Why Would Anyone Become an Urban Farmer?

10/2/2013 9:17:00 AM

Tags: Urban Farming, 1/8 Acre Urban Farming, Melissa V. Willis

Melissa V. WillisI grew up in a small city in the high desert; my partner grew up on the outskirts of a big city in the Midwest. Neither of us grew up with our hands in the soil with the intention of growing our own food or chasing chickens and collecting eggs or participating in seemingly endless canning marathons to preserve the bounty for later consumption. Instead, we pounded the pavement, swam in city pools, and participated in regular trips to the grocery store, like the majority of people in our and similar generations. We are very familiar with all of the conveniences that society has slowly put in place over the past 100+ years, and we are grateful for them.

So, why did we embark on a life that is less convenient? A life that requires us to work more and rest less? Well, I wish I had a quick answer for you! The truth is, there wasn’t a single A-Ha! Moment; it was simply an evolution of our collective curiosities. You know, the “What if we tried this?” kind of mentality. This started with a few tomato plants, then growing a few more veggies and quickly evolved into tearing apart our front and back yards to add even more green and goodness into our lives. It also started with five chickens, kind of on a whim, and has evolved into 15 laying hens and what we call their “Chicken Mansion”. Oh, and let’s not forget the bees we have kept and will keep again, despite my newly discovered allergy to their stings … Or the compost that started in a small black bin and has grown into a living organism all on its own, contained only by the straw bales that create its boundaries!

One-Eighth Acre Urban Farm

Aerial View of Our 1/8 Acre Urban Farm

The truth is, we like to learn as we go, and we evolve constantly. We like to read and research and try things on our own. If those things fail, it’s OK, because the process was probably fun (or, if it wasn’t fun, it probably imparted a little wisdom).  And, our evolution has led us from an outside/external/consumerist focus to an inside/internal/productive focus, physically, mentally and (for me personally) spiritually. 

For now, let’s stick to the physical. 

The soil moving, fence building, chicken chasing, raised bed constructing, physical labor of it all. There is the sweat and smashed fingers, the splinters and sunburns to contend with … not fun, not pretty and definitely not convenient. But the rewards are plenty and come in the most delicious form: Food! The hard work of the past few years has brought us over 800 pounds of food and well over 5000 eggs! And every single ounce of it was tended by our own hands, cared for from seed and chick to fruit and egg … delicious, organic, healthy, ours. And from that bounty, we are being given the opportunity to learn yet another skill; food preservation! So, we are dehydrating and canning and fermenting our own foods to keep in the pantry and garage until they are needed or simply craved.

Homegrown Cayennes

Our First Attempt at Fermentation: Homegrown Cayennes into Hot Sauce

Now, we live right in the middle of my hometown, right in the middle of the little city I pounded the pavement in, so what’s the purpose of growing our own instead of making the three minute trip to the grocery store or the 11 minute trip to the Farmers’ Market twice a week? I guess the simple answer is because we can. We are simply choosing to do things the hard way because it feels right, it is fun, it is healthier for us personally and for the planet and it is helping us learn skills that were (unfortunately) not passed down to either of us growing up.

It is our hope that, through these processes, we can learn enough skills to eventually make the move to a larger piece of property and our own farm eventually. In the meantime, we hope to inspire our children and community to choose, on some level, a less convenient life as well … simply because it is fun and so very fulfilling and really, who doesn’t like fresh eggs?!



P.S. You can read more about our experiences in urban farming at http://skymindedandevergrowing.blogspot.com/.

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10/2/2013 8:41:56 PM
Melissa, good for you and your partner. I'm glad it feels right for you because it is right. I do it because it's in my family's farm heritage DNA. I might not live on the farm as my ancestors did but I still have that connection to the land and feel the tug to small scale farm in my garden. Soil is the life blood of the earth. Every where I travel, I always look at soil and see what kind that part of the country has. I'm looking forward to following your journey to a bigger place. Have a great mini urban farm day.

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