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Faribault Daily News,Corey Butler Jr./AP
Gary Vosejpka, owner of Thorn Crest Farms in Dundas, Minn.

Is Personal Farming the Next Big Green Business?

June 15, 2009 07:30 AM
by Sarah Amandolare
Residential farming and gardening services are taking hold in some American cities, furthering the homegrown food craze and helping people save money in the process.

Assessing "a small but ripe niche market"

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According to the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune, Minneapolis residents are increasingly interested in the idea of growing their own food because they "want to eat locally and organically, and they could save money in the long term." The newest way to achieve such lofty ecological goals is to hire a personal farmer, a professional who builds a garden of healthy fruits and vegetables, and returns weekly to tend to it.

In the Twin Cities, "at least two new residential farming services were launched" in the past few months. Catherine Turner, a lawyer, hired a personal farmer. "This garden has been planned and engineered for greatest yield," she told the Star Tribune. "Next year, I'd like to do it myself."

There are less demanding ways of getting your fill of organic produce, however.

Business Courier of Cincinnati reported that community-supported agriculture programs known as CSAs have grown immensely popular. The programs allow consumers to establish a relationship with farms and farmers by becoming a shareholder; a financial commitment earns each CSA member a fresh basket of produce every week or month.

The point is to teach people which items are in season, but decreased waste is an added bonus. Melinda O'Briant, a garden manager at Turner Farms, told the Business Courier, "People in our CSA change the way they eat. You get the vegetables, sometimes a lot of them, and you have to figure out how to make sure they're not wasted."

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Background: How to tend your own garden

Last year, the Star Tribune reported that the Garden Writers Association Foundation called vegetable gardening a "significant new trend" in the United States, based on a national survey completed in February 2008. Local nurseries from Minneapolis to Pittsburgh saw a surge in seed orders for greens, peas and beets. Many new gardeners were young, female and urban.

For those who want to try their hand at gardening, heed the insightful advice of Barbara Damrosch in her column for The Washington Post.

"[T]here are no instant short cuts," she writes. Would-be gardeners must realize that growing a sustainable plot takes time and care. For example, compost is good, but it's better if it's had a year to break down, and won't fully incorporate into your garden until about five years have passed. However, Damrosch emphasizes that anyone can garden. Like parenting, which "most of us undertake with little preparation," gardening simply requires following your instincts to nurture and protect.

Reference: Gardening Web guide

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