Urban Greens 2.0 by Ryan Doan
The land we farm has never been our own. In-fact my original business plan spoke openly about being able to pay more in wages if we obtained the land for free. How would we get free land? We approached the city of Cincinnati and leased for free some vacant properties in the East End, purchased a home in the neighborhood, and cobbled together a for-profit farming business. The city was quite happy to do this because they didn't have to maintain the lots. The properties were in the flood zone which made them prohibitively expensive to develop. The land sat vacant for years before I offered to manage it for the city for free.
My wife and I lived in the adjacent neighborhood and we housed our contract farmers in the house in the East End. We did this for at least 2 people every year, and a couple years we were employing as many as 4 for 6-8 months out of the year. We taught them how to farm and run a small business. Most of the people I hired did not go to college and frankly, they would never be able to afford to do so. They wanted to work hard and learn a profession though. It wasn’t always easy and while farming is a truly rewarding business, it is labor, labor, labor – not just anyone can do it. However, throughout all the learning curves, learning through mistakes, and building on successes; the business would always cash-flow. I made sure it did.
My background before I got into farming was corporate finance and accounting. Over the past 5 years I have consulted in the winter and farmed in the summer and this took the pressure off me having to derive my entire livelihood from farming. My specialty in the corporate world is to solve complex financial puzzles. Account reconciliations, paths to profitability, investment decisions, mergers and acquisitions of entire companies, underwriting loans and writing equity deals. If I want to work over the winter there is never more than a week I have to wait to find a job and working as much as I want between October - April.
Eventually what I really want to do is farm full time, but it’s kind of a puzzle right now. I want to help build it into a respectable and profitable profession once again. The plight of farmers is real. The average age of the US farmer is 58 years old. This should at least raise the flag for most logical adults. Rather than fret or make speeches about the problem, I figured I would make a small profitable farm and build this business around Jesus.
This past year we moved to Morrow. We sold the house in the city and returned the land to the city. Our 8 years in that neighborhood we feel was the spark it needed to turn the corner. We taught dozens of young people how to farm and paid living wages to all. Huge success for us and our journey. We are happy to see that the East End itself is growing and getting much needed infusions from other local businesses. But we are moving on and ready for Urban Greens 2.0!
Our current setup is 1.5 acres with hundreds of acres of woods behind our house. We have a nice house with a large kitchen, a 2 car garage, and a large pole barn with much needed prep and storage space. I have a 47 HP Kubota tractor attachments and an 8.5 HP walk behind tractor with attachments. My hand tool lineup is complete as is my other small equipment lineup. Our property is smack in the middle of farm land and we leased 1 acre of the 10 acre field directly beside my house from a Christian organization. This land has just been made into hay for the past 20 years now, so no residue from industrial agriculture. The landlords are very happy with this arrangement and there is a total of 80 acres available if we both like each other after this first year. We are very much looking forward to this next chapter of our lives and of Urban Greens 2.0!
Blessings, Ryan Doan