Doing What We Can With What We Got–bk farmyards Puts Backyards into Crop Production

In case you missed last week’s Edible segment on NY1, we just wanted to give you yet another peek of the fields at Fox Trot Farmyards, a 450-square-foot real, working farm– meaning people pay for its produce–smack in the back of a South Brooklyn backyard. It’s a prototype run by Stacey Murphy and volunteers at bk farmyards, the organization she runs to help schools, community gardens and homeowners turn their unused land into working farms that benefit everyone in Brooklyn. (The “everyone” applies thanks to the way growing things improve soil, water and air quality.)

Among their many projects is a youth training program at an East New York school, and an egg CSA where more than 60 chickens currently roost. But our favorite is Fox Trot, which supplies six CSA members each Friday until November and is being used as a test model by Murphy during the 2011 growing season.

At Foxtrot, homeowner donates the land and water, and in return gets a free CSA share each Friday. They’re also responsible for gathering CSA clients from their community, essentially neighbors and friends who come right to their yard to pick up their tote bags of goods that were literally picked 45 minutes beforehand.

“The idea is that we’re trying to build a sustainable business model,” says Murphy, who teaches a handful volunteers about crop planning, planting and harvesting each Friday, the crew weighing yields of each crop each week on a portable scale. (In total it’s about 30 pounds on average a week, ranging from 20 pounds in spring to 50 right now.) She also tracks what is planted when, how much seedlings cost and the amount of time spent working on the farm. “We measure everything that goes into the site,”  she says, “so that we know if a farmer wanted to farm 12 of these sites that they could sustain a lifestyle in the city…really this year is about training people how to take of backyards so we can increase the amount of food that’s being grown in Brooklyn.”

Note that while all farmers have problems–pests, weather, and so on–one hard part of farming several city plots instead of one large rural one is that you’re not always on site all the time to see worms, overwatering, broken irrigation tubing or fallen stakes as they happen: Murphy currently tries to hit all her projects every other day or so, travelling between them all by bike. Which adds to another key feature of Foxtrot: Most of the farming and CSA equipment on site will fit into a backpack.

Want to see more? Watch the segment about bk farmyards on NY1 right here.



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