Lumby man has a plan to provide easy access to fresh, organic vegetables

Dirty Hoe Farms owner Dan Hill sits on one of his rental gardens.

NORTH OKANAGAN - A Lumby resident has launched a social enterprise that takes the hard work of gardening away, but allowing people to eat fresh organic vegetables picked straight from their own garden.

Dan Hill has launched Dirty Hoe Farms, a rent-a-garden program he's hoping will allow everybody, regardless of finances, to access fresh healthy vegetables grown with little to no effort.

Starting next spring, customers will be able to order a four-by-eight foot raised wicking bed, already planted with veggies, which will be delivered straight to their door. Customers pay $200 to rent the garden that comes pre-planted with tomatoes, peppers, green onions, lettuce, radishes, carrots and rosemary (which apparently keeps cats away). At the end of the season, the bed will be picked up, where it will be replanted the next year.

As wicking beds only need watering about once a week, the system is well designed for those without a green thumb.

While Hill is running Dirty Hoe Farms as a business, he sees the project as a social enterprise and will offer the wicking beds at large discounts to not-for-profit organizations.

"I first designed them to give to clients at food banks so they could grow their own vegetables," Hill said. "I wanted to hear that story of a single mom with kids... (saying) look we've only got hot dogs for supper but here's your fresh salad from our garden."

Hill builds the gardens using disused pallets and scraps of cedar and will start growing a variety of vegetables in a greenhouse early next year. When the time is right, he'll repot the plants from the greenhouse into the wicking bed and deliver them to customers.

Hill believes the main demographic for his product will be people too busy to garden but who still want to eat fresh veggies from their own garden. He points out $200 doesn't get a family a lot of organic vegetables from the store.

While those too busy to garden may be the main demographic, Hill's passion is for those unable to access fresh vegetables.

"I want to help feed the poor," he said. "If you have a roof over your head and food in your cupboards you're better off than 75 per cent of people in this world."

As someone who has had to use the food bank himself, Hill knows what it's like to have to ask for help.

"You've got to swallow a bit of pride," he said.

Hill is currently in discussions with food banks around the North Okanagan and other non-profits.

He has a variety of different payment options for charities, offering gardens at a 50 per cent discount. Or if a charity wants a garden he says he'll do it for $5 a month on a five-year-lease.

He'd like to see people donate his gardens to those who need them, allowing people to help themselves. And so far he said the response he's received from different charities has been overwhelmingly positive.

While Hill is enthusiastic about his new venture as a business, but mostly wants to help.

"I've been raising my granddaughter for over seven years, and that little girl has done as much to change me as I have her, and I believe we are only on this earth for two things, to love and to learn," Hill said. "And to me, love is the height of compassion and we should never forget about the downtrodden."

Hill has already had a few orders and wants to get orders finalized this year so he knows how much to grow and how many wicking beds to build.

For more information, including prices and options for charities go here.


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