Can you believe that it was just one year ago that a few of us at PRI Cold Climate started to really dig into the idea of piloting a program in urban agriculture and permaculture? My goodness how a year can fly by! Since those October days, we have seen Backyard Harvest take root and blossom.
We opened January of 2009 with a bang when we hosted our first open house to introduce the community to Backyard Harvest. (Thanks to member Karen Graham for dreaming up our name!) We thought getting 40 folks in the door would be a great success. To our pleasant surprise, over 100 packed in to hear about the program, express their excitement (and concerns) and offer their support.
This same excitement over sustainable urban food production brought us over 40 applicants for our farmer positions, brought in thousands in donations and sold out our urban ag training series. Could this be the time for urban permaculture to really take off in the Twin Cities?
After hiring three outstanding urban farmers, our team set out to grow a diverse array of vegetables, herbs and edible flowers for 15 South Minneapolis households. These garden-owners came with a wide variety of garden experiences, expectations and income levels. Some sought to learn gardening skills by following along with their farmer while others were just getting started with gardening and cooking fresh seasonal foods. So what did they think?
According to our end-of-season survey, for garden-ownersthe experience of having a garden in their yards ranked right up there with receiving high quality, fresh produce. Learning about gardening techniques, plant varieties and cooking with fresh produce were important parts of this experience. Garden-owners also report having made related changes in their lives such as connecting more with their neighbors, buying other locally produced products and becoming more adventurous in their cooking and eating. Garden-owners were overwhelmingly in favor of recommending Backyard Harvest to their friends, family and neighbors. In fact, many have told us that they have already done so!
Big thanks goes out to our three wonderful farmers: Seth Schlotterbeck, Stefan Meyer and Grayce Backstrom. Their admirable passion and skill made this positive experience possible. While we will miss Seth as he goes off to work again for Easy Bean Farm, a CSA in west central Minnesota, and we will miss Grayce as she goes on to develop her own Backyard Harvest-inspired business in Colorado, we are happy that Stefan will be sticking around the Twin Cities and look forward to working with him in 2010.
Thanks for your support of our fledgling program! If you would like to be included on the Backyard Harvest e-mail newsletter list or if you have other questions or comments about the program, e-mail Krista Leraas, Program Coordinator.