the pack of bicycles swarming the streets of Orlando, Florida, Fleet
Farming would be a garden-variety horticultural club.“The bicycle has made Fleet Farming
what it is—a bunch of somethings going somewhere,” said program manager
Michele Bumbier. In this case, the somethings are a few employees and a
swarm of community volunteers, and the somewhere is a series of
“farmlettes”—front lawns that have been transformed into small plots of
high-yield crops. With all farmlettes within a two-mile radius, it’s
local food on a micro scale.
“It takes the average plate of food 1,500 miles before it gets to
your plate,” Bumbier said. “We really want to reduce those numbers.”
A homeowner donates a portion of his or her yard—at least 500 square
feet and not more than 60 percent of the lawn, in accordance with a
local ordinance. After a black plastic tarp is left over the area for
several weeks to kill the grass, the plot is then topped with mushroom
compost to amend the existing soil and planted with an array of
vegetables. A $500 donation—far less than the cost of landscaping
services, Bumbier noted—covers two years of maintenance, including
composting, irrigation, and seed transplants, and property owners get
first dibs on 10 percent of the produce in return.
The Fleet Farming squad plants high-yield produce, primarily gourmet
greens, that can fetch top dollar at market. After harvest, the greens
are transported on the back of the Fleet Farming bicycle trailer to be
washed and processed at the East End Market and then sold at farmers markets or cooked up at Orlando restaurants.