Goodbye Hobby Garden, Hello Money Garden! Building Commercial Relationships Between Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Farmers and Local Gardeners for Mutual Benefit

Final Report for FNE09-661

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2009: $6,625.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Eve and Chris Kaplan-Walbrecht
Garden of Eve Organic Farm
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Project Information

Summary:
What we learned

Note to readers, attached is the complete final report for FNE09-661.

In the spring of this year, I was awarded a farmer grant for my proposal,
“Goodbye Hobby Garden, Hello Money Garden! Building Commercial Relationships Between Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Farmers and Local Gardeners for Mutual Benefit”

My goal was to encourage organic home gardeners to enter into market gardening, by growing extra non-perishable produce (i.e. potatoes, squash, onions, etc.) which they would sell at wholesale prices to commercial CSA farms. By obtaining organic produce from gardeners that can be resold profitably (by explicit agreement) through our CSA groups, farmers benefit, and more CSA shares could be offered for NY City residents. By being given access to profitable market networks, gardeners benefit. The financial incentive will encourage new backyard growers, a more sustainable local economy increasingly based on agricultural production (defined broadly to include home gardening as a type of agriculture), with food dollars cycling from residents to farmers and back to residents. This type of “win-win” arrangement would be highly replicable in any area of the country that has unmet demand for specific types of produce.

PROCEDURES: I developed a range of materials in early April 2009, which are attached to this report. I developed a flyer to promote the program, which we made 100 copies of and distributed at our busy organic farm market (on the farm) and posted in nearby communities, and also made available on our website (via a link on the home page, which gets lots of hits).

For the market gardeners, I developed a guide to growing and storing the non-perishable vegetables which would be marketed as part of the program. I also developed an “Organic Gardener’s Pledge” based on the NOFA “Farmer Pledge”, which would be required to be signed by any gardeners in the program.

I partnered with several non-profits including Sustainable Long Island, NOFA-NY Long Island Chapter, and the Queens County Farm Museum. I had several conversations with the Executive Directors of each about the program, for which they would organize “how-to-garden” workshops, where I would teach gardening and also highlight this program. The flyers were distributed to all organizations for distribution, and distributed at most of NOFA-NY Long Island Chapter’s field days in May-July of 2009 (3 events)

In May my husband Chris spoke at a Master Gardener forum held at a local farm museum, called Hallockville Farm Museum, where he distributed these flyers and highlighted the program.

RESULTS:

I received very little to no response from people interested in participating in the program. I do believe this was due to lack of interest in this particular program, and not due to lack of knowledge about the program, because we give out flyers about lots of other types of events/programs at our farm market, and on our website, and at NOFA Long Island meetings, which get lots of responses.

Of the two people who voiced interest in the program, one was already planning to market his product through a hybrid CSA-type box “scheme” in his neighborhood, and another was trying to grow more produce for their own home consumption. Neither ended up participating.

I think that conceptually, the project is still a good idea. I believe that
I misjudged the culture of “gardening” a bit, since I myself am an entrepreneur involved in the business of farming. People generally have a long way to go to just produce food for themselves, to save money on groceries, so most of them aren’t really concerned with making money.

Project Objectives:

This project aims to build upon this existing momentum towards a “farming rebirth” of the United States’ first suburban area, Long Island, NY. Partnering with the Queens County Farm Museum and others, we will offer “Gardening for Money” workshops around Long Island to teach current and would-be gardeners how to grow storage crops for cash. Growers will sign the NOFA Farmers’ Pledge and promise to use organic methods, and then will bring their harvest to Garden of Eve and potentially other farms, for payment by the pound based on previously agreed upon wholesale prices.

By obtaining organic produce from gardeners that can be resold profitably (by explicit agreement) through our CSA groups, farmers benefit, and more CSA shares could be offered for NY City residents. By being given access to profitable market networks, gardeners benefit. The financial incentive will encourage new backyard growers, a more sustainable local economy increasingly based on agriculture production (defined broadly to include home gardening as a type of agriculture), with food dollars cycling from residents to farmers and back to residents. This type of “win-win” arrangement would be highly replicable in any area of the country that has unmet demand for specific types of produce.

