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

OB Poll: Wineries and groceries

News
Friday, October 24, 2014

24-winethumbA majority of respondents agreed: Local vineyards should remain Oregon-owned and quality is the most important factor when determining where to eat or buy groceries.


Read more...

Fly Zone

November/December 2014
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
BY JOE ROJAS-BURKE

The black soldier fly’s larvae are among the most ravenous and least picky eaters on earth.


Read more...

Two Sides of the Coin

Contributed Blogs
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
22 twosidesBY JASON NORRIS

Historically, when the leaves fall, so do the markets. This year, earnings, Europe, energy and Ebola have in common? Beyond alliteration, they are four factors that the investors are pointing to for this year’s seasonal volatility.


Read more...

Woman of Steel

November/December 2014
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
BY LINDA BAKER

Tamara Lundgren tackles the challenges—without getting trampled.


Read more...

The clean fuels opportunity

News
Monday, November 10, 2014
111014-dirtyfuel-thumbBY KIM MOORE | OB RESEARCH EDITOR

A market for low-carbon transportation fuels has a chance to flourish in Oregon if regulators adopt the second phase of the state’s Clean Fuels Program.


Read more...

I Know How You Feel

November/December 2014
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
BY JESSICA RIDGWAY

Most smartphones come equipped with speech recognition systems like Siri or Cortana that are capable of understanding the human voice and putting words into actions. But what if smartphones could do more? What if smartphones could register feeling?


Read more...

Revenge Forestry

November/December 2014
Tuesday, October 14, 2014
BY JONATHAN FROCHTZWAJG

A flare-up in the Elliott Forest raises questions about détente in Oregon’s timber wars.


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