Becoming an urban farmer is much easier than you would originally think. To start urban farming you only need a few key ingredients to really get started.
You may already be urban farming today and not even realize it. There are so many amazing and interesting ways to introduce urban farming as a new hobby in your life. In this article, we will look at 17 ways that you can start learning about today!
My wife and I started urban farming in 2012, although we did not know it at the time. We have always loved spending time outdoors, and one of the things we enjoy most in our marriage is spending time together.
We started a small garden on the patio of the 3rd floor apartment we lived in which was conveniently located in the center of the city. I say “convenient” because we could walk every Saturday downtown to the local farmers market to shop for fresh fruits and veggies, which we loved to do.
On our patio, although it was small, we were able to grow various herbs and vegetables, both indoors and out. Growing our own food gave us so much joy and it became a lifelong hobby that we will probably do together forever. As we began to live much healthier and self sufficient lives, we adopted a Paleo style of eating.
This meant that all we ate was meat, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds. Since the majority of what we eat is vegetables, those are what we chose to grow, and we supplemented the rest of course from the local farmers market.
We enjoyed our new urban agriculture lifestyle so much that we decided to move out of our old apartment. As much as we would have loved to buy a house with 30+ acres, the reality is that it would not be feasible nor practical to commute to and from work and to civilization. Besides, we do love living in the city and being close to the many events and festivals that are held each year. So we moved just outside of the metro city area to a 3 bedroom house with a fenced-in backyard on slightly under .75 of an acre.
This backyard was MASSIVE to us and we decided to make the most of it! Today we practice urban farming in our daily life by urban gardening organic vegetables, herbs, and fruits. We also have an urban chicken farm with 5 hens, two ducks, and a rooster! Being able to enjoy fresh self grown food and have daily fresh laid eggs is what brings us much joy.
You too can experience this same joy by starting your own urban farm! Here are 17 ways that you can start learning about today to begin the wonderful hobby of urban agriculture.
Urban gardening is one of the easiest, and most common ways that many people in our community start off urban farming. With very little knowledge and even less experience you can start your own urban garden through vertical gardening or even square foot gardening. By starting a garden of your own, you can start saving tons of money right away because you are growing your own food! And that is only one of the benefits! Some of the types of food in which many fellow urban farmers choose to plant for their own crops are fruits, vegetables, and herbs. You can also grow nuts and seeds too!
Fruits are a little more difficult to grow than herbs or vegetables, but the sweet reward is very much worth the trouble. Have you ever heard the phrase “natures candy?” Many popular fruits to grow include strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, figs, rhubarb, apples and pears.
Check out this article to learn about the 8 Best Fruits to Grow For Beginners and learn how to start growing them yourself!
Starting a vegetable garden is one of the easiest ways to start your very own backyard garden. Personally, I started my own urban garden by planting yellow squash and zucchini from pre-grown plants purchased at my local nursery. Eventually I added various types of vegetables and even starting growing them organically!
If you are just starting out, some of the best vegetables that will help you develop your green thumb are: tomato, bell pepper, zucchini, yellow squash, and cabbage. Even in the years that we had the hottest summers and the least amount of rain, there wasn’t much that I could do, or not do, to kill these veggies. They grew and prospered and I was able to successfully farm my vegetable garden!
Herbs are another great crop to start off if you are looking for an entry point into urban farming. You can use herbs in just about everything you cook and being able to go out on your back porch to pick some cilantro for your fiesta that night is an awesome feeling!
Some of my favorite herbs to grow that I use regularly are cilantro, oregano, basil, and rosemary. Nothing taste better than homemade pesto from homegrown basil! You can learn all about growing herbs such as these here!
Urban livestock farming is a slightly more involved facet of urban farming. Urban livestock farming primarily involves animals for meat, egg, dairy, honey, or some other form of food. You can of course always have your own pet chicken and other animals too!
It is not necessary to have to kill something in order to urban farm. My wife and I owned 5 hens and 2 ducks for over a year and never killed them. Although it took about 6 months for any of them to start laying eggs, once they began they never stopped!
We would wake up each morning to 7 sometimes 9 eggs! It was awesome! Depending upon the space you have to start your hobby farm, and the amount of time you have and are able to dedicate to it, you may choose to add urban livestock to your farm. Always be sure to check your local municipality for the local laws and ordinances and ask your neighbors out of courtesy. This will help you avoid many frustrations and hassles in the future. Below are the 5 most common forms of urban animals that you can raise in your own urban farm.
