Sponsored by Lane Powell

Down and dirty

| Print |  Email
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Oregon_Business_090605_0027Robyn Streeter, left, and donna Smith turn a Southeast Portland backyard into a vegetable garden. Demand is high for their business, Your Backyard Farmer.
PHOTO BY STEPHEN FUNK
Donna Smith and Robyn Streeter founded Your Backyard Farmer on the principle that everyone should be able to eat fresh, local food. And if you’re too busy or too clueless to grow your own, they’ll do it for you in your own back yard and leave a basket of vegetables on your doorstep.

A backyard farm is the natural next step for people who eat organic, says Smith, who has been growing food as long as she can remember. Smith taught gardening through AmeriCorps and keeps a row in her garden for the local food bank. Streeter grew up on a farm in Idaho. They met in the horticulture program at Clackamas Community College.

Your Backyard Farmer has grown rapidly since it began two years ago, as if guided by an invisible trowel, into a multi-faceted business with a waiting list of 50 hopeful clients. Most of the clients are couples, families or neighborhoods, where the kids like to ambush their farmers and learn the names of the vegetables.

Last year, Smith and Streeter hired an employee to take care of 25 of their 32 backyard farms so they could spend the growing season teaching 20 clients in the Portland area how to plant and care for their gardens. The price of having a garden installed and tended starts at $1,675 and goes up depending on the size.

On a recent misty Friday afternoon, Smith, 51, and Streeter, 31, tend a 150-square-foot plot in Southeast Portland. Dressed in hooded sweatshirts, shorts and baseball caps, they are ready to get down in the dirt where kale, tomatoes, potatoes, cauliflower, basil, parsley and more are taking root.

A backyard farm is a feat of agriculture. The soil composition and sunlight vary, and Smith and Streeter learned on the job how to manage the various microclimates and sundry pests.

“Look at all those worms — beautiful!” Smith says as she overturns a shovelful of dirt in the course of burying potato plants that are climbing too high. Streeter is on her knees weeding when Smith lets out a yell at discovering a root maggot under the potatoes. She turns the pest over in her hand. Then she drops it and the farmers wrathfully stomp on it.

The rain starts, but the rain is a friend to the farmer. They work through rain, wind, sleet or hail, Smith says. “We put up a trellis in the snow during that weird little blizzard in March,” Streeter says. “That was fun.”

Instead of hiring employees immediately to take care of the backlog, the two are scouting meticulously for the right farmer to train. They also were growing food for two restaurants, a market and a home cook, but those clients are on hold while they search for the perfect plot. Some might say they’re missing out on profit, but Smith and Streeter won’t impose their will on the business. It’s their garden and they’re letting it grow organically.
ADRIANNE JEFFRIES
 

More Articles

6 key things to know about summer baseball in Oregon

The Latest
Friday, June 05, 2015
basedthumbBY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

As temperatures in Oregon creep into the 90s this weekend, Oregonians' thoughts are turning to — summer baseball.


Read more...

Queen of Resilience

June 2015
Friday, May 22, 2015
BY AMY MILSHTEIN

Astrid Scholz scales up sustainability.


Read more...

Downtime with John Helmick

June 2015
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER

Live, Work, Play: CEO of Gorilla Capital.


Read more...

Oregon businesses face destruction from future earthquake

The Latest
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
htctthumb1BY KIM MOORE | RESEARCH EDITOR

An earthquake would completely destroy many Oregon businesses, highlighting the urgent need for the private and public sectors to collaborate on shoring up disaster preparedness, said panelists at an Oregon Business breakfast summit today.


Read more...

Hall of Flame

June 2015
Friday, May 22, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER

A Power Lunch at Oswego Grill.


Read more...

Intrepid reporter checks out ZoomCare rebrand

The Latest
Wednesday, May 27, 2015
dentistthumbPHOTOS BY JASON E. KAPLAN

Like all good journalists, OB editorial staff typically eschew freebies. But health care costs being what they are, digital news editor Jacob Palmer couldn't resist ZoomCare's offer of a three-in-one (cleaning, exam, whitening) dental office visit, guaranteed to take no more than 57 minutes. 


Read more...

Frothy Battle

June 2015
Friday, May 22, 2015
BY ROBERT MULLIN

Latest development in Nestlé plant saga sparks debate about the value of water.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS