Urban Farming, Even In Horsham, PA
Anyone can be a farmer, it is not rocket science. Growing plants
can be done almost anywhere, even in Horsham Pa. You don't have
to have large fields and hundreds of acres. You have to have
imagination. People who grow dope do it in cellars and in caves.
Select plants to raise that that you see being sold in quanity
by local nurseries or garden centers. In our area Arborvitae are
in hot demand. These plants can be started from cuttings or you
can buy rooted cuttings. Thousands can be grown in a 20'x20'
area in small containers. Arborvitae are not the only plants
that you can choose. Dwarf conifers and bonsai are other avenues
to consider. The first thing to consider is what plants you
like. They make a nice starting point. I like arborvitae. Plus
they are easy to grow. There are many types that are available.
These can be grown from cuttings or you can purchase rooted
cutting or small liners. I suggest that you raise Emerald
Greens. They are compact and very popular. A 2-3" rooted cutting
in 3 years should be 2' if growing conditions are optimal. These
might sell for as much as $5-10 depending on your market and
quality. If you were to raise 1000 of them that might be
$5-10,000. You can market them just as I do on the internet.
Being small you can ship them via UPS practically anywhere.
An example of a plant that is not suitable for small plot urban
farming is an Oak tree. It is very fast in growing (good), but
has a big tap root, and is best marketed when over 6-8' tall.
You will use up your space with a hard to confine, large tree
that is not suitable for close compact container production.
Shipping will also be more costly as starter plants tend to be
larger hence larger shipping fees per tree. Besides I have sold
many people 50 -100 arbs at a time but no one, 100 oaks at a
time. My largest order for arbs to one homeowner was 265. Try to
target plants that will sell multiples to a customer rather than
just one at a time. If you target single plants to individual
customers you need high value plants for your sales cost per
unit will be higher. You will hear the same story from your
customers about 1 plant as you will about 10 plants. I can tell
you without a doubt that each customer will tell you about his
property and his neighbors dog. I would rather hear the story
once for each 10 plants that I sell. That is why I like plants
that sell in multiples to a single customer. Additionally an
unusual or exotic plant is seldom purched in quanity and the
buyer has little knowledge of the plant. They will have many
more questions about this plant. This translates to a higher
amount of time spent on a smaller volume of product sold.
Arborvitae are commonly used evergreen shrubs or trees useful
in urban areas where low maintenance and durability is needed.
Many cultivars with forms such as being globed in shape,
columnar, or narrow pyramidal, tend to be near buildings, doors,
and walkways. Other forms which are larger are used for screens
and buffers that are planted in rows. These plants will be easy
to raise on your small urban lot.
The form of arborvitae is small, medium, or large depending on
the cultivar. Some reach 50', others only 3'. Most prefer full
sun to partial sun. Planting in dense shade conditions should be
avoided. A moist , well drained, loamy soil in full sunlight are
ideal conditions for growing healthy arborvitae. These plants
will tolerate rocky, clay, urban conditions of heat drought and
pollution. The most important pest we have is bagworms which
must be controlled to prevent complete defoliation. Some
cultivars have multiple leaders which also prove to be a
detraction for the plant. Pruning out multiple leaders in some
cultivars is a simple remeady.
As you raise these plants if you find that you are selling more
than you can raise on your property, an add in the newspaper
such as, "Wanted: land to grow trees on" will help you find
vacant parcels to use in growing more stock. This land may be
free to use as many owners want in urban areas land to be used
as it is then maintained. We have had many offers of free land
to use in raising nursery stock. (You should check with your
local BTK Code Enforcement Officer to make sure that this use is
Another suggestion is that you work for another local urban
grower. They may have facilities set up that they would allow
you to use after hours. When they see that you are a willing go
getter, they might even ask you to grow special plants that they
don't want to grow because the volumes are light or they are to
intensive in labor. At any rate it is the best way to learn the
trede and its secrets. Most nurserymen will tell all their trade
secrets because its the best way to help the industry and build
a network of reliable and knowledgeable associates.