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Order a garden to grow

May 10, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- Consider it Gardening 2.0.

Two Chambersburg men have developed a way for people to grow their own produce without getting any dirt under their fingernails. Customers can visit a Web site to select their seeds, track the progress online and receive shipments of their produce.

"It's going to be your garden. We're going to take care of your garden for you," said Jason Forrester, co-founder of YouGrowOrganic.com.

He and Rob Norris brainstormed the idea on a hunting trip last fall. They recently signed up their first client -- Hagerstown's Aqua 103 restaurant.

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The pair has 350 acres they want to divide into 10-by-10-foot plots, with grass strips in between. Each will carry identification for the client who reserved it on YouGrowOrganic.com.

Those clients can select from 38 vegetables and herbs to be planted by Forrester and Norris. Periodic e-mails will allow clients to document the growth of their gardens.

"We're creating this experience where you get what you want," Norris said.

"I love being a farmer," Forrester said. "I love to watch things grow. People (in cities) want to experience that, but can't."

Now is an ideal time to start planting, according to Norris and Forrester.

They said the Chambersburg area has soil especially rich in limestone.

"All the crops we grow, it's just amazing how well the soil keeps the moisture in," said Forrester, whose family had produce stands for 25 years and now owns tractor retailer Forrester Farm Equipment.

Norris is a pharmacist, who says he hears more and more customers asking about organic foods and healthful lifestyles. He described the YouGrowOrganic program as "kind of a 'duh' idea," but said he can't find it replicated elsewhere on the Internet.

Friends and family have been supportive of the plans, Forrester and Norris said.

"They think it's going to be the next best thing," Forrester said.

Norris and Forrester hope this year will be the starting point for expanding the service in the future.

"Once we get the first year under our belt, it will grow like crazy from word of mouth. It's an experience to watch something grow, and you can see it online," Forrester said.

If Norris were to have his own 10-by-10 plot, he'd plant lettuce, tomatoes, green peppers and sweet corn. Forrester said he'd want "one of everything," so he'd have to get two plots.

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