Suburban Agrarians

4 05 2008

Suburban agrarians? Sounds like an oxymoron, and in truth it is and always will be. But even in the suburbs, agrarianism makes so much sense that people are borrowing from it. From the article Suburbanites Turn Green Yards Into Cash With Minifarms:

Rising food prices have yielded a throwback to a more agrarianlike lifestyle in suburbs throughout the nation.

People like Norfolk, Va., resident Sue VanHecke are turning their green gardens into green cash by turning their homes into profitable farms.

During the summer VanHecke made $100 per week from her minifarm.

“We’d like to double that [this summer],” said VanHecke, who plants, tills and waters her garden no more than 10 hours a week.

It’s only the beginning of the growing season, but VanHecke already has tomatoes, beets, chard, radishes and lettuce in every spare nook and cranny of her yard, which she sells to a local restaurant.

“With them it’s half the cost and it’s organic,” said Stove Restaurant owner Sydney Meers, who buys fresh food from VanHecke.

According to Meers, the suburban farmers and local restaurants win with this setup. In fact, she said there is only one loser  “the big purveyor.”

Farmers like VanHecke hardly are crying for corporate producers  in part because food prices have increased so drastically. This new way of life helps bring in food and cash during a time when high gas prices and a credit crisis are strangling the economy.

Of course, their motivation might make agrarians everywhere roll their eyes:

“[It] helps to have a little extra cash in your pocket to pay for ballet lessons and putting gas in the tank. [It] eases the pinch a bit,” VanHecke said.

Ah well.

Take a minute to check out the bios of the creators of SPIN Farming , who will likely get rich selling booklets to suburbanites. They do have interesting stories, though I don’t think everyone can duplicate Wally’s success selling to the high-end organic crowd. Some of us have to eat affordably. And I do wonder how Roxanne would have fared without “the support of the Pennsylvania Dept. of Agriculture, the Philadelphia Workforce Development, Corp., the City Commerce Department, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, and the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.” But she did have some very good things to say:

“For aspiring farmers, SPIN eliminates the 2 big barriers to entry – sizeable acreage and substantial startup capital. At the same time, its intensive relay growing techniques and precise revenue targeting formulas push yields to unprecedented levels and result in highly profitable income.”
… Christensen contends, SPIN-FARMING is a method uniquely suited to entrepreneurs, and it provides a new career path for those who have a calling to farm. It is enticing a new breed of farmer who is keenly interested in matters of principle, but who understands that to have a significant positive impact, they have to function within the existing system, pushing their cause while paying their bills.

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