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Money & Culture

Gardening Goes Upscale: How to Grow a High-End Hobby Farm

April 10, 2015
heirloom tomatoes

Editor’s note: This is the second part of a two-part Perspectives on Money Culture series on gardening. Read the first.

The local food movement doesn’t get more local than growing your own vegetables. And with rising concern about pesticides and other potential nasty things lurking in food, more people are looking at private food production.

The National Gardening Association said in 2014 that 35% of Americans are growing food at home or in a community garden, up 17% versus five years ago.

All Price Points

It’s much easier now to become a “gentleman farmer” as garden supply shops and upscale retailer Williams-Sonoma’s agrarian line are offering high-end products.

Celeste Longacre, author of Celeste's Garden Delights and a gardener for 30 years, said novice gardeners can start by installing raised beds for order and organization in the veggie area. She recommends a minimum of one foot high, but gardeners who don’t want to bend over can install raised beds at three or four feet high. They can be as rustic as this cedar bed from Gardener’s Supply ($349) or as elegant as stone containers from Frontgate ($749).

Gardeners who have more outdoor space can add a greenhouse, Longacre said. “With a greenhouse you can really extend the growing season,” she explained. Gothic Arch Greenhouses builds freestanding greenhouses to order starting at $100 a square foot. They can even build a conservatory onto an existing house, allowing you to garden all year long without having to go outside.

Birds and the Bees

Keeping chickens is becoming more popular, and many municipalities allow homeowners to raise a certain number of hens. Be sure to check your area’s municipal code and be nice to your neighbors by passing over a rooster, unless everyone wants to hear it crowing at the crack of dawn.

Longacre said it’s important to have a secure chicken coop, “because everything likes a chicken dinner.” That means gardeners have to protect the birds from predators. The coop should be completely fenced in, including the top to prevent hawks and owls from entering. Two types of simple closures to keep the door secure is a good idea, too. She also recommends putting hardware cloth two inches under the coop’s fencing and 18 inches out to prevent weasels from digging in.

Ready-made chicken coops are readily available, including this this one from Williams-Sonoma ($1,499) that fits four hens.

Interest in beekeeping is also growing, especially with concerns about a declining bee population. Bees are responsible for the majority of pollinated food crops, and having bees near your flowering plants can boost food production. Bee Thinking offers starter kits including hats, gloves, jackets, and a hive ($394), although Longacre said it might be best to let a local beekeeper help out, at least initially.

A Portfolio for Your Palate?

Discover and research grocery stocks that are taking part in the grow-local movement and other consumer companies that may fit your investing strategy.

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