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

Downtime with Debra Ringold

July/August 2015
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER

Dean of the Atkinson Graduate School of Management, Willamette University


Read more...

Money Troubles

September 2015
Thursday, August 20, 2015
BY DAN COOK

The state’s angel investing fund gets hammered in Salem.


Read more...

Loose Talk

July/August 2015
Friday, July 10, 2015
BY AMY MILSHTEIN

When gossip crosses the line.


Read more...

Downtime with Jill Nelson

September 2015
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER

Live, Work, Play wit the CEO of Ruby Receptionists.


Read more...

Back to School

September 2015
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
BY CHRIS NOBLE

Oregon is home to an abundance of gritty warehouses reborn as trendy office spaces, as well as crafty hipsters turned entrepreneurs. Does the combination yield an equally bounteous office products sector? Not so much. Occupying the limited desk jockey space are Field Notes, a spinoff of Portland’s Draplin Design Company, and Schuttenworks, known for whittling Apple device stands. For a full complement of keyboard trays, docking stations and mouse pads, check out the GroveMade line, guaranteed to boost the cachet of even the lowliest cubicle drone. 


Read more...

Aim High

September 2015
Thursday, August 20, 2015
BY JOE CORTRIGHT

We get the education we deserve.


Read more...

10 Innovators in Rural Health

July/August 2015
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY AMY MILSHTEIN | PHOTOS BY JASON E. KAPLAN

Telemedicine, new partnerships and real estate diversification make health care more accessible in rural Oregon.


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