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Posted on Mon, Feb 27, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Developer Stewart Beal launches urban farming business with a social mission

By Tom Perkins


Lauren Maloney at the future CityFARM at 103 N. Adams St. in Ypsilanti.

Tom Perkins | For

Ann Arbor developer Stewart Beal is moving in a new direction with his latest venture.

Joining demolition, construction and property management companies in the Beal Group is CityFARM, an urban farming company dedicated to fighting hunger and promoting urban farming.

CityFARM is a partnership between Beal and Lauren Maloney, an organic farmer who will oversee the day-to-day operations.

The company offers four different sizes of “urban farms” to residential and commercial clients, depending on their needs and available space. Included in the package for each garden is the design, installation and maintenance of the gardens, which are planted in raised beds.

While the company is for profit, Beal said it holds some non-profit elements and is similar in concept to the popular Tom’s Shoes. For every pair of shoes a person buys from Tom’s, they donate a pair to a child in need.

For every urban farm purchased in the community, CityFARM will plant a garden of the same size on a demonstration farm at 103 N. Adams Street in Ypsilanti. It will then donate all the food grown there to the local nonprofit Food Gatherers.

"With CityFARM, we are starting something that will matter to many people in different ways," Beal said. "We will make spaces beautiful, create employment opportunities and donate food to those in need."

CityFARM is seeking start up costs via a Kickstarter campaign for the Adams Street Farm. (Kickstarter allows people to raise money online from individual contributors.)

The business plans to charge $32 an hour for Maloney’s services, and the four available packages run between $700 and $4,000.

The smallest of the package provides a 40-square-foot raised bed that includes all the soil and fertilizer. CityFARM also takes care of any weeding, mulching, tilling and other preparation work. Once the bed is installed, CityFARM provides the seeds, a bamboo trellis, an irrigation system and tomato stakes.

The largest farm package offers a bed measuring 400 square feet along with the same products and services as the smallest size. Prices can vary depending on the type of work that needs to be done at each property, and Maloney will visit a yard or lot to give a free estimate.

CityFARM is primarily focusing its efforts on Washtenaw County, though Maloney said they will travel further depending on the type of job and customer's needs.

Beal had been considering starting an urban farming company as his demolition company tore down over 100 homes in Detroit over the last two years. The question arose: What gets done with all the empty space?

But he said he never found the right partner for the project. When he posted for a different position in the Beal Group, Maloney responded and he noticed her extensive experience in agriculture and organic farming.

She came in for the interview and Beal mentioned the idea.

"Her eyes lit up," Beal said, and the idea quickly evolved into a business.

Maloney learned organic farming on several farms in Maryland and Vermont before moving to St. Eustatius in the Netherland Antilles where she helped design and develop a .5-acre fruit tree garden.

After that she joined the Peace Corps and traveled to Niger, where she assisted a local women’s group in planting a 1,000 Moringa tree plantation. Upon returning to the United States, she began working toward her master’s degree in conservation biology at the University of Michigan while farming at Dexter's Brine’s Farm.

Urban farming has become particularly popular in southeast Michigan in recent years. There aren’t any regulations or laws governing small farms that don't produce food to be refined or directly sold to the customer. CityFARM is only assisting in producing food, so it doesn't fall in either of those categories, though Beal said he would like to see the CityFARM brand on stores' shelves someday.

Maloney said Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor's residents are relatively active in urban farming and the local foods movement, which makes the area a good spot for this type of business. But she added that CityFARM isn’t directed at only that community.

“It’s for a anyone who has an interest in growing food,” Maloney said. “You don’t have to be an expert farmer or gardener to do it.”

Among the benefits of urban farming Maloney listed is the positive impact on the environment, because it takes a piece of lawn that was previously covered in pesticides and turns it into organically farmed land. It also directly benefits a landowner by providing fresh, healthy food and helping save money on groceries.

