Raking may not be the best job for young entrepreneurs, but there are other options

Violet Jopp rakes leaves

I know readers are over with the columns on not raking leaves. By now you probably have read some of the “national” articles now making the exact same recommendation that this columnist has. I don’t make this stuff up folks. You live in Alaska, so you get cutting-edge advice.

Nonetheless, last week I received a letter from a 10-year-old named Violet. Her father reads these columns every week and discusses them with her. Her letter was about my advice to readers to not rake leaves. “Yum for worms,” she noted.

It seems Violet is trying to raise money so she can buy an iPad. “Every year I go to my neighbors’ houses and ask if I can rake their yards to get money,” she wrote. “Did you do this growing up?” Then the kicker: “Since a lot of people read your articles, they don’t want me to rake their leaves. So, I can’t get money! Could you tell your readers, that if a 10 year old asks to rake their leaves, it’s ok (and should say yes) for them to do that?”

Violet, you have presented me with a bristling conundrum. On the one hand my heart broke when I realized what I had done to such an enterprising young lady. On the other, it really, really isn’t a good thing to encourage leaf raking. Even if people are willing to pay, it is still not the right thing to do for the environment.

This is what I call a Greta moment. I want a world where a 10-year old can grow up without climate change destroying things. Raking leaves does not help reach that goal. So, I think we need to find a few other tasks your neighbors should do this time of year. I hope they will be willing to have you do them rather tackle them on their own.

A letter from Anchorage 10-year-old Violet Jopp to gardening columnist Jeff Lowenfels

I thought about this and I Googled it as well. One suggestion on everyone’s list of fall money making chores was wiping down and cleaning up outdoor furniture so it can be put into winter storage. I am not sure how many Alaskans store outdoor tables and benches and such; most are left outside, negating the need to clean until spring. You may not get much business now, surely not enough for an iPad, but it is a good idea for earning in the spring.

On the other hand, there is a need to do some sweeping. Since you are good at raking, I bet you will be just as good handling a broom. You could do a bunch of sweeping, even if it snows as it will probably melt. Decks need it. So does the aforementioned furniture. Porches, of course should be cleared and walkways should be swept clean. I would use a push broom and just spread the leaves on the lawn — yes, to feed worms! Yum! — or charge your neighbors extra to have you put those leaves on their garden beds and around trees and shrubs as mulch. You might want to bring your rake along just in case it works better than a broom.


And then there are driveways to deal with. I think you are old enough to offer a package deal. First, you can charge to sweep or rake. Then, you can charge to mark the edges of the driveway — and walkways — with fluorescent surveyor flags. I am pretty sure you can get your Dad to buy some. All you need to do is push them into the ground, or snow. Tell your neighbors that the flags will let them know where to plow and where to put shoveled snow. This will protect their lawns from auto and foot traffic and prevent snow plows from peeling back grass this winter.

I so appreciate the letter you sent me. I did not mean to take away your means of earning money. I hope I have given you some ideas of other yard chores you can use. I can tell by your determination that you will meet your iPad goal.

And to all other readers, listen up! These are all chores you could accomplish yourselves and by all means you should, that is unless a 10-year old girl knocks on your door and offers to do them for you, for reasonable pay. As Violet, and now Outside garden writers, have indicated, the worms will take care of the rest.

Jeff’s Alaska Garden Calendar

Alaska Botanical Garden: Join the ABG Board!!! Interested in becoming more involved in the Garden? Apply to join the Board of Directors. Applications will be accepted through Nov. 1. Go to

Houseplants: Your heat is on and you should make sure they are getting the proper amount of water. Let your plants be your guide.

Seeds for winter: You can mail-order them. Some local nurseries still have packets from this summer.

A Community Forestry Council talk open to the public: Trees as a Community Asset by Gordon Mann, Oct. 28 from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Contact Josh Hightower at for a Zoom link. Among other topics, Mann will discuss the value of trees, emphasizing their use as infrastructure comparable to streetlights, traffic control devices, streets and sidewalks.

Jeff Lowenfels | Alaska gardening and growing

Jeff Lowenfels has written a weekly gardening column for the ADN for more than 45 years. His columns won the 2022 gold medal at the Garden Communicators International conference. He’s authored several books on organic gardening, and his latest book, "Teaming With Bacteria," is available on Amazon. Reach him at