By Maika Horjus
Backyard Bounty Co-op program coordinator
Urban Abundance Intern
Last February, over fifty people squeezed into the historic Minnehaha Grange Hall in Vancouver, WA to learn about a new opportunity opening up through local non-profit Urban Abundance: an “urban farmer’s co-op” geared towards greenthumbed city dwellers passionate about growing good food and looking to earn some income from their garden bounty. The new program, christened Backyard Bounty Co-op by its founding members, aims to support micro-entrepreneurs. It connects aspiring urban farmers and market gardeners with local food markets by pooling resources, sharing costs, building capacity, and providing a range of services to its members. Backyard Bounty offers support with marketing, accounting, market logistics, and–not least–a network of like-minded entrepreneurs and a vibrant sense of community.
During its first season, Backyard Bounty members have worked closely with one another and with Urban Abundance staff to operate market booths at venues throughout Clark County. Growers’ products are aggregated and sold side-by-side or intermingled at the market booth. A 20% consignment fee goes towards Co-op operating costs and the rest of the profit is divided proportionally based on each grower’s contribution. Responsibility for setting up and staffing the booth is shared among growers and volunteers and regular meetings offer an opportunity for discussion, collective decision-making, and community-building. Throughout the process, the goal is to help growers enter and thrive in the marketplace–a task that can be daunting or even impossible for small-scale growers working on their own.