Landscaper turns home gardens into farmland
Going to the grocery store can be a costly hassle, especially with food prices rising every day.
Landscaper Sean Fubler has a solution.
“Just eat your yard,” Mr Fubler said.
His business, Unity Edible Landscapes, helps people to do just that. Alongside the usual mowing and trimming, he creates vegetable and herb gardens for clients and plants fruit-bearing trees.
“I try to encourage people to eat their yards, so that my labour gives them something back,” he said. “I don’t mind doing the landscaping but I more enjoy pruning trees that give me food than just cutting trees and ornamentals. So I thought I would incorporate the agriculture with the landscaping.”
Mr Fubler started working as a landscaper for the Parks Department at 23. He loved the work but always felt that there was something missing.
“I always used to ask, why don’t we plant fruit trees and other edibles in our schools and parks,” he said.
He thought that it would give the community another source of healthy food.
He never got a satisfying response. Eventually he quit his job to form his own company in 2017.
“I had to take a leap of faith and go out on my own,” he said.
One of his early projects was helping the environmental charity Greenrock plant a banana patch, a vegetable garden and loquat trees at a school.
“I don’t know if they are still maintaining the garden,” he said. “But they still have the banana patch.”
Last year Mr Fubler started working on a garden at the Family Centre on King Street in Hamilton. Prison inmates helped to get the project off the ground. The produce — broccoli, carrots, celery and other vegetables — was shared between Family Centre clients and staff. He is now about to plant his second crop there.
Mr Fubler uses only organic pesticides such as neem oil to control the insects.
“Battling bugs is natural,” he said. “We are out here in nature. We have to share the space with the creatures that live among us. That is normal. But I try to fertilise them really good so that they are strong and healthy. That way they can fight off pathogens on their own as well.”
Some clients want him to maintain their garden from planting to harvest while others only need him to get it going.
“I am pro people doing it for themselves,” he said. “We are trying to put a little culture back into our community. We make time for Netflix instead of the garden.”
The pandemic turned out to be a blessing in disguise for him.
“Because of the pandemic, many people have become interested in planting something to get something back,” he said. “The pandemic forced the idea on people. As the pandemic went along I started to get little calls and little jobs to come and look at people’s space to see if it would fit a garden.”
He creates gardens of all sizes.
“No yard is too big or too small,” he said. “We just go with what people can afford or what is practical for their family.”
As far as food goes, it is what people like.
“I encourage people to plant what they know they actually use all the time,” Mr Fubler said. “This is the season for cabbages, cauliflower, broccoli, onions, tomatoes, carrots and beets. Clients get a list of what is available and they pick whatever they want to plant.”
One of his challenges is getting enough compost to help to fertilise the gardens he maintains.
“I am in the process of starting a compost site so I can have my own compost,” he said. “That is my only real challenge. There is not a lot of compost ready on island to be able to just access it.”
He loves when his clients finally get to harvest food from their gardens.
“That is when I am praised,” he said. “Once people actually get to take the broccoli inside or pick the onions, then they are like, hey, yes, I like this!”
Mr Fubler said that watching a garden grow and then getting to eat the fruits of your labour can be very therapeutic.
“It makes you proud,” he said.
Currently he has a few people who help him, on a part-time basis, when needed. He is working towards one day being able to hire full-time staff.
“I am almost getting there,” he said. “Things are turning around for me pretty good.”
There are other people in the community who will also make and maintain gardens. He is not bothered by that.
“The more people who are into it, the better it is for the country,” he said. “I would encourage anyone to get into it. I am not in competition with anyone.”
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