Urban Farming With a Twist: No Labor Required!

My Farm urban farming san franciscoLiving in the city, it’s natural that your thoughts may turn at one point or another to daydreaming about having your own produce generating garden. But then they just as quickly get tossed in the mental recycling bin as an impossibility. Or maybe not, but with your erratic schedule, it sits there, limping along. Maybe you’ve been wanting to participate in an urban farm or a community garden , but there again, your life gets in the way. My Farm in San Francisco has come up with a solution: They partner with you to cultivate a specified plot of land in your own yard, from as small as 4′ by 4′ to as big as your whole yard. And the deal maker? You don’t have to do any gardening yourself!

My Farm does all the work, and depending on how much your garden produces, you can get a box of goodies weekly, and also have My Farm chefs make a fresh food feast out of what you and others produce. And what if you don’t have a back yard? The garden’s collective harvest exceeds the needs of the garden owners, so My Farm provides CSA style veggie boxes as well.

While this is all a lovely idea, their intention here is beyond that.

My Farm backyard organic urban farm in progressWe live in a world today where fuel is becoming increasingly expensive, and the cost of transporting produce, both environmental and economic, is likewise increasing. This has already begun to make some food cost prohibitive to the daily needs of people. What needs to happen is that we become better able to meet our needs, locally, without depending on large farms and distribution networks to get it to us.

While such ideas as vertical farming are a potential solution, they are, for the most part theoretical and would require a dedicated political and financial will to bring about, so they cannot, for the moment, be seen as way to meet our needs in the immediate future.

So the next time you look at your backyard filled with Dandelions and Creeping Charlies think about the possibilities. What can you do in your city to feed yourself and your community?

Readers: Please share your successes and ideas about how to meet our community’s food needs, whether it be produce, other staples, etc.

Related Posts About Urban Farming:

A Capitalist Dream: Company Designs and Maintains Organic Garden In Your Backyard : Ecolocalizer

Urban + Farming = Oxymoron? : Eat. Drink. Better.

Urban Farming : Sustainablog

Image Credit: www.myfarm.com

About the Author

Paul Smith is a sustainable business innovator, the founder of GreenSmith Consulting, and has an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio School of Management in San Francisco. He creates interest in, conversations around, and business for green (and greening) companies, via social media. Who he has and wants to work with includes consumer, media, clean tech, NGOs, social ventures, and museums. For more on GreenSmith Consulting, see www.greensmithconsulting.com He also writes for Triple Pundit www.triplepundit.com
  • Great post! Thought I’d let you all know that there are other projects out there similar to this one. Hate to be all link-spammy, but this idea of urban-sharecropping is a pet interest of mine.

    http://twurl.nl/1g1f0p (City Farm Boy)
    http://wweek.com/editorial/3415/10403/ (The Bike Farmer)
    http://www.sharingbackyards.com/browse/Vancouver,BC&welcome_box=3# (Cool mashup of a Vancouver map showing people looking for space, and people who have space, to garden)

  • Not spammy at all TJ, wow awesome, thanks for all these resources!

  • Myfarm “partners” with you?? I guess they do, if your definition of partnering is getting charged $600 to $1000 to set up the garden, then $25-$30 per week to maintain it. And how do you think the myfarm gardeners get to the gardens? They “partner” with their cars to drive to your house, of course.

    Do the arithmetic. What do you think the actual costs (dollars and CO2) of those beets and carrots myfarm pulls from your yard are? This is the very antithesis of sustainability. My goodness, if you want a garden, just go do it yourself!

  • Dare

    I think this is a wonderful idea! I wish there was something like this in my community. My question is can you go and pick from the garden anytime you want or does the company that planted and maintains the garden tell you when you can have some?

  • Lynette

    I have a huge yard in Southwest suburban Cleveland, Ohio and a very brown thumb. (Over 1/2 acre of land.) How would I go about finding someone who would like to plant a garden?

  • Nick if you read a little bit of the site, it says they do much of their transport by bike (SF is a big biking town) and even if they did drive, it’s not 1000s or even 100s of miles for other produce. To have a garden put in, maintained, and produce collected, delivered to me and feeding other people, while giving people a living, and I don’t have to invest any of my valuable time, energy, or go buy the resources, yes I’d pay for that. To each his own, eh?

    Dare and Lynette, I bet both of your questions could be answered by contacting the people there. Lynette they’d likely know or find out for you. And if not, I say put it out on Craigslist that you’d like to find others to do something like this! Let me know here how it goes.

