Growing trend? 'Recession' gardens feed a need

dish-higginsBlue Ridge Backyard Harvest co-founder Guinevere Higgins wants to make you an urban farmer.
PHOTO BY BILLY HUNT

There appears to be a backyard revolution going on in Charlottesville, as two businesses designed to help folks grow their own food have, well, cropped up.

C’Ville Foodscapes and Blue Ridge Backyard Harvest are nearly identical in their missions and services, offering to design and build gardens, consult on planning and growing them, and assist in maintaining them. Both offer harvesting and composting advice, and the folks at Blue Ridge Backyard Harvest even offer chicken-keeping services.

But will this urban farming movement catch on as the two companies hope it will? According to Blue Ridge Backyard Harvest co-founder Guinevere Higgins, our survival may depend on it.

“At some point, our food system is going to have a very rude awakening–- be it a spike in gas prices or an outbreak of food-borne illness, or a massive food recall,” says Higgins, who also founded CLUCK, the Charlottesville League of Urban Chicken Keepers. “And those best positioned to weather those upsets will be home gardeners.”

Similarly, C’Ville Foodscapes co-founder Wendy Roberman and her partners Sky Blue, Sam Pierceall, Kassia Arbabi, Patrick Costello, and Angel Shockley have approached the venture with a sense of mission.

“We believe everyone has the right to healthy food, and we want to help people achieve this,” says Roberman.

Of course, before the two businesses came on the scene, local Grammy-nominated songstress Adrienne Young had already launched a backyard revolution with her non-profit SurLie Foundation, which started a program in 2008 called, appropriately enough, Backyard Revolution. In fact, the organization is planning its first Backyard Revolution Festival hosted by the Devil’s Backbone Brewery in Nelson County May 8 and 9.

Young also chats with 106.1 The Corner’s Brad Savage every Friday at 8:30pm on opportunities to start your own backyard revolution.

“As a society, we have drifted further away from the practical wisdom that enabled people to lead highly self-reliant, interdependently sustainable lives in their own regions,” writes Young on her website.

Unlike the “Victory Gardens” that sprouted up during the World Wars, encouraged by a government effort to protect the home front and fueled by the real fear that people might actually run out of food, our latest garden movement appears to be a reaction to the industrialized production of food of the late 20th Century.

“More people are coming to understand that growing your own food is the best possible way to avoid industrial agriculture, decrease your carbon footprint, ensure safe and high-quality produce, and eat food with real flavor,” says Higgins.

Higgins, along with partners Matt Bierce and Mike Parisi, say they’ve wanted to do this for a long time, and that they see it as a natural extension of the local food movement. After all, you can’t get much more local than your own backyard.

In addition, while homegrown food is fresh and organic, it can also be cheaper. As the recession drags on, the idea of avoiding Whole Foods by buying a pack of seeds and tilling some soil has its appeal.

“An investment in a garden is like money in the bank,” says Higgins. “The initial investment will pay for itself in savings on eating out and buying organic produce in the grocery store or at the farmer's market.”

So what’s that investment cost? Initial consultations are free for both companies, and Blue Ridge Backyard Harvest's Parisi says they charge $40 per hour plus materials. Roberman says their services start at $100 for a 4' X 8'  "lawn transformation": removing grass, tilling the soil, adding amendments, compost and mulch as needed.

"Each project is unique, so it's difficult to give a typical figure for a garden installation," says Parisi. "So far, we've had a variety of requests. Some clients want coaching for their existing garden, some want us to plan and install a garden that they'll maintain entirely on their own, and some would like us to help them throughout the year."

“Gardening can be really fun. and we can help people by doing the hard work for them,” says Roberman. “And they can enjoy the benefits.”

30 comments

city resident-
Don't suppose you've actually tried speaking to the owner's of said rooster? Getting to know your neighbors is less frightening then it might seem.
Story needs a new title-
Turning C'ville into a bourgeois cliche? A: Clearly you haven't lived here long. B: The stated goal of both groups featured appears to be increasing the amount of urban farming, I don't think they are trying to judge who grows in their yards or how they go about it, perhaps you shouldn't either?

I'm all the about the home grown. count me in on this!

Dear Rooster Stew.

Try coq-au-vin made with a local wine. It doesn't have to be a particularly GOOD wine, either.

It's French country food. Hearty farmer's food. And it made it easy to get rid of spare spring roosters when fall came.
Various recipies are EVERYWHERE on the web.

ââ?¬Å?At some point, our food system is going to have a very rude awakeningââ?¬â? be it a spike in gas prices or an outbreak of food-borne illness, or a massive food recall,”
================================================

That oil price spike may be coming sooner than expected...

WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)--The chief economist of the International Energy Agency said predicted Tuesday that the "era of cheap energy is over," with oil supply unlikely to keep up with demand.

Fatih Birol told the National Association for Business Economics that China will be the main driver of global oil demand, which he sees increasing by about 1.5 million barrels a day this year.

China will account for a third of that gain, with the rest split by Middle Eastern oil producers and other developing countries.

However, he predicted that demand from the major industrialized countries comprising the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has peaked.

"They are not anymore the drivers of oil demand, unlike in the past," he said.

Birol said he has "serious worries" about whether future supply can meet demand.