Raising backyard chickens is by far one of the most popular animals that hobby farmers prefer to own. The best thing about urban poultry is that they are relatively inexpensive to start and maintain, and they can be used for both meat and egg production.
Many farmers choose to own different breeds of poultry. Meat chickens are typically a breed who does not lay eggs as commonly but are easy to fatten for juicy chicken breasts and drumsticks. Laying hens are typically the breeds that will regularly produce eggs on a daily basis.
To learn more about raising your own backyard chickens, check out these popular articles. To learn more about the different chicken breeds, this infographic is a great place to start.
5. Other Birds & Waterfowl
Other than raising backyard chickens, many hobby farm enthusiasts choose to add a variety of livestock poultry to his or her farm. One of the most common is ducks, or geese. Believe it or not you can actually raise ducks right along with your chickens and they too will lay eggs! Duck eggs are much bigger than chicken eggs and are much heartier. Other common birds are turkey, pheasant, quail, and grouse.
Goats are a popular choice by many urban farmers for their milk, meat, fiber, and even to just have around as a pet. Something about having a goat in your backyard just screams “farmer.” Getting goats can be a little more tricky to find, and you definitely want to be sure that you have at least a backyard for them to roam.
Your apartment complex may not appreciate a billy goat hanging out on your balcony. Goats can be known as rather messy and picky eaters so be sure to really research these furry companions before you decide to add them to your farm.
7. Urban Bees
Urban beekeeping is another one of my favorite types of urban livestock to farm in your backyard. After the initial setup, owning an apiary is rather effortless and hands-off other than the occasional maintenance and gathering your honey.
The most crucial thing you can do before you start your own bee farm is to do your initial background research. There is 101 things to know, maybe more, about beekeeping and apiaries and it is not as easy to figure out on your own.
One of the first things you will need to do is check your local laws or city ordinances. You want to ensure that it is legal to own bees in your backyard. You will also want to do your due diligence and make sure your neighbors are ok with it too.
Visit this page to begin researching more about urban beekeeping and learn more about your local ordinances, time commitments, protective gear and more!
Pigs are probably the cutest little critters you could bring to your farm family. I mean have you ever seen those little teacup pigs? But if you are raising urban pigs as livestock and not pets, or if you’re a carnivore, or a paleo-crossfitter like me they are also the tastiest! BACON!
But what really do you need to know before you start to raise pigs in your backyard. Well of course you are going to need to know how to take care of them. Like goats, you need to be certain that you have sufficient space before you begin farming pigs.
To start you are going to need to build a pig pen. Most pigs will be happy with about 15 to 20 square feet. The key is that pigs like to be comfortable. They like shade in the summer so they are not too hot and they like to be protected from the harsh conditions in the winter.
Since pigs have a hard time regulating their body temperatures, it is important for you as their farmer to provide them with adequate shelter. It is also true that pigs are fanatical about mud! It not only helps them regulate their temperatures but it also helps them feel more at home!
If you have a a lot of mud in your backyard than urban pig farming may be a good place to start.
Self Sufficient Living
Being self sufficient is one of the best ways to begin embracing the urban agriculture lifestyle of a true urban farmer. Why pay for it when you can do it yourself, right? Many of us care about our community, and care about our health and lifestyle. Being able to provide for your own basic needs not only makes you feel more human, but also helps better the world in which we live in.
Being an urban farmer in itself is a wonderful first step to being more self sustainable. in addition to growing your own food and raising your own livestock as mentioned above, below are a couple other ways in which you can be more self sufficient.
9. Composting 101
If you have a vegetable or fruit garden in your backyard, then you need to start composting today! Using compost as mulch is so beneficial in so many ways to help you produce hearty and vibrant foods.
If you are also raising urban livestock, than there are many ways that you can recycle the feces from your farm critters to compost for your plants! My wife and I clean our chicken coop regularly and because of all the nutrients in our chickens feces, it makes for great compost fertilizer!
To learn all about composting 101, check out our entire composting tutorial, Composting 101!
