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.
Describe the critical need your solution addresses.
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.
Explain your initiative in more depth and its stage of development.
I believe 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.
How does your strategy and approach respond creatively and comprehensively to key issues?
I have been practicing architecture and engineering for the last 13 years running complex projects and teams. As an architect, I have organized the efforts of an array of engineering consultants, clients, contractors, developers, lawyers, marketers, product manufacturers, community boards, and city organizations such as the Department of Buildings, the Board of Standards and Appeals, Landmarks Preservation Committee, and Department of Design and Construction. A well-crafted team can make anything happen.
My experience has taught me to ask questions early and often. With government agencies, it is imperative to not only put the question in front of the right person but to allow various interpretations. It will be imperative to build consensus among several groups: community boards, Department of Buildings and possibly the FDA.
I spent several years as a graduate teaching instructor, and upon graduation, I was a Lecturer in Architecture at the University of Michigan. An important aspect of BK Farmyards strategy is to educate and empower people to vote for their food system with their food dollars. Teachers are not the only source of learning: our environment teaches us how to behave. If the next generation grows up connected to the production of food, landscape, and culture, what will they be capable of when they are older? How would these community values trickle into other parts of our culture? What would ‘American Cuisine’ mean?