Open the yellow pages to the gardeners section and you’ll find a multitude of advertisers offering a variety of services: pruning, tree services, lawn care, torture by leaf blower and so on. But very few, if any, of the listings offer “vegetable gardening” services.
MyFarm, a new company based in San Francisco, wants to help fill that gap for people who want to grow fruits or vegetables in their yard but are too busy with work, kids, or travel. For a weekly fee, MyFarm will handle the planting, maintenance, and harvesting of a vegetable garden in the client’s yard, with the client receiving everything that is harvested. If the yard doesn’t have an area for vegetable planting, they’ll install raised beds for a fee. Customers with large gardens can opt to pay some of the weekly fee in the form of vegetables. Eventually, the excess produce from the urban gardens will be pooled to create a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.
Tara Duggan, in the San Francisco Chronicle explained some of the goals of the company and how the concept is being tried or considered in other places:
Founder Trevor Paque, 29, envisions what he calls a decentralized urban farm – a network of backyard organic vegetable gardens that will free urbanites from their reliance on food trucked in from the country. Clients who live in the sunny Mission District will grow tomatoes for denizens of the foggy Richmond, where broccoli and other cool-weather vegetables will thrive in customers’ backyards. And bicycles, rather than gas-guzzling trucks, will be the main method of transport.
It may sound pie-in-sky, but two months after putting up flyers, Paque already has installed 10 gardens and signed up an additional five clients. Having a farm in your backyard tends to soothe fears about salmonella-tainted tomatoes, rising food costs and the melting polar ice caps. Plus, it’s an affordable way to get some landscaping done.
Businesses like MyFarm are thriving in other parts of the country. Established in 2006, Your Backyard Farmer is a similar model in the Portland, Ore., area, and co-founder Donna Smith said she has consulted with offshoots in Santa Cruz, Boston and Washington, D.C. The Portland company also offers a program to help customers start and maintain their own gardens, with 57 “farms” total. It is booked through 2008.
Urban and surburban residential areas offer a huge potential for food production — twenty-first century victory gardens, as it were. Corporate America, with its wide expanses of manicured grass around suburban office parks, offers another potential place to grow fruits, vegetables, and maybe even poultry or eggs. Wouldn’t it be great if one of the status symbols in the corporate world became the number of heirloom tomatoes grown on your corporate campus, or the quality of the eggs from the free-range corporate chickens?
The groundbreaking of Slow Food Nation’s Victory Garden is taking place today at San Francisco City Hall. Paque will be among the community of gardeners helping to plant the garden over the next few weeks. Stay tuned for more reports from the SFN Victory Garden.