Hi, I’m Leslie Stevens – master gardener, wife, mother of three, and creator of Sidewalk Farms. And this is my daughter Carly who has grown up with gardening and urban agriculture all around her. She’s an integral part of the everyday workings of the farm and I couldn’t do it without her.
Sidewalk Farms was started over 20 years ago as a very small urban flower garden surrounded by lots of lawn that we, thinking we were being good stewards of our property, mowed, weed-killed, and synthetically fertilized regularly. Twenty years, two University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension courses, three children, and many hard-learned gardening lessons later, Sidewalk Farms has emerged and grown into a small urban farm that now produces enough food to store, can, and freeze for our family. Sidewalk Farms is also home to eight egg-laying chickens and a hive of honey-producing bees, and functions as a neighborhood example of what can be done with a 1/5 of an acre less than a mile from the center of Portsmouth, NH – a small thriving city. We use organic principles to grow our food and never use non-organic pesticides or herbicides. We also practice Permaculture principles and are constantly learning about ways to incorporate Permaculture into our farm.
The mission of Sidewalk Farms is very simple -to help people learn to grow their own food. I hope to accomplish this is several ways. First, and most importantly, by example we are encouraging our neighbors, and thus our larger community, to grow their own food. Because Sidewalk Farm actually lives right next to the city sidewalk, people walking by want to stop and chat about the gardens. They want to know what is growing and how to grow it and this often leads to discussions about growing methods and an impromptu mini-lesson on urban farming. Secondly, we offer consultation and hands on gardening help for those who want to begin this journey but aren’t sure how to take that first step or need some help planning and deciding what to plant and where. Lastly we teach classes and offer workshops on several different topic areas for people interested growing food. Some examples include starting seeds indoors, using an indoor greenhouse, garden placement and care, growing vegetables in containers, deciding what to grow, and general garden and soil maintenance.
Being able to grow our own food is a very empowering skill to learn. As with many skills, the right tools and knowledge about what works and what doesn’t work make the goal infinitely more reachable. If we can teach people just a little about the importance of eating local food (and what is more local than your front yard), why we should avoid synthetic (non-organic) pesticides and herbicides, and how to have more control in our lives about what we eat, then we are having the desired impact of raising consciousness about food sources and environmental issues and giving people more control over their food choices.