is a multi-locational market garden in Tucker, GA, which uses neighbors’ underutilized lawns to grow naturally certified produce. Grow with the Flow practices permaculture and intensive growing methods and is a member of the Certified Naturally Grown (CNG) program. CNG farmers and growers do not use synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, or GMOs. Unlike organic farming, CNG relies on peer inspections and direct relationships.
The organization started an initiative to provide the local community with fresh, naturally grown produce by establishing market gardens on homeowners’ lawns within a three-mile radius of their home garden. In exchange for providing land, each of the homeowners gets a share of vegetables and fruit from the network of gardens. The rest of the produce is sold through several local market streams.
The co-owners and twin brothers, Roger and Reggie Ramos, maintain eight market gardens with the occasional help of volunteers since they founded their family business in 2014. The Ramos brothers gained knowledge and skills while attending local conferences such as the , working as apprentices on farmers with mentors, taking online classes, and participating in an accelerator entrepreneur program and workshops. They wanted to expand without purchasing farmland. An idea was formed, inspired by the book by Curtis Stone, to utilize the yards of their Tucker neighbors and harness mutual benefits. The idea was crucial in starting their venture as farmland is one of the top barriers in starting a farming enterprise.
“The most important resource for starting our business was our supportive community. We operate on different plots of land and we can’t do without the support of our neighbors,” says Roger. The Ramos brothers reached out to their community by using an app that connects neighbors, called . They asked if anyone is interested in converting their lawn into a garden in exchange for vegetables. Initially, the brothers received six immediate responses from homeowners and many more requests followed not only from Tucker, but also from other locations in the metropolitan area of Atlanta. According to Roger, the community quickly embraced their idea and has enjoyed receiving a weekly share of fruit and vegetables.
“Our model is all about being local. In order to have a sustainable community, it is good to have a hyper-local food source within this community,” says Roger. Grow with the Flow’s local-centered model facilitates its logistic operations and provides freshly picked produce for its customers. “We try to sell our produce within a 10- to 20-mile radius to vendors, aggregators, and farmers markets. The advantage is that if they need vegetables or fruit the next day, we can harvest the day before or the same day and bring them over, so they have the freshest of the fresh instead of lettuce and tomatoes from California that were harvested a week ago,” adds Roger.
The main challenges for Grow with the Flow are deciding the types of crops to grow during the season and planning the logistics that come with a multi-locational garden model. In addition to weed and pest pressures, there are other challenges such as educating the importance of urban farming and the benefits for a small city or community. “Overall, we haven’t encountered significant challenges as city officials and communities understand the benefit of what we are doing and support us,” says Roger.
Grow with the Flow plans to replicate its successful model to other areas by helping urban growers with technical expertise and hands-on training. “Our goal is not to expand, as we have plenty of work, but to insert our model in other communities. We have already helped set up gardens and micro-farms in Decatur and Clarkston. Farmers are welcome to explore what we are doing and volunteer anytime. When they have questions, we act as technical support and provide informal training.” The Ramos brothers also acquired 5 acres of land in Powder Springs, GA, which will be converted to a training ground and an incubator farm, so that growers can learn by working on small plots. “We are still learning, too, but anybody who wants to learn with us is welcome to join and share resources,” adds Roger.