We started growing our own food to prove to ourselves that we could nourish ourselves with the healthiest, most sustainable, nutrient dense food that was possible. Almost immediately, friends, neighbors, and others began to ask how we do what we do. We started Urban Farm Plans to assist others in starting their own edible gardens and urban farms and empower them to adopt a similar lifestyle.
To understand why we feel such a draw to this lifestyle and our work, it is beneficial to understand our upbringing. We (Eriks and Andrejs Brolis) are brothers who grew up in the DC Metro area, but we are rooted in our Latvian heritage from which many of our values stem. Latvia is a small country whose homes are still built in large part from timber felled in the surrounding forests and many families still collectively share the burden and bounty of the garden. In Latvian culture, connecting with the land and utilizing the available natural resources is of the utmost importance and value.
This is how we were raised. At a very young age, our father taught us the ancient trade of carpentry, which he had learned from his father, who learned it from his, and so on for a countless number of generations. This translates into our understanding of simple, functional design to support our gardening and farming efforts. We also learned farming, sustainability, and resourcefulness directly from our grandparents who arrived in the United States as refugees after fleeing their Latvian homeland during World War II.
We are proud of our Latvian heritage and as such the Urban Farm Plans logo showcases one of the most ancient Latvian pagan symbols (called a “Jumis”). The “Jumis” symbol is meant to directly evoke the form of crossed stalks of grain just prior to harvest, when the berries are ripe and heavy, causing them to bend and droop. It is an omnipresent symbol across the Latvian countryside, meticulously perched on almost every barn as an omen of fertility and productivity.
Our family farm is located one block South of the Brookland Metro Station in NE Washington, DC behind a home built in 1901. All three Brolis siblings (Aelita, Eriks, and Andrejs) live in the neighborhood with their families and enjoy the 4 season bounty. We apply intensive organic practices and permaculture principles to manage our 2500 sq ft of cultivated space to produce a great variety of perennial crops including Elderberries, Blackberries, Grapes, Serviceberries, Apples, Pears, Figs, Hazelnuts, Almonds, Hops, Shiitake, Oyster mushrooms, Onions, Garlic, Herbs galore...and WAY too many annual crop varieties to list here.
To our amazement, when we began the farm in 2013, the topsoil directly behind the home was still deep and rich - most likely because the home was one of the first to be built on what had been open pasture, producing crops to feed the growing Capitol City at the time of construction. Our farm was named “Found Peace” after discovering, at the base of the brick foundation, a 1922 silver dollar commemorating the peacetime after World War I.
As we dug the in-ground beds, we unearthed cannonballs from what we assume to be the civil war battery on nearby bunker hill, coal for nearby trains, and various glass bottles and other artifacts from the last century. Once we had established our growing space, our neighbor, Ruth became very interested in our work and we struck a grand bargain where she let us farm her yard thus doubling our growing space in exchange for helping her out around the house. Ruth’s yard was hardpan clay and filled with construction debris. To rectify this, we collected organic “wastes” from around the city: horse manure from the National Park Service stables, wood chips from chasing the tree crews deforesting the city, and leaf mulch from all around. We used these organic wastes to create large scale compost piles that eventually broke down into beautiful, tilthy, rich soil.
Co-Founder // Designer // Strategy Director
Eriks is a builder, renewable energy expert and urban permaculturalist. He, along with his brother Andrejs, learned carpentry skills from a very young age as an apprentice for their father’s residential contracting company. He moved from Washington, DC to Colorado in 2005 to promote distributed scale renewable energy. He eventually became a Co-Owner of Namaste Solar (www.namastesolar.com) and the President of the Board for the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association where he promoted policies to support the nascent industry. While living and working in arid Colorado he discovered the power of permaculture principles and his love of sustainable agriculture. This passion culminated in a major career shift which he embarked upon in 2011. Since that time, Eriks’ has worked in various capacities as a consultant and educator supporting efforts to empower smallholder farmers to grow and harvest resources more efficiently. His work has taken him from rice paddies in Cambodia, to vineyards in Germany, to smallholder farms in rural Uganda, and beyond. For the last 3 years, he and his wife, Linda, have lived and cultivated their urban farm and the Urban Farm Plans demonstration site in Brookland, Washington, DC.
Co-Founder // Designer // Content Manager
Andrejs is a biologist, builder, and experienced organic farmer. He, along with his brother Eriks, learned carpentry skills from a very young age as an apprentice for their father’s residential contracting company. After graduating from the Virginia Commonwealth University in 2005 with a B.S. in Biology, he left the lab to set off on a series of real world adventures. He walked from Mexico to Canada (twice!) and then settled in for a year-long organic farming assignment at Anthill Farm in Honesdale, PA. At Anthill Farm, he learned the ins-and-outs of running a 20 acre organic farm and how to grow a wide variety of annual and perennial crops for the farm’s 150 CSA members. He is passionate about native ecosystems and on his “days off” from Urban Farm Plans, he still works with the National Park Service Center for Urban Ecology as part of the vegetation monitoring team, where he and his colleagues are conducting a long term study of our region’s forest health. At the National Park Service, he also volunteered as manager at the Fort Dupont community education garden in Southeast DC. His overarching goal is to live a life that embodies these passions and to share his skills with the community.