August 6th, 2012

Front-Yard City Farms in Portlandia

Homesweet Homegrown Tour continues…

Our next stop took us to Portland, Oregon, home of food trucks, kombucha on tap, vegan minimalls, pedal-powered coffee roasters, and speakeasy style pickles. Put a bird on it—we were in love.

cityfarm

City Farm, located in North Portland, Oregon, specializes in medicinal and edible varieties.

We trekked down to City Farm, a new urban nursery in the St. John’s part of town. Owner Nikki Hahn opened City Farm last February and is already off to an amazing start—this little shop is packed with everything urban homesteaders need to get their garden on, including a full line of canning supplies, organic mulches, soils and amendments, composters, bins of cover crops available by the pound, ducks, chicks, coops, bees, beneficial bugs, and a beautiful selection of books to get you started on basically any food/farm project you can think of. Oh, and the seeds!

nikki

City Farm owner Nikki Hahn.

As a self-described “plant nerd,” Hahn has a fantastic variety of rare medicinal seeds, annuals and perennials, eclectic heirlooms, fruit trees, flowering plants, and more—all with a focus on hyperlocal, sustainable, and organic growing. City Farm even has a whole wall dedicated just to local seeds, featuring seeds from Nichols Garden Nursery and Wild Garden Seeds, two Oregon-based companies.

When Hahn bought the house right next to City Farm last April, the first thing she did was rip up every last bit of lawn and start growing food.

“It was all sod as far as the eye could see,” says Hahn.

Well, not anymore. In its place, she planted a massive front-yard garden featuring potatoes, tomatoes, hot and sweet peppers, eggplant, kale, herbs, edible flowers, and raspberry bushes. Melons now grow in the big, cooked-down pile of sod, and tomatoes climb bamboo trellises along the sidewalk out front.

nikki_frontyard

Owner Nikki Hahn removed all of the sod in her front yard to build a massive garden.

It’s this vision that Nikki used to helped transform this little industrial corner of Portland into a thriving urban nursery store. Today in true Portland style, the store even has its own food truck parked out front—The Garden Well—which serves up local brew from St. John’s Coffee Roaster and Free Salad Fridays, featuring greens and edible flowers grown in the City Farm garden.

“The building itself used to be a muffler shop, and before that it was a Harley shop, so it’s been a lot of fun to take a space that was so machine-based and so mechanical and turn it into something green and repurpose it,” says Hahn.

This is definitely a running theme in the city, and it’s so refreshing to see people turning vacant spaces into something beautiful (and tasty). As we walked around Portland, I was amazed at all of the ways Portlanders were fitting in food—nasturtiums along the side of storefronts, trellised cucumbers along the front sidewalk, and raised beds built up around curbs.

22-and-Pine-garden

A beautiful example of a front-yard garden at 22nd and Pine Street in Portland.

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Emily Townsend picks salad greens from her front-yard raised beds in Southeast Portland.

Thanks to a new program we saw in Portland called Farm My Yard, there will be even more gardens popping up in Portland (and hopefully across the country). This genius program pairs urban farmers with vacant lawns and unused spaces throughout the city. It’s pretty simple, actually: If you have a patch of lawn that you’d like to offer up, you just put a Farm My Yard sign out, and an interested gardener can claim your space. Both parties sign an agreement, and the homeowner gets a share of all food grown—it’s a total win-win. Spread the word, and you can help bring a little bit of Portland’s front-yard garden charm to your neck of the woods.

Farmmyyard

Farm My Yard signs have started popping up in Portland.

Next Stop: Portland, Part II: Heirloom cocktails and restaurant farming at Besaw’s.

All Photos by Paul David, except the Farm My Yard, courtesy of FarmMyYard.org

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Comments

    We love City Farm and have had such good experiences going there both to buy plants and also to expose our small children to a variety of flowers, vegetables, plants, and animals! The staff are incredibly knowledgeable, and we live in the area, so it’s nice to get local advice that directly pertains to the soil, the weather, etc. Highly recommended!

    Love to see the raised garden beds in urban settings like Portland. This is more evidence that the urban gardening movement is still getting bigger each year. Self-reliance mixed with a desire to have fresh, non-industrialized organic food.

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