Backyard garden biz is growing fast

Homegrown produce from a MyFarm

TEXT OF STORY

It seems like people are getting into growing their own. Food that is. Even if there's not a whole lot of space to do it. In San Francisco, Lisa Morehouse reports.


Lisa Morehouse: Shoveling soil into buckets, Trevor Paque looks like a farmer. He's tall and tanned, and wears overalls and a checkered shirt. But instead of riding a tractor, Paque hops on his bike or the bus to get to his crops. His farm is in backyards across San Francisco.

Paque left his job as a mortgage broker and launched a start-up called MyFarm. The idea is simple: install an organic garden at cost in customers' backyards and harvest a box of vegetables four times a month. Customers pay between $25 and $35 a week.

Trevor Paque:

Trevor Paque: Vegetables only have to travel across the backyard.

MyFarm customer Hillary Ball doesn't trust store-bought food labeled "organic." Today, she's thrilled about the heirloom seeds MyFarm's planting in her backyard.

Paque: Here's some spinach, gourmet baby greens . . .

She watches a team from MyFarm plant heirloom seeds in her backyard.

Hillary Ball: It's the ultimate control freak's way to control what's coming into your house and what's going into your body.

Ball is typical of MyFarm customers. She doesn't have the time or skills to grow her own organic vegetables.

Ball: I have a black thumb, I can't grow anything. Everything dies.

Since May, MyFarm has installed more than 50 gardens, and is gearing up to expand. The company is developing an operating manual and training videos for farmers.

Jonathon Landeck is with the Center for Agro Ecology and Sustainable Food Systems at UC Santa Cruz. He sees opportunity for MyFarm's decentralized business model.

Jonathon Landeck: What this system does is it really challenges the structures that we have in place for food production and distribution.

Paque started MyFarm after doing a low-budget market test: he put an ad on Craigslist. Two hundred responses in 20 minutes told him he was onto something. To recruit customers, MyFarm put up 50 flyers in San Francisco neighborhoods.

Paque: We've been so busy since we've never had a chance to do any marketing again.

MyFarm has reaped close to $90,000 in revenue since May.

In San Francisco, I'm Lisa Morehouse for Marketplace.

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