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An Urban Farm is Possible Even if You Don’t Have Much Land

A Backyard Homestead Setup for Sustainable Living

Don’t be intimidated by the term homesteading.

Sure, homesteading originally meant acres of land. People who were given allotments of land to work for free or low cost, known as Homestead Acts, and which were traditionally more isolated in the country or wilderness.1) Today, homesteading in the US and Canada most often means those who are seeking to live self sufficiently, off their land.

You don’t need acres.

In fact, we know of folks who are earning a living and feeding their family off of only 1/8 acre or less, and others who are earning six figures on just 1/4 acre!2)

So if you’ve want to setup a farm but think homesteading is “out” for you because you don’t have the land or money… or because you’re in an urban city area, time to rethink it. There’s still lots you can do to homestead your home for sustainable living.

According to Wikipedia: Homesteading is a lifestyle of self-sufficiency. It is characterized by subsistence agriculture, home preservation of foodstuffs, and it may or may not also involve the small scale production of textiles, clothing, and craftwork for household use or sale.4)

Start right in your backyard with these homesteading ideas plus more tips to build self sufficiency through urban homesteading.


5 Reasons to Join the Urban Homesteading Revolution

By Abby Quillen on

1. Homegrown food is safer, more nutritious, and tastes better.

When the latest salmonella or e-coli outbreak dominates the headlines, it’s comforting to know exactly where your food comes from and how it’s raised. And because vitamin content is depleted by light, temperature, and time, freshly picked produce grown near your house is more nutritious than conventional produce, which is transported an average of 1,494 miles before it reaches the grocery store.

An even more delicious reason to celebrate homegrown food is the flavor. Gourmet chefs use the freshest ingredients they can find for a reason. The first time I cooked one of the eggs laid by our hens, I couldn’t believe how large and yellow the yolk was or how delectable it tasted. And it’s easy to appreciate novelist Barbara Kingsolver’s zeal for sun-ripened garden tomatoes. “The first tomato brings me to my knees,” she writes in her book, Animal, Vegetable, Mineral. “Its vital stats are recorded in my journal with the care of a birth announcement.”

Scroll down for more benefits of urban gardening. My favorite is #5.

2. Urban homesteading encourages healthy movement.

When I started gardening and making more things around the house and yard, I noticed a side effect: I felt better. It’s not surprising. Digging the dandelions out of a raised bed, brewing an India Pale Ale, and peeling potatoes fall in line with the sort of daily activities most important for maintaining a healthy body weight, according to research conducted by Dr. James Levine at the Mayo Clinic. In Levine’s study,5) people were fed an extra thousand calories a day. Those who did the most daily non-exercise activity (as opposed to deliberate exercise for fitness) gained the least weight.

And in a nine-country European breast cancer study,6) of all the activities and recreational exercise women partook in, household activity—including housework, home repair, gardening, and stair climbing—was the only activity to significantly reduce breast cancer risk.
Editor’s Note: It’s not about keeping women tethered to household chores… but rather, an active and productive lifestyle, which most modern jobs do not provide.

We hear a lot about the dangers of sitting, and most of us have to sit for some part of the day. But increasing our movement in our daily lives can make a huge difference for our health and the way we feel.


3. Urban homesteading helps families connect with nature and the seasons.

Growing up in Colorado, I was fortunate to spend a lot of time hiking and camping. Gardening has given me an even more intimate connection with the natural world, since now I must work with it as a co-creator. And it has given my two young sons a wonderful relationship with plants and seasonal rhythms. They love the garden and beg to help plant seeds, pull weeds, and harvest. Every time one of them asks me if it’s pea or fig season yet, or recognizes an edible plant in someone’s yard, I smile. Those may seem like simple things, but for me as a kid, produce was something that was shipped across the country and delivered to a refrigerated section of the grocery store.

4. Urban homesteading is thrifty. 

It’s no coincidence the urban homesteading boom coincided with a worldwide economic recession. If you build your soil, save seeds, and tend your garden well, you can save hundreds of dollars on organic produce each season by growing your own. Keeping chickens can also save you money. We estimate that our eggs cost $3.35 a dozen (in organic chicken feed) at the most, compared to $5 to $7 for similar eggs at the health food store. However, we were lucky to inherit our chicken coop, so others may have to include that expense as well.

Cooking from scratch saves us the most money. It’s not just that making stock, microbrews, and bread products from bulk ingredients is cheaper than buying them. As we’ve become better chefs, we’re also not as apt to go to restaurants, which used to be a huge drain on our finances.

5. Turning a lawn into a homestead makes productive use of land and supports healthier ecosystems.

In the memoir Paradise Lot, Eric Toensmeier and Jonathan Bates recount how they transformed their backyard—one-tenth of an acre of compacted soil in Holyoke, Massachusetts—into a permaculture oasis where they grow about 160 edible perennials. What was once a barren lot is now habitat for fish, snails, frogs, salamanders, raccoons, opossums, woodchucks, bugs, and worms.

“Imagine what would happen,” Toensmeier writes, “if we as a species paid similar attention to all the degraded and abandoned lands of the world.”

Drop in and visit Abby Quillen of for more benefits and great visual drawings.7) Abby is author of the novel The Garden of Dead Dreams and lives in Eugene, Oregon, with her family. When she’s not writing, she grows vegetables and weeds, bikes and walks as much as she can, and jots down cute things her kids say.

If you enjoyed this, you may also enjoy this article on Turn Your Backyard Garden into an Urban Farm, and this Sustainability and Urban Gardening for Self Sufficiency.8)Turn Your Backyard Garden into an Urban Farm9)

GROWING FOR PROFIT: If you’re interested in learning about earning money from gardening or farming by networking with others who are—or want to be—we invite you to join our Facebook group: Planting for Retirement. We’re a new group of people interested in learning how to supplement our current or retirement income through growing something by sharing our wins, losses and lessons in the field. Come plan and plant for retirement with us… the sooner the better!

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