Backyard Farming: How to Homestead in the City

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Backyard Farming- How to Homestead in the City
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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:

  1. Provides food– Even a small garden provides some food that is fresher and healthier than grocery store produce.
  2. 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.

Bees also don’t just provide honey! I use beeswax in many natural beauty recipes, including lotion bars, and homemade lotion.

Your turn. What simple homesteading activities are you doing where you live? Share below!

Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


32 responses to “Backyard Farming: How to Homestead in the City”

  1. Wendy Avatar

    I’m into canning. I head to the local farms and buy tomatoes by the bushel for canning. It’s great! One bushel of tomatoes can make up to 21 quarts of tomato sauce, enough to get us through the winter. And I usually have enough to give as gifts.

    Homemade jams and jellies are wonderful on toast, English muffins and as a glaze for poultry, chicken and meats just to mention a few of their uses.

    Now that apple season is here I’ll make apple pie filling. Just open a jar, pour into a pie crust and that’s it! They taste amazing and are a wonderful treat on a cold snowy winter day.

  2. Stina Avatar

    My husband took gardening seriously this year & we have a small, 4′ x 4′ plot in our small city backyard. Our cucumbers & hot peppers (jalapeno, habanero, & havasu) took off like crazy and I learned how to can this year. We have SO many pickles! It’s been very much a learning & experimenting year but honestly it’s really been a lot of fun. I can tell how proud my husband is every time we open a jar of pickles made with HIS cucumbers and peppers. The pride he has makes all the work worth it.

  3. Chasity Avatar

    These tips are great! My husband and I just purchased our first home and were considering starting our own small backyard garden. This is the perfect time of year so I’ll definitely be using this information to help me get started 🙂

  4. victoria langan Avatar
    victoria langan

    Growing lots of beets! My radishes are doing well too. Storing them is a problem though.

  5. Jean Avatar

    As a new-bee(!) beekeeper, I’m excited to support these sweet little creatures in helping them to optimize their mission, in exchange for beautifying my gardens! On the subject of organic gardening, does anyone have a recipe for a good natural fertilizer for edibles such as Meyer lemons, herbs and vegetables? I want to fertilize but don’t want to ingest commercial, toxic products. Thank you!

  6. Kimberly Avatar

    Trying to save to get land. Live in a city now and not alowed to have chickens or bees. I am older and have had people say to me ” your to old to homestead” Life has handed me a lot of challenges and I know I am going to have land enough to life off for my whole family I keep praying and working towards my dream no my goal to live free

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