Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

How Two Urban Farmers Got Their Start Leveraging Backyard Space

Food
Mason Phillips and Maltby sit amidst an edible flower garden planted in a borrowed backyard in Ottawa, Canada. Madeleine Maltby

By Lindsay Campbell

In 2015, Madeleine Maltby began knocking on neighborhood doors in Canada's capital city, Ottawa, with a simple proposal. In exchange for a backyard, the residents would let her grow a garden full of crops with a percentage they could enjoy.


"It was kind of like let's see where this goes and I just really wanted to grow some vegetables," she said.

The approach allowed her to acquire four separate yards in the Ottawa area.

"I would talk to the homeowners about what the parameters would be and I always asked them what their favorite vegetables are and what would work," she said.

By her side was Matthew Mason-Phillips, her partner, who she says helped her turn over her first urban garden. A year after the initial door knocking in 2016, Mason-Phillips decided he would formally join Maltby in her quest to grow food in Canada's capital city. "It felt natural to dive in," said Mason-Phillips, "especially being a naively optimistic, idealist."

Within four years the project evolved into Backyard Edibles, a popular local supplier of vegetables, microgreens and edible flowers.

The pair doubled their backyard donors from their first year, and had 20-25 members from the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), a Canadian program that allows consumers to buy a share of grown goods from farms of their choice.

"The amount of support and demand for what we were doing in the beginning was overwhelming," said Mason-Phillips. "People were offering up their balconies, the space in their flower gardens … They were offering space from Montreal to Kingston, so that was pretty cool."

While their business took off, attracting a strong consumer base with an appetite to eat local, Maltby and Mason-Phillips had to think about how they might make a profit during the cold Canadian winters.

"The off-season was the elephant in the room," said Mason-Phillips.

After some brainstorming and experimenting with plant varieties, the two rented a warehouse in the city's downtown core where they started to grow microgreens in 2017. "It allows us to become a year-round business and to have a year-round income." said Maltby. The operation has become the backbone of their business with more than 50 local restaurants sourcing their microgreens.

Although the pair has had to scale back their number of yard donors in order to stay on top of their microgreens venture, they've still managed to maintain a piece of their original vision.

One borrowed yard full of edible flowers remains in use where its contents are sold to loyal customers. With about four years of operations behind them, Maltby said it's often difficult for her to take in what her and Mason-Phillips have been able to accomplish, but she's proud of what they've done so far.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Modern Farmer.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Food Tank

By Danielle Nierenberg and Alonso Diaz

With record high unemployment, a reeling global economy, and concerns of food shortages, the world as we know it is changing. But even as these shifts expose inequities in the health and food systems, many experts hope that the current moment offers an opportunity to build a new and more sustainable food system.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Brian J. Love and Julie Rieland

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the U.S. recycling industry. Waste sources, quantities and destinations are all in flux, and shutdowns have devastated an industry that was already struggling.

Read More Show Less
Pixabay

By Kris Gunnars, BSc

Unhealthy foods play a primary role in many people gaining weight and developing chronic health conditions, more now than ever before.

Read More Show Less
A man pushes his mother in a wheelchair down Ocean Drive in South Beach, Miami on May 19, 2020, amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. reported more than 55,000 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, in a sign that the outbreak is not letting up as the Fourth of July weekend kicks off.

Read More Show Less
To better understand how people influence the overall health of dolphins, Oklahoma State University's Unmanned Systems Research Institute is developing a drone to collect samples from the spray that comes from their blowholes. Ken Y. / CC by 2.0

By Jason Bruck

Human actions have taken a steep toll on whales and dolphins. Some studies estimate that small whale abundance, which includes dolphins, has fallen 87% since 1980 and thousands of whales die from rope entanglement annually. But humans also cause less obvious harm. Researchers have found changes in the stress levels, reproductive health and respiratory health of these animals, but this valuable data is extremely hard to collect.

Read More Show Less

Sunscreen pollution is accelerating the demise of coral reefs globally by causing permanent DNA damage to coral. gonzalo martinez / iStock / Getty Images Plus

On July 29, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law a controversial bill prohibiting local governments from banning certain types of sunscreens.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Oat milk is popping up at coffee shops and grocery stores alike, quickly becoming one of the trendiest plant-based milks. jacqueline / CC by 2.0

By Kelli McGrane

Oat milk is popping up at coffee shops and grocery stores alike, quickly becoming one of the trendiest plant-based milks.

Read More Show Less