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Fleet farming: how one group wants to turn your garden into a fully-fledged farm

3 min read

Better Society
Fleet farming: how one group wants to turn your garden into a fully-fledged farm
Source: BrightVibes

A group of volunteers in Orlando is trying to change the way we eat. Owners keep a portion of their produce and the volunteers take the rest to local farmers’ markets and restaurants.

“Grow food, not lawns!”

In December 2013, local Central Florida entrepreneur and urban farmer, John Rife, presented the ‘Fleet Farming’ concept at the IDEAS community think+do tank program called “The Hive: Orlando.” Over the course of the month, John and IDEAS leaders began to organise the concept into an action plan, and start implementation of the first pilot program in February 2014. Since then the movement has gone from strength to strength in more towns and cities. 

Homeowners get the opportunity to transform their gardens into mini farms The revenue generated from the program will go to further community development and sustainability projects, and expand the Fleet Farming program to other districts and cities. Source: Facebook/TheFoodTank

One third of climate change can be attributed to food production systems

Fleet Farming strives to reduce the environmental impact of food production through a pedal-powered, hyperlocal urban farming model that creates a culture of health and vibrant ecosystems by: 

  • teaching an intergenerational fleet of volunteers how to grow their own food
  • activating and re-engaging the community through biweekly Swarm Rides 
  • creating a breathe-freely and biodiverse environment through emissions-free, organic farming

Source: FleetFarming.org

By summer of that year, Healthy Central Florida Foundation had awarded the program a $5,000 grant to help it expand. By January 2015, the program had received an additional $10k in grants from 1% For the Planet and the Cliff Bar Foundation. In August 2015, Fleet Farming Orlando was on its way to having 15 farmlettes and had sold over $7,000 in produce. Without considering any of the grants received, Fleet Farming recouped all start up costs in the first year and profited. A true success story!
In February 2014, The Fleet Farming pilot program converted 5 lawns to “farmlettes”: By summer of that year, Healthy Central Florida Foundation had awarded the program a $5,000 grant to help it expand. By January 2015, the program had received an additional $10k in grants from 1% For the Planet and the Cliff Bar Foundation. In August 2015, Fleet Farming Orlando was on its way to having 15 farmlettes and had sold over $7,000 in produce. Without considering any of the grants received, Fleet Farming recouped all start up costs in the first year and profited. A true success story! Source: FleetFarming.org

Two Problems, One Solution

Problem #1

Our current food system is full of inefficiencies many of which stem from fossil fuel use during production and transportation.

  •  The typical American meal travels an average of 1,500 miles (2414 km) from farm to table
  •  In the US alone, 10 calories of fossil fuel energy are put in for every calorie of food they get out

Problem #2

Lawns are one of the largest sources of pollution in the US.

  • With 40 million acres under cultivation, they absorb three million tons of chemical fertilisers and 30,000 tons of pesticides, and use 800 million gallons of gasoline for mowing per year

The Solution

Fleet Farming transforms unproductive, wasteful lawns into community-driven urban farm plots. Rather than traveling 1,500 miles from farm to plate, the produce is hyper-local. Everything grown is sold at local farmers markets and restaurants within a 5 mile radius!

The bike-powered fleet eliminates nearly all fossil fuel consumption during production and transportation, not to mention it reduces the emissions that would have been produced from mowing lawns. Lastly, they are reducing pollutants in the community by cutting the use of harmful pesticides and fertilisers on lawns and using organic methods to grow food instead.

Source: FeetFarming.org

For those who wish to maintain their own gardens and reap all of the harvest, Fleet Farming will install easy to maintain, long-lasting, cedar-framed garden beds that you can harvest from on your own.
Fleet Farming Orlando also offers Fleet Garden Installs For those who wish to maintain their own gardens and reap all of the harvest, Fleet Farming will install easy to maintain, long-lasting, cedar-framed garden beds that you can harvest from on your own. Source: Facebook/FleetFarming

Farmlettes?

What is a Farmlette?

A farmlette is a prior lawn that is converted into a food-producing plot at least 500 square feet (46.5 m2) in size, consisting of row crops grown directly in the ground. Farmlettes are home to a wide variety of veggies, but the main crops grown are an assortment of baby greens, from Siberian Kale to Bibb lettuce, which comprise the Fleet Green salad mixes. Wherever there is grass, sun and water, be it residential or commercial yards, there is a future farmlette!

How Does it Work?

Any landowner (or renter with owner consent), can donate their chemical-free lawn to Fleet Farming. If the area is optimal for growing, they will arrange a site assessment and schedule the installation. Each landowner must sign a 2 year agreement with a suggested donation of $500 to the cover start-up costs (subsidies available for those who qualify). With over 300 lawns donated in the first two years, they have developed a waiting-list for the Orlando area and hope to have at least 8 Fleet Farming branches with a total of 200 farmlettes throughout Central Florida neighbourhoods by 2020.

What Are the Benefits?

As a farmlette host, in exchange for the donation of your lawn, you are allowed to harvest a share of the produce for your own use. Fleet Farming is responsible for the maintenance of the plot, but they encourage all of their hosts to be as engaged as they wish in the farming process. The only additional requirement of the host is to pay for the irrigation’s water usage (which should not exceed $1/month).

Source: FleetFarming.org

Make an Impact

Ready to get involved? Just CLICK and fill out the Google Form & Fleet Farming will get back to you as soon as possible

Wherever you are in the world, please tell us how you would like to get involved. Since there are a high number of individuals, community-based organisations and non-profit organisation's interested in replicating Fleet Farming in their community, please be sure to include your address, zip/area code, and country so we can ensure there aren't 2 branches in the same community!