A local co-op said, "We don't have a local, organic herb supplier!" We said, "We'll do it!"
We want to grow more and develop more organic and local FOOD in Spokane, Washington's East Central Neighborhood. There's a lot of unused land in the form of small city lots that aren't being tended. One of those lots is just off of our current location. We've been watching it since we moved here in 2006 - from the meth user's who were living in it, through demolition by the city, to semi regular mowings to maintain it. The lot is currently unused except by the city who pays to "maintain" it.
Recently we attended the board meeting of our local co-op we purchase our produce through, asked some good questions, and just plain got to talking and found out there was a real need for locally grown fresh herbs and winter greens. We LOVE herbs but, alas, we've already planted 75% of our current greenhouse plus using it for retail space as you can see in the picture. That got me thinking about the aforementioned lot...
We would purchase the lot from the city, fence it, and purchase a 26X60 ft greenhouse just like the one we put on our current lot last year only bigger. There is already water, gas, and electricity on the lot. We would also purchase our first lot of herb clam shells, setup the website, and print SFF, Inc. product labels for the store. We already have access to good seed, good plants, good mulch, and a good God.
With space like this, and our experience in our particular location, we could soon be the sole provider of fresh organically grown herbs and winter greens our co-op market needs!
We really believe in locally and sustainably grown produce - which includes exclusively organic methods. If you make a space for nature, she gives back in abundance! We've experienced that in our own little former weed lot. The crabgrass would barely grow where we now have a lush lawn, berry and flower beds, a mini orchard, an over-sized compost area, 12 chickens, and one beautiful Buff Orpington Rooster. I was recently studying "Gaia's Garden" by Toby Hemenway and realized the beds around most of the house are really swales! I originally put them in to catch the rainwater from our non-guttered roof line. I guess some things you do not knowing how good of and idea it is! When we put in our greenhouse last fall all we knew was that we'd be increasing our ability to produce for ourselves and our neighbors. With the lettuce we planted in January, we already have more than we can eat! That doesn't include the spinach, kale, collards, beets, chard, radishes and other herbs in full swing this week (3rd week of April).
We also really believe fresh produce doesn't have to be expensive! One of the biggest contributors to the cost of organically grown produce is the cost of capital investment - land and structures - and Labor. We've got the labor down: Me, Sean, my wife, Shannon, and our kids, Emma and Zeke. The collards and kale starts on our Facebook page were transplanted by Emma and the bark around the veggies was hauled and put in place by Zeke. Shannon and I do the rest which sometimes means opening and closing the greenhouse walls multiple times a day to maintain a good temperature. From a $2.00 pack of seeds can come 150 to 200 individual plants all capable of productive growth over multiple seasons if double covered! Water is inexpensive with good mulching and soil building, and we typically favor cut and come again varieties so instead of a single harvest as many as 6 or more are possible from the same plants.
The $20,000 we are asking you to fund is to eliminate the extra cost of capital that would push our product price above what people in our neighborhood and the co-op can afford. That $2.00 bunch of leaf lettuce would at minimum double to be able to keep up with the payments. And then there's the conventional financing - we heard it from the bank already, too new and too risky. We think there's a better way to feed people, neighbors, and community and we've been working at it for years already without the "official" part of a business. We want to expand our effect and prove our methods to the bank and to the nay-Sayer's.
Absolutely not right! Our winters are actual winters but we can do a lot with planning to get a harvest even in December and January (the leanest and darkest months). We read Eliot Coleman's "Winter Harvest" this winter and found out just how much you can grow in the space we're proposing. He uses a combination of double covering (a row cover inside a greenhouse like ours) to keep cool weather crops alive even when the temps dip to near frigid. We kept our tomatoes alive under a second cover in our greenhouse in March and they weren't even sitting on the ground! Just because it isn't being done doesn't mean it can't. Stay positive and work smart!
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