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Meet Joy Joyce

Today we’d like to introduce you to Joy Joyce.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
At the beginning, I didn’t have dreams of becoming a vegetable farmer. My first desire was to become a landscape designer. I studied Ornamental Horticulture in high school. I have art in my blood, whether it be singing, drawing, crafting or landscaping. My love of being outdoors and working with my two best tools (my hands) gave me the assurance that landscaping was the right path for me.

I spent a brief period of time working alongside a landscape designer and realized how much of what they do is behind a drawing board, not in the field. This quickly re-directed my future career path.

In the interim, I returned to the restaurant business where I had started when I was 16. Eventually, I became a restaurant manager. About five years into my career, my father passed away from terminal cancer. This shook my world. During his service, my mother placed a token from each of us kids in my father’s suit pocket. My token was a small wooden saw that I had painted as a child. On this saw, I had painted a farm scene, ironic? Soon after I had health challenges of my own and knew I needed to spend more time outdoors and feel Mother Nature’s healing presence. I searched google for days looking for any way I could volunteer in an outdoor setting. I didn’t care if it was a nursery, conservation group or farming. I was desperate. In 2013, I stumbled across Apricot Lane Farms (an organic, bio-dynamic & regenerative farm) and learned about their garden volunteer program. My first day of volunteering felt like a dream. I couldn’t believe such a place existed here on earth and only a short distance from my home. I learned of the connection between soil health and the similarities of our gut micro-biome. I continued to volunteer as I had the time and silently whispered (what I thought was a pipe dream) to the universe, asking that I might be a part of this world-changing endeavor.

In 2014, I received an e-mail from the garden team lead at Apricot Lane Farms, asking if I was still interested in becoming a farmer. I must have fallen off my chair! Without even a thought in my mind, I called, set up the interview, accepted the job and then told my husband. Some must have thought me crazy to leave a very stable career path for a farming career. However, my loving mother and amazing husband supported me 100%. I have been blessed to be on a path of learning holistic healing through growing food that is nurtured by healthy soil. In addition, I’m able to utilize my artistic skills through planting and maintaining the garden. What I have found to be the most fundamental part of what I do, is overseeing the volunteer program. I meet so many incredible people who all seem to be on a path to finding a deeper connection to life, health, and nature. This is priceless. I am a teacher and a student all at the same time. Farming is a lifetime of learning (as is life) and I’m happy to be lifetime student.

Please tell us about your art.
I am a novice organic, bio-dynamic vegetable farmer. That being said, truly what I am is a farmer of soil. The soil is my palette. My paint is compost and organic amendments and holistic sprays. My brushes come in the form of shovels, rakes, pruners and cultivating tools. Most artists (at least graphics) would provide a rough sketch or have a plan before jumping right into the painting. I too have to plan the entire garden in advance, accounting for varieties, height of different crops, dates to maturity, seasons, row spacing and cost of supplies. There is much to be taken into account, especially the beauty of the garden and nutrition of the food. The post-harvest and of course the flavor of the food is where you can get a taste (pun intended) of some of my art skills. Whether it be assembling an edible flower pack or an herb bouquet, I pour love into every aspect of what I do! My hope is the food that we grow is nourishing for the body and the soul.

And the bio-dynamic side brings another element into the equation. Bio-dynamics, in a nutshell, is seeing the entire farm as a single living and breathing organism. We must work with nature to assist maintaining balance of her ecosystem. For instance, we have many native perennial plants as a border around the garden which we maintain. This border is a natural habitat for beneficial predator insects and pollinators, such as bees, ladybugs, lace wings, earwigs and praying mantises, not to mention it looks absolutely stunning! Think of this border of plants as your immune system. From time to time we all get sick, colds and flu, you name it. But the reason we have an immune system is to defend our bodies and to attack all the bad guys. If our immune system is compromised, this can delay the healing process or worse. However, if you are giving your body what it needs with proper nutrition, exercise, etc….your body should be stable, or at least strong enough to fight against possible intruders. Without these beneficial habitats, we can only hope that these precious creatures will come to our aid in our time of need. I have seen the bio-dynamic practices and their effects first hand and can tell you that while no system is perfect, this is undoubtedly the way nature intended it to be.

To me, farming is an art of the soul. I have met others from many different walks of life who love growing food and gardening. I sense that gardening is an art form for more than artists. Gardening means wanting a connection with life, nature, and community. Gardening is about a desire for balance, which requires being observant. So push away the idea that it takes a green thumb to farm and get out there and get dirty! Get connected!

We often hear from artists that being an artist can be lonely. Any advice for those looking to connect with other artists?
I’m not sure that lonely quite describes my experience an artist. I’m sure you have all heard the saying “it takes a village”. In my line of work, as a farmer, it does take a team to make the dream happen. I would say to those artists who are finding their profession lonely, find a way to branch out and connect with others. I once invited a co-worker and an old friend to start a sketch group. We went to the Ventura harbor, grabbed our sketch pads and just hung out on the grass sketching whatever our hearts desired: the people walking around, each other, dogs, the harbor. I by no means consider myself a good sketch artist, but I don’t take myself so seriously that I can’t have fun trying new things and best of all connect with others.

Sometimes being an artist is overwhelming. There are moments when I have so many ideas in my head and so many projects that I want to tackle, that I literally feel like I may explode. But it’s exciting and I am totally and completely blessed to have these abilities. Time has given me a new attitude and outlook on life and I see my talents as the gifts they are.

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
Currently, Apricot Lane Farms products can be found at four Farmers’ Markets. Thursday we are in Thousand Oaks, Saturday in Calabasas and Sunday we are at two locations: Mar Vista and Santa Monica. We send products to Erewhon Calabasas, LA, Venice and Santa Monica in addition to a few small markets and restaurants that add our product to specials. Those restaurant’s include: Pedaler’s Fork in Calabasas, Melisse in Santa Monica, Follow Your Heart in Conoga Park, Farmshop in Brentwood, Gjusta and Gjelina. We also have some catering and private chefs that come directly to the farm to pick up product. Chef Laurent Quenioux is one of our biggest supporters, as he uses our product for many of his pop up dinners at MaMaison. Be sure to attend one of his amazing dinners, it’s a lifetime experience! Miss Kate’s uses our product for her some of her catering events.

I encourage everyone to come volunteer in the garden! We have projects for all experience levels. You will feel as though you are in a different world!

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
John Chester, Sandra Keats, Ainhoa Hardy, John Amis, Apricot Lane Farms

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