Special Video Series Agents of Change

This company is solving America’s food issues one backyard at a time

The average American has an annual carbon footprint of 16 tons, which ranks among the highest in the world. In fact, it’s about quadruple the global average. One of the most significant contributing factors to our elevated carbon emissions is where we get out food, which is often shipped from far away, especially for those of us who live in cities. 

A plucky business called Love & Carrots, which began a decade ago with one woman and a truck, is addressing this national issue by installing produce gardens across the Washington D.C. area. They’ve installed more than 1000 gardens in almost a decade of business.

Natalie Carver, director of horticulture said, “Our founder Meredith Sheperd saw so many sunny yards not being used for food. And saw the opportunity to start a business and start building gardens in all these sunny pockets across the city.”

Unlike most businesses, as Love & Carrots scales, it reduces the overall carbon footprint by bringing city residents as close as possible to their food sources…their own backyards.

Nearly 30% of our food-related carbon emissions comes from transportation. Whether we’re importing bananas from Guatemala, or trucking carrots across the country from the main producer in Bakersfield, California, there is a tremendous amount of energy wasted by shipping perishable food long distances in short amounts of time.

The cost of convenience is not just environmental—you can taste it in the quality and freshness of the fruits and vegetables you eat. “When I first started harvesting in my garden, I realized that the food that I buy in local stores is not really what it tastes like,” says Yong Lee, a Love & Carrots garden owner. “So my palate had to get used to the fact that ‘carrot’ actually tastes like a stronger version of the carrot you get at a store. 

Love & Carrots offers a full-service, turn-key operation. People interested in a garden receive a consultation on the optimal place for their garden as well as a top to bottom installation. If they want it, they can receive garden coaching to help them manage their produce and even have Love and Carrots staff manage the garden in its entirety.

The company’s goal, however, stretches from Washington DC all the way back to America’s biggest carrot patch in Bakersfield, California. It aims to be a national model, creating a ripple effect across the country. “Our goal is to expose as many people as possible to sustainable practices and smart growing,” the company says, “so they can use that knowledge themselves and continue to share it with others.”