2011 for little city gardens
Little City Gardens is the project of our tireless illustrator Brooke Budner & her business partner Caitlyn. Below is their "year-end digest", a good idea for any beginning farmer!
We’ve spent our first full year on the farm! We got a late start last Spring due to the new zoning legislation not going into effect until March, therefore postponing our ability to sell our produce, but we were still able to do quite a bit of experimenting for the rest of the year. We ran a Summer CSA and weekly farmstand, maintained restaurant and caterer sales, hosted regular volunteer workdays, and gave a handful of group farm tours. We grew a ton of beautiful, delicious produce. There were ups and downs this year; high and low moods and energy levels, crop failures and successes, moments when we felt so blessed with support and moments when we could have used more. All of it has added to our ever-evolving bank of observations and thoughts about farming in the city.
From the beginning of this project, we have promised to make our experiences as transparent as possible. Not only do we aim to create a self-sufficient model of farming in the city, but we also aim to make public the barriers and successes that we encounter along the way. During the growing season, we were often too busy to collect our thoughts and share them. So after a few weeks of break, we have synthesized our experiences. Here are some of our thoughts about farming in San Francisco so far:
Have we been able to support ourselves through our work this year?
The answer to this question is no, yes and sort of. Taking into account our late start on sales, the amount of infrastructure setup, invasive weed wrangling and soil conditioning we had to focus on this year, we feel very proud that we were able to cover all of our operating costs (we’ll share a general breakdown once we finish wrapping up all of our 2011 accounting), set aside a healthy materials budget for next year, offer small gestures of thanks to a committed farm apprentice and pay ourselves each a little under $10,000. Of course we acknowledge that we cannot sustain this type of salary for too long. This is not considered a living wage in San Francisco and if we tried to pay ourselves by the hour, our wages would be embarrassing. We also acknowledge that this salary absolutely would not be adequate for anyone responsible for supporting a child or other family members, repaying loans, or medical bills. But for this year we were able to make it work with a little help from our other part-time jobs, and with some plain and simple living. It also helped that we took home much of our own food and that our work was so exciting and consuming that we didn’t have much free time to spend extra money.
Read the rest of the digest on the Little City Gardens website.