I visited my friend Bob last weekend. He lives in the historic fishing village of Steveston, home to a fabulous museum and the set of TV series, Once Upon a Time. He gave me a personal tour of the town and we had a lovely lunch, but the real purpose of the trip was to show me his yard. For the last four years he has shared it with urban farmers. His yard is a half acre, so there’s plenty of growing space, with easy access to water and a couple of small buildings to store farming equipment. The farmers have their own key to the buildings and can come and go as they please. Problem is, the farmers keep leaving – they start off enthusiastically and then just leave Bob with a dug up lawn full of weeds and a morning glory infested compost pile.
Each time, Bob has the same conversation with the potential farmer. Each time, they accept his offer of free land, supporting infrastructure and unlimited access. Each time, the farmers excitedly lay out their plans. Then, the plans don’t materialize and Bob has to deal with the mess that’s left behind.
Even though he’s had five or six farmers abandon the backyard farm, Bob hasn’t given up. He really wants to support local agriculture. He comes from a long line of farmers who farmed right here in Steveston and wants to make sure this valuable land remains productive.
“This isn’t a huge acreage where industrial-scale farming is required,” says Bob, “nor is it a small backyard raised bed that can produce minimal produce. This is ideal for human-scale, small commercial production. Even an inexperienced farmer should be able to get some relatively intense food production.”