10. Hunting, Fishing & Gathering
Hunting and fishing are also a great way to become more self sufficient. Back in the paleolithic times, hunting and fishing was an important source of obtaining food for our ancestors. Hunting, fishing & gathering for nuts, seeds, and berries was actually their primary method of survival before they began farming their own food.
If you know my wife and I than you know we are Paleo eaters and living this self sufficient lifestyle is very important to our way of life. To learn more about important survival skills and how you can incorporate a more paleolithic way of life in the 21st century, check out these awesome resources.
11. Rain Barrels
Rain barrels are a almost necessary way to become more self sufficient. It is so easy to begin rain barreling and if you have already started growing your own food or raising your own animals, than water is a vital resource to you.
You do not need to buy a fancy or expensive rain barrel to begin doing it your self. Rain barreling will not only help you become more self sustainable but also it should be saving you money. My wife and I started by placing buckets under our gutter drains to collect the water. We would then use this collected rainwater to water our vegetable garden and to feed and water our chickens!
Another great idea is to redirect your rainwater from your gutters to strategically water your gardens during rainstorms. We have had great success with the Invisaflow Downspout Connector.
Check it out and get your own on Amazon here!
12. Homemade Shampoo & Homemade Soap Recipes
Making your own homemade soap and homemade shampoo is so much fun and yet another way to live more self sufficiently. The coolest part about it is that you can really have so much input into the smells look texture of your soap. If you want to smell more like coffee to help you wake up in the morning or if you really like the smell of aloe you can do that with your own soap!
You can start making your own soap with just three ingredients! Yep, three! Did you know that you can also make your own homemade dishwasher detergent and homemade laundry detergent too?
13. Alternative energy
Alternative energy is probably one of the first things that people think about when they think self sustainability. My sister, Samantha actually moved out to Colorado and lives entirely self sustainably in a solar powered house.
Now Colorado can get cold, and I would hate to run out of sun in the middle of the winter, but there are many ways to keep warm and to power your home even without going out and buying solar panels.
Farm to Table
Farm to table is an epic movement that many urban farm enthusiasts like ourselves strive to do more and more and is becoming more mainstream for the rest of our society. With the biodynamic farming movement and locally grown influence, it is giving urban farmers like us more ways to profit from our hard work in more ways than the immediate benefits that our families receive from our crops.
Many urban farmers have branched outside of farming for themselves and started growing food for others and profiting from it. There are many recipes you can use from your own farm produce and also many places to sell them, such as your local farmers market.
One of my favorite ways to bring my farm to my table it homebewing. Homebrewing is the practice of making, or brewing your own beer at your house. Sounds pretty cool, right? Homebrewing is an uber fun hobby for beer enthusiasts and if your are an urban farmer, you can even try growing some of your own ingredients for the ultimate homebrewed beer.
It is recommended to start out simple. One pot is probably a good place to start. All it takes is about $60 and a little background knowledge to get yourself started in brewing beer.
I am a craft beer enthusiast to homebrewing craft beer is where I plan to start. Follow my journey here!
15. Homemade Wine
Wine is another awesome hobby for the wine enthusiast or the urban farmer extraordinaire. My wife loves wine. We actually frequent our local wineries in Kentucky often and that is where I got the idea, originally, to make our own!
If you grow your own fruit, there are so many delicious fruit wines that you can make in addition to making wine from grapes. Dandelion wine, Blackberry wine, Blueberry wine, Apple wine, and Strawberry wine just to name a few!
16. Dog Treats
If you are a little weary to begin making recipes for your family at first, or if you are just obsessed with your dogs like me than making homemade dog treats is one of the best ways to start using your urban farm and to begin living more self sufficiently.
If you are like my wife and I then you also treat your dogs as if they are your children. You absolutely spoil them. Making your own dog treats from scratch ingredients some of which came from your own farm is pretty dang cool! And your dogs will love you forever for it!
17. Delicious Healthy Recipes
Other than beer, wine, and dog treats, you can’t forget about yourself! You can start using your urban farming today by just using a little bit of your homegrown basil to make your own pesto! (Which is delicious by the way)
No matter what you choose to grow or raise in your backyard, there is a delicious healthy recipe that you can use to feed your family and live more self sufficiently.
As we collect more and more recipes, we will share them with you here!
If you know someone who is considering starting their own urban farm, then please share this post with them and invite them to join our Urban Farming Community!
image credit: OakleyOriginals