INTRODUCTION - Backyard Farming: Homesteading: The Complete Guide to Self-Sufficiency - Kim Pezza

Backyard Farming: Homesteading: The Complete Guide to Self-Sufficiency - Kim Pezza (2015)


At one time, growing some (or even all) of your food was as commonplace as visiting the grocery store is today. Whether individually or as a community, the ability to raise one’s own food and provide for one’s self was historically a matter of life or death. As a result, it wasn’t unusual to see chickens or a family milk cow in the backyard of a city home. Back then, consumers knew where most of their foods came from. But as society has become more urbanized and “civilized,” things have changed; most people now rely completely on others for their food and nutritional needs, from sources hundreds or even thousands of miles away.

But recently, growing your own food has been making a comeback—a huge comeback. People are once again planting food gardens in their backyards and building rooftop chicken coops, keeping bees in the suburbs and tending container food gardens on apartment balconies. The homestead is making a comeback, and urban and suburban farms are making their entrance. And while zoning regulations and other laws both new and old can get in the way, many are now beginning to fight for the right to farm in their own backyards.

Why is homesteading coming back full circle? What is making people who have never had so much as a flower garden, now decide to jump into growing their own foods? The answers range from not wanting GMOs or pesticide in their food, to the sale of imported, tainted food affecting both humans and pets, to wanting the freshest foods possible, or simply wanting to know where their food comes from. Perhaps the two most important reasons that more people are returning to backyard farming is the desire to have as much control as possible over what their family eats, and the economic sensibility of being able to grow something in one’s garden that you might not otherwise be able to afford.

The face of the “family farm” or “homestead” is changing as well, to better fit our modern times. While most people’s first thought when it comes to farms is a big red barn, with cows and horses out in the pasture, and huge fields of crops being tended by a farmer up on his tractor, the modern family farm is much smaller in scale, ranging anywhere from half an acre to over 200 acres. Some are limited to a single rooftop. And while the livestock selection may still include those cows and horses, it is no longer uncommon to see only a few chickens, along with a dairy goat and a couple of rabbit coops.

The dream of being able to grow something with your own hands while simultaneously providing food for your family has never been more possible than now. Photo by Mantis (Schiller Grounds Care, Inc.)

Alpacas, llamas, bison and donkeys, to name a few, have joined the ranks of cattle, horses and other livestock on the larger family farms. Meanwhile, miniature cattle, goats and horses have made their way to the suburban and urban farms and the smaller backyard farms, capitalizing on the need for efficient use of space. The focus now is on animals that can be kept and raised properly in small out-buildings, on small plots of land or in an urban backyard. Instead of flowing fields and pastures, the new homesteader’s crops come from gardens, raised beds or containers. Even the soil has changed, with traditional gardens now sharing space with non-soil mediums, and even fish! In aquaponic set-ups, the “garden” is hooked up to a fish tank of some size, depending on space and set up. The water from the fish tank is cycled into the garden, providing nutrients for the garden. The water is then cycled back into the fish tank to be clarified by the fish, before the cycle begins again. Relatively new (and still fairly expensive to set up), aquaponics is usually used in a backyard farm or homestead on a very limited basis. Regardless, it goes to show just how much can be possible for a backyard farm!

Backyard Farming: Homesteading is written to serve as a guide for all those interested in starting their own homestead, whether it’s on several acres, in a suburban backyard, or on an urban rooftop. Built from basic ideas and offering thoughts on everything from the land (or lot or rooftop) to the harvest, and written to be easy to understand, Backyard Farming: Homesteading helps the novice homesteader or backyard farmer to take their first steps into this personally gratifying and endlessly rewarding lifestyle.

While no stranger to the barnyard setting, chickens do well in a wide variety of environments, from the rural to the urban farm. Photo by Amy Kolzow.


Kim Pezza grew up among orchards, muck land, dairy and beef farms, having lived most of her life in the Finger Lakes region of New York State. She has raised pigs, poultry and game birds, rabbits and goats, and is experienced in growing herbs and vegetables. In her spare time, Kim teaches workshops in a variety of areas, from art to making herb butter, oils and vinegars. She continues to learn new techniques and skills and now spends time between her grandparent’s mid 1800’s farm in New York and in Southwest Florida, the first and oldest cattle area in America and origin of the American cowboy.