Sustainable Urban Farming: Everything Old Is New Again

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“Everything old is new again.” That’s what the plaque my daughter gave me for Christmas read. She thought it fit me perfectly.

In order to live the sustainable life that I strive for, I’ve been finding out that everything old is new again, and it has been helping people lead a more enriching life. It is leading to people back to the land and to trying to be homesteaders again.

Not everyone can live in the country though and achieve homesteading to that degree. Some of us cannot afford to make the move or some of us just love living in the city. Believe it or not it’s not all bad living in the city. We love our neighbors, and the convenience just can’t be beat. That’s where the term urban homesteaders come in, which basically means that we are city dwellers who try to do as much for ourselves as possible in order to live a more sustainable life.

How to achieve this though, if you live on just a half acre like we do or an even a small city lot? A garden is a great way to start. It’s amazing how much you can grow on a small plot of land. In order to get as much from my garden as possible, I plant my seeds a lot closer than recommended, and I grow vertically as much as possible. I use techniques such as bean teepees and growing pole beans in the corn. We’ve recently expanded our garden space and this year we will be using even more of our backyard, putting it to good use growing food.

Of course, after the harvest you will need to know how to preserve the food by canning, freezing or drying. If you don’t know how to can, you can usually find a canning course at your local extension service or even at the library. Just imagine going to your pantry in January and eating green beans from your garden that you harvested in August. The taste is superior and you know where they came from and just how they were grown.

Remember though, there is nothing wrong with buying local if you can not grow it yourself – we love the Flint Farmers’ Market or going to the farm that’s close by us. For instance, last year after buying peaches from the store we came home and realized that they had been grown in China. It was at that moment that we decided to go to a peach orchard not too far from us and can our own.

Then start cooking your own meals. Get some cookbooks and begin trying out some recipes, believe me there will be some meals you choose not to make again, but after a while you’ll know what ingredients you like, and you’ll be able to know which recipe is good for you. Just so you don’t become too overwhelmed with making dinner everyday consider making a double batch of that lasagna, pizza, or casserole and freeze it for a busy day.

Raise some livestock, if your local government will allow it. Raising chickens on your lot is a great place to start, and you will have your own fresh eggs. If your city’s ordinances won’t allow raising chickens you might want to consider looking into how you can change the law, like I’m trying to do now.

The last city council meeting sounded positive. Of course there were a few chicken jokes cracked here and there, but overall I believe most of the questions were answered about raising backyard chickens, thanks to one of the council members. What types of questions were raised? One of the concerns was about the odor. To put that in perspective four to five chickens equal in the amount of waste to the average sized dog. Unlike cat and dog waste though, the great thing about chicken manure is that you can put it your compost, and it makes great fertilizer. The other question raised was about noise. There will be no roosters (you don’t need a rooster for eggs) and chickens only cluck when disturbed or they lay an egg.

A couple of days after the meeting a reporter from the Flint Journal called and asked some questions. We talked at length about the trend of keeping backyard chickens and my reasons for wanting them. I expected the article to be in the local Burton News, but believe it or not the article about the backyard chicken ordinance made the front page of Sunday edition of the Flint Journal, “Backyard chicken trend on the menu in Burton.” The reporter didn’t begin to cover everything I said, but overall, after I’ve gotten over the shock of my name being on the front page, I think it was a positive article.

Now just one more city council meeting to discuss regulations and if all goes well by the first of March we will be able to have chickens and then one more old thing will become new again. Not a bad thing to happen at all.