Growing some of the food that your family consumes is a great way to save money and eat organically on a budget. As food prices continue to go up, more families turn to backyard farming as a way to access high quality food without breaking the bank.
The Rise of Backyard Farming
Food cost concerns and the desire for higher quality food has fueled the rise of backyard farming. There are an estimated 20 million acres of lawns in North America. We spend millions of dollars a year growing a mono-crop (grass) and pouring chemicals on it to make it greener and kill unwanted plants.
If we all farmed our yards, even in small container gardens, we would greatly increase the availability of local food and reduce food costs. This trend of backyard farming is growing with creative homeowners finding dozens of ways to homestead in the city.
Backyard Farming For Your Family
Some families are backyard farming simply to grow food for themselves. These small scale urban farms range from simple raised bed gardens to elaborate mini-homesteads with various types of animals, bees and ponds.
Any family can start some kind of small-scale backyard farm. This may just be a container garden or larger raised bed garden. It could even include backyard chickens or a beehive!
The book Backyard Farming on an Acre (More or Less) explains many of the ways to farm in a small yard. It provides sample garden plots and explains how to organize a small lot for the most growing potential. The authors have a highly-productive microfarm on one acre. They keep chickens, rabbits, goats and sheep on an acre, as well as having a large garden, fruit trees and nut trees and beehives.
Backyard Farming for Profit
Many families also have profitable backyard farms that supplement or replace a family income! I didn’t realize how profitable a small backyard could be until my friend Daniel recommended the book The Urban Farmer: Growing Food for Profit. The author is a commercial urban farmer who grows food for farmers markets, restaurants and for his own consumption.
I was fascinated with the concept and after researching, I found that many people make $30-50K in supplemental income on as little as 1/10 of an acre of land! These creative mini-farms range from basic gardens to greenhouses with raised beds. Others have hives of honeybees, aquaponics systems for fish and vegetables, or chickens.
Ways to Try Backyard Farming
I’d encourage all families to grow or produce something in their own yards. There are so many health benefits to gardening and even just to spending more time outside. There’s also an intangible benefit to directly connecting with where you food comes from, even in a small way.
Our family has tried to move toward living as locally as possible and growing our own food as much as we can. While we only have an acre, I’ve been amazed at how much our land can provide, and we don’t even utilize most of it! Even our small garden helps reduce our food bill and our kids have learned where their food comes from by helping grow it. My son’s beehive is a source of local honey and small income for him as well.
If you don’t already, consider backyard farming in one (or all) of these ways:
1. Just Grow Something!
Even those in apartments can grow small container gardens or window plants, and those with land can consider much larger scale gardens. Start with a small square foot garden if you are new to gardening or stick to vertical gardening if you are tight on space.
A small garden has two benefits:
- Provides food– Even a small garden provides some food that is fresher and healthier than grocery store produce.
- Reduces lawn space– Lawns may look nice but they have to be maintained. Instead of spending time mowing, watering, fertilizing and weeding, that same time and space can now produce food! Replacing some grass with an edible plant is a great way to make your yard more eco-friendly.
Even if you only grow a few microgreens in your kitchen, start growing something on your own!
If you are more ambitious, consider growing more than your family needs and sharing with friends or selling at a farmers market. Or grow flats of microgreens in an inexpensive greenhouse and sell to local restaurants. A flat of microgreens can sell for $20 and some backyard farmers sell 50+ of these a week to restaurants. They grow quickly and with minimal overhead, so they are a great starting crop.
2. Branch Out to Animals
If you live in a city, you likely can’t have a cow in the backyard (and you wouldn’t want one in a small yard!). But many cities allow various types of small backyard animals:
- Backyard chickens are increasingly common, even in cities.
- Rabbits can be raised for meat, manure for fertilizer, and entertainment, and are also allowed in many cities.
3. Generate Some Buzz
Honey bees are another great backyard option. Most cities allow bees, and with declining bee populations, raising honey bees can help your entire community. This website has a lot of great information to get started with beekeeping.
Your turn. What simple homesteading activities are you doing where you live? Share below!