I’m rather proud of my tiny backyard garden. It’s been an experiment the past two years, learning what grows best in the Texas soil and I’m still a novice gardener. However, I can’t describe how exciting it is when your seeds start to sprout or when you see the beginnings of a baby tomato. What’s even more encouraging is that you don’t have to have a huge farm in the country to grow your own food. After reading Novella Carpenter’s book “Farm City,” I was encouraged to learn that you can be an urban or suburban farmer. You can even grow things in an apartment setting if you really try!
Novella Carpenter is a prime example of using the resources you have to create something wonderful and sustainable. This inspiring woman created her own urban farm in Oakland, California. She found affordable housing with backyard space located next to an abandoned lot in the middle of the ghetto and began developing her little sustainable sanctuary. I’m not talking about a few tomato plants and an apple tree. This woman created a fairly large garden in the nearby abandoned lot and also began raising animals for food… She purchased a box of baby chickens, ducks, and turkeys and raised them to eat. She maintained a hive of bees that produced fresh honey each year and eventually even raised two 300 pound pigs in her backyard.
What I found to be so refreshing was to read her point of view on raising and eating animals. There’s a disconnect in Americans today between cows, pigs, and chickens and the food on our plate. We purchase boneless skinless pink squares of meat wrapped in plastic and forget the sacrifice of an animal’s life for our food. We don’t want to think about the slaughterhouses, and we assume our milk comes from happy cows in green pastures. In raising and slaughtering the animals herself, Carpenter expressed this sacrifice with deep appreciation that you couldn’t understand any other way.
Now I’m not suggesting everyone purchase ten baby chicks to raise and then later kill, pluck, and cook. However, there are many ways we can become urban farmers or homesteaders ourselves to better our health and the environment!
- start a garden. If you don’t have much space, you can grow fruits, vegetables, and herbs in pots on your apartment porch. If you have a house with a yard, consider landscaping using edible plants such as apple or peach trees. Also, try building some raised garden beds in the backyard to grow even more delicious produce. Tomatoes grow beautifully here in Texas and an apartment garden would be perfect for fresh mint, rosemary, and basil to use in cooking.
- make your own food. This past year, I bought a cheese making kit online and made goat cheese for the first time. It was surprisingly easy and super delicious. You could also try your hand at preserving or pickling foods for later use. It’s also fun to make homemade fresh bread.
- compost. There are plenty of composter options for purchase online with varying prices. I found my tumbler composter on Amazon. However, you can also create your own compost bin. Google search a compost bin how-to tutorial and try it out. Your plants will be so thankful for the fresh nutrient rich soil your compost provides.
- buy local. Check out your city’s farmers market to purchase fresh locally grown produce. It’s a sustainably minded action that is great for your local economy. It’s also nice getting to know the farmers directly who produce your food.
- use nontoxic cleaners. The mainstream household cleaning products of today are filled with nasty chemicals that are bad for your health and the environment. You can make your own homemade cleaning products without all those toxins.
- raise chickens. I have been dying to raise chickens in my backyard! Unfortunately, I don’t think my landlord would be to keen on that idea. If you have the space and permission, consider raising a few chickens in your backyard. Who wouldn’t love to have free fresh eggs every morning?!