Farmscape was born out of the local and sustainable food movement that swelled during the peak of the housing crisis in 2008. The founders of Farmscape read books by Michael Pollan and Mark Bittman during college and grew concerned about the resource crises facing our food system. They asked themselves: how can we trust the boards of agribusiness giants like Cargill, ADM, Kraft, or Monsanto to sustainably manage world assets like:
But what should be done? We found films like Food Inc., Fresh, and Dirt really moving. We were as perturbed as anyone about the recklessness of Big Ag after reading about globalized farming in Food Matters and In Defense of Food. But there weren’t a lot of actionable suggestions for how to fix these daunting problems in such a gigantic, worldwide, and thoroughly entrenched industry. What could mere mortals hope to accomplish?
Then we read an article about Donna Smith in Portland, offering a mobile, on-demand backyard farming service for homeowners. As an experienced edible gardener, she was now leasing her talents to anyone who wanted to grow sustainable food for themselves in their own yard. We were intrigued. We were excited.
Democratic, home-gardened food had worked before -- during the peak years of World War II nearly 40% of the food supply came from the Victory Gardens in front and back yards around the nation. The only thing different today is that people spend most of their time on busy careers instead of supporting a large-scale war effort. Why don’t more people garden? Because it’s difficult and time-consuming. What if someone would do it for them?
What if here in LA we could grow fresher food for people by skipping the 1500 mile logistics chain? What if we could bypass all the diesel burned by the trucks and the ocean-liners, what if we could short-circuit the energy footprint of the refrigerated shipping containers, slough the pre-ripe harvests and ethylene gas treatments, skip the unnatural pesticides and fertilizers required by the gargantuan single-crop field production, and in the end deliver a better product? We could grow food in intensive polyculture gardens right in the homeowner’s backyard. We could grow delicious varieties that the grocery supply chain cannot, because we wouldn’t have to select our crops for ease of shipping or length of shelf-life: our harvests wouldn’t be in packing houses or languishing in stacked displays.
The food would taste better. It would be good for the planet. Perhaps we could turn intensive food gardens into attractive landscape features, and so roll a homeowner’s food purchases and landscaping costs into one single budget item that was also a win for sustainability. And we could staff the project with friendly, real farmers who understand integrated pest management, microclimates, and the ins and outs of every crop. Neighborhood horticulturalists could manage the urban and suburban landscape parcel by parcel with purpose and care. We could pay these microfarm managers a living wage, and they could develop a real relationship with the end consumer.
Crazy, you say? The USPS logistics system is crazy. Swimming pools in every yard in Phoenix is crazy. Mow and blow lawn care is crazy. Growing top quality food in the convenience of Los Angeles back yards makes a lot of sense. A garden is a laboratory for children to learn about soil, plants, insects, chemistry, and more; it is also a reminder of the seasons, a symbol of hope and investment in the future.
We thought such a diffused infrastructure solution might work if we made it an appealing service for the consumer: a free market opt-in solution to problems with land use and the food supply, rather than some bland government infrastructure project. We wanted to make Farmscape a fun way to participate actively in creating sustainable food.
Thus, we’ve spent the last two and a half years working to make this subscription backyard farming service more and more efficient. We’ve developed our logistics for delivering expert organic farmers to yards across the megalopolis after three territory expansions. We are capable of growing an increasing variety of crops in this fine seaside climate.
We’re about to add fruit tree maintenance. We’re developing more landscape design offerings to improve the aesthetic of small-scale production for style-conscious LA residents. We’ve grown almost fifteen thousand pounds of food this way, we’ve built hundreds of raised beds in a wide networked urban farm, and as far as we know we are the biggest and fastest growing urban agriculture venture in LA if not in the whole country. We’re excited to bring farming home again.
If you’ve wanted to grow food or you’ve tried to grow food and you are overwhelmed by the complexity and vigilance required, give us a call. Organic edible gardening is not an easy hobby, but a homegrown yield is better for your palette, your health, and the planet. We can help you create and manage a thriving garden with harvests like you wouldn’t believe, and you won’t have to worry about leaving your plants during a vacation or tracking the weather week to week.
You won’t have to find room in your schedule for all the digging and trimming and tying and weeding and pruning, nor understand your zone, your micro-climate, or the details of your soil chemistry. You won’t need to assemble a small library of advice books and make risky purchases on tools and techniques that may or may not pan out, you won’t need to make trip after trip to the nursery and the hardware store. You can trust Farmscape to do the dirty work and you can spend your time picking out recipes that incorporate all the fresh, wholesome produce we’re going to put in your basket each week.
Michael Pollan image courtesy of flickr user Poptech. Creative Commons.
All other images courtesy Weston Westenborg, official farmscape historian.