Jim and Rosette Adams of Babylon are on a mission to bring locally grown food to Long Islanders tables, by growing it in their front yards.
The Adams’ fledgling company, Lawn Island Farms, has been growing produce and selling it to farmer’s markets and local businesses for about a year, but their unique approach has attracted national media attention. They tout the health benefits of locally grown vegetables.
“Unfortunately too many people don’t even realize how corrupted or compromised [their produce is],” Jim said, noting cancer-causing pesticides as one of the most pressing concerns related to factory farming.
Jim got the idea for the company after he met his wife, Rosette, in her home country of Uganda 10 years ago. There, he came to appreciate how she grew up in a culture of self-sustained farming.
“She has the experience from growing up in Uganda and I got to see, kind of, the world through her eyes when she came here and that changed me a lot,” Jim said.
This fresh perspective also alerted Jim to the perils of not knowing exactly where our food is coming from and how it’s being produced. After reading The Urban Farmer, he was inspired to begin farming locally. The book details how people can convert their property into a sustainable and profitable food source.
“There are over 40 million acres of lawn in North America,” the book’s website states. “In their current form, these unproductive expanses of grass represent a significant financial and environmental cost. However, viewed through a different lens, they can also be seen as a tremendous source of opportunity.”
Jim and Rosette brought this idea to Jack Jack’s Coffee House in Babylon, where owners Mike Sparacino and Vanessa Viola pointed them to a community farm behind St. Peter’s by-the-Sea Episcopal Church, effectively giving them the idea to launch Lawn Island Farms.
The Adams’ then hung a sign in that same coffee shop asking for anyone with enough land to let them convert their lawns into crops, which led them to Bay Shore resident Cassandra Trimarco.
For the price of $30 of produce a week as well as free landscaping, Ms. Trimarco allowed the Adams’ to transform the front lawn of her Hyman Avenue home into a miniature farm. The reactions of the community were varied, with some neighbors complaining that the lawn was now an eyesore.
“We did get, in the beginning, a lot of gossip going around,” Jim said of the initial controversy surrounding the converted lawn. But that attention was what would eventually raise their profile.
“That’s when CBS News and Fox came by,” he recalled. “That was the story, because it was controversial.”
Currently, the Adams’ hyper-local farming endeavor consists of the land behind St. Peter’s and Trimarco’s yard, with the produce being sold to the Bay Shore Farmer’s Market and the Sayville Farmer’s Market, as well as Henley’s Village Tavern in Bay Shore, Empowering Goods in Lindenhurst, as well as Jack Jack’s, where it all began.
Jim and Rosette have also begun to take a more tech savvy approach to their business. Lawn Island Farms can now be found on the Farmzie app, which seeks to create a network of small farmers and increase small farm sustainability. Users can connect to Lawn Island and buy produce directly from them. They also offer restaurants a grow-to-order option in order to better suit their specific needs.
Lawn Island Farms’ approach to local farming has garnered interest from people all over the island, with inquiries coming in from Patchogue, Port Jeff, Middle Island, Wading River and elsewhere. But at the moment, the Adams’ simply can’t meet the demand on their own.
“My plate is full, I’ve gotten a lot of offers which is amazing, but I hardly have time to even go look at them,” Jim said of the outpouring of requests they’ve received. That’s why they want others to take action and begin growing food on their own.
“I want more people to do it, because it’s not just about us and our business,” he said. “It’s about local food for the people.”
To learn more about converting your lawn into a sustainable food source check out the website of Jim and Rosette’s friend Linda Borghi, Farm-A-Yard.com