Buying an Urban Farm


Here’s the timeworn dilemma: “Farmers live poor, die rich.” That’s because their worth has always been tied up in their land.

SPIN-Farming changed that, by showing how backyards, community gardens and otherwise unproductive fragments of land can be used to produce not only a lot of food, but also enough money to keep a farmer in business.

But what is a farm without land worth? Ask Josh and Sarah Spackman, who just bought one from another SPIN farmer, Kye Kocher.

Kye built up Grand Trunk Veggies into a $50k business over 7 years using SPIN’s multi-locational model, all the while also helping to build up YYC Growers & Distributors, a co-operative of 20+ urban and rural farmers in Calgary AB.

What did Josh and Sarah buy? Yardsharing agreements with 9 property owners, in 2 neighborhoods, comprising about 8,000 sq. ft.. Being shy, Josh says they were worth their weight in gold to him – and he did not have to mortgage his future to get them.

What was also valuable was the brand, an existing customer base, good will, and Kye’s know-how in running a SPIN-scale farm which he is providing to Josh during a transition period.

As for Kye, he and his wife Laura Leigh and baby Ambrose have bought a house on a 20,000 sq. ft. lot in Jaffray BC. and have started Corner Veggies. His farm is literally at the corner of a well-trafficked intersection so he’s perfectly situated for an onsite farm stand. He’s also selling at the Cranbrook Farmers Market where he’ll rub elbows with fellow SPIN farmer Christian Kimber of 3 Crows Farm, now celebrating his 11th year. Over those years Christian has also been using the multi-locational model totaling about 15,000 sq. ft. and grossing $75k+.

The bottom line for all of these SPIN farmers is this: their farm’s value is not dependent on what traditional farming is defined by: land ownership and huge investments in equipment. Instead, their farms look more like gardens, and they are recasting farming as a small business in towns and cities.

How do SPIN farmers measure their worth? By their knowledge and the relationships to the communities they sell to, rather than capital and physical assets. It’s a different kind of value creation. for a time that just might be ready for it.

“You can do this with a 40 year old tiller, 50 rubber maid bins, a fan sprinkler and a folding table.” —Christian Kimber