If you’ve got an urban farm, you probably have a blog about it. I fit the stereotype. But I’m asking: what the heck does having an urban farm mean, and do we really have one?
When my good friend Kristina told her Dutch friend that I have an “urban farm,” I felt embarrassed. That terminology is trendy and turns me off. Although it wouldn’t hurt me to pay more attention to what I wear, I’m not trendy. My husband and I began growing food over two decades ago.
For one reason, my hubby is never idle; and also because I didn’t like the idea of being solely reliant upon a grocery store in an emergency. After all, we live adjacent to a fault in earthquake country. We wanted our own food sources and water on hand (still working on the water storage). Fatalistic reasoning? Partly. Another reason. Once we had children, we wanted to get them and ourselves outdoors experiencing nature (getting rid of our nature-deficit).
Since you need land to call yourself a farm, urban farming is an expensive venture, at least in the Bay Area, where the cost of land is exorbitant.
Aricaunas lay the most beautiful light blue and large eggs, but they are very skittish.
Buying a vacant lot next door to us cut into our monthly income and doubled our property taxes. Yet, we wanted that land to stay as we knew it, undeveloped. We certainly didn’t want a 5,000 square foot monster-osity next door to us blocking our bay view and invading our privacy. In truth, it doesn’t make financial sense to use our lot for urban farming rather than housing. Does owning that land make us urban farmers, overzealous gardeners, or idiots?
Urban farm in So Cal has blogged 10 years and farming since ’85.
To be a farm, implies that goods are sold. While we aren’t at the point of having enough veggies to sell, I haven’t bought them from the grocery store for many seasons. Nevertheless, I don’t rely on our own veggies exclusively because when I follow recipes, I need ingredients we don’t grow.
As our fruit trees mature, we’ll have more food than we need. We’ll have to either give it away or to sell it. BTW: David built me a sod roof root cellar (to fulfill my Little House on the Prairie fantasy, because the Ingalls’s first home had a sod roof) for future food storage.
David engineered a way for the chickens’ eggs to drop and roll out of their feces.
In the past, I’ve accepted donations for our eggs and honey to cover the cost of various equipment, a Featherman (chicken plucker), and a honey extractor. We would have quit raising poultry for meat and quit keeping bees without that equipment—these purchases either show our commitment or our frivolity.
Cecil cut honeybee propolis for my tincture.
Our urban farm melds well with homeschooling; it’s part of our family–centered lifestyle. While we don’t depend on farming for a living, we do the work ourselves–daren’t call us Gentleman Farmers.
Animal husbandry, growing plants and beekeeping learned by “doing.” That’s how we do “science” together.
My vision of a farm has come from a song associated with a rural farm that brings to mind images of a silo, a barn, big animals, and a pond with geese and ducks. Think “Oh MacDonald.” Never once did we sing about veggies or fruit trees in that song. We grow a lot, but most of our fruit trees are still too young to produce.
It’s uncommon to have a pig, a cow, or a horse in the city, but at one point we had a beloved 120 lb. short-haired St. Bernard.
Based on the song, animals are key to a farm. Though we’ve had chickens for twenty-two years, my husband and I agree that isn’t what makes us an urban farm; it’s eating them! Most people don’t realize that chickens don’t lay eggs forever, and that new chickens don’t integrate well with old ones. There’s truth to the words: “pecking order“ and they mean that some chicken is nailing another one with its beak as I write. David and I differ from people who view their chickens as their pets; we raise poultry for eggs and for meat; and we have a system of rotation in place for egg-laying hens and for meat birds. We cull the flock every two years.
Cornish Cross X chicks at feeder are very cute a few days old.
In the past, we’ve had both Alpine and Nubian goats. It worked well for them to eat my Mom’s overgrown backyard next door. It didn’t work to keep them permanently. I had a fantasy to mate the nanny goats for milk, cheese and yogurt, but I ended up selling them because they were driving me crazy with their bleating and escape acts.
Goats were extreme escape artists and really smart. They jumped six foot fences. We’d no sooner leave our home when I’d get a call that our goats were on the street, or on top of the neighbor’s patio table next door.
They had a “king of the hill” mentality to climb, and a “grass is greener” tendency to go anywhere they weren’t supposed to be, even when their digs were abundant with food!
Also, I had mistakenly conditioned them to associate me with treats. Every time I cracked the back door I’d hear “Ma-Ma!” I was already hearing that indoors, all day, from our three kids. Though our first pair of goats were quiet, our second pair were noisy and their neediness eventually exceeded their usefulness. (I later found out that pairing a male with a female keeps them quiet and content, and two females together will bleat more often, for a male.)
It’s harder for us to harvest these large fowl, because we get attached to them. We raise about 5 turkeys a year for meat.
Every farm has a cat to catch vermin. This one adopted us and won me over.
We have a dog, a rabbit, a cat, and soon a dwarf hamster.
We have honeybee hives but does that make us legit urban farmers?
Well, according to this definition of an urban farm, we are one, but these definitions are funnier and who really cares anyway. I’ve realized how obnoxious it is to write about urban farming. I apologize for implying that our home, our kids, and even our animals are better than anyone else’s. That’s not my intention and it’s obviously not true.
P.S. I borrowed this post from my other old blog and edited it a bit. I’ve neglected to write fresh content for some time now. I’ve been editing my next short documentary, which has been all-consuming. So before I go outdoors and muck the chicken coop and give the honeybees fresh water, I thought I’d better share something here. And, I’ll visit my ‘followers’ blogs shortly thereafter. Thank you for staying in touch with this little corner of self-directed content.