MEET THE FARMER: Nathan Lou

An Article from our partners Farmers Footprint

Meet Nathan Lou of the Lou Family Farm and Founder of the non-profit organization, Mongol Tribe. @MongolTribe His experience expands the definition.

His acumen in land stewardship comes from working on a diverse set of soil canvases over the past 15 years ranging from a single pot on a sunny porch in urban San Diego (which started his farming journey) to managing ⅕ of an acre on his family’s land along with a sprinkling of other urban spaces.

Nathan recalls filling a small pot with fresh potting soil that would grow his first plant. It made him wonder how much fruit could grow from a single seed when grown in such a small container. In a single pot he chose to see the possibilities, instead of the limitations. This mindset became, and continues to be, a key differentiator in Nathan’s work. When he saw a gap in local offerings with markets flooded with vegetables, he set his focus to fruit trees and orchards and never looked back. Since then, he’s become an expert in seeing small spaces with potential to be fertile grounds and finding creative, regenerative solutions to produce the most rich and nutrient dense fruit from those small spaces.

The reason Nathan’s work spans so many small spaces isn’t by choice, but rather due to a lack of access to land due to the high cost in California. He has had to manage a mosaic of individual micro spaces which have culminated into enough managed land to cultivate a livelihood.

Land access continues to be the insurmountable barrier for new farmers to get a start. This blockage has caused farmers like Nathan to get creative. One acre might actually be composed of five or more plots of urban land, farmed lawns and gardens, and segments of family-owned land.

Currently, he has 1/5 of an acre in production at the Lou Family Farm which is a three year old garden that sits on his cousin’s land which has over 30 fruit trees and has produced nearly 50 different agricultural commodities.

“Blacks, Asians, and Hispanics largely make up the heart of agriculture and the barriers to get anywhere beyond field work or just pay for that work is the greatest struggle for those who most closely steward the land.”