URBAN FARM, RURAL HOMESTEAD OR SOMEWHERE IN BETWEEN - Backyard Farming: Homesteading: The Complete Guide to Self-Sufficiency - Kim Pezza

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


Backyard farms and small homesteads are popping up all over the country. From rural farmsteads to city rooftops, people are returning to the land, growing their own foods once again (some having never attempted to do so before). For those looking to join this growing movement, the question is one of determining what type of set-up will be best for your needs. Determined largely by choice and by site restrictions, choosing the proper location is something we’ll be discussing in more detail in Chapter 5. In the meantime, let’s go over the key things to look for when selecting lands to cultivate, as well as ways to best utilize the land you have.

To begin, let’s briefly discuss the farming options that are available to the new backyard farmer or homesteader:

Rural Homestead

The small, traditional homestead is typically comprised of a house, outbuildings and associated acreage. Although normally situated in a rural area, homesteads can also be seen grandfathered into a residential area, especially in cases where urban sprawl has crept up around it. Regardless, if an individual or family wants to be totally self-sufficient, a homestead is the way to go. In addition, due to the need for at least a decent amount of land, if you are looking to keep larger animals, such as cattle, the traditional style of rural homesteading is a must. (The acreage required for this can vary, as we’ll see in Chapter 5.)

You can even repurpose older buildings on the property to serve as outbuildings or shelter for your animals, provided they have sturdy walls and a roof. Photo by Alan Murray Rust under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.

The traditional small homestead of today will usually have multiple acres available, with most having between 5-25 acres (though some may have 100 acres or more). There will be outbuildings (such as one or more barns and possibly some small sheds), the main house, fenced-in pasture/grazing areas (if there is livestock) and, if enough land and equipment is available, possibly limited crops (such as hay for livestock).

Keeping any sort of larger livestock, like horses or cattle, requires sufficient room for them to roam, graze and grow without restriction—in other words, a rural property. Photo by Micolo J. under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.

Urban/Suburban Farm

The urban farm is typically seen in denser suburbs and within cities. Due to the location and the increased restrictions from zoning or home owner’s associations’ regulations, urban farmers are much more limited in what they can grow or raise in comparison to the rural homestead. Because you may be working with only a fraction of an acre, you will need to know how to best utilize space efficiently, working your garden into a much smaller, pre-existing space. Although livestock are usually not allowed, more and more urban areas are now allowing chickens, goats and bees within city limits.

Always make sure to check all applicable regulations regarding livestock ownership in your area—there may be rules regarding how many animals you can keep, what types, and what sizes. Photo by Rachel Tayse under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.

The urban farm may also have more hoops to jump through when getting started, depending on zoning/HOA regulations and your intentions. At present, many backyard farmers are working to get regulations in their area softened, hoping to make it easier to have small livestock, and even gardens (some urban areas and developments look upon a vegetable garden in the front yard as an eyesore).

When looking to start up a backyard farm in the suburbs, it’s important to determine the zoning regulations for your area. Depending on how dense your suburban area is, urban zoning may apply. However, if it is a small development in a rural area, rural zoning may still apply. Above all else, common sense should be used to determine whether or not a site is appropriate for use as a homestead.

Rooftop Farms

While rooftop farms could be considered a type of urban farm, they deserve special mention for the sheer variety of possibilities that these sites can hold. If the surface is large enough (and the roof is strong enough) you will be amazed at what you can accomplish. We’ll be discussing the potential of rooftop farms more in Chapter 5.

The rooftop garden can be a very large space, with some the size of a small lot. Rooftop gardens and farms can have a wide assortment of fruits and vegetables, as well as offer the possibility of keeping small chicken coops and beehives. Beds in a rooftop garden will most likely be raised and/or in containers. Care must be taken to plan around what the roof can support, meaning lighter soils may also be necessary.

Container Garden

Although not really considered a backyard farm, container gardens are common elements of homesteads, backyard and urban farms, and rooftop gardens. Those with very limited space, especially those who only have a balcony or deck available to them for use as their garden space, may use container gardens exclusively. Container gardens, raised beds and other methods for making use of space effectively will be covered in Chapter 6. You can grow almost anything in containers, including dwarf fruit trees. However, if your space is limited, you will obviously want to plant the fruits, vegetables or herbs that are most important to your needs.

Your location and your environment are determined by any number of things: where your job is, what you can afford, the size of your family, and the type of area you want to live in. But whether you choose to live in the city, the suburbs or the countryside, there is a way for you to experience farming and the joy of growing your own food. Just remember that, wherever you choose to live, you can learn to make the most of your space using a few tried-and-true growing techniques.