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

Residents plant mangroves on the coast of West Aceh District in Indonesia on Feb. 21, 2020. Mangroves play a crucial role in stabilizing the coastline, providing protection from storms, waves and tidal erosion. Dekyon Eon / Opn Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Mangroves play a vital role in capturing carbon from the atmosphere. Mangrove forests are tremendous assets in the fight to stem the climate crisis. They store more carbon than a rainforest of the same size.

Read More Show Less
UN World Oceans Day is usually an invite-only affair at the UN headquarters in New York, but this year anyone can join in by following the live stream on the UNWOD website from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST. https://unworldoceansday.org/

Monday is World Oceans Day, but how can you celebrate our blue planet while social distancing?

Read More Show Less
Cryptococcus yeasts (pictured), including ones that are hybrids, can cause life-threatening infections in primarily immunocompromised people. KATERYNA KON/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY / Getty Images

By Jacob L. Steenwyk and Antonis Rokas

From the mythical minotaur to the mule, creatures created from merging two or more distinct organisms – hybrids – have played defining roles in human history and culture. However, not all hybrids are as fantastic as the minotaur or as dependable as the mule; in fact, some of them cause human diseases.

Read More Show Less
National Trails Day 2020 is now titled In Solidarity, AHS Suspends Promotion of National Trails Day 2020. The American Hiking Society is seeking to amplify Black voices in the outdoor community and advocate for equal access to the outdoors. Klaus Vedfelt / DigitalVision / Getty Images

This Saturday, June 6, marks National Trails Day, an annual celebration of the remarkable recreational, scenic and hiking trails that crisscross parks nationwide. The event, which started in 1993, honors the National Trail System and calls for volunteers to help with trail maintenance in parks across the country.

Read More Show Less
Indigenous people from the Parque das Tribos community mourn the death of Chief Messias of the Kokama tribe from Covid-19, in Manaus, Brazil, on May 14, 2020. MICHAEL DANTAS / AFP / Getty Images

By John Letzing

This past Wednesday, when some previously hard-hit countries were able to register daily COVID-19 infections in the single digits, the Navajo Nation – a 71,000 square-kilometer (27,000-square-mile) expanse of the western US – reported 54 new cases of what's referred to locally as "Dikos Ntsaaígíí-19."

Read More Show Less
World Environment Day was put into motion almost fifty years ago by the United Nations as a response to a multitude of environmental threats. RicardoImagen / Getty Images

It's a different kind of World Environment Day this year. In prior years, it might have been enough to plant a tree, spend some extra time in the garden, or teach kids the importance of recycling. This year we have heavier tasks at hand. It's been months since we've been able to spend sufficient time outside, and as we lustfully watch the beauty of a new spring through our kitchen's glass windows, we have to decide how we'll interact with the natural world on our release, and how we can prevent, or be equipped to handle, future threats against our wellbeing.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Experts are worried that COVID-19, a primarily respiratory and airway disease, could have permanent effects on lungs, inhibiting the ability for divers to continue diving. Tiffany Duong / Ocean Rebels

Scuba divers around the world are holding their metaphorical breath to see if a coronavirus infection affects the ability to dive.

Read More Show Less