Non-Farm Farm Responsibilities
With great urban farming comes great responsibility. In a Rust Belt city that is still far from clean, it should come as no surprise that your community garden or urban farm may become a target of errant littering, straight-up dumping, or dog owners treating your place as a public poop park. As a land steward (owned, leased, or squatted), it is your responsibility to clean up other people’s garbage. This is one of those non-glorious, behind-the-scenes facts that authors don’t mention. In my five years on W 130th, I picked up over 500 Wild Irish Rose bottles, dropped in the exact same place every single day. It wasn’t what I signed up for, but it is what I ended up doing.
Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District Provides Free Pick Up Poop Signs:
When you become an urban farmer, you officially become a lawnmower as well. This will be your most scrutinized duty and will be the subject of most of your complaints. Regardless of weather or anything else that might be planned, if you’re grass is nine inches tall, expect a call from the city or your CDC. Typically, the conversation is a threat along the lines of, “if we have to come out there and mow it, we’re gonna charge you $250.” It doesn’t matter if the city-owned lots across the street have three foot tall weeds. When you get that call, you will be mowing.
When you become an urban farmer, you unofficially earn a Doctorate in Psychology. This is to say that you become a captive audience for every lonely and perhaps unstable person in the neighborhood. At one point, I budgeted one hour every day for these types of transactions. After three years, I learned to politely shut these folks down before it could ever get longwinded. This is a skill I recommend learning sooner than later. Typically, a polite “how may I help you,” followed by “I’m in the middle of working right now,” coupled with some generic pleasantries will do the trick. That being said, there will be people who are generally interested in the work that you’re doing. It is in your best interest to take the time and talk to them about your farm or garden. These people often become your best customers and guardians of your garden.