To build a raised garden bed on the concrete slab outside my apartment, I went to Home Depot. I bought lumber and hardware, and my boyfriend screwed it all together.
Then I moved. My new place has a real garden in the backyard, and no space for a raised bed. So, I left my not-exactly-cheap homemade garden bed on the concrete at my old apartment. The landlord pulled out my pepper and tomato plants, and now the bed is full of weeds.
I think that’s why I took an interest in this new business started by three MBA students at Concordia University in Portland. Doug Holcomb, Matt Stormont and Joe Aakre teamed up for a class project and wound up starting TogetherFarm.
Holcomb says the idea is to make growing your own food in your yard as easy as possible.
“There are actually a lot of barriers people face when they think about starting a garden,” he says. “They don’t necessarily have a truck to haul lumber or a screw or hammer to assemble the garden box.”
The garden box system they designed let people build their own boxes using Lego-like blocks made from recycled, food-grade plastic.
And it’s mobile; if and when you have to move, you can easily deconstruct the box and rebuild another one somewhere else.
Sourcing the plastic wasn’t easy, Holcomb says.
“We wanted a local source to cut down on shipping, and to support local manufacturing,” he says.
They also wanted the plastic to be free the chemicals bisphenol A or phthalates, so the blocks wouldn’t “leech harmful chemicals into the soil.”
They found a way to pull it off, sourcing the recycled plastic from Northwest Polymer Inc. in Molalla and working with ABT Plastic in Vancouver, Wash., to manufacture the blocks.
Ultimately the blocks are made out of the same kind of plastic used to make yogurt containers and milk jugs, said Stormont.
“They’re lightweight and functional and easy for people to use without having to stick with a standard design,” he says. “You can lay them out in multiple configurations to work with your backyard or condominium deck. It takes the drudgery out of building your own garden box.”
Initially, the three funded their idea with a Kickstarter campaign. They raised more than $79,000 from 503 people in September last year. They’ve sold about 400 kits at $50 apiece.
They mailed out the first sets of blocks last month. Now they’re producing another line with more colors and selling them on Amazon.
But they haven’t gotten a chance to grow any veggies in a garden box yet.
“We’re looking forward to growing potatoes and carrots and instead of digging them out of the ground we can just take the blocks up,” said Holcomb.
And yes, they got an A on the class project. They now have their masters in business administration.
— Cassandra Profita