In April of 2013 the City of Spokane, local industry, local universities, and student groups presented two weekend gatherings: The New Economy Summit, and The Power of Our Regional Food Economy. Here was revealed to the attendees several candidly stark truths concerning these two things important to everybody. The state of our local economy and how it compared to the national trends was discussed. The issue of the costs involved with the loss of food and industrial production due to increasingly more frequent and stronger storms was addressed. Projections for the future increase in food prices were given and were terrifying if nothing serious is done immediately. Also were the revelations of where the majority of domestically farmed food is sent, where the national food supply is sourced, and the inherent fragility of the system.
Additionally, we learned the sad truth about how little the American farmer earns for the honest, hard work that they do and this was cause for serious concern to the legacy of a fine tradition touted to be the backbone of our Nation. However, at the Economy Summit a powerfully awesome independent film called “Shift Change” was presented with a question and answer session involving the films makers afterwards. Two of the attendees were dramatically affected and inspired to make a difference. The permaculture design principle known as Mollison #23 states: the Problem is the Solution. This was the mantra that Margaret Ruhl and Daniel Bruce, founders of Bruce-Ruhl Design, used the rest of the evening after seeing the
film from the day’s conference.
Coupling the co-operative industry models shown in the film with an agribusiness idea presented to a group of students by a fellow permaculturlist in 2012, they set about the logistics of how to implement the Lease Your Lawn Co-Operative Farm, or LYL Coop Farm, without startup capital or grants, relying on the abundant resources already available in an urban environment and permaculture thinking. Its single aim is to convert non-productive, high-energy input yards into eye-appealing, extremely low-energy input, high-yield output, tasty gardenscapes. With this single solution, a multitude of issues and concerns are addressed: there is climate mitigation with carbon, heat, and water captured and stored in a biomass that is both edible and profitable; local jobs are created producing a local food source stabilizing the local economy; the carbon captured in the biomass coupled with a zero carbon transport policy cause LYL Coop Farm to be an example of an extremely carbon negative industry inside the city limits; water, a precious resource is captured and maintained instead of being transported out of local watersheds; a food desert becomes immediately transformed into a food oasis.
What this translates into is a large-scale agribusiness that costs next-to-nothing in start-up and is actionable now. This bio-industry not only does all of the beneficial things mentioned before, but, most importantly, its pollution is ecology preservation and habitat restoration. Think about it: a several hundred million dollar a year farm inside the city limits. It is possible. Also this is just the start. Once fully established, LYL Coop Farm will not only produce fruits, veggies, nuts, grains, and berries, but a variety of freshwater fish and shellfish, eggs, and meats adding to the bottom line. These along with seeds, starts, and medicinal plants, have the potential of breaking the 300 million dollar a year goal set by Bruce-Ruhl Design for proof of concept demonstrating permaculture use in an urban environment.
Happy to say, it has been started. On March 22, 2014 ground was broken on the first property officially beginning the creation of the business. Several more properties are in line as well already. More designers are just needed. Ambitious in its goal but clear in its vision this farm is a radical change from what we think of as normal. Equally as radical is the change severe weather or no food brings; just ask any climate refugee and they will tell you. The reality of drastic change drives the motivation of the creation, and replication, of this business. As this is the only drastic change we can control, it might as well be for the better and better things.