From Landscaping to “Foodscaping”

The modern idea of what a front yard should look like usually contains a lot of lawns. These are supported by money spent on lawn care services and products to the tune of $77 billion dollars. The landscaping and lawn care business has grown 3.5% between 2011 and 2016, with over 474,237 registered landscaping businesses employing nearly one million people.1)http://www.ibisworld.com/industry/default.aspx?indid=14972)https://www.landscapeprofessionals.org/nalp/nalp/media/landscape-industry-statistics.aspx

More people would grow their own food if they had the time and knowledge. Many urbanites would love to be able to come home from work and walk into their back yard and pluck fresh vegetables and tasty blueberries. But of course gardening takes time that many two-income families don’t seem to have.

What if food gardening services became as common as lawn care services?

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Landscapers who expand their services to offer the design, implementation and supplemental care of edible landscaping, will lead the way in their industry. Landscape designers can offer to implement a permaculture that includes a selection of salad gardens, and herb gardens with dwarf fruit trees, plus vegetables, such as a salsa garden with the most favorite summer options of fresh tomatoes and peppers. We predict that forward thinking landscapers who begin to offer permaculture gardens as part of their services will be on the leading edge today, but perhaps more the norm in a few years.

This would also create an adjunct service of gardening consultation as homeowners need advice and help in cultivating their food-producing plants.

Landscapers can become Landscape Gardeners…

and gardeners can become permaculture landscapers.

We loved this idea the moment we heard it. We know people who would be glad to pay someone to create a garden in their yard. In fact, we know of people in neighborhood situations, who’ve created a private community garden on land adjacent to each of them.

Together six families chipped in to pay for a full or part time gardener, (I don’t recall which). But the garden was planned out to be large enough to feed six families, two-income couples, some with kids, who want to live closer to the land and grow their own organic food for food quality and security, but they just don’t have the time currently because of their work.

Beyond that, there are entire communities and subdivisions that are being built around gardening instead of golfing!3)https://gardensall.com/are-golf-courses-giving-way-to-greener-pastures-and-food-garden-communities/ There are also share-cropping options, where someone who has the time and love of gardening, gardens on someone else’s land for free in exchange for sharing the bounty of the garden for both.https://gardensall.com/make-money-from-your-yard-or-homestead/

On page 2, we lay out a possible landscape gardener service business. See what you think, and please share your comments on the GardensAll Facebook page.

Landscape Gardener or Foodscaper — Business Premise

A family of four with healthy consumption patterns that include lots of fresh organic produce could easily spend $400 per month on just organic vegetables and fruits, (or things that can be made from that, such as pickles and vegetable broth).

Do you think it would be feasible for a “Landscape Gardener” or “Gardenscaper”, to tend a a permaculture garden for a middle or upper middle class family for $100 per week / $400 per month that would contribute a significant portion of fresh food requirements for a family of four? Sure, there would be soil amendments, seeds and other gardening materials to buy, but might that be done with an additional $100 per month?

That sounds like a lot more than the $150 monthly average the landscape company might charge to whiz by and cut and trim your grass. But let’s say that some families are glad to pay a little extra for the convenience and time-savings and tremendous benefit of being able to come home to a lovely and thriving garden after a hectic day at work.

They get home and walk out into the peace and beauty of their own yard, designed to be visually pleasing and an inviting place to linger, and enjoy a glass of fresh herbal tea, while surveying their oasis in the city or suburbs. Then they stroll through their yard while plucking the most delicious and nutritious produce ever. From garden to palette.

The freshest, most delicious and nutritious produce ever, from garden to palette.

That would be worth an extra $125 per week in landscaping services for some families.

Meet The Gardener Family (inspired by true stories)

Now imagine someone who loves gardening, wishing they could quit their job and make their love of gardening their work. We’ve heard from many in the GardensAll community say the would love to be able to do that. So, let’s say “Joe the Gardenscaper” serves ten clients in “River Run” subdivision… all neighbors who—by word of mouth—are keeping Joe busy.

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Now women can do this too, of course… so we could say it’s “Joy the Gardener”. In fact we rather like the concept of “The Gardener Family” doing this as a family business project. So, let’s say “The Gardener Family” is starting this with their three kids, aged 10-14. These kids have probably been gardening all their lives and they also help take care of the family homestead (or yard).

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The Gardener Family starts with a couple families they know of: their doctor and her neighbor. Soon, word of mouth spreads as neighbors see lovely permaculture yardscapes growing, that are also producing food.

Before long, The Gardener Family is up to 10 clients at $400 / month each (net). That’s $4,000 per month for Joe and Joy getting to do what they love, and which is a fun activity to do after their day job which—for Joe—entails sitting at a desk all day. They’re able to do outdoor gardening more than half the year in their zone 6-8 region. So for starters, that’s approximately $4k/month for six months, for approximately $24,000 additional income net.

In zones 7 and 8 they could probably be working on gardening March through November, for nine months of gardenscaping work.

This allows The Gardeners to work together as a family on evenings and weekends, while deducting most of their expenses. This means that much of what they earn is not taxed thanks to legitimate business deductions, so they get to keep most of that $24k, versus being taxed at their tax rate—at an average of—around 28%.