“You can plant whatever you want, it beautifies the community and when people connect more with environment, they are more likely to respect and take care of it,” Maloney said.

Tom Perkins is a freelance reporter for


Laurie Allen

Tue, Feb 28, 2012 : 7:18 p.m.

Wait a minute---this is a for profit enterprise wanting free money from kickstarter? I don't understand. If it's for profit why would anyone donate? I would gladly donate to a non profit but for profit? I don't think so......

Mr. Burns

Tue, Feb 28, 2012 : 1:24 p.m.

Why doesn't Beal finish one thing RIGHT before he moves onto something else? I wish someone, anyone, in this county would ask him some hard questions. But alas, bloggers,, Concentrate and all the rest of you just seem to take his talking points and retype them for print. This is not a non-profit, period. It is a clever way to get some good PR. If he wants to help the poor in Washtenaw County then here are a few suggestions... PAY YOUR CITY TAXES so the city and county can offer its own services for the poor. I just looked up the tax bill for 112 S. Adams, the house where he is starting this, "charity", and he hasn't paid taxes since 12/31/2009. Maybe or other bloggers can look up the rest of his properties and see what he owes. Also he could pay his bills to contractors that he owes so that they can pay their employees and not tie up the courts with all their lawsuits trying to get their money. You can look up Beal in the files of the Wastenaw courts and see how many people take him to court over bills he owes them. I found one active case where he is being sued for over $20,000 for non payment of a bill. I am angry because many people are hungry and do need help from their communities and when businesses people like Beal use the name "non-profit" to further their own imagine it hurts other legitimate non-profits that work hard for every penny the get and give. I know he donated some land usage to Growing Hope, why now is he competing with them? Why not just make a large donation to an already established group? Again, are any of you ever going to ask him a hard question?


Tue, Feb 28, 2012 : 6:05 p.m.

Could not agree more!


Tue, Feb 28, 2012 : 1:49 a.m.

I just got a quote for a raised cedar bed- good price. We don't have the time / energy to build it, so I'm thrilled that they are offering this service! Great idea for a business!

Laurie Allen

Tue, Feb 28, 2012 : 7:22 p.m.

hire an out of work landscape student and really help someone.


Tue, Feb 28, 2012 : 12:10 p.m.

Their prices seem high tome. I decided to check them out. Here is a material cost for one 4' x 10' raised bed made out of 2&quot;x10&quot; rough sawn cedar. 2 lag scores used at each corner. This is how we made our raised beds, though we used ACQ treated wood, not cedar. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> 3 needed: 2&quot; x 10&quot; x 10' Red Cedar Lumber 1 1/2&quot; x 9 1/4&quot; x 10' Actual Sku: 1073230 $39.79 8 needed: 3/8&quot; X 4&quot; Zinc Plated Lag Screws 1Lb Pack Sku: 2323219 $2.99 Total Cost: $119.37 + 23.92 =$143.29 8.60 sales tax $151.89 Total material cost Only construction needed is cutting the boards to length and drilling for the lag bolts. The lumber yard will cut the boards to length, often at no cost to you.

toothless wonder

Mon, Feb 27, 2012 : 10:42 p.m.

Which local corporation has expertise at testing land for heavy metals,chromium(remember the chrome plant in downtown Ypsi that burned a couple years back),dioxins,lead, etc etc. How about NSF Corporation on Dixboro?? Ann should find out WHO has capability unless Beal wants culpability for his naivety. &quot;Beggars can't be choosers&quot; (Food Gatherer recipients supposedly being that..) Ah grasshopper... If'n we find out that your vegetables were planted on the cheap in urban industrial blight and then we eat them... I know recipients of Food Gatherers. Any land used for donated food will need to be FULLY tested and published. We look forward to hearing in the affirmative!

Wolf's Bane

Mon, Feb 27, 2012 : 5:37 p.m.

I guess he is done with Thomson Block, huh?


