When Fort Collins-born Kipp Nash moved to Boulder in 2004 after several years of international travel, he had a single objective: “I was a farmer looking for land.”
The problem: Land in Boulder isn’t exactly cheap. The fix: Get creative.
“The only resource that made any sense to me was my neighbors’ front and back yards,” says Nash.
While researching that idea, Nash stumbled upon a guy in Saskatchewan, Canada, named Wally Satzewich, who runs a successful urban garden business across 25 residential properties.
On spinfarming.com (as in S-mall P-lot IN-tensive farming), Wally and his partner, Gail Vandersteen, argue that more money can be netted with less effort by growing multiple crops intensively in the city than on a conventional farm.
So in 2006, Nash convinced a handful of the willing to let him dig up their properties and launched Community Roots Urban Gardens. Five first-year gardens grew to six the following year and to 13 as of this year. Nash takes a portion to market, sells another as shares in a community-supported agriculture program – or CSA, in which each “shareholder” pays the farmer up front to receive a weekly harvest during the growing season – and lets the homeowners munch from the gardens for their cut.
“I haven’t gotten it working on all cylinders yet,” says the 32-year-old Nash, meaning he still drives a school bus to supplement his income. “But what I’m trying to create here is more than just a profession for myself and a garden for someone else. It’s really more of a community project, where people are going to hopefully come together and feel a sense of hope. That can really pull a neighborhood together.”
Considering how often his name is mentioned by Colorado Springs gardeners, it’s safe to say that others share his idealism. What Nash calls his “modern-day form of sharecropping” has inspired a number of local people who, like him, want to help the urban garden trend grow in the face of economic and environmental concerns nationwide. His model has also caught the imagination of countless folks who’ve seen rows of food instead of spreads of grass laid out in front of suburban homes.
“It’s like, ‘Wow, they’re growing food in their front yard,'” says Nash, imitating a passerby. “‘That makes so much sense, why aren’t we all doing that?'”
Death to the lawn
In the post World War II-era of Victory Gardens, home and community efforts supplied 40 percent of the nation’s produce, according to an Oct. 12 New York Times Magazine article by The Omnivore’s Dilemma author Michael Pollan.
Pollan, addressing what our incoming president should do to reform our agriculture system, cites “soaring” demand for both farmers’ markets and CSAs (of which there are roughly 1,500 nationwide now).
“There is a gathering sense among the public that the industrial-food system is broken,” he writes. “Markets for alternative kinds of food – organic, local, pasture-based, humane – are thriving as never before.”
Another New York Times article from Oct. 7 cites the 3,000-person town of Hardwick, Vt., which is shifting its depressed economy from granite mining to sustainable agriculture, including the development of community gardens and a CSA program.
Now, we’re not seeing changes on that scale out here. But even if Front Range towns aren’t giving up their granite, so to speak, Front Range townspeople are giving up their grass.
“The lawn is going to go away,” says Becky Elder, of Blue Planet Earthscapes and Pikes Peak Permaculture. “We’re at a time of great change,” particularly in relation to water in the West.