One morning, he found cherry tomatoes, guava, persimmons and all sorts of greens. And after a while, he said, it's not hard to know the land and know where the food is.
"What I'm trying to do here is explore how to create a system that is highly resilient, semi-wild and really productive," he said. "I'm a fan of growing vegetables like wildflowers."
Kleinrock is blogging on the Huntington's website, where he plans to document his work — gathering data, holding discussions and offering instruction for people who want to replicate what he's done.
Across the Ranch, dozens of kinds of food are growing: herbs, greens and other vegetables; fruit trees, including fig, apple, persimmon and stone fruit. In one hole grow four peach trees — one early, two midseason and one late-producing type, increasing the potential for months of pie.
The food harvested from the Ranch will go to staff, volunteers and perhaps a restaurant. Some of it will be donated.
The Huntington will supply the kitchen in another way too. Earlier this week, the Huntington announced a gift from the Frances Brody estate of more than $100 million, part of which will go to a kitchen garden in the public area — a place where visitors can stop and become inspired, spokeswoman Blackburn said Tuesday.
"There are so many strategies if you are interested in growing some of your food," said Kleinrock, who grew up in Van Nuys and was drawn to growing food after studying design and landscape architecture.
Many people tear out their lawns and plant food, but what happens when the grower has a busy time at work or a sick relative who requires prolonged attention, and the garden goes untended and the neighbors grow angry? So he is looking at ways to grow food that require less attention and create happier neighbors.
It's not at all clear that people are ready to see food growing in frontyards if the land looks like a farm, said Susan Mulley, a professor at Cal Poly Pomona who presented her research at the conference.
She and students gauged reactions to photographs of two types of yards: those with green grass and those with food plants. The research is ongoing, but she said people need to consider aesthetics as well as harvests when planting frontyards or spaces in public view.
Color, texture, height and other aspects of appearance do matter. "Plant food like it's flowers," she said.