urban gardening, CSAs & community farms

May 1 is just around the corner.  Here in the northeast, people with land are getting their hands dirty on the weekends, planting their first seeds of the season. City-dwellers are looking forward to farmer’s markets and the first CSA delivery.  When will the rhubarb be ripe?!

I live in Philadelphia but dream of owning a piece of land large with enough space to grow veggies, have a couple hens and two goats.  In the meantime, I’m thinking of how to get my hands dirty in the city (and I don’t mean by riding SEPTA).  The easiest way is to get a plot at a community garden. The Spring Gardens (www.thespringgardens.org) is a large, volunteer-run space with 180 plots, but the website has a waiting list of 2 years.

Greens Grow Farm (www.greensgrow.org) is a large urban farm in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia that has a nursery, CSA and farm stand with a goal of providing sustainable, green business development in the city.  Since Greens Grow is a non-profit and has a large group of volunteers, I’ll call it a community farm.  Non-profit, day-to-day farm management is led by an experienced farmer and supported by volunteers. The farm has wider goals for the community such as education, hunger-reduction and bringing fresh food to neighbors.

I really like the idea of a community farm. But I’m wondering about combining CSAs and community farms–creating an urban farm collective.  My rough idea is this:

  1. assemble a group of interested, committed people
  2. form a non-profit
  3. write grants and more grants
  4. receive grants (!)
  5. get a plot of land from the City
  6. start farming

Each member can have their own plot, or we can have one large plot where we share the veggies. Chickens, goats, pigs? As long as we have enough committed members, I think animal husbandry and a small dairy operation could be part of the farm. If we got enough grant money, it is possible that we could hire a person to manage the farm on a part or full time basis, but I envision the bulk of the work coming from members of the farm.

I’ve googled community farm in different forms and have only found CSAs and community farms (like Green Grows).

What do you think? Could this be viable?


5 responses to “urban gardening, CSAs & community farms

  1. After posting, I just found this website:

    an urban farming collective in Seattle

  2. Sounds like a great idea!

  3. Do YOU think it’s viable, is the more important question. Do a 5 year business plan and determine if it’s cash positive within 2 years. Test your assumptions and make sure they are correct and then if you are sure it can turn a profit within 2 years then it’s not only viable, it then becomes a good idea.

  4. Your grants will be easier if you consider including a PAR (plant a row) scheme where you donate some portion of your produce to a local food bank. Research them first and find one that’s doing a really good job. Good luck!

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