Home Back Issues July 2009 Down and dirty

Down and dirty

| Print |  Email
Archives - July 2009
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

Wheel man

March 2014
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
BY LINDA BAKER

Les Schwab has put a premium on customer service since 1952, when legendary namesake Les Schwab founded the company with one store in Prineville. (Schwab died in 2007.) But if the corporate principles remain essentially the same, the world around this iconic Oregon business has changed dramatically.


Read more...

How to help your staff solve their own problems

Contributed Blogs
Friday, March 21, 2014
03.21.14 thumb coxcoffeeTOM COX | OB BLOGGER

During a recent talk to HR Directors, I asked if they saw leaders trying to solve every problem, instead of delegating to and empowering staff. Every head nodded. Every single one.


Read more...

The solution to youth unemployment

News
Thursday, February 27, 2014
02.27.14 Thumbnail TeenworkBY ERIC FRUITS

Because they have little chance of working for someone else, today’s teens need to be entrepreneurs. But, first, we must teach our teens that entrepreneurship starts small.


Read more...

The 2014 List: The Top 34 Medium Companies to Work, For in Oregon

March 2014
Thursday, February 27, 2014

100best14logoWebOur 100 Best Companies project turned 21 this year, so pop open the Champagne. Our latest survey gives us plenty to cheer.

 


Read more...

Spreading the wealth

March 2014
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
HiResBY PAIGE PARKER

A money management firm broadens its reach. 


Read more...

Why I became an educator

News
Tuesday, March 04, 2014
03.04.14 thumbnail teachBY DEBRA RINGOLD | GUEST CONTRIBUTOR

How can we strengthen the performance of institutions charged with teaching what Francis Fukuyama calls the social virtues (reciprocity, moral obligation, duty toward community, and trust) necessary for successful markets and democracy itself?


Read more...

Barrister bands

March 2014
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
IMG 4691BY LINDA BAKER

An intellectual property attorney by day, 48-year-old Stoll Berne attorney Tim DeJong is a singer and guitarist by night.


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