Urgent Evoke

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Allison Tweedell and I have come up with a design for an off-the-shelf Farmpunk kit. The purpose of this kit would be to create an easy and trendy way for middle class suburban people to create backyard farms and join the farmpunk movement, improving the food security of their household and community. It would consolidate everything they need into one convenient and easy to buy package.
There would be two sizes - a small, compact kit, and a larger kit. The small size would be intended as a hook - a method to get people who are dirt-fearful into the gardening scene. The larger size would be a step up, including more tools, dirt, and seeds from what's contained in the small size. Presumably, if you go for the larger kit, you already own items similar to what's in the small kit - if not, you can buy the small kit itself, or invest in the tools you need that are sold individually by the same company at the same vendor.
The small size is intended to be roughly the size of a cereal box, or roughly 3"x10"x12" or so. The intended usage, based on the size, would be to get people into small container gardening or very small scale yard gardening to start.

The larger size would likely be the size of a small, plastic tote - I'm thinking about 2'x1'x1'. The intent behind it would be to get people to go outside and start breaking the soil in their backyards and get going on some serious yard-farming, hopefully while maintaining container gardens indoors.

Both kits would contain the following:

A manual
A physical book with a general plan for your backyard farm as well as info on making good soil, where to plant, when to plant, watering, wet and dry cycles, soil types, sun amounts, and plant growth in general. Along with this would be an online component with more detailed information, a farmpunk network, and a crowdsourced farmpunk encyclopedia.
  • Small
This size kit's manual would have information on container gardening. Light levels in the home, the importance of moisture regulation, and feasible indoor or porch plants.
  • Large
Depending on the tools included, this would contain extended information on their uses and
care. It would also go into depth on the seeds and soil amendment contained, as well as
slightly more advanced information. Basics, like mixing and amending your own soil, would
still be included, as well as a reference to the online compendium.
Estimated cost: $5 - paperback, reduced binding to save costs

Soil and/or a soil amendment
A sample of soil, fertilizer, hydration compound, etc provided by some sort of sponsor. Amount would depend on the size of the kit. Hopefully there would be a sponsor that would provide this, and if the farmer wanted to get more they could buy from the sponsor.
  • Small
The product contained in the small kit would be intended as a sample only, to expose
the buyer to potential products if they decide to garden on a larger scale.
  • Large
The product contained in the large kit would be intended for outdoor use. There would be
referrals and suggestions for other, related products made by the same company included.

Estimated cost: $0 - assuming the sponsor provides not only the material, but covers the packaging and shipping costs as well

Seeds

Specific seeds would depend on the kit variety, could be fruits, vegetables, flowering plants,

herbs, etc.


  • Small

Since the intent behind this kit is to get people into container gardening to start, the seeds

contained would likely focus on herbs and other potted veg and fruits - tomatoes, etc.


  • Large

The first step of any gardening attempt is to take stock of the soil and, if it is found to be

suboptimal, to enhance it if you can. Beans are used to convert nitrogen into a form useable

by plants, and so a healthy amount of legume seeds would be included as a way to amend

the soil in that nature before serious gardening took place. More substantial food seeds

would be included, such as squash, potatoes, lettuces, etc. Subsequent seed stocks could be obtained via seed collection from this beginning provision.


Estimated cost: $10-20

Tools
These tools would be made to be small and collapsible, so as to fit in the kit, but also as durable as possible. This would probably take the most innovation of the kit, and is what would separate it from merely a conglomeration of pre-existing products.

  • Small: Trowel, gloves

  • Medium: Some mixture of or at least Buyer incentives for a shovel, spade, hoe, hose, water wand, etc

Estimated Cost: $20

Coupons/buyer benefits:
Purchase of these kits would entitle the buyer to a free or reduced cost set of planting containers of a predetermined size and shape, as well as a watering can and package of potting soil under the same parameters. The cost reduction would not apply to purchases that do not include the planting kit. All would be sold by the same merchant, located near the planting kits. This way, if you have no materials whatsoever, you're well enabled to buy the materials you need at a discounted price, but if you've already got things like pots and potting soil, it's not necessary to buy the additional supplies. This also reduces the size of the kit itself.