Research

Materials and methods:
Press release and flyer to enroll gardeners and organic pledge form

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Eve Kaplan-Walbrecht, Garden of Eve, 523-6608
Date: April 20, 2009

GOODBYE HOBBY GARDEN, HELLO MONEY GARDEN!
Grant Money Supports Project to Help Gardeners Market Organic Vegetables for Cash,
Build Relationships with Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Farmers

In these tough economic times, people are struggling to meet their costs of living and looking for new sources of income. Supported by a Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Farmer Grant (www.nesare.org), Garden of Eve organic farm and other participating organic farms are launching an exciting new program to help Long Island residents sell vegetables they grow organically at their own homes for real cash!

Want to know how to participate? Orientations will be offered throughout the spring and summer to teach organic vegetable growing practices, and explain the program. Participants will be asked to sign a pledge to use only organic growing methods and no synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers. New gardeners will be paired with more experienced gardeners for mentoring and assistance. Once “money gardeners” have a crop ready, they will bring their produce to Garden of Eve in Riverhead or other participating organic farms for cash payment. The vegetables will then either be resold through retail channels, or incorporated into Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares, by explicit agreement with members.

Vegetables which can be grown for sale as part of this project are mainly less-perishable varieties that can be stored through the winter, and basic quality standards will be applied. Crops to be grown include: Beets: $0.50/lb; Cabbage: $0.50/lb; Carrots: $1/lb; Celeriac/Celery Root: $.75/lb; Red/Yellow/White Onions: $1/lb; Garlic: $6/lb; Parsnips: $1/lb; White/Yellow/red/blue potatoes: $1/lb; Fingerling Potatoes $2/lb; Sweet potatoes: $1/lb; Sunchokes/Jerusalem Artichokes: $4/lb.

Partnering with the Queens County Farm Museum, the Northeastern Organic Farming Association (NOFA) of New York (nofany.org) Long Island Growers Group, and others, free “Gardening for Money” workshops will be offered throughout 2009 at area libraries, garden clubs, and schools across Long Island. The workshop schedule will be available and updated at www.gardenofevefarm.com/moneygarden.htm. Workshops will cover the basics of growing vegetables and organic growing techniques, hands-on how-to activities, and discussion/Q&A.

With only 1-2% of the United States population in the business of agriculture, any successful effort to bring mainstream America back into contact with growing food will certainly help Northeastern Farmers! Particularly for youth, seniors and low-income people “money gardening” can provide income with a higher quality of life than the minimum-wage “McJobs” that are often their only option, while encouraging an improved environment, and improved awareness of how to grow food and why it is so important. This project aims to encourage new backyard growers, and encourage a more sustainable local economy increasingly based on backyard food production, with food dollars cycling from residents to farmers and back to residents. With more produce available, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs can sell more shares and more people get access to eating local organic produce. Everyone benefits in this “win-win” arrangement!

*************************************************
Goodbye Hobby Garden, Hello Money Garden!

Are you interested in earning some extra money and working for yourself?
Been wanting to learn more about growing your own food?
Have you gardened in the past, but felt your hobby was costing too much?

Come learn about an exciting new program that will help you sell vegetables that you grow organically at your own home for real cash!

DO YOU GROW:
• Beets: $0.50/lb
• Cabbage: $0.50/lb
• Carrots: $1/lb
• Celeriac/Celery Root: $.75/lb
• Red/Yellow/White Onions: $1/lb
• Garlic: $6/lb
• Parsnips: $1/lb
• White/Yellow/red/blue potatoes: $1/lb
• Fingerling Potatoes $2/lb
• Sweet potatoes: $1/lb
• Sunchokes/Jerusalem Artichokes: $4/lb

HOW TO PARTICIPATE?

Get growing! Attend one of several orientations which will be held throughout the spring and summer and fill out the Market Gardener’s Contract (available at www.gardenofevefarm.com/moneygarden.htm) stating that you agree to use only organic practices, with no synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers. When your crops are ready, call or email us at 631-722-8777 or farmer@gardenofevefarm.com, bring them to our farm and we will pay you for them! (quality standards apply).

I NEED HELP LEARNING HOW TO GROW VEGETABLES!
Check www.gardenofevefarm.com for a schedule of organic gardening workshops around Long Island! We’ll help you get started with discounted seeds, compost, and free knowledge!

