I had a couple of goals for starting South of Holgate. One was to put a dent in my financial situation and the other was to provide quality affordable food for my neighborhood, which has a great need with a disproportionate number of low and fixed income residents and two federally-recognized food deserts.
Unfortunately, opening the food cart made my financial situation much worse. The addition of the start-up expenses quickly gave the appearance of me being a high risk borrower and even more quickly sent my monthly revolving payments thru the roof. Regardless of how busy the cart was, my financial situation continued to worsen. It didn’t help that when I opened the food cart I had no experience in running a business, nor any experience of substance with commercial cooking. And once it became clear I needed help, trying to understand and implement everything that goes into having employees was just not possible with the number of hours I was already putting in. In the end, it was better for me financially to close the food cart than to keep it open.
As for offering quality affordable food, I think I was successful in doing that with nothing on the menu over $3.95 and most of the menu items being homemade.
One of my long term goals was to convert the rest of my property to mostly edibles for use in the food cart. While that is no longer possible with the cart, it does lead to one of the long term things I hope to focus on for the future.
What I Hope To Focus On
While the food cart was open, I shared with a number of customers about my long term goal to grow a lot of the food for the cart on site. While that is no longer possible, I still hope to bring fresh affordable food to the neighborhood by moving forward with converting my property to mostly edible landscaping and selling directly to folks in the neighborhood.
It’s not about choice. It’s about affordability.
One of the things I sold at the cart was candy, including small candies for as low as a nickel. A number of the younger neighborhood kids would come in for candy. One Summer, I decided to sell some of the wild blackberries growing on my property and plums from my sole productive tree. I charged a quarter for a single plum or a small paper cup of blackberries. The kids who normally would buy candy, were buying the fresh fruit and asking for it each time they came in until it was no longer available. This was all the proof I needed that if healthy food is affordable, people will eat it, even kids.
My plan is to focus on fruiting trees and bushes, as well as seasonal vegetables if yields are sufficient for selling. My property is almost half an acre, so there is still plenty of room for a lot of food producing trees, bushes, and other plants. I already have a number of fruit trees, but most are very young and will probably need a few more years before they yield sufficient fruit for selling to the neighborhood.
I’m hoping to have a wide variety of fruits, including some that are difficult to find at the grocery store such as paw paws and figs. I currently have several varieties of plums, as well as figs, paw paws, apples, pears, cherries, and persimmon.
I may add chickens or ducks in the future and offer fresh eggs if I feel I have the time to not only ensure their safety from predators, but also the necessary daily maintenance as well as the collection of any eggs.
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This document created by Mark White and made possible by the Mark for Portland 2020 campaign.