Is the Good City Soil Project a Good Idea?

The Good City Soil Project was launched as an experiment in social entrepreneurship. We wanted to build community around a simple idea – sharing good soil with urban gardeners would lead to healthier neighbors, an improved environment, and a more liveable city. As we launched the project we had a few questions that needed answers:

  • Do urban gardeners want soil?
  • Can we find organization and other partners who will work with us?
  • Is sharing soil with people at whatever cost they can afford a sustainable model?

The growing season nears its end and it seems like a good idea to share what we learned.

Yes– Urban Gardeners want soil. Over the course of five events we were able to share 20 cubic yards (8000 cubic feet) of soil with our neighbors. We met over 100 urban gardeners through these events and had even more connect with us through Facebook. People told us they were using the soil for everything from one tomato plant on their back stairs to covering large patches of lawn with raise beds.

Yes– We found a number of partners. Most people ended up reaching out to us. We partnered with four organizations and a number of individual volunteers. Our volunteers contributed their time, energy and resources to the effort. The organizations we partnered with to hold events shared their abundance with us and we were able to share with them. Overall the relationships we built were reciprocal, we were able to give and receive in ways where everyone’s needs were met.

Yes– When we consider the costs and benefits of this project holistically it is a sustainable model. Financially we spent more than we made but came closer to breaking even than we would have expected. Our revenue was a mix of contributions from people who came for soil and donors who wanted to support the project. Our costs were mainly labor, soil, and contributions to the nonprofit organizations we worked with.

Expenses = $1600.00 Revenue = $1300

It is difficult to provide similarly concrete measurements of our environmental and social impacts but I believe we can say we came out on top in those areas. Midway thorough the summer we began sourcing our soil directly from Vermi-Green. They mix topsoil with worm compost and using their soil has environmental benefits. We also know there are quantifiable benefits to people growing plants in the city that we hope to get a handle on in the future. We also know there are benefits to people coming together around a pile of soil. People got to know each other, shared knowledge, and shared their talents. There was a net community building impact.

People take part in a Good City Soil Share at Agape Haven of Abundance, located at 289 Driving Park in Rochester, N.Y., July 11, 2020. The project shares healthy soil with urban gardeners in whatever amounts they need at whatever price they can afford in an attempt to support the growth of healthier neighbors, a connected community, and a sustainable urban ecosystem. (Photo by Jenn Poggi)

The Good City Soil Project turned out to be a good idea. As we look to next spring and our potential for growth we are optimistic. Please take a minute to do one of the following if you would like to make a contirubtion to the further success of this project:

  1. Connect with us on FB and Twitter.
  2. Make a financial contribution.
  3. Reach out by email.

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