I am excited to introduce you today to someone who is helping city dwellers become farmers, right from their own back patios! Meet Erin Hostetler, founder of The Patio Farmer!
Erin, tell us a little about yourself!
I grew up in Charlotte, NC! I went to school at Appalachian State. I have a Master’s degree and have lived in Spain and England. The last 6 years I have spent growing food professionally.
I absolutely adore seeds. I believe there’s something powerful to learn from them, how something so tiny and seemingly insignificant has so much strength and will and desire to thrive!
So, I’m totally a plant nerd. I know things about food bearing plants, and herbs, and pollinators, but very little about much else. Though I have a thriving houseplant collection that keeps growing, don’t ask me anything about how to take care of them! I’m passionate about growing food and love teaching others how to!
I have a homestead in northwest Charlotte where my boyfriend and I have 3 goats, 10 chickens and tons of veggies (and weekend projects). I love to cook. I love wine. I love being outside, barefoot and preferably near water. On the side, my boyfriend and I buy and sell antiques! We’re in 3 stores right now, and we’re totally obsessed. I’m an old soul.
Tell us about your business, The Patio Farmer.
While working as the farm manager for an urban farm in east Charlotte, I met this guy named Sam. Sam manages a nonprofit called 100 Gardens. Their mission is to install aquaponics (soil-less growing, with fish!) systems in schools to teach kids STEM skills.
To support this non-profit, Sam and his buddy, Ben, opened a garden supply store in NoDa in 2017. He asked me if I’d be interested in teaching some classes at his new spot. I said, sure that could be fun! And it was. Our topic was growing food in containers or “patio farming” as Sam dubbed it. The first two sold like hotcakes! So we did more.
One day, Sam asked me if I had ever thought about making this a brand for myself. I chuckled (I was working 3 jobs at the time). Then I thought about it… and thought, well, that could work! And it did. I launched The Patio Farmer the day of 100 Gardens’ first annual Homegrown Tomato Festival! I was off to the races.
In a few months, The Patio Farmer will celebrate its third birthday. It has grown from working with close friends in the early days, to becoming a SkillPop instructor in the first year, to offering resident events and private events in the second year, and in the third year, amidst all this global chaos, doubling my client base. Each year, each month, is a learning experience. I love the journey.
Why did you decide to start The Patio Farmer?
There is something inherently invaluable in learning how food is grown. It’s a basic human experience that so many of us take for granted and gloss right over. The more people who have this understanding, the more educated our general public is and the more respect we will have for our food system. It’s also just a really fun hobby and incredibly addicting to grow your own food!
How do you incorporate sustainability into your work?
I’m committed to using organic and all-natural products whenever I can and support other local businesses 98% of the time. I’m currently in search of a supplier for containers that uses non-virgin plastic to create their product… would LOVE to source more containers sustainably. As far as growing practices go, I encourage companion planting and planting pollinators as a way to manage pests and disease without using anything harmful. It’s important to know that when you grow food, what you put in the ground, you put in your body.
What has been your personal favorite moment while running The Patio Farmer?
I love when people “get the bug”. Someone who has never grown food before plants their first season and crops and texts me “I’m obsessed.” That is such a magical moment! Every time I get a text or a call or have a conversation like that, my heart smiles and I clap my hands. No matter where I am, ha!
We have to talk about the South here on Fairly Southern! What are your favorite and least favorite parts of living in the South?
The South is home. I love southern food (of course). I love how each region has a different food heritage and culture. I love the low country, the high country, the rolling hills and Appalachia. I love bluegrass and our beaches. I love the southern draw. Least favorite? Probably politics. But politics are my least favorite thing anyway, so…
What’s coming up in the future for you and your business?
Lots of growth! Like I mentioned, this year has been incredible so far! We’ll see where the rest of 2020 takes me. I’m already working on new services I can offer, new classes, new products and ways of building my business.
Erin, I love the work you are doing to bring organic, local food to people and teaching them to appreciate plants!