Friday, March 25, 2011

Urban Farming Challenges #12 and #13

I have a hard time saying no to people.

When I first started preparing the soil on my first urban farm lot, I drove around on trash day in the fall and piled bags of leaves in the back of my pickup truck.  I dumped the leaves out on the lot as a mulch to conserve soil moisture and increase the organic content of the soil.  Pretty soon, a guy in a beat-up pickup truck drove by and asked what I was doing.  When I told him, he said he could get me a lot more organic matter for free.  How great is that!

Fast forward two years:

A pile of sticks, grass clippings, leaves, beer bottles, and a bed frame.  Pretty nasty.  Took us two mornings to clean it up.

Two challenges for the urban farmer: communication and trash management.

First, communication.  Here are my suggestions:
1) Be specific with what you want when people offer to help you.  (This guy also dropped off old Christmas trees one year until I asked him to stop.  He also drove up on my prepared beds to dump bags of trash.  I didn't do a good job of letting him know that I only wanted leaves...and where he could and couldn't leave them.)
2) Always get contact information from anyone who wants to help you.
3) Be proactive in keeping in touch with neighbors.

Next, trash management.  Here are my suggestions:
1) Keep the farm as clean as you can.  Trash begets more trash.
2) Our first farm location naturally collected wind-blown trash...find a way to create a wind barrier or just be consistent in lot clean-up.
3) If we were to farm on this lot again in the future, I would get the neighbors rallied around the farm.  No one likes to see a trashy lot, and with enough community support, we could have kept it looking much nicer.

Hope this helps!