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Anyone who has experienced the pleasure of striding across an expanse of sheep-grazed grass knows that there may be no better surface for the enjoyment of an array of leisurely pursuits. According to The New York Times, if the recent recession-driven trend in urban agriculture-related start-ups takes root, sheep-grazed grass – the inspiration for golf fairways, astro-turf, and the proper croquet pitch – may be coming to a lawn near you.

The New York Times reports on growth in quirky urban agricultural startups. Photo by Randy Harris for The New York Times

The Times reports that suburban shepherd and landscaping entrepreneur/pioneer Eddie Miller of Oberlin, Ohio has launched Heritage Lawn Mowing. For $1 per sheep per day, he’ll have his herd graze your lawn to perfection. Not only do the sheep offer an inexpensive and tranquil alternative to a traditional mow – seeing a bunch of sheep on a neighbor’s lawn changes the whole vibe of the ‘burbs. “It’s a gateway to that whole rural dream.”

The article goes on to profile several other members of this new breed of urban ag entrepreneurs. Carrie Ferrence and Jacqueline Gjurgevich met at business school and started StockBox Grocers, turning shipping containers into grocery stores as a way to reach food deserts. (Shipping containers? Food? Could this be Dekalb Market’s long lost cousin?) And Jason Stroud, also known as the Red Hook Chicken Guy (Brooklyn represent!) has made a business out of chicken consulting: building backyard chicken coops in the city and teaching families how to care for their own chickens.

Why all the city ag. small businesses? It’s the economy, of course.

Roose writes:

“As an uncertain economy and a stagnant hiring climate continue to freeze people out of the traditional job market, a number of entrepreneurs like Mr. Miller, many of them in their 20s and 30s, are heading back to the land, starting small agricultural businesses. And in the process, they are discovering that modern homesteading offers more rewarding work, and possibly more security, than entering the white-collar fray.”

Stroud has a more jaded approach (not that it’s kept him out of the urban farming business.)

“‘It’s simpler than one would think,’ he said of modern-day homesteading. ‘Peasants with zero education were doing this hundreds of years ago.’”

The article mentions that many of these businesses are still in the red, but while these businesses may be small now, IBM, General Electric, and Disney all started up during recessions. In 20 years, might we look back at this era as the beginning of a green, local, sustainable business boom? At the very least, we’ll hope to see more sheep.

Sheep grazing Prospect Park's Long Meadow, circa 1890. Photo via ProspectPark.org

Editor’s Note: While sheep grazing may be new to the ‘burbs, a flock of sheep famously grazed Prospect Park’s Long Meadow for decades. In these hard times, bringing them back would probably save a lot of maintenance dollars, create urban shepherding jobs, and even potentially reduce crime, by helping everyone chill out (there’s something oddly relaxing about watching sheep graze, no?) Anyone want to head this up?


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