With investment down and production declining, even if global demand remains around 85 million barrels a day by 2030, about 45 million barrels a day worth of new oil would have to be found to compensate for falling output at existing fields, he said.

The Paris-based IEA is the energy watchdog for the major industrialized nations.

-By Tom Barkley, Dow Jones Newswires; 202-862-9275; tom.barkley@dowjones.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

03-09-10 1457ET

Check out the No Work Garden book by Ruth Stout and eliminate the "consultants."

This is definitely a "growing" trend that will continue. Better tasting, cheaper, more satisfying and sustainable food make this a no-brainer. Love these two companies.

That will all depend Esteban. China will only demand the oil if they can maintain their high export curve.

However, I wanted oil prices to stay high a few more years, as it was turning production back home, and also started making people look at more efficient farming techniques.

@ The Mertiliator

Your suggestion is downright cruel, disgusting, and immature. People with your thought process usually do not know the first thing about growing your own food, eating healthy, or caring about where your food comes from. I bet you are probably gorging on fried, over-fed, hormone-altered chicken right now. Watch out that you don't choke on a bone Mertiliator!

It is too bad the window pains in Belmont don't stop the whining from eminating. I would rather hear the rooster....

Penelope,

From what I heard at the Council meeting one of the affected residents agrees with you. She would rather hear the strong lunged rooster that lives just down the street.

Alas, she is stuck with the whining musicians and a single business owner demanding they be allowed to keep an entire block awake and drown out the rooster.

waiting for advice --how can I get rid of the 4am crowing rooster --love gardens, but didn't move to the City to live on a farm !

You gotta be kidding. Or we that far removed that we dont even know how to feed ourselves?!

Rooster stew anyone --I need a good recipe so I can get some sleep, and please local ingredients only.

So glad to see this backyard farming movement growing thru out our country! Your backyard farmer in 2006 pioneered a model in Portland OR. The need to continue to meet the needs of our community, food know where it is grown and how it is grown makes backyard farming a nessissity for the future of farming.

I have well composted horse manure. Email for info

Anybody who pays for somebody else to either consult on or to plant/oversee their garden is not doing a "recession garden."

They're further turning C'ville into a bourgeois cliche.

Everything a newbie gardener needs to know is on the internets.

start here: http://offices.ext.vt.edu/albemarle/programs/anr/index.html

@ City Resident:

Call the city zoning enforcement. Or try to get them in violation of the new noise ordinance decibel level.

We've engaged the rooster owners in converstion many- many- many times--this is the second go around, rooster #2. Thanks folks, coq-au-vin sounds delicious. Time for a neighborhood stew party.

Lighten up City resident. If you had a taste of the fresh eggs that your neighbor enjoys, you would probably learn to live with the noise. It can't be worse than the sounds of your neighbors fighting, gun shots,lawn mowers,kids screaming in the yard, or clunky cars driving down your street.

mygrowlist:

I like your name because it reminds me of Mike Rowe.

"Don’t suppose you’ve actually tried speaking to the owner’s of said rooster? Getting to know your neighbors is less frightening then it might seem."

Do you really think someone can't figure out that a rooster is loud and may wake others? Actually in this town where the world revolves around every single person they probably don't care to give it much thought. city resident just grind glass into the rooster feed and your problems will disappear.

In which case, since you've spoken to them, they are certainly out of line and contrary to Patsy's comments you don't actually need a Rooster to get those wonderful eggs. We have a rooster near our house but its really not that loud (not so close) and we enjoy the noise. . but I could see how it could get annoying.

I have a vegetable garden I grow every year and when I was a kid my parents raised chickens, cows, and geese, and none of them were ever a problem to neighbors. The cows got out VERY occasionally but they always got them back in, no matter what time of day or night. When they got tired of fixing the fences they did the right thing and slaughtered what we could eat and sold the rest. If it's too hard not to be an inconsiderate lout when you own something that's potentially annoying to your neighbors, you shouldn't have it. If that means killing a rooster oh well that's what they're there for. Sissies like you want to feel all eco-friendly but I guarantee you've never been on a farm for any amount of time, otherwise you'd laugh at the idea of slaughtering a chicken being cruel.

Mertiliator-
I don't see anyone suggesting the slaughter of a rooster to be cruel. I believe, with some certainty, that it was your suggestion of putting ground glass into the chicken food that was cruel. Considering it would, although I don't know for sure, kill all of the chickens as well as the rooster. . it'd be cruel. For the record, I also think it is silly to suggest someone's eating patterns and thought process based upon comments on this thread, from what I can tell farming (the original subject) crosses political, social, racial and economic lines, at least in our area.

says a lot about this town that people go out of their way to criticize others who might want to grow their own food with some help, yet no one takes the time to declare their support for a great food project like this: http://www.readthehook.com/dish/index.php/holy-kale-church-csa-help-feed...

Did I miss something but are you guys dumb enough to think eggs come from roosters? Like to see that trick!

city resident,

Belmont residents have been told they don't have a right to sleep during normal sleeping hours. Bands and base take priority. They've been informed that cities are noisy and they should have to deal with it.

Why should you be any different?

Maybe you should be glad that your windows pains don't vibrate from the rooster crowing.

Yes folks, pun intended with pains.

dear penelope that can be arranged . . .give us your address and we'll drop one off free of charge. p.s. it also performs striptease

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