The heat-blasted streets of Mesa, Arizona are an unlikely place to find a farm: row upon row of squat brick homes, each with its own tiny patch of struggling grass. The deeper you drive into these Phoenix suburbs, the more you question the wisdom of settling more than 4 million people in the middle of the desert. Even the most optimistic assessments have this community slated for some pretty serious water shortages in the coming decades.
Pulling up to the McClung’s suburban home, the only clue that there’s something different about this house are the three Cavendish banana trees growing in the side yard. When you think 'bananas', you think 'lush'. Not 'desert'. Leading us through the house, Dennis points out the graywater reclamation system he built, which supports those bananas as well as several citrus trees. Even before we hit the backyard, it becomes clear that Dennis McClung is a pretty handy guy—you’d have to be, to build what he did.
When the McClungs purchased their first home, it came with a run-down old swimming pool. Rather than spend thousands of dollars fixing it up with chlorine and spanish tile (like everybody else), Dennis saw an opportunity. He designed and built a nearly self-sufficient suburban farm in one of the most unlikely locations imaginable. Now, instead of sitting inside in front of the TV, Dennis’ kids are out in the Garden Pool turning the interplay of chicken droppings, algae sludge, tilapia fish, miniature goats, and clay pellets into a damned fine feast—with 50-70% less money, 90% less water, and about 400% more freshness.
By tapping into our collective agrarian roots, the McClungs have turned their formerly hands-off, commercially-rooted food supply into homegrown art, science, devotion, education, and craft. They'll change the way you think about the family dinner—and the family pool party—for the better.