Monday, December 15, 2014

Colin McCrate: Growing a Farm on the Fringe

Help become a “barnraiser” for the sustainable food movement.

When they’re not busy working on their forthcoming Storey book about how to get the most production out of your vegetable garden (to be published next year), Colin McCrate and Brad Halm are busy running Seattle Urban Farm Company (SUFCo). This year, the SUFCo team’s vision for a thriving world of sustainable urban food production grew to include a 4-acre farm at the city’s edge. Colin McCrate writes about what comes next.
Colin McCrate
When you’re a small-scale vegetable grower, most of your time and energy is spent planning for and tending to your crops. Daily tasks include planting seeds, tending the greenhouse, setting out transplants, irrigating, weeding, and scouting for pests — to say nothing of harvest season. In the midst of this overwhelming scope of work, finding opportunities to communicate with the outside world can be tough. That’s not to say we wouldn’t like to be in touch. I think most growers would agree that sharing their experiences and knowledge with their communities could help tremendously in the effort to change our culture’s perception of farmers and increase awareness of and appreciation for the work they do.

I own a small business called Seattle Urban Farm Company (SUFCo) that designs, builds, and manages edible gardens. SUFCo is essentially a landscaping business that focuses on converting underutilized urban spaces into productive gardens. At SUFCo, we believe that sustainable urban agriculture can promote healthy diets, environmental stewardship, stronger communities, and improved quality of life. Our goal, by growing food right in urban centers, where people live, is to improve the profile of all farmers and provide people with daily, meaningful interactions with sustainable food production.
Multi-purpose greenhouse spaces will serve the community.
This past year, as part of our vision, we decided to expand the scale of our projects to include a 4-acre production farm called Urban Fringe Farm. Located just 13 miles from downtown Seattle, this farm provides produce for four Seattle restaurants and one local organic dog food company. In addition to providing a source of locally grown food, we want this location to serve as an access point for anyone interested in learning more about sustainable food production and seeing what it takes to grow food responsibly.

The Urban Fringe Farm has just completed its first season of operation. Although it was a successful year, this project is still in its startup phase, and has significant infrastructure needs. This winter, we are hoping to build several new greenhouses on the site to serve as productive growing space, propagation space, wash/pack storage, and to provide a location for a regular series of workshops and open houses for the community.
All hands on deck for strawberry harvest
The Urban Fringe Farm also has the potential to be a guiding business model for many small-scale produce farmers. It’s a truly unique and critically important component of our efforts to increase sustainable food production in urban areas.

By now I’m certain that you are thinking, “This all sounds so great! I wish I could help make this happen.” Believe it or not, you CAN! You can help us achieve our goals by taking part in our Barnraiser crowdfunding campaign!

What is Barnraiser? Barnraiser is an online crowdfunding platform (just like Kickstarter) but it is designed specifically to help create awareness and community support for sustainable agriculture ventures.  It has allowed us to create a fundraising campaign that makes it easy for you to learn and contribute.

By involving people like you directly in this process we hope to build community around our projects and allow everyone to become a more active member of the sustainable food movement. Please join us by supporting our project and helping spread the word to others!


The Seattle Urban Farm Company team
Photos courtesy of the author

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