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"Yard Farming" Business
Yard farming may be the next great "green" revolution. Donna Smith and Robyn Streeter have figured out how to make the idea pay for their business, Your Backyard Farmer.
"I was driving out to look for land to rent for raising vegetables when I looked at all the lawns I was driving by, and a light came on," recalls Smith. "Why look outside of town when there is land right here."
Smith went home and talked to her business partner, Streeter. They drew up a flier and started posting it around their neighborhood. Instead of selling shares in a market garden and delivering produce to customers, they offered to set up gardens in customers' own yards.
"By the time I got home, the phone was already ringing with people who were interested," says Smith.
For a flat fee, the two professional gardeners go to homes in the fall and rip out the sod. They set up raised garden beds with soil and compost they haul in. While she acknowledges they could try to build up the soil that is there, the host/customers expect full production from year one. The best way to do that is with already enhanced soil, notes Smith.
"We provide the seeds and seedlings they want and plant them in the spring, adding mushroom compost and other goodies throughout the year," she says.
One of the first things the two do is set up a compost container for kitchen and garden scraps. "We believe that no garden should be without a compost system in place," says Smith. "We show the customer how to maintain it."
Pricing is based on the area farmed with a minimum size of 400 sq. ft. Some neighbors go together to form a mini farm on a larger plot of available land. In one case, 12 families share a garden on land belonging to one. Sometimes next-door neighbors will go together to reach a minimum size plot.
"Our lowest price is $1,575 for the 9-month season," says Streeter. "That includes the set up, all the seeds and seedlings, planting, and weekly visits to weed, do maintenance and pick and wash the vegetables."
This year they had 50 full service customers and another 50 customers they consult with for a fee of $100 each month. These are people who would like to garden, but have no experience. They pay Smith and Streeter to design a garden and teach them to manage it.
These consulting clients get a monthly visit from the partners, a manual and a lesson each month for nine months.
"We go over what needs to be done the coming month, bring in seeds and transplants as needed, teach them about how and when to plant and transplant, and about soils, diseases, pests and compost," explains Smith. "Each month there is a special component, such as watering and soils amendments. We leave them with materials and jobs to do for the month ahead."
For those who are interested, the partners have taken their business another step. They also consult with and have helped 16 other entrepreneurs start their own version of Your Backyard Farmer.
"We do that for a straight fee per hour," says Smith. "We email and phone back and forth, or they can come and work directly with us for hands-on training. Eventually we will put out a book."
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Your Backyard Farmer, 7527 SE Ramona, Portland, Oregon 97206 (ph 503 449-2402 (Smith); 971 506-6508 (Streeter); farmers@yourbackyardfarmer.com; www.yourbackyardfarmer.com).

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2008 - Volume #32, Issue #6