Urban Farming Thoughts

A reoccuring theme on Onestraw is my faith in Suburbia’s ability to produce enough food to make it a viable alternative the ag land it paved over.   It is an undeniable fact that our current urban planning system is completely addicted to the automobile and cheap oil.  My example is typical.  I drive 19 miles to work -each way- and the closest grocery store is literally 7 miles away.  And that is a Super Walmart.  Crap.  We typically drive to Madison to Whole Foods in our once a month Shopping Trip to stock up, and do weekly trips to a Natural Foods store near our Church (25 miles away -the density of Unitarian  congregations is not what it should be) for Soy Milk, Eggs, and other stables that we run out of more often.  Granted our town is small (2012 souls), but even 60 years ago it was a vibrant community.  My dream is that it can be again -a big driver of that is rekindling local food production.   Thanks to some fellow Stumbler, I stumbled upon (what a great idea!) some really great sites and ideas lately on this front.

First off there is Your Backyard Farmer.  Started by two women in Portland, the basic business plan is an “on site” CSA.  They will come to your home (or business!) and build a garden.  They will then tend it all year leaving the produce on your porch weekly for about $40/wk.  That is a little steeper than most CSA’s here in WI, but think of the upside to the consumer: no driving to delivery sites, free landscaping, and after you are done with the contract you have great friable soil in your own yard!  Year one they grossed over $2000 weekly on just their 50 gardens, not counting market sales and consulting.  Would work best in dense urban markets to limit drive time, but regardless: Really Exciting!

Second cool resource is the Mini Farms Network.   Very similar to a site that I had envisioned creating before I ended up deciding to continue blogging in this WordPress format.   Good high level introduction to small scale food production focusing on Raised Beds, low input, and appropriate technology (hand tools and bicycles).  Very informational and inspiring site.

Final Resource of the week will be the Ecological Farming Association. I, like many sustainable farmers (the term I typically use), am continuing to struggle finding an appropriate term for what I do.  I am “beyond Organic” in so far as they now have Organic Oreos and Cheerios.  There is a fundamentally difference in how I grow food than those growing 500 acres of veggies in a monocrop, controling weeds through intense cultivation, etc.  This is not to say that reduced spraying is a HUGE first step, but I feel that in many “industrial” Organic operations, the term Organic has moved closer to the status quo while myself and other sustainable farmers (to be!) remain committed to more wholistic ideals.  Ecological Farming is a term that is gaining momentum and includes the systems thinking that is inherent in most sustainable farms.  Still exploring this site, but it is very encouraging.

Even as I am ramping up specific planning (moved from veggie rotations to cultivar selection this week!) it is very encouraging to keep abreast of some of the other fantastic work that is being done out there!

Be the Change!



6 Responses

  1. I also struggle with defining what I do. I’m not legally organic because I don’t certify and earn more than $5000 a year, and I’m no longer interested in using the government’s current word-for-rent. Sustainable can include synthetic chemicals. Natural is being challenged in “naturally grown.” It’s easier for me to say “come see what I do” than to explain it in commonly used words.

    Thanks for the great links!

  2. Thank you for the resources! I have a goal this year to get 70% of our food out of our garden, which I know I won’t meet, but I’m at least working towards it! 🙂

  3. Robin, transparency is key to any sustainable operation. Joel Salatin speaks very eloquently about it just about every time he puts pen to paper or opens his mouth. It is also something we have lost in the commodity-ization of our food. I won’t certify unless we end up selling to Organic Valley or some other coop.

    Jes(aside). I recall a business parable I heard recently -there were two firms looking to improve their customer satisfaction-both hovering at 80%. The first looked to see a 4% rise in the next quarter -higher than they had ever achieved. The second placed the goal at 100% satisfaction. Both worked hard for the next 3 months to revamp their operations. Indeed, the first firm exceeded their goal raising satisfaction to 85%. The second firm turned their operation upside down in their attempt to meet their customers needs, but in the end failed to hit their goal. Instead they only raised satisfaction to 98%….

    Sometimes failing is succeeding, and I applaud your goals!

  4. Great links, Rob. Thanks for posting those. I’ve put them on my blog as well.

  5. […] backyard farmer Posted on February 17, 2008 by lombardini One straw: be the change blog reports of various experiments in urban farming. My favourite is Your backyard farmer. […]

  6. […] Read more about this topic from the author here. […]

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