Your Backyard Farmer grows veggies in unexpected spots
By Raymond Rendleman
A small piece of property can go a long way toward feeding a family. But coaxing food from the earth takes both time and know-how, and that can be enough to intimidate many of us. Enter Your Backyard Farmer. This small business in Portland, Ore., saw an opportunity to help out many homeowners who wanted to grow their own, but weren't sure where to start.
Partners Robyn Streeter and Donna Smith completed their horticulture degrees together in 2005 and began searching for farmland. By that winter, they had an epiphany: Instead of investing in a farm, they would bolster the urban agriculture movement by helping city dwellers grow backyard crops.
Your Backyard Farmer works a lot like any other home contractor. Streeter and Smith visit dozens of yards each week throughout the growing season to plant, maintain and harvest their clients' edible crops. With their help, even plots as small as 10-by-10 feet yield a cornucopia of produce. They also offer monthly lessons where DIY families can learn how to make their own food gardens grow.
Your Backyard Farmer’s innovative approach has gained the attention of entrepreneurs from Canada to Tasmania, and Streeter and Smith have consulted with many to help develop similar companies. But they say the most important element of their success can’t be conveyed through consultations: “We do it all by grunt labor,” Streeter says.
Each day begins for the duo before dawn, as soon as enough light shows over the horizon to reveal weeds under the squash patches. The pair uses the hands-and-knees methods of crop rotation without tilling that would be familiar to farmers over the millennia. Each portion of their fields exudes the pungency of mushroom compost mixed with the unbelievably fresh scent of the nearest vegetable. During fall, the overall effect resembles a magical supermarket in which numerous produce aisles contain still-rooted carrots, peas, onions and peppers ready to harvest.
Smith and Streeter hope that their idea goes beyond another “green” business service. It does seem like their help has expanded the conversation about city dwellers' relationship to their food. Now, they have reason to believe the idea will grow even further: For example, a group of adjacent households recently decided to forgo their fences, and commissioned Your Backyard Farmer to create a larger plot of shared space for food gardening. The project produced not only a haul of edibles ... but also a new sense of community.
Raymond Rendleman is a writer based in Portland, Ore. Readers may contact him at rrendleman [at] gmail [dot] com.
Photo by author.
This is a great example of how to participate in the new economy. Growing food, helping others grow food, processing food - all of these activities will be needed and required as the system continues to collapse.
Here is a great video from Dr.Vandana Shiva on growing food and how it is the solution to our the major challenges facing us.