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Hyperlocal Food Production - Deep Background
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Date: 2008-04-23 13:43
Subject: Hyperlocal Food Production
Security: Public
I had a kind of a brainstorm today. I was listening to Fresh Air, and there was a guy on named Paul Polak who's worked to help poor farmers in places like Bangladesh and Nepal to figure out how to get more money out of their land. It got me thinking about how you can really grow quite a bit of food on a very small piece of land. Then I started thinking about a discussion Jen and I had with some friends recently about how we like the idea of growing our own food, but the reality of it is too much to handle (and, for us at least, not very much fun). It occurred to me that there may be an opportunity in an area like Ann Arbor for a company or organization that would actually come and build a vegetable garden in your backyard--plant it, tend it, harvest it, and prepare the soil for the following year--in the interest of stimulating hyperlocal food production.

I can imagine a few possible economic models that might work. For instance, the organization could charge people to do the gardening work (like a lawn care service), and then the homeowners would get to keep all the produce for themselves. (To handle the end-of-season glut, you could sell a canning service on top of the gardening service.) Or, better, it could be pitched as a way for people to use their yards to make money--the organization could grow the gardens and sell the produce to local restaurants and at the Farmer's Market, and part of the proceeds and a percentage of the produce could come back to the homeowners who loaned out the land. Or some hybrid--maybe the homeowner invests up front but sees a profit and/or part of the harvest at the end of the season, like in a crop share scenario, but in their own yards. This could play into the fantasy that a lot of folks have of being more self-sufficient, living off the land, etc. even though they don't have time to actually put in all that work. It would reclaim some of the agricultural land that's been given over to subdivisions. And it would offer a more radically decentralized alternative to our standard agribusiness model which has been the cause of so much debate in recent years.

I have no idea how viable something like this would be, but it's probably something I would pay money for myself. (Note that I am not suggesting I would want to actually do this sort of work ... I want to pay someone else to do it.)
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July 2008