** This project is made possible by a Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) grant **

*************************************************
“HELLO MONEY GARDEN”
ORGANIC GARDENER PLEDGE

I, the undersigned, pledge to:

?? Build and maintain healthy soils by applying gardening practices that include rotating crops annually, using compost, cover crops, green manures, and reducing tillage, and work to sustain the land in healthy condition for future generations;

?? Not ever use of synthetic insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, and fertilizers;

?? Not ever use Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), chemically treated seeds, synthetic toxic materials, irradiation, and sewage sludge in our farming, and all synthetic substances in post harvest handling;

?? Handle raw manure (i.e. chicken, horse, or cow manure obtained directly from the animal source and not composted for at least 1 year) and other soil amendments with care;

?? Ensure food safety by using drinking-quality water for washing crops;

?? Share and develop gardening skills and know-how and work in cooperation with other gardeners and farmers and with the neighboring community to create a more sustainable way of life;

?? I understand that the prices I am being offered are wholesale prices, and that any vegetables I choose to sell to Garden of Eve LLC or any other participating organic farm may be resold at higher prices for which I will not receive the difference.

?? I understand that even after signing this agreement, I am under no obligation to sell vegetables through this program, and may choose to consume my produce or pursue its sale through any other market channel.

?? I agree to hold harmless Garden of Eve LLC and any other participating organic farm, for any harm or injury which may arise to me through my gardening activities or any other activity I undertake in conjunction with participation in this program.

SIGNED: _______________________________________________________ DATE: ____________

GARDEN NAME: __________________ ADDRESS: _____________________________________

PHONE: _______________________ EMAIL: ___________________________________________

** This project is made possible by a Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) grant **
For more information about the project go to www.GardenOfEveFarm.com/moneygarden.htm
Thanks to the Northeast Organic Farming Association of NY (www.nofany.org) Farmer’s Pledge, which parts of this pledge are based on.

Participation Summary

Education & Outreach Activities and Participation Summary

Participation Summary

Education/outreach description:
Handout for gardeners on vegetable quality standards

QUALITY STANDARDS

For Goodbye Hobby Garden, Hello Money Garden! Project
Funded by the NE SARE

Evaluation of the following characteristics will be made on arrival:
• Color
• size and shape
• Defects or blemishes,
• Odor and taste
• maturity, firmness

The purchaser reserves the right to reject any unfit produce at its discretion. The following standards should be used as a guideline:

Beets
Look for: Beets that are firm, round, with a slender tap root (the large main root), a rich, deep red color,
and smooth over most of the surface. If beets are bunched, you can judge their freshness fairly accurately
by the condition of the tops. Badly wilted or decayed tops indicate a lack of freshness, but the roots
may be satisfactory if they are firm.
Avoid: Elongated beets with round, scaly areas around the top surface — these will be tough, fibrous,
and strong-flavored. Also avoid wilted, flabby beets they have been exposed to the air too long.

Cabbage
Savoy (curly leaft), green, or red
Look for: Firm or hard heads of cabbage that are heavy for their size. Outer leaves should be a good
green or red color (depending on type), reasonably fresh, and free from serious blemishes. The outer
leaves (called “wrapper” leaves) fit loosely on the head and are usually discarded, but too many loose
wrapper leaves on a head cause extra waste. Some early-crop cabbage may be soft or only fairly
firm, but is suitable for immediate use if the leaves are fresh and crisp. Cabbage out of storage is usually
trimmed of all outer leaves and lacks green color, but is satisfactory if not wilted or discolored.
Avoid: New cabbage with wilted or decayed outer leaves or with leaves turned decidedly yellow. Wormeaten
outer leaves often indicate that the worm injury penetrates into the head.
Storage cabbage with badly discolored, dried, or decayed outer leaves probably is over-aged. Separation
of the stems of leaves from the central stem at the base of the head also indicates over-age.

Carrots
Look for: Carrots which are well formed, smooth, well colored, and firm. If tops are attached, they
should be fresh and of a good green color.
Avoid: Roots with large green “sunburned” areas at the top (which must be trimmed) and roots which are
flabby from wilting or show spots of soft rot.

