There’s local, there’s hyperlocal, and then there’s Jeanene Miller. The fiber-artist-turned-farmer and owner of Abundant Greens Urban Farm and Nursery runs two community-supported agriculture (CSA) farm stands and a plant nursery, all from her driveway in a bustling Seattle suburb. Produce is grown in gardens by her house and on an acre on nearby Samish Island, and familiar faces and newcomers flock to Miller’s driveway for plant starts. The urban space, which operates on the honor system, is bursting with greenery, small globes of ripening fruit and Miller’s enthusiastic knowledge of all things tomato (she has more than 100 varieties). Modern Farmer visited Miller’s driveway to talk about her farm and how it’s about not only feeding a community but also creating one.
MF: How did you begin Abundant Greens, and how has it expanded?
Jeanene Miller: At first, we grew 50 different kinds of tomatoes. I did it for myself, but you need to be able to pass them on or sell them. We started putting them out in the driveway on a really small scale and all the neighbors would come over. When I started the CSA, it was very small. I had five or six people, and now we have 30-plus. You can do so much in a small area — you really can.
MF: What challenges do you face growing your produce and dealing with greater demand?
J.M.: As we scale up, we have to figure out things to do for refrigerating and transporting all the vegetables back and forth. One challenge has been timing everything and having beds for early vegetables and beds for later brassica. We’ve been developing our area and tilling up new sections each year. I wasn’t sure exactly how big we would end up.
MF: How do you help your plants flourish?
J.M.: The plants are in our driveway and raised beds, and we have little hoop houses where we put all the flats when they’re small. We put heating coils under them to keep them warm. We make our own compost, too — we get a few yards of that each year. And we’ve started to do cover crops — that’s another way to rejuvenate the soil.
MF: How has your farm helped shape the neighborhood and an appreciation for local food?
J.M.: I put little plants out and it helps people start their gardens. I meet people that I wouldn’t have met, and it draws people into the community. People think of it as this little garden where they can go and see what I’m growing, chat or have a quiet moment when they walk their dogs.
MF: How has this experience shaped your understanding of how we grow and consume food?
J.M.: The CSA is a healthy lifestyle choice. It’s a whole different thing to grow vegetables and understand that foods are seasonal and you can eat that way. It broadens people’s horizons and teaches them new things. There are lots of important practices we need to encourage people to do: grow organic vegetables, improve the soil and be more connected to their environment.