Wednesday, December 8, 2010

For the Record

Ever since I've started to engage in urban farming, a lot of people have had a lot of questions for me, a lot of them personal. They're the kind of questions that people may discuss with their good friends, but not relative strangers. But with the visible-ness and subsequent openness of urban farming, the public seems nonchalantly inclined to regularly put me through a series of par for the course questioning. What this boils down to are inquiries about farm revenues and personal finances.

So here it goes for the record. Like Wikileaks, I believe in full disclosure. I will attempt to answer these questions and divert the public to my blog when they come up in the future.

So, Old Husher how much money did you make this first year farming? Personally, I made nothing. The farm had veggie revenues just under $2K and t-shirt sales of $500. All of these monies went straight back into my company, Green Urban Enterprises. Obviously, $2K is not enough to live on even by cheap ol' Cleveland standards. Considering however, I only grew on 1,900 square feet of my 17,000 available, AND I actually sold within city limits (not to yuppies in the 'burbs), AND I didn't have a spring crop because of Cleveland's temporary cease and desist, AND I wasn't set-up to accept assistance this year, AND I do this without a partner, then my $2K is actually quite a feat that I'm exceptionally proud of.

So, Old Husher why'd you only grow on a fraction of your land this year? This boiled down to time constraints. Though the city granted me funding for a fence, this meant nothing in terms of city zoning. It was total bureaucratic left hand didn't know what the right hand was doing. Much of my summer was spent down at city hall trying to get my fence for which the city had already granted me money to get. As a one man band, if I'm down at city hall, then I'm not farming.

Old Husher, what do you mean by "one man band?" Doesn't your wife help? What I mean by "one man band" is that I do 98% of all the work myself. From seed selection to seed starting to planting to pruning to weeding to harvesting to processing to selling, it's generally all me. That being said, I do have a small crew of volunteers that help somewhat regularly. This crew consists of Mike Birchler, Kevin "Glutton" Orr, and Jessica Julian. For them being in my life and on my farm, I'm eternally grateful. Please note, there is no reference to my wife, Sarah Husher, within this crew. Instead, she works a full time job with benefits and a part time job as a yoga instructor, which ultimately has awarded me the financial freedom necessary to get this farm off the ground. And just like my crew, but for obviously different and varied reasons, I'm eternally grateful for having Sarah in my life despite her not "helping" specifically on the farm.

Old Husher, do you own the land you farm on? As it stands right now, I don't own my farm land. I have two separate landlords. The first is the City of Cleveland, who I have a five year, zero dollar lease with. My other landlord is the Bellaire Puritas Development Corporation, who I have an annual lease with that costs several hundred dollars more than the one with Cleveland. Ultimately, I would like to own my farm land, as this would offer me and my business more security. I need about $9K for the Bellaire Puritas property, and even given that money I still need to prove to them that I'm serious about this urban farm stuff before they're willing to sell it to me. The Cleveland Land Bank property is up in the air, whether or not Cleveland is willing to sell. Basically as I understand it, if Cleveland has a better development opportunity for my farm, then they're gonna jump on that, and my farm is kaput. It's not exactly the sterling guarantee that I'd like for the longevity of my farm, but it's the best I can do for now.

Old Husher, what kind on money did it take to get this all started? Well, I'm a firm believer that an urban farm in the Rust Belt can be started for about $1K. However, I got my farm started with substantially more money. My first cash infusion came in the form of a grant called Re-Imagining Cleveland. This was a grant for $7.5K and was actually part of Obama's Stimulus. These Obama monies got used up quickly, mostly on my fence and storage container. Sarah and I also lent my company $4K so that Green Urban Enterprises could have working capital for things like business cards, insurance, and rent money. Of the $4K, Green Urban Enterprises has paid back $500 so far. It would have been an even grand, but this laptop I'm typing on right now took precedence over Sarah and I.

So that's about it. I've fielded these questions so many times I've felt it necessary to right this blog. If you have any other questions for me, please feel free to ask.


  1. That is funny isn't it no one would walk up to a new store owner and flat out ask so how much money did you make last year but if you farm it is usually in the first 3 questions you're asked I'm usually willing to talk numbers with other new farmers (because the realities of growing for money needs to be known) but for the person just passing by I normally just blow off

  2. i'm glad to hear it's just not me. justin