  • There’s a similar idea in London, where I live, called Food Up Front (.org). They encourage people to grow veggies in their front gardens (so neighbours can water while they’re away) and to increase visibilty of food growing. They have a network of 40 “street reps” to provide advice and guidance… so far it’s working great. Check ’em out (although you won’t be able to join unless you live in South London at the moment!)

  • I like the visibility component of that. It “normalizes” the idea of having a veggie garden at your house, so that more people are comfortable with the idea. And I bet it encourages more neighbor interaction. Nice one!

  • Tho I have put my own garden in, tend it, and harvest it myself, I think this is a GREAT idea and I’m glad to see it growing! Not everyone has the skillset, time, or knowledge. I’m glad to see Your Backyard Farmer got a mention here. I spent time with these 2, Donna and Robin, and it’s amazing what they have done to a space that was once grass! And the hard work that goes into it too. In regards the gas spent per Nick’s comment, YBF schedules their week so they don’t have to drive all over town. And, as you say, Paul, they aren’t going hundreds of miles across the country to deliver the results. And the homeowners aren’t driving miles to purchase their produce for the week, either. I think it is a win-win for everyone involved and an idea whose time has come. Thanks for sharing this. Here’s a link to an article about Your Backyard Farmer, if you’d like to read more.

  • Thanks for the info, Rebecca. Very encouraging to see this sort of thing happening all over!

  • As the co-author of SPIN-Farming, what I see every day are more and more entrepreneurs throughout the U.S. and Canada using SPIN’s franchise-ready system as an entry point into the farming profession. They are using front lawns and backyards and neighborhood lots as their land base. Developed by Canadian farmer Wally Satzewich, SPIN is a franchise-ready vegetable farming system that makes it possible to earn significant income from growing vegetables on land bases under an acre in size. SPIN’s growing techniques are not, in themselves, breakthrough. What is novel is the way a SPIN farm business is run. SPIN provides everything you’d expect from a good franchise: a business plan, marketing advice, and a detailed day-to-day workflow. In standardizing the system and creating a reproducible process it really isn’t any different from McDonalds. By offering a non-technical, easy-to-understand and inexpensive-to-implement farming system, it allows many more people to farm, wherever they live, as long as there are nearby markets to support them, and it removes the two big barriers to entry – sizeable acreage and significant start-up capital. This is recasting farming as a small business in cities and towns, “right sizing” agriculture for an urbanized century and helping to make local food production a viable business proposition once again.

  • So interesting to see all the models of individual level farming out there. Thanks for sp…sharing, SPIN.

  • This is a neat idea both on an environmental and social level. On one hand the city dweller can learn how to set up a small garden, they can also network with other neighbors of like mind. The appeal here is, that in the hectic day to day schedule of most people living in a big city, you kill many birds with one stone.

    I tend to favor the DIY attitudes, but hey, if you need help starting off or just want a hand this works.

    The fees are a bit suspect though…



  • We have not featured gardening or specifically vegetable growing on http://www.looklovely.net, although it is a good way to keep active. Somehow, I think more people will be taken the idea of letting somebody else grow vegetables on their plot of land!

    (I do try to buy locally though).

  • “While such ideas as vertical farming are a potential solution, they are, for the most part theoretical and would require a dedicated political and financial will to bring about, so they cannot, for the moment, be seen as way to meet our needs in the immediate future.”

    I do think that this sentiment is important to consider, but it is also important to – while figuring out how to maintain the now – lobby/advocate for what will be necessary later. We just blogged about a campaign that is trying to crowd-source funding to move the future closer to the present.

  • Elizabeth Tripp

    I have recently had several trees removed and am panning a new garden. I attended a sustainable living conference inwhich cities were minimized in the ability to be sustainable. I am determined to prove this wrong. I live in Noe Valley and now get a lot of sun. I would like very much to learn about your service. Is there any possibility to get some help with this plan. THank you, Betty Tripp

  • Teresa

    I have emailed the myfarmsf sight asking for some help up here in Davis. So far no response. This is known as farm country and I would love to get something like this going in my yard. Does anyone know of a place that will and can help those who are handicapp participate in a program like this with minimal expense and a lot of help? Thanks

  • I liked you site and it made me very interested in this movement that I wondered how I can apply urban farming in my small rural town in Pensylvania. Any suggestions?


  • Interesting! I think vertical farming will be useful for people who only have limited space.