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You’ve no doubt heard of celeb chef Curtis Stone, a Canadian author and farmer who tours the United States, spreading the gospel of urban farming. You probably haven’t heard of Chris Castro, whose day job is in Orlando, Fla.’s City Hall, where his job is to work on sustainability issues for the mayor. His parents are palm tree farmers in south Florida, and he has a degree in environmental science.
His side job is to convince Floridians to change their front- and backyard lawns by turning them into what he calls Fleet Farming. Orlando allows residents to farm on up to 60 percent of their yard. According to his website, “Fleet Farming strives to reduce the environmental impact of food production through a pedal-powered, hyperlocal urban farming model that creates a culture of health and vibrant ecosystems by: teaching an intergenerational fleet of volunteers how to grow their own food, activating and re-engaging the community through biweekly Swarm Rides, and creating a breathe free and biodiverse environment through emissions-free, organic farming."
NPR reports one such Fleet Farmer is Gary Henderson. "I just think that the whole idea of lawns, especially in a place like Florida, is absurd," says Henderson, standing amid rows of tomatoes, sweet lettuce, carrots and arugula growing smack in the middle of his front yard. Henderson donated the use of his yard about a year ago, after noticing other Fleet Farming gardens on his block.
Fleet Farming sells most of the produce grown at the local farmers' market.
Castro is actually selling kits to start Fleet Farming in other communities, including Oakland, Calif. In the greater Orlando area, there are now 300 people on Fleet Farming’s waiting list, ready to join their farming neighbors. Donated produce receives tax-deductible receipts.