New Trend: Renting Mother Nature

Of all the new trends in food, one of the newest is renting a piece of a farm and enjoying the harvest. We’ve seen the growth of farmers’ markets. More and more people are taking the next step and joining Community Sustainable Agriculture by getting farm-fresh produce from a local grower every week. Now some are taking the next logical step. No, they’re not actually geting dirt under their fingernails, they’re renting Mother Nature.

Rent-Mother-NatureSimilar to but more direct than a CSA, RMN inserts you into the growing cycle by leasing you your own little corner of the farm. You’ll lay claim to a beehive in the Catskills, an oyster bed on the Puget Sound, or a pistachio tree in the Arizona desert, and for one season the harvest is yours.

In other words, for one season, you own a piece of a farm. But the farmer takes care of your crop.

Massachusetts-based Rent Mother Nature was started in 1979 as a way of helping small-scale New England farmers improve their pre-harvest cash flow. The company now works with farms across the country and even a few from other parts of the world, so you can lease an organic date palm tree in California, a wild rice bed on the Red Lake Indian Reservation in Minnesota, or a cocoa tree in the rainforest of Costa Rica.

Rent Mother Nature sends out periodic progress reports during the growing season, and many of the farmers welcome personal visits from lease-holders. There is a minimum guaranteed bounty, and a roll-over to the next season if it’s not met. If it’s a bumper crop, you’ll get first dibs on the larder.

Rent Mother Nature partners with artisanal producers and farmers practicing natural and organic agriculture, and engages in fair-trade in foreign countries. When you lease a dairy cow you’ll get wheels of brie or cheddar from an animal you’re on a first-name basis with. The sap of your leased sugar maple tree is boiled into syrup in a traditional wood-fired sugarhouse in the Adirondacks. The wheat from your leased acre of land is sent to a Rhode Island mill that’s been operating since 1711, and the great-great-grandchildren of the Massachusetts textile mill’s original owner are still shearing the wool and custom-weaving the blanket from your leased sheep.