By Nicole Billing
Albert Risemberg landed in Gulfport in 2013 after retiring from a long career as an airplane mechanic. He has since created Moon Landing Garden and Apiary, a sustainable urban homestead where he lives and thrives.
Tucked away in Gulfport, this lush paradise is home to many plants and animals – banana trees, chickens, greens, bluebell grapes, earthworms, bees, to name a few. Risemberg, 60, says he harvests a variety of foods and medicines from these organisms, providing for himself, the community and the earth.
His tried-and-true method of vermicomposting allows him to cultivate a rich soil for growing, a process that involves rearing composting earthworms and collecting their castings, or waste, to use as a natural fertilizer.
“I developed a system where for whatever I put in [as compost], I get back out at the worms’ waste, which is gold. Having worm casting is the standard of growing,” said Risemberg.
The result, Risemberg says, are succulent, healthy fruits, vegetables and plant life that Risemberg will give away, sell, eat, or throw back into the compost – a sustainable cycle.
“Nothing gets wasted; it’s all being used,” he said. “I’m trying to show people by example what you can do.”
Each jar of honey Risemberg cultivates from his wild hives declares, via its label, that it was “Gathered with Love”, but there are few things he loves more than his yoga practice.
“Yoga has become like a moral compass for me,” he said. “I treat life differently now.”
Risemberg uses what he has learned about sustainable living to teach yoga and agricultural classes in St. Pete and Gulfport. Recently he taught a vermicomposting course to members of the St. Pete Youth Farm.
The SPYF, an urban farm project at 1664 12th St. S., faced a setback earlier this year when Governor Ron DeSantis vetoed nearly $9 million in funding for local programs. They will not receive the $370,000 they requested in February.
But if you ask Carla Bristol, SPYF’s Collaboration Manager, that isn’t something to dwell on.
“[Not having the funds] prevents us from doing the expansion [into Hillsborough County]; it creates a scenario where we have to be a lot more nervous and focused on funding. But in any work such as this, that’s a perpetual effort,” Bristol said.
The farm got its start in 2019 thanks to local funding from the St. Pete Community Redevelopment Agency and Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg. Now, members of SPYF and the surrounding community are reaping the benefits of their hard work, watching as the initial plot of land blossoms into a fully functional urban farm.
“I’m not in any way shocked, surprised, or moved [by the loss of funding], I just know that I still have to wake up, come here, and work with our young people and let them know that they have a champion fighting for them every day,” said Bristol. “We live in a resilient community.”