Mon, Feb 27, 2012 : 6:06 p.m.

Precisely as intended!

5c0++ H4d13y

Mon, Feb 27, 2012 : 5:03 p.m.

Sounds like an expensive feel good effort. It's not like we are pinched for farmland in this country.

Craig Lounsbury

Mon, Feb 27, 2012 : 5:24 p.m.

your post makes me feel good, and it was free....thanks ((( 5c0++ H4d13y )))


Mon, Feb 27, 2012 : 4:29 p.m.

I thought of this while reading this article, this is a common practice, usually in cities like Detroit with lots of open space: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Detroit with vast areas of open land is an obvious place to do this, and it is being done in other cities. I would imagine it might be hard to keep scavengers out, both people and animals. If you ever worked a night shift in a city you know the small animal population, skunks, raccoons, opossum, and even deer thrive in cities.


Mon, Feb 27, 2012 : 4:07 p.m.

Is the house on Adams going to be demolished? (It says Huron in the caption but that house is on Adams) I have been in/too that house and yard and it doesn't seem like with out demolishing the house you would get very far. The house is in decent condition so I cant see why demo-ing it would be productive, if that is the intention.


Mon, Feb 27, 2012 : 3:26 p.m.

Sounds like Stewie Beal was looking for some positive press, so decided to put a little bit of a stake in a 40 sq foot garden. This is far from a &quot;farm&quot; - Precisely as Intended indeed!

Larry Works

Mon, Feb 27, 2012 : 3:26 p.m.

Here's a little more information from Mark Maynards interview w/ Stewart Beal and Lauren Maloney, who is managing the endeavor for Beal. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a> Reading through the comments here and there, and having our own large raised bed garden, it's difficult to see how this might play out over the years. One things for sure though, if the CityFarm labor isn't available to care for things, you'll be amazed at how quickly (and high) weeds can grow given great soil and no competition.


Mon, Feb 27, 2012 : 3:12 p.m.

The photo is of North Adams Street, not North Huron.

Julie Baker

Mon, Feb 27, 2012 : 4:44 p.m.

Thanks for pointing this out. It has been corrected.


Mon, Feb 27, 2012 : 3:04 p.m.

I wonder who in this town will be able to afford these services! Thirty two dollars an hour is a LOT more than I earn, and $700 for an 8x5 foot garden seems terribly expensive. When I think of my friends and family in town, I don't know anybody who had the available $ for that kind of a project. How long would the garden on the &quot;donated,&quot; or &quot;matched&quot; plot take to produce $700 worth of food? It seems like a long time period to get a return on the initial investment. If the goal is to get food to hungry people, maybe it'd be better to donate cash to a food bank or Growing Hope, who will get a raised bed system directly to families.

average joe

Mon, Feb 27, 2012 : 11:23 p.m.

I think one is really only getting about half that amount of produce, since you are the one purchasing a plot for someone else also. If someone had cityFARM come over &amp; do all the work, one might as well invest in a CSA because it would yield more food for the money.


Mon, Feb 27, 2012 : 10:06 p.m.

&quot;How long would the garden on the &quot;donated,&quot; or &quot;matched&quot; plot take to produce $700 worth of food?&quot; If you shop at whole foods maybe a week, if you shop at Save A Lot Never.

Common Sense

Mon, Feb 27, 2012 : 2:50 p.m.

While I applaud Mr. Beal for his efforts at urban gardening, gardens are usually a labor of love. Anyone wanting to start an urban garden can get most of the information for FREE from your local library or from the local cooperatve extension service in Ann Arbor. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

no flamers!

Mon, Feb 27, 2012 : 2:41 p.m.

I can't use reason or react rationally when reading anything regarding Mr. Beal, given the 3 years of blight he has imposed upon Depot Town. I wish his business partner all the best.

Craig Lounsbury

Mon, Feb 27, 2012 : 2:39 p.m.

swell idea but &quot; tlb1201&quot; makes an excellent point these aren't &quot;farms&quot; they are gardens. And while I post here often I'm NOT an author.


