An increasingly popular aspect of living sustainably is to engage in “urban farming.” As shown in another post today, we have an urban farm listing in Lakewood, and in a couple weeks we’ll have a second urban farm listing in Arvada.
In light of these two listings, I asked an expert to enlighten you (and me) on this topic. Her name is Elizabeth Buckingham, and she writes a terrific blog, at www.FindingQuietFarm.com.
Here’s what she sent me on this topic:
By ELIZABETH BUCKINGHAM, Guest Columnist
Until the global economy collapsed a decade ago, my husband Nicholas and I were working on private yachts in some of the world’s most glamorous places. He was a deckhand and dive instructor, and I was a chef. We had spent years travelling, and when we returned to Colorado, where I was born and raised, we knew we wanted a little space around us. We found a charming 1960s home in midtown Arvada on about one-fifth acre. In addition to built-in bookshelves and a wood-burning stove, the yard had mature, leafy trees and plenty of space for extensive vegetable and herb gardens, a chicken coop with run, and a beehive.
We’ve spent the past eight years building an exceptionally productive urban farm. Our largest vegetable plot benefits from variable shade; we use it for greens, such as lettuce, kale and spinach, plus garlic and Egyptian walking onions. The northern third, up against the shed, collects quite a bit more sun, so we often plant staked runner beans and eggplant there. The soil in this in-ground plot was in decent shape, but every year we amend it generously with mulch from our leaves and compost that we make ourselves along our southern fence. Whether in a backyard garden or a farm, soil is by far the most important component – it’s essential to take good care of it.
The shaded garden plot was useful, but we needed space for heat-loving summer vegetables, like tomatoes and peppers. Nicholas built two large raised beds, which we filled with a mixture of lush organic soil and worm-rich compost. The beds are light, loamy and easy to grow in. We also constructed five smaller raised beds, ideal for squash, potatoes, peas and flowers, and we’ve planted raspberry bushes and perennial herb beds, including sage, English thyme, oregano, chives, lovage and mint. Every year, we harvest hundreds of pounds of organic food from our backyard.
Nicholas repurposed some beautiful redwood and built a secure chicken house and run. Instead of flimsy, inexpensive chicken wire, which a hungry raccoon can easily pry open, he used heavy-duty hardware cloth – and buried it nearly twelve inches underground to deter digging predators. Thanks to its solid construction, we never lost a bird to predation, which is the major risk to chickens in an urban area. The hen house itself is thoroughly insulated, eliminating any need for dangerous heat lamps which can kill chickens and burn down structures. Backyard chickens are easy to keep; they need protection from the sun and predators, plenty of fresh water and good-quality food and a clean, safe place to nest and sleep. The eggs are unparalleled.
To bring more beneficial pollinators not only to our garden but also to the surrounding area, we also installed a Langstroth beehive. The bees have overwintered successfully for three seasons and each fall they provide us with about fifty pounds of our own local honey. They’re fascinating to watch, improve pollination in our crops as well as those nearby, and maintaining a beehive doesn’t take much work.
Soon we plan to relocate to a much larger piece of agricultural land, where we’ll start a small organic teaching farm focused on sharing our knowledge with others. We want to encourage everyone to pay attention to where your food comes from and to grow and cook as much of your own food as you can. It’s not as hard as you think, and you’ll be amazed at how much food you can grow and how much money you can save. And it can be done even in an urban area! For more about our journey, please visit www.FindingQuietFarm.com.
Here are more resources where readers can learn more about all aspects of urban farming:
Learn More About Urban Farming
Does urban farming make sense for you? Find out this Saturday by attending a 90-minute class taught by Elizabeth Buckingham in the living room of our Lakewood urban farm listing. The fee is only $10. You can RSVP at Jim@GoldenRealEstate.com. or by calling Chuck at 303-885-7855. The class starts at 1pm on Sat., Mar. 3rd, at 2665 S. Eaton Place. You don’t have to be interested in buying this home to attend this informative class on urban farming.