Craigslist ad encourages La Crosse woman to urban garden

Produce grown on Mary Norman's yard will be sold at local farmers market

One local woman’s experience on a popular website could be planting the seeds for a new trend in La Crosse.  

Craigslist is a well-known site used to sell items, find apartments and look for jobs but while browsing on the site, one La Crosse woman found something she didn’t even know was possible living in the city.

Mary Norman has lived in La Crosse for a little more than a decade and is in the process of remodeling her home.

“I had a lot of work to get done around the house because I am by myself here so I thought I will go on Craigslist and find some people to help,” said Norman.

While browsing the website, she stumbled upon one unique ad.

“I think I just called it, ‘Would you like to Garden?’ Pretty straight forward,” said Casey Peterson, an urban gardener.

About four people responded to Casey’s ad and one of those people was Norman.

“I clicked on it and so he said he needed yards with sun and a good size,” said Norman.

“I’ve always wanted to get involved with agriculture, but I don’t have access to land and it’s really expensive if you don’t have land already,” said Peterson. “I just kind of figured this was the next obvious step for me to use land in town.”

“I was entranced so I emailed him right away and he came over the next day,” said Norman.

Just one month after meeting Peterson, Norman has a backyard garden.

“I don’t expect any work from them on their end. I do all the weeding, harvesting and water is set up on an automatic timer. They just need to give me the okay to come in and put the garden on their lawn and they can enjoy the fruits of the labor,” said Peterson.

In exchange for the land, Norman will get a fresh box of produce every week. The rest will be sold at the Cameron Park Farmers Market in La Crosse.

“It’s a win-win-win situation. For me I get to grow the produce and make a living doing what I love, for the landowners they get to look at a garden and enjoy the produce and the community as well for learning about sustainable agriculture,” said Peterson.

“I just think we can feed a bunch more people if we have our yards like this so I think it’s cool,” said Norman.

Even though Norman is excited for her garden, it doesn’t necessarily take away from the oddity of the situation.

“It’s kind of strange for me because to me it feels normal. I am putting a garden in a backyard. But I’ve talked to Mary’s neighbors when they are out and they ask me a lot of questions and are excited about it, it seems like a really strange concept to them,” said Peterson.

It’s not something you hear of often, allowing a stranger to use your land in your backyard to grow produce. But for Nelson, Peterson didn’t seem like a stranger.

“He grew up just a few blocks away, his mother is just a few blocks away, his brother has rental property a few blocks away, so it didn’t feel like a stranger it felt like a person in the community that I wanted to get to know,” said Norman.

And who knows, next time you are looking for something on Craigslist, it may just blossom into something more.

“We are going to be friends, you know, I can feel it,” said Norman.

“I think there is reason to be skeptical or hesitant initially, but for as many scams as there are, I think there are ten times as many good people looking,” said Peterson.

“You can have a guy like Casey show up at your front door,” said Norman.

Peterson also pointed out that city gardening has a lot of benefits compared to country gardening. He said there are fewer pests, great wind blockers because of the other houses and it’s a much more controlled environment.

Peterson has four gardens right now in the city, totaling about 4,000 square feet. He is hoping to add one more piece of land this year and then double in size next year.

If you are interested in urban gardening and would like more information, you can head over to Peterson’s website at