Backyard Agriculture Meets Legos? Yes!

Portland start-up Together Farm turns recycled plastic into snap-together garden beds.

By Zach Dundas December 3, 2013

Everyone loves the idea of a trim, beautifully organized, bountiful garden bed, positively erupting with lovingly planted fresh herbs and just-about-carbon-neutral homegrown veggies. But then there's constructing the damn things—not nearly so alluring.

A new Portland company—about as new as it gets, in fact, just sprouted from the fertile soil of an MBA class and a Kickstarter campaign—believes it's found an answer to this dilemma in a downright Proustian form. TogetherFarm's miniature garden-bed building blocks look (and basically work) much like Legos. Made of recycled food-safe plastic, the 2 in. x 2 in. x 10 in. rectangles can be snapped together into just about any configuration imaginable, providing an almost instant vessel for soil and roots.

"You find a spot that gets decent sunlight," explains TF partner Doug Holcomb. "You prep the ground, usually by laying down some cardboard. You build, then you fill in the soil and plants. You can put together a four-foot-square bed in under five minutes." The friction-fit between individual blocks can be secured with drywall screws.

After devising the idea in a Concordia College business course, the TogetherFarm founders hooked up with a Molalla-based plastics supplier—an initial run of 18,000 blocks diverted three tons of yogurt-container-grade plastic from the waste stream—and a Vancouver manufacturing plant. A Kickstarter campaign yielded $79,000, and production and shipping plans to serve those first orders are currently ahead of schedule. The founders have fielded inquiries from around the world, with strong interest from renters and other urbanites whose horticultural dreams outstrip their arable space.

"A lot of people don't have the ability to construct a raised bed," says TF cofounder Joe Aakre. "They have have bad backs or other long-term injuries, or they may live in apartments or on small lots. Renters may not want to install a semi-permanent structure on property they don't own. This product addresses all those concerns." The product should start popping up (snapping in?) at local retail outlets soon.


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