Black Dog Urban Farm
Brett Berg and Chad Rykal are seasoned home gardeners, but this year they joined their two gardens into one business called Black Dog Urban Farm. Three different plots, two at 1721 Altoona Avenue in Eau Claire (Rykal’s home) and one on McKinley Road (Berg’s home), make up the urban farm. The urban microfarm gets its name from Rykal’s two black flat-coated retrievers.
They sell their organic produce weekly in the parking lot of emBARK dog daycare, which Chad’s wife owns, at 2109 Fairfax Street. Another way to purchase their very local produce is through their Black Dog Veggie Boxes, which sell for $20 each. These are similar to community supported agriculture shares, but customers aren’t committed to buying one every week. Each box usually has around eight types of fresh produce, but the types of produce can be different, depending on what is harvested that week.
Rykal feels gardening, or in their case microfarming, is a much better use of land around a home than lawns, which take a lot of time to maintain, as well as lots of water and fertilizer, without any tangible yield other than more grass to mow. Plus, many lawn care products can be dangerous to humans, pets, and the environment. Big Agriculture is not an environmentally sustainable system, which leaves organic farms as a better way to provide healthy food without harming the ecosystem. That healthy food can contribute to healthier people, too. Helping people learn about that and providing some of that healthy food is what Black Dog Urban Farm is all about.
One of the garden plots—the oldest, at Rykal’s—has some raised beds but more recently has added permanent beds not quite a yard wide and of different lengths. The garden area at Berg’s residence is about 3,000 square feet, with plots averaging five by four feet, bringing the total land farmed by Black Dog to around 6,000 square feet. The farm’s practices follow organic methods, but due to the unique challenges of becoming officially certified, they cant at this time label their produce certified organic.
The farmers are taking things one year at a time, adjusting methods and practices as needed, and always considering new ways to market their vegetables. For example, they are investigating ways to supply local restaurants with produce. Rykal and Berg want their farm to not only supply local vegetables, but to also support other local businesses.
Black Dog Urban Farm will be sourcing food for Chef Nathan Berg’s main course in the meal for Second Opinion’s Eat Local Challenge this October 4th! For more information, including updates of where and when produce is available, visit www.facebook.com/blackdogurbanfarm.