Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Michigan Backyard Farms brings fresh to 'your backyard'

Jerry Holcomb

Jerry Holcomb started his Michigan Backyard Farms business to serve a growing demand for fresh and local produce. Drawing from the idea of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), where farmers sell shares of their projected garden harvest, Holcomb has taken the concept to a new place, the shareholders’ own backyards.
Over the last 20 years, CSA’s have become a popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. Typically the share consists of a box of seasonal produce each week throughout the growing season. Some farmers offer the share owners the opportunity to work on the farm and pick their own produce.
“I have wanted to start my own CSA for some time now. But finding the right piece of property and then the recent rough financial times put the idea on the back burner. So, I just continued to dig up more and more of my own yard to add more garden space. What a simple idea! Put the CSA right in the customers own backyard,” said Holcomb.
Local CSA's charge between $320 to $600 per share for about a 15-week growing season with an average of about 200 pounds of fresh produce per year, according to Holcomb.
“My pricing will be competitive for the same produce. Additionally, the customer will either have an existing garden section that may need updated or a section of the yard will need to be converted to a mini-farm. This cost will be evaluated in person on a backyard by backyard basis,” said Holcomb.
Jerry and his wife Robyn also own Yukon Construction, LLC. Jerry grew up in Farmington Hills, then moved out to White Lake in the mid 1980s.
“I have had a passion for gardening since I was a boy here in Michigan,” Jerry said. He is a licensed builder and contractor.When the construction business slowed down, he went to work for Walled Lake Cosolidated Schools as a bus driver and paraprofessional for special needs students.
Jerry is able to create a garden in someone’s backyard or by a business. He is also able to help a school start a garden. He offers whatever services are needed: starting the garden, maintenance, consulting and assisting. He helps homeowners and businesses convert unused/wasted sections of their yards into sustainable, food producing mini-farms. Each mini-farm is customized to meet shareholders' preferences.
“Nothing can compare to freshly picked vegetables. When you work with Michigan Backyard Farms, you're forming a direct relationship between yourself and the food you consume. You'll be there to see your food grown. You will have the enjoyment, the knowledge and the nutritional advantages of eating the freshest vegetables,” said Jerry.
Most of the gardening is done by hand. Jerry uses the “Lasagna Gardening” method, which eliminates the traditional digging and tilling normally associated with vegetable gardening. He first cuts the grass really short, then creates a weed barrier with a layer of wet thin cardboard or newspapers, then pine needles and hay. Then he builds it up with newspapers and whatever organic material is available: rotted hay, composted horse manure and leaves. He then layers with more wet newspapers, lasagna style.
Jerry uses organic methods of farming, including pest control, composting, natural fertilizers and organic heirloom seeds. “I will be at your mini-farm at least once per week: weeding, fertilizing, pest control, checking watering system, harvesting, composting and re-planting,” he said.
If someone wants to work the garden themselves, Jerry encourages it. He is happy to teach people about gardening. He has five children ages 7 to 17. He said they help out some with the family garden and recently went to their place in the Upper Peninsula where they tapped Maple syrup. He and Robyn get everybody in the family involved in sustainable living projects. “The kids love eating out of the garden,” Jerry said.

Holcomb family
For information, call Jerry Holcomb of Michigan Backyard Farms at 248-529-3830 or visit on facebook.Michigan-Backyard-Farms


 by Kathy Blake, For Journal Register Newspapers

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