Monday, October 11, 2010

"Landless" Vegetable Patch Grows in Ottawa

From North Country Public Radio. In this case, landless doesn't mean hydroponic, hanging, or floating gardens--it just means it doesn't have a dedicated plot for the CSA.

"A landless CSA in Ottawa has just finished its third season. Using a website, social media and word-of-mouth publicity, VegetablePatch founder Jesse Payne has found a ready supply of urban homeowners with yard space they're willing to share. Payne says there's real excitement about combining good eating with better land use."


"Property owners like this one sign up for three-year commitments. VegetablePatch will reimburse for any higher water use, but Payne says that's never come up so far.

It's been a decent season, including a frost-free September. They managed 17 weeks of basket service.

“Last year I delivered right to people's homes, which was a lot of fun!” Payne says. “I mean, I kind of felt like the Easter Bunny, at certain points, you know, sneaking in and dropping off a basket of goodies – under the cover of darkness!”


"Payne aims for efficiency: decent-sized plots, clustered nearby. He's got twelve in all, this season.

Some offers of land space are too small, or out-of-the-way. For those, Payne's hoping to set up connections that would help would-be gardeners craft their own private sharing arrangements."


"Payne's not worried about saturating the market. “People need food. That's what I say when people contact me about starting up the same sort of thing, I'm like 'No, there's plenty of room, don't worry about it'.” He says other CSAs have contacted himto ask abour sharing dropoff spots, or they’d be infringing on his turf, “but I say no. I mean, we can share.”


"As we leave, Pam Fitch meets us on her deck. “Well, I'd like to say it was really lofty goals about organic gardening and everything,” she says, admitting, “it was really my husband's idea. He saw an article in the newspaper, and contacted Jesse, because we have a huge back yard, and basically (whispers) he didn't want to mow the lawn! So we lent the land with a lot of pleasure.”

"It's been three years now, and she's sold, “It gives us a sense of community and participation, so we're having all the benefits of the garden without having to do the work! I love the deliveries of fresh food too, that's awesome.” (Reporter: “So you have it all – you get the yard, the garden.”) “I tell you! What wrong with this picture? You're always going to be here, right? Jesse?” (Laughs, as Jesse, says “Absolutely!”)

Who knows? It could be the start of a mini land-rush.

“We're building a community,” Payne says. “Something that, you know, can perpetuate itself. And spreading by word and getting more people involved in growing food.”

This CSA in Ottawa is basically a network of donated yard space, rather than one dedicated plot, and the food is delivered instead of using a central pick-up point. I don't know if this model is more efficient than the traditional CSA model, but it seems to work when land is scarce or at a high premium.

It would probably be more efficient if people just grew their own food and eliminated the middleman, but hey--any progress toward eating fresh food is GOOD progress!


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