we are buying is indeed certified organic?
RJM: The USDA requires 70% organic ingredients to be labeled
“made with organic ingredients” and for it to be labeled organic. To use the USDA organic seal it has to be 95% organic. Yet, last year I read an article stating that the USDA had been missing some of the inspections, so the best thing to do and to know that it’s 100% organic is to grow it yourself.
EM: How much time and manual labor is involved when considering building an organic garden? How expensive is it? Does Muhammad Organic Farms build gardens if time or ability is an issue? What are the details in this service?
RJM: The amount of time and work you have to put in depends on how many raised beds you construct. So it could be anywhere from 5 minutes a day or an hour. It is not that expensive at all; less than $40 a bed. Starting in August we will be offering a service where we would come build and maintain your bed.
EM: The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan declared 2011 to be the Year of the Farm. What exactly does this mean and how are you taking an active role in supporting the efforts of Minister Farrakhan (i.e. workshops, classes, etc.)?
RJM: When I heard the Minister say that this was the year of the farm, I was so excited I had tears in my eyes. To hear that what I was doing and planning to do was right in line with the time was amazing. In that same lecture he talked about the health effects of eating foods with these high levels of pesticide residue, which illustrated to me that the people needed to learn this information so that they can make informed decisions about the food they consume. So at Muhammad Organic Farms we offer seasonal classes and workshops to help people understand the pros of growing and eating organic foods.
EM: How can we learn more about organic/urban gardening? How may the readers contact you?
RJM: Beside the classes that we offer, which we will be offering on a monthly bases starting in September 2011, there are plenty of YouTube videos and books that they can get information from.
I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and at Facebook.com/muhammadorganicfarm
EM: Thank you very much, and may Allah (God) continue to bless you!