Published in Macalester Today
Jesse Dubois ’07, who studied English and Japanese at Macalester, barely thought about agriculture until a few years ago. But he did love to cook, his “passion for a long time,” and that enthusiasm for fresh and great-tasting ingredients ultimately led him to start a Los Angeles landscaping business called Farmscape that designs, installs, and maintains raised-bed vegetable gardens. Farmscape works in Pasadena, Hollywood, Claremont, and other parts of the greater L.A. area. Its motto? “Farming the Sprawl.” Dubois answered a few questions for us about his new business.
How did Farmscape get started?
During college my roommate, Dan Allen ’07, introduced me to his hometown friends from Iowa City. A year after graduating, these guys wanted to start a environmentally responsible business to improve the food system—and this was before the food movement had really taken off. They asked me to do research for the business plan, and the more I learned about food and farming, the more excited I got. Before long I was hooked. We started research in 2008 and planted our first garden for a paying client in February 2009. We had a handful of incredibly forgiving and excited clients that first season in Claremont. Now we have 12 employees and more than 200 urban farms across the Los Angeles metro area.
Where do you install Farmscapes?
Our service area stretches about 70 miles at its widest, east to Claremont and west to Malibu. We install gardens—from 48 square feet to an acre in size—at residences, schools, restaurants, and institutions. We’ve even started to install urban farms on some downtown rooftops. Right now we’re talking to several big corporations interested in using their corporate campuses to produce something more useful than lawn clippings.
What are the benefits of a Farmscape over a traditional yard?
A Farmscape offers homeowners fresh, high-quality produce and a wider spectrum of unique heirloom varietals. Fresh-picked food tastes better. We’ve witnessed repeatedly with our members that better taste and a more personal connection to the growing process makes families more enthusiastic about their meals in general and vegetables in particular. That’s a great habit for long-term health. We’re also really excited about the environmental angle: Farmscape uses sustainable and organic methods to tend each plot, which means a Farmscape is a more sustainable landscaping decision than grass. It also means Farmscape produce is a better choice than the remote farmed options, because each bite of squash does not imply the same energy footprint for packing, shipping, cooling, and storing. Meanwhile, Farmscape makes more responsible use of water than the average farm, using highly efficient drip irrigation.