Mon, Feb 27, 2012 : 2:01 p.m.

Perhaps he should tear down the thompson block and put his demo farm there instead...

joe golder

Mon, Feb 27, 2012 : 10:10 p.m.

Mushroom farm might work in the boarded up structure!


Mon, Feb 27, 2012 : 1:51 p.m.

Since Mr. Beal and Ms. Maloney stated in interviews on Mark Maynard's blog and in an interview with the Ypsilanti Heritage that these are for profit farms. They also stated that they are seeking volunteers and donations for this project. Hopefully they can use some of the money they make off of this and put io Beal's Depot Town shell of a building he has fought not to repair.

The Picker

Tue, Feb 28, 2012 : 12:13 a.m.

abar, What a hateful comment !


Mon, Feb 27, 2012 : 10:01 p.m.

Mark Maynard's blog is full of hateful people, not surprised the comments there are less then postitive.


Mon, Feb 27, 2012 : 1:45 p.m.

Careful of Aliki: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>

G. Orwell

Mon, Feb 27, 2012 : 1:19 p.m.

Great way to tick off Monsanto and their marketing arms the USDA and the FDA. I wish Beal and Malony the best.

Steve McKeen

Mon, Feb 27, 2012 : 1:04 p.m.

Nothing tastes quite as good as food grown next to the bus station. Mmmmmmmmmdieselicious!!!

Linda Peck

Mon, Feb 27, 2012 : 12:42 p.m.

This is a great idea whose time has come! There are no bad points to this idea that I can see. If you have a garden on a rooftop, it is much harder for the deer to eat your vegetables.


Mon, Feb 27, 2012 : 11:54 a.m.

These &quot;farms&quot; sound like good old fashioned gardens to me. Tomatoes, tuh-mah-toes, but 40 square feet is not a farm! Don't automatically conclude that they will be organic, though. Especially if the produce is being raised on land that had lawn herbicides and pesticides applied to it for years, or maybe where a house once stood that likely had lead paint. Stuff could still be in the soil. Know your dirt, if you want god food. A nice idea that will provide a service and could benefit some people, though.


Mon, Feb 27, 2012 : 7:20 p.m.

Thats why they use raised beds.


Mon, Feb 27, 2012 : 1:06 p.m.

I'm no expert, but I've been told that it takes five years for chemical fertilizers to leech out of the soil before it can be considered 'organic'. And, given my wife's cousins are among the founding members of Organic Valley Co-op in SW Wisconsin and have been organic farming for nearly two decades, I'll take their word for it. Even Japanese farmers and U of Wisconsin professors have been visitors to their farms.

Jimmy McNulty

Mon, Feb 27, 2012 : 11:53 a.m.

It's hard for me to envision who would be their typical customer, since gardens are usually a labor of love. It is not clear in the article if the garden is constructed/maintained on the customer's property or on some empty space from the homes Beal tore down in Detroit?

Jimmy McNulty

Mon, Feb 27, 2012 : 9:34 p.m.

True, but those will be some REALLY expensive tomatoes. It just seems that it will be a really small customer base.


Mon, Feb 27, 2012 : 4:33 p.m.

I think their main customers will be people who want to have a vegetable garden on their property, but don't have either the ability or time to build one from scratch, or need help with some aspect of the maintenance. There's a lot of up-front labor involved in going from lawn to irrigated raised beds, and this business will do that for you. They'll also provide design services (got no yard, but want a container garden?) and maintenance, so say you want to grow tomatos in mid-summer, but then you're going to be out of town in the fall -- you can hire them to keep your garden under control while you're gone. They set up the gardens on your property, or maybe on your plot in a community garden if you want.


Mon, Feb 27, 2012 : 11:44 a.m.

Excellent use of land. Best wishes and hoping for great success.