Growing trend? 'Recession' gardens feed a need
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.”