You might think it unlikely that a farmer as grounded as Michael Clark of Planet Earth Diversified would get his inspiration from the spaceship Apollo 13. But if you take a tour of his farm, you'll see just how technology and careful engineering play into every aspect of its production.
Michael Clark of Planet Earth Diversified
photo by Susanna Byrd
As a child, Mike learned how astronauts recycle every resource within a spacecraft’s closed environment. This inspired him, and today he is in charge of a nuanced farming operation that lets no good thing go to waste.
Planet Earth Diversified has been in operation since 1975 — long before terms like “local food” and “sustainable agriculture” were common lingo. Since then, the farm has evolved to include several acres of seasonal crops and multiple greenhouses that host a remarkable diversity of life: arugula, tomatoes, basil, sorrel, micro-greens, and even citrus trees.
In the winter, Mike heats his greenhouses with a generator that runs off of used motor and cooking oil. His greens grow in a hydroponic system — designed to constantly recycle water and nutrients. Mike has even shared the farm’s homemade electricity, water and refrigeration with the his neighbors during power outages. “We would all be in the dark, hungry and with no water if [the community] hadn’t supported us,” he explains.
Planet Earth Diversified is evidence that small-scale agriculture can be modern and innovative, while maintaining a very real connection to people and place. “The best way of taking care of the earth is to have everybody invested in it,” says Mike. Though there is no end to the hard work (i.e. 3am checkups on greenhouse temperatures), there is the pleasure of being outdoors and that crisp, lemony taste of fresh sorrel — indicators of a well-chosen profession and a job well done.