In real estate, this concept of indirect monetary benefits is sometimes called “phantom income”, and that’s just one example. There’s benefit to growing food in that you keep reproducing your own organic heirloom seeds, you and your family are healthier, requiring fewer doctor’s visits and medication, you’re saving by growing your own food, and you’re saving by enjoying more home cooked meals versus needing to eat out. You also save in not having to buy more expensive clothes for work. In situations where both parents work outside the home, expensive childcare is avoided altogether, saving hundreds of dollars per month.

The average annual childcare costs is just under $1,000 per month at $11,665 per year. Naturally, this decreases when kids are in school, but then you have school related expenses and concerns. So in families where childcare is not needed, that can add approximately $12k in annual savings, not to mention the priceless value of kids being at home with their parent or parents!4)http://www.babycenter.com/0_how-much-youll-spend-on-childcare_1199776.bc

The Seed of a Business Ideas — A Growing Business

By the next spring, the business is growing with more clients requests. It’s time for Joe to leave his full time job, (Joy was already a full-time stay-at-home mom). The older child begins to take on doing the social media for the family business, while the younger ones take on doing research and writing for the family blog that’s a part of their business website.

While they’re researching and writing and sharing gardening with people in this way, they’re also learning more about plants and gardening. As they learn more, they get more interested and more involved in all that they’re doing, and soon schools are asking the family to come and speak and to help set up permaculture gardens for school projects.

Soon Joe and Joy can train a couple crew members, (or outsource jobs, if they don’t want to take on the payroll obligations). Now they’re able to serve more clients. Next thing you know, the local news station hears about this and does a story on The Gardener Family’s Foodscaping business.

“In backyard farming, you’re not only selling the veggies, you’re selling the experience.”  Charlie Radoslovich of Rad Urban Farmers5)http://www.radurbanfarmers.com/

Joe and Joy are now recognized as the permaculture landscaping experts and are getting as much work as they can handle to consult with homeowners who want a permaculture garden installed in their yard. Some of these would want to do all of the care themselves. Others would want Joe’s crew to also service it.

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Joe and Joy are delighted at the opportunity to positively impact people’s lives and transform neighborhood yards from just grass to lovely, edible landscapes. They’re also really enjoying how their family is closer than ever from all the fun of working together and the growth they experience from pulling together through the challenges.

They’ve noticed how each child has grown in self confidence and responsibility and how they each have a sense of pride in their contributions to the family. The kids see how they can make a difference and how their work matters.

This family model… everyone working together for the good of the family, used to be the norm. So it can be again.

The Gardeners see their kids learning about business, commerce, gardening, plants, ecology, weather, soil, herbology, nutrition, cooking, recipes, horticulture, organics, GMOs, public speaking, teaching, training, hard work and so much more. They decide to homeschool their kids.

Off-season, the Gardeners’ would be intensifying their consultation and planning for spring gardens. They’d work on shoring up areas of their business, such as planning out the year, client consultations, expanding their own knowledge base through study, research, online courses and in-person conferences. They’d all deep dive into education with their children as they learn together in homeschooling.

To become more efficient and effective at planning theirs and their client’s gardens, The Gardeners and their kids learn a simple gardening app that makes fast work of creating garden plans. With this tool they can easily and quickly plan out client gardens, show them the plan and adjust it easily for each season.

Editor’s Note: we’re using this and can highly recommend it, we are NOT affiliated with Garden Planner Pro as they no longer offer that option, but we still recommend it because we use it regularly and love it. It’s fairly simple and they may still offer a free 30-day trial so you can see if you like it before you invest in their modest annual fee.

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What do You Think?

With real world tweaks in pricing and timing adjustments, does this sound like a feasible business idea to you? We think it has potential. Lots of potential. If you’re interested, the best way to start something like this is NOT to quit your job, but to start this—or whatever venture you’re pursuing—on weekends and evenings after your job.

The business plans are always adjusted through real-world experimentation.

Get your feet wet and hands dirty. Start serving one client and then another. Test and tweak it to get an idea of what’s possible, and if you even like doing it. This way of trying a new business idea is not risky, with virtually nothing to lose. You’ve only invested your time in doing something you love anyway. Don’t go out and buy expensive tools or even business cards. Just what you can print up at home using a free template online will be enough to start with.

In keeping with this we really enjoyed this article titled What if Farmers Made House Calls, on the next page.


Here’s another great article titled ‘What if Farmers Made House Calls?‘ by Chris Tackett, 6)http://www.resilientcommunities.com/what-if-farmers-made-house-calls/

The idea was simple: Grow a vegetable garden that didn’t look like a vegetable garden.

Cristina Santiesteva

For more on how to deal with Homeowner’s Associations (HOAs), you may find this article interesting and helpful.

Also, feel free to join in on the conversation on the GardensAll Facebook Page and let us know your thoughts.

Growing for Profit and Planting for Retirement

If you’re interested in learning about earning money from gardening or farming, we invite you to join our Facebook group: Planting for Retirement. We’re a new group of people interested in learning how to supplement our income through growing something by sharing our wins, losses and lessons in the field.


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