Allotments and community gardens have long been a refuge for gardenless city dwellers wanting to grow their own food. But for garden newbies, the commitment and work involved can be daunting; not to mention having to deal with waiting lists and established social dynamics on a shared piece of land.
Which is where our latest (sub)urban farming spotting fits in: Meine Ernte—German for My Harvest—rents out vegetable gardens for a season, and takes care of soil preparation and planting. Once the plants start growing, members come in and spend 1-2 hours a week caring for their plants and harvesting their crops.
Prior gardening experience isn't required. A professional is available onsite once a week to answer any questions the amateur gardeners may have, and detailed information on plant care and harvesting is accessible through a members' area on the company's website. Meine Ernte provides members with the necessary tools, and offers gardens in three sizes: Small (enough veggies for 1-2 people, for EUR 149 per season), Standard (3-4 people, EUR 289) and Large (5-6 people, EUR 433). According to Meine Ernte, members can easily get EUR 600 worth of produce from a standard size garden. In advance, Meine Ernte sows and plants over 20 varieties of vegetables, while a section of each plot is left open for gardeners to add varieties of their own choosing.
Launched this year by Natalie Kirchbaumer and Wanda Ganders in cooperation with local organic farmers, Meine Ernte currently operates garden sites near six German cities, which it hopes to double in 2011. There's no doubt about it: consumers are increasingly interested in growing their own food, helped by smart entrepreneurs who turn those novice (sub)urban farmers into paying customers.