Total cost: $35-45

This would hopefully be cheap enough that most middle class families would want to buy it. In addition, it should pay for itself over time for those who invest in it and use it, all the while being environmentally friendly and improving food security!

Like any good commercial object, it could have possible accessories and add-ons. Apart from the tools you could buy in addition to the kit, you could get things like small, collapsible or easily built greenhouses for your backyard, a hydroponics farming kit, or maybe even someday an indoor/vertical farming kit.


As I know very little about farming, this was made possible by the invaluable collaboration of Allison Tweedell (who should be posting this in her blog as well in the near future, will add link soon). However, I'm sure it still has vast room for improvement, so if you know anything, or have any ideas whatsoever, please let me know! Also, this is something I probably won't be able to actually create and market, so if you think it is a good idea, please take it and run with it! In addition, any ideas about how to market this and turn it into a successful business would be awesome!

Views: 18

Comment by Kevin Carolan on March 21, 2010 at 2:42pm
Good idea, but couldn’t it be done much simpler? Seeds would be easy to generate, just put a few plants in your own soil and grow the seeds, replace a paper book with an entirely online guide, just print the basics on the back of the box. If this is for middle class people they'll have access to the internet.
Comment by Amos Meeks on March 21, 2010 at 2:56pm
Kevin,
This would include all the seeds you need for the first season, and then subsequent seasons would use the seeds that you generate.

The majority of the material would be online, as well as a daily log sort of thing so that you can have a daily plan of what to do and share what you've been doing. The paper book would be for quick reference (you don't need to log in and search on the internet, which can take longer than looking something up in a book for some people) and most importantly, it is something you can take outside and reference while you are gardening (pretty hard to do with the internet, although that may change in the next 5 to 10 years).
Comment by Kevin Carolan on March 21, 2010 at 3:38pm
Ahh, ok. Thanks for clearing that up! Good luck!
Comment by Alex Stovell on March 21, 2010 at 3:53pm
I love this idea - been looking into something similar, but aimed at disaster relief etc for very low price, using hydroponics - I'm sure there's stuff in here which I can use :)
Comment by Turil Cronburg on March 21, 2010 at 5:30pm
I've started offering free wheatgrass kits, which are intended to inspire people to learn grow their own exceptionally nutritious food wherever they are. It's nothing more than recycled glass jars with some home grown compost and some seeds inside. All they have to do is water, and wait, and in less than a week, they have locally grown organic food! And it's almost free to do, since the compost and jars are free, and the seeds are sold in bulk for very little money (I pay maybe ten cents, tops, for the seeds in each jar).

I think the real key to doing these kinds of things successfully is to make it look appealing to people in a way that it fits into the lifestyle that they believe is best for them. So finding out what sort of people your potential customers what to be will make it or break it. How does farmpunk gardening fit into the ideals of your target audience? What h*** does it fill in their lives? And how is it different from the food gardening kits that are already available?

Just some questions to think about as you work on making your idea a success.
Comment by Amos Meeks on March 21, 2010 at 5:51pm
That is very true, Turil, thanks!
Comment by Nick Heyming on March 21, 2010 at 7:59pm
I'll give this a thorough reading and response in a bit, but from what I've read so far great job! Love to see more gardening guides!
Comment by Turil Cronburg on March 21, 2010 at 8:03pm
I'm not offering to ship these sweet grass kits, as it would be unsustainable to ship dirt and in glass peanut butter jars. :-) Hopefully you can find grass seed (Kamut is my favorite), dirt, and a container somewhere in your area so you can eat like a horse! (Warning, just nibble on a little bit at a time, it's very potent stuff!)
Comment by Murray Sterley on March 21, 2010 at 8:18pm
Nice Amos and Turil!
Comment by Joanna Chaplin on March 22, 2010 at 1:54am
Way to go actually breaking it down into an action plan! I've been trying to look for projects with that sort of concrete plan for a while!

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