BK Farmyards

LOCATION: Brooklyn, New York, USA

SUMMARY: BK Farmyard reconnects farmers and consumers as co-producers of the landscape and food culture. The strategy takes advantage of the existing urban fabric of Brooklyn neighborhoods to reclaim privately held green spaces as farms. Residents pay for a yard-farming service that delivers produce to their doors, while others without green space pay for produce cultivated in these farmyards. Additionally, some lots would be converted to Dinner Party structures, public spaces for community dinner parties. These structures would be the information hub for the current crops, canning seminars, and cooking lessons. BK Farmyards weaves farming into the fabric of the existing neighborhoods, eliminating the distance between farm and home for future urban generations. The integration of ‘farm’ and ‘yard’ also provides possible efficiencies in rainwater harvesting and compost collection.

Clean, local produce has many advantages over agri-business including nutrient-rich foods, smaller carbon footprint, and an emphasis on local foods that create local culture. BK Farmyards combines the production and distribution methods of existing food systems with a couple added benefits:

1. Locally grown items at real cost, full of nutrients (grocery stores do not necessarily provide real prices once environmental issues are factored in)
2. Local jobs
3. Maximum transparency in the production of food: eaters feel connected to the process
4. Convenience of food delivered to your door. This has an added benefit of reducing stress as there is too much choice at the grocery store and eaters are confused as to how to make an informed choice.
5. Dinner Party structures, a new typology, allow neighbors a place for communal eating and sharing.
6. Alternate models of food stamps could be pursued where someone could donate the produce grown in their yard to people in need.

BK Farmyard’s biggest challenge will be to offer these things at a price somewhere between the Farmers market and the supermarket. Many people trying to compare the artificially low price of food at the supermarkets with the real food prices at the farmers market would be willing to spend a little more in return for the availability of food at their home.

BK Farmyard’s unique strategy de-centralizes farm land and relies on land owners to partner with farmers in the production of a foodscape. People will feel a pride associated with eating responsibly in a transparent, convenient system.

PROBLEM SPACE: Our food system is at a critical point: we either reconnect to the land and available resources, or we risk the health of ourselves, our communities, and the land. The amount of fossil fuels in the production and distribution of our produce could be significantly diminished. Chronic disease due to the subsidized production of corn and soy products has been needlessly on the rise in our children for years, and will eventually put a strain on our medical system. Our economy is linked to agri-businesses dependence on oil and pharmaceuticals for the cheap production of food-like substances: we need education regarding the real price of food and the relationship of food to community.

The rituals of preparing and eating a meal are the foundation of culture: it is how we celebrate the gift of life, and how trust is established in a community.

My strategy provides local jobs, local economic growth, and a sense of stewardship and pride in the community. Integrating a new food system model into the existing urban fabric is a radical approach to farming without taking a wreaking ball to the city and without massive investments. If applied across all the urban centers in the United States, BK Farmyard is a lean strategy to overhaul the food system.

SOLUTION: BK Farmyard is in the early seedling stage: I am seeking investors, government funding, and an appropriate team. The business plan expands through several phases:

Phase 1: Research
• Continuing discussions with local farmers to identify practices that work for the local conditions
• Identify major roles and search for interested parties that could fulfill several roles: farmer-in-chief, marketing / business advisor, logistics / distribution manager, etc.
• Feasibility study of distribution logistics and rainwater harvesting
• Research soil conditions to quantify how much soil would need to be imported to farmyards
• Develop business plan

Phase 2: Fundraising – Possible sources
As this project has the potential to showcase New York City’s quality of life, city funding will be pursued, but considering the current economic conditions, many sources may be necessary:
• Heifer International
• Echoing Green Foundation
• Catalog of Giving NY
• Independence Community Foundation
• New York Foundation
• New York City Department of Parks and Recreation

Phase 3: BK Farmyard, Carroll Gardens Spring 2010
• Implement yard-farming in test neighborhood such as Carroll Gardens which has a highly visible front yard with established zoning laws to maintain this greenway, and a demographic that would support sustainable agricultural practices.

Phase 4 – The Public Dinner Party: A new typology Spring 2011

Phase 5 – Growth to other neighborhoods and beyond Spring 2012

Because I am still in the research and planning stages of this project, the award money would be an enormous jump start to the process. I currently spend my weekends focused on this project which means that it has been slow-going. I would take $30,000 of the award money as salary for my year of Phase 1 and 2 to be able to spend the time necessary to ensure the plan’s success. The remaining $70,000 would go into a fund that would accrue interest until I was ready to implement the first neighborhood farmyards in Phase 3. Some of this money might also be needed to secure the correct consultants for the project.

CONTACT: [email protected]