Celeriac/Celery Root
Same guidelines as Beets

Garlic
Any Variety, White, red, or Elephant
Look for: Bright white bulbs that are the size of a small apple. Garlic bruises easily so must be carefully handled after harvest, it should not be thrown around. Outer bulb wrappers (“papers”) should be stripped so that the ones that had come into contact with the soil are discarded. Stripping too many wrapper layers will result in a “naked” bulb which will not store properly and will rot.
Avoid: undersized bulbs which did not develop fully; bulbs harvested too late and as a result the cloves began to separate and do not cling to the central stalk; sprouting bulbs; bruised dark stained bulb wrappers or overstripped bulbs.

Onions
Yellow, White or Red
Look for: Hard or firm onions which are dry and have small necks. They should be reasonably free
from green sunburn spots or other blemishes.
Avoid: Onions with wet or very soft necks, which usually are immature or affected by decay. Also avoid
onions with thick, hollow, woody centers in the neck or with fresh sprouts.

Parsnips
Look for: Parsnips of small or medium width that are well formed, smooth, firm, and free from serious
blemishes or decay.
Avoid: Large, coarse roots (which probably have woody, fibrous, or pithy centers) and badly wilted and
flabby roots (which will be tough when cooked).

Potatoes
Red, White, Yellow, Blue or Fingerling
Look for: With new potatoes, look for firm potatoes that are free from blemishes and sunburn (a green
discoloration under the skin). Some amount of skinned surface is normal, but potatoes with large
skinned and discolored areas are undesirable. For general-purpose and baking potatoes, look for reasonably
smooth, firm potatoes free from blemishes, sunburn, and decay.
Avoid: Potatoes with large cuts, bruises, or decay (they’ll cause waste in peeling) and sprouted or
shriveled potatoes. Also avoid green potatoes. The green portions, which contain the alkaloid solanin, may penetrate the flesh and cause bitter flavor.

Rutabagas
Distinctly yellow-fleshed, large-sized relatives of turnips.
Look for: Heavy weight for their size, generally smooth, round or moderately elongated shape, and
firmness. Avoid: Rutabagas with skin punctures, deep cuts, or decay. For more info see TURNIPS.

Sunchokes/Jerusalem Artichokes
Same guidelines as Beets

Squash (Fall and Winter)
Look for: Full maturity, indicated by a hard, tough rind. Also look for squash that is heavy for its size
(meaning a thick wall and more edible flesh). Slight variations in skin color do not affect flavor.
Avoid: Squash with cuts, punctures, sunken spots, or moldy spots on the rind. These are indications of
decay. A tender rind indicates immaturity, which is a sign of poor eating quality in winter squash varieties.

Sweet Potatoes
Look for: Firm sweet potatoes with smooth, bright, uniformly colored skins, free from signs of decay.
Because they are more perishable than white potatoes, extra care should be used in selecting sweet potatoes.
Avoid: Sweet potatoes with worm holes, cuts, grub injury, or any other defects which penetrate the skin;
this causes waste and can readily lead to decay. Even if you cut away the decayed portion, the remainder of
the potato flesh may have a bad taste. Decay is the worst problem with sweet potatoes and is of three types: wet, soft decay; dry, firm decay which begins at the end of the potato, making it discolored and shriveled; and dry rot in the form of sunken, discolored areas on the sides of the potato. Sweet potatoes should not be stored in the refrigerator.

Turnips
The most popular turnip has white flesh and a purple top (reddish-purple tinting of upper surface). It may
be sold “topped” (with leaves removed) or in bunches with tops still on.
Look for: Small or medium-size, smooth, fairly round, and firm vegetables. If sold in bunches, the
tops should be fresh and should have a good green color.
Avoid: Large turnips with too many leaf scars around the top and with obvious fibrous roots.

Project Outcomes

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

Future Recommendations

Target audience for future work

The demographic I think would most benefit from access to markets would be youth and low-income people, or retirees. Reaching these groups would require much more effort in outreach than I was able to make, but could be done by non-profit organizations that have relationships with these sectors. As I said my partner organizations did not really help with outreach, so I wasn’t able to reach these groups to judge their interest. But these types of groups would really need to be taught all about gardening from the ground up (so to speak), which would require a lot more effort on the educational side than I had planned. It would be a good program for a non-profit to take on, and help people market their produce directly at local farmers markets they could set up.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.