Monday, January 21, 2008

Food Solutions - grow our own?

The other morning, while contemplating our food budget and creating a shopping list (these activities always go hand in hand, no?) I, once again, seriously considered growing considerably more of our own food. We have a little garden every summer where we grow herbs, squash, tomatoes, and peppers...but what about seriously scaling this operation up? Would it be cost effective? Can I handle the time and labor demands?

I started with the money component first, since I really haven't the foggiest what the labor demands would be. Right now we receive nearly all of our produce from an Organic Farm's CSA box. This costs us $105 per quarter (we split 2 veggie boxes between 4 families of various sizes). That breaks down to roughly $9.60 per week for veggies, herbs and occasional fruit + the good feeling associated with supporting a family farm. We don't have a huge fruit demand in the winter as we have a very prolific Clementine tree. After breaking down my produce costs I was ready to figure out the costs of growing an equivalent or, ideally, greater amount of food. And, can you guess how far I got with those calculations? Yeah...not so far.

Then I started thinking...because I was at a bit of a standstill here, information wise....
Would it be more cost effective to offer up some of our admittedly limited yard space (1/3 acre including our 1900 Sq ft house) to friends in exchange for funds and physical labor to get the garden going and keep it going. Essentially a community garden in our back yard. This way we could pool our resources, various schedules, knowledge and enthusiasm for healthy food while all benefiting from the sense of community, responsibility, learning, and of course the good food itself.

I started to get really excited about this angle.

With this idea of group or community farming in mind I went on a little stroll through's what I found. SPIN Farming.

While it's not exactly the small scale farming for my family I had set out to is an incredibly interesting idea! Take small suburban backyards, rent them out to farmers and then acheive a mutualy beneficialy relationship. The land owners receive compensation in the form of money and food, while the farmer may be a first generation farmer, because it removes the two big barriers to entry - land and capital - or an established farmer who wants to diversify or downsize, or even a part-time hobby farmer. This entire idea completely changes how I think about 'farming'!

I poked around a bit more and found and example farm in Phillidelphia...
From Somerton Tanks Farm: (a demonstration urban spin farm)
"In its fourth year of operation, using the
SPIN Farming method, we produced over $68,000 in gross sales growing high value vegetables on a half-acre—in Philadelphia, the fifth largest city in the U.S. By pushing the physical and philosophical boundaries of agriculture, it is achieving a level of productivity and financial success that many thought impossible." I am pumped...ready to start gardening like gangbusters.

Then I found this...(it's a it to read a funny, yet enlightening article)

"An experiment in Brooklyn-style subsistence farming, starring smelly chickens, an angry rabbit, a freak tornado, a vegetable garden to die for, two psyched kids, and a marriage in the weeds."

Hmmm....I may have to think this out a bit more.

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