City Grown Seattle

2012 is going to be an exciting season!

I learned a ton during both of my apprenticeships, and I am grateful to have had amazing mentor farmers who I can still turn to with questions.  But within the first few weeks of my second season, I could already feel an urge for my own farm.   I wanted to continue doing this work, and I wanted to do it myself.  Throughout 2011, it kept popping into my mind — what if I were making the decisions and doing the planning myself, in addition to doing the daily physical work?  Would I be able to make a farm go if I were in charge and not just following directions? I loved and needed the second season of apprenticeship, but I am incredibly excited that the opportunity to start my own farm fell into place easily for my next step.

For the 2012 growing season, I have joined up with my good friends Noe and Scott, and we are starting our own farm,

City Grown Seattle.

City Grown is an urban farming project in the Seattle neighborhoods of Ballard and Wallingford.  “Urban Farming” is very hip  and trendy right now.  But for me, the basic scenario is:

  1. I want to continue farming.
  2. I can’t afford to, don’t know how to, and don’t see a need to start up a new “traditional” vegetable farm.
  3. I see a niche to fill in the city and, based on my two different apprenticeship experiences, can envision pieces that could come together to fill it.
  4. I have friends who had already started this project and have a solid footing but need a person with time, energy, and knowledge to really kick it into gear.

It’s an obvious next step.   Also it’s really exciting because I feel like I’ve never *really* earned my own living in the way that I hope to do now.  Earning a salary doing software obviously has its perks, but owning my own business seems more fulfilling even with all the risks.  Noe, Scott and I spent time this winter forming and registering an LLC, mapping out which crops and how much of each we will grow this season, and having work parties to clear our new-found cityfarmland.  The decisions about what to do and when were made by the three of us together.  It has been exciting and challenging to jump into this with only a small amount of prior experience.  We are learning as we go.

The basic idea of City Grown  is that we will grow vegetables in our Seattle neighborhood, and sell them to our neighbors.  We will grow on land that people in the area make available for us to use in exchange for a share of the produce.  So far this land has been homeowners’ yards., plus one side yard at a Community Center that will be our biggest space for the 2012 season.  We have a quarter-acre (10,000 square feet) to work with in 2012.  We plan to grow a full market variety of produce, choosing specific crops and varieties to maximize space and extend the season to the full limits of our maritme climate.  We will sell the food through a farmstand at our own house — basically a grownup version of a 5-cent-a-cup lemonade stand! — and maybe our neighborhood farmers market as well.  We will use our own spin on “CSA” to nail down a regular clientele.

It’s a farm – we are growing vegetables to sell commercially.  We are not doing people’s garden or landscaping for them.  It’s a very small scale farm but has the potential to expand.

I am nervous and excited.  We have big dreams for this project — we want to get our community involved in helping and learning and benefiting from great ultra-local food.  We want to eventually earn our livings doing this thing that we love.  We want to change the food paradigm.  But in reality, for now, we just want to take baby steps – till up some lawn, add some nutrients to the soil, plant some vegetables, see what happens.

We know that we won’t be able to make this happen without the support of our friends and community — and indeed we don’t want to do this in isolation.   We hope to be able to produce some really great food.  But we don’t just want to put it out there for people to take home.  We want people to become part of this vegetable farm that the city of Seattle could be.  Whether folks have growing space, time, money, expertise, tools to lend, storage space, strong arms, used coffee grounds, or an idea for a better irrigation system, everyone could contribute to this lovely system of growing food here to eat here.  We want people to come and see and experience the food in a new way, and we feel that with the farm plots being right down the street instead of out in the countryside,  we’ll be able to get people out and excited about buying their vegetables where they’re being grown.

Every single time I’ve had a city friend come visit the farms I’ve been interning on, I’ve been delighted to see their reactions to the things I’ve come to take for granted.  Pulling a carrot or digging a potato or seeing what kale looks like as a baby or eating a leaf off a still-living plant brings a spark of interest to people’s eyes.  People just need to see and be around real food for a very little while and I think we are all naturally drawn to it.  Thinking about bringing these experiences to the people who choose to get involved in our farm is what gets me up in the morning these days.

City Grown Website:

City Grown Facebook:

And some pictures taken by my roommate Gerry:

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