5 Mile Farms

The minds behind Resolution Gardens already had a great thing going. For the past three years, the nonprofit, led by Austin Green Art founder Randy Jewart, has been empowering people to grow their own food by installing raised beds in their yards and offering the support and maintenance necessary to keep their gardens growing. The idea was to encourage people to grow their own food, no matter how busy, ill-equipped or uninformed they felt. Now, 5 Mile Farms, Jewart’s latest brainchild, takes that concept even further by making it a neighborhood initiative.

 

Jewart describes 5 Mile Farms as a “semi-market, semi-membership experience.” Members commit to paying $20 a week, which underwrites maintenance of its growing number of farms (12 as we went to press) and goes toward transforming yards all over Austin into working farms. Each contribution is then translated into credit to be used at the pick-up locations where the availability of individually priced items allows members to choose exactly what produce goes in their bags each week. Other benefits of membership are a monthly supper club as well as a monthly workshop event that focuses on anything from building a compost bin to pickling vegetables.

“Five Mile Farms refers to the hyperlocal aspect of our model,” Jewart explains. “Most local food is defined as within two hundred fifty or one hundred miles. We wanted something that defined our eventual goal of produce walking to where it’s going.” The CSA program began this January and is already 60 members strong with the capacity to expand rapidly. Right now, members pick up their weekly box of produce at the main location on Jim Hogg Avenue or at the HOPE Farmers Market, but Jewart plans to establish pick-up points throughout the city. “We want people to be able to go to the farm locations,” says Jewart, “because, really, what we’re trying to do with this whole project is educate people about how farming works with the hopes that we’re not going to be competing with existing farm markets and CSAs, but expanding people’s interests in participating in the whole movement. It’ll be a way that we reach people who are not foodies—not Michael Pollan readers—but people that are just getting involved because it’s happening in their neighborhood.”

Jewart says the responses they’ve received already have been very enthusiastic; Austinites in general seem to be frustrated with their unused yard spaces and are eager to turn grassy plots into edible landscapes. “We think that the cooperative approach is going to be more user-friendly for people,” says Jewart, “because we know what it takes to have a big garden that’s your own. It’s a pleasure, but it’s a lot of work and it’s a lot of stress because things are always trying to go wrong.” In the 5 Mile Farm model, members with yard farms can choose to have as much or as little involvement as they want on the actual farming end. But they’re encouraged to drum up membership support in their neighborhoods in order to support future yard farms and spread awareness in general.

Most importantly, 5 Mile Farms is working to make pure, homegrown food accessible to everyone. “When you go the farmers market,” Jewart notes, “you’re hanging out with a lot of nice people who have enough awareness to go to a farmers market. But it’s not diverse. So the idea is that you could get people even more involved in a very authentic way that’s based on proximity—based on seeing it and tasting it and experiencing it. So that’s what we’re trying to sell with our membership program…not a box of produce. We’re trying to connect to each other in this way that is going to make all of our lives better. So you’re paying for the experience, not for a carrot.” —Veronica Meewes

For more information on
how to join 5 Mile  Farms
or to subscribe to the 5 Mile
Farms CSA program, visit
resolutiongardens.org/farm.