Monday, March 5, 2012

apartment 3A farm!

The most discouraging email I read is when a person wants to start a far—claims to want it with every part of their soul—and then gives a list of reasons why they can't do it just yet. Usually it has to do with not living on a farm yet, or still looking for land, or rules in their HOA against chickens (does it say anything about vegetables and rabbits?!), a new baby, an ailing parent and so on and on....

If you want to be a farmer. Farm.

I understand the hesitation, but I don't understand the brakes? You can start farming today if a farmer is what you want to be. Nothing can stop you. Space, location, money, family, 9-5 job, none of that can truly stop a determined soul to do a little bit* of farming- nothing can hold back a dreamer into a doer. Nothing. If you bristle at that and get angry, ready to comment about what makes your life different and is stopping you from starting a farm, stop. Think about how that attitude has stopped you before? Whatever your situation, everyone who wants to farm can do something and it doesn't matter if it is a window box of lettuce they grew they bartered from the next cubicle over for a dozen eggs. You can start your farm today if you allow yourself to do it.

A person with a large walk-in closet or spare bedroom in the middle of downtown Chicago can order some grow lights, borrow some tables, and start a bunch of plants from seeds. He can sign up for a local farmer's market under a name he just made up "Apartment 3A Farms!" and sell vegetable starts and recycled containers he got at tag sales and thrift stores. He can sign up for Tax ID online, get all the forms, find out the rules from the extension agency on his lunch break. On 5 weeks a man with nothing but a spare bedroom can invest a few hundred bucks (or less), a few hours time, and have a table at a farmer's market by May. This is not a crazy idea by any means. And while yes, there are a million reasons and excuses not to do it, it is the people that NEED it to happen that find a way. You'd be amazed how much money frees up when you aren't paying for internet, cable, a cell phone, or sell that old guitar in the closet.

Some people surround themselves with good friends who allow them to make excuses to put off a dream. "Well, Sally is just getting into preschool next year and things are crazy with Phil graduation's plans" and so on. Life is always busy. It never slows down, and waiting for this leisurely block of time to start a farm is a crazier dream than wanting one in the first place!

So start today, my dreaming friends. Stop being just dreamers, and take one step towards that farm. Go to the library and print out the forms. Plan a logo and contact that local farmers market about what you need to sign up for a table. Borrow a dairy book guide from a friend or your college's library. Start a farm book club, where you and other inflicted readers can talk openly, encourage each other in your goals and small plans. Do something. Do anything. You will never regret it.

If you don't want a farm, then disregard this post as my yapping. But if you do want one, crave one, cry at night hoping for one....Understand darling that NOTHING can stop your farm from happening but you. And every single day you put it off is happiness suicide. As my good friend Jon would say: Choose Life, and make that choice

every. single. day.


Blogger seagoddess said...

I needed that today for a lot of reasons, thank you! "Seagoddess Farm 2W!"

March 5, 2012 at 6:47 AM  
Blogger trish said...

I agree you can start small and cheap. I really wanted a garden this year at the lowest cost possible. A friend and both bought some seed and then swapped--so we got double and didn't waste the seed we wouldn't use up anyway. I am telling you for around $30 we will both be having a BIG fruits and veggies most of them heirloom varieties so I can even save the seed for next year. I started the seed in a pasteurized egg containers that I had and bought peat pots for like $2. If you make compost it is FREE!!! Also, built a beautiful chicken coop with "reject" lumber and FREE pallet wood for around $150. It looks like an old, little barn--it is really cute. My first chickens come in 2 weeks. It is so exciting. I am very blessed. Anyone can start small! Plant some herbs in a container and you won't have to buy basil or parsley for a long time to come!!

March 5, 2012 at 6:50 AM  
Blogger trish said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

March 5, 2012 at 6:51 AM  
Blogger Kelpie and Collie said...

Here's a GREAT book- this guy has done AMAZING things on 1/4 acre.

March 5, 2012 at 7:37 AM  
Blogger Sage said...

Any person can work to change their town's zoning laws to allow for chickens or other small scale ag practices. I wasn't allowed to keep chickens in my zoning district, so I wrote a new ammendment, had neighbors sign the petition, and got the new law passed through city council. Now, my neighbors and I have fresh eggs every morning. It took time, but it was worth it!

March 5, 2012 at 7:39 AM  
Blogger tami said...

"Just Do It..." ain't just for Nike.

I would sell my place in a heart beat for a place out in the country where I could have my "Green Acres" life. Trouble is I married "Zsa Zsa." Country Girl, City Guy.

So I do what I can do in my backyard. He's on board with the big garden and fruit trees but there's no way I can get the chickens. "NO CHICKENS!"

(Yet...Waa Haa...I'll keep working on him. Nibble, nibble...)

March 5, 2012 at 8:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So true! If you wait until the time is right, it won't come. There is always something that will come up. We've waited and now we're in our 50's. This year we have tilled our plot in the backyard for a garden, I've ordered seeds, and I am planning on bees and chickens. I have to figure out how to move bees before I get them. Don't want to leave them behind when we move!

March 5, 2012 at 8:19 AM  
Blogger Tammy said...

So very true!

March 5, 2012 at 8:24 AM  
Blogger Kate said...

I walked into my yard last year and built two beautiful raised beds out of scraps. I felt so much joy as those little green shoots poked up into the sunshine because I had made it possible from nothing. With very little knowledge but a lot of enthusiasm I created food for my family. This year I have a year under my belt and BIG plans. I might add that I build those raised beds after reading a CAF post.

Oh, and rabbit for dinner tonight. Win the family through their stomachs, I say:). When they taste the yummy ness they will be more amenable to a rabbitry! (I'll do my best Patty, send me your chef vibes).

March 5, 2012 at 8:26 AM  
Blogger Holly said...

If you want it bad enough you will find a way to make it happen. Jenna has proven that time and time again. If you need more inspiration check out Novella Carpenters blog Farm City. As far as the excuses, let it be known, I was planting my garden while I was in labor with my second child. I knew I had some time so worked along in the garden getting as much done as I could. Then got right back out there within two weeks to pick up the slack and had my baby with me. A shade tree, play pen or car seat with netting is fantastic. Play some music for the little one. As the kids got to be alittle older I gave them spoons and a corner of the garden to dig and plant. They love garden season! I would die without my garden!!!

March 5, 2012 at 8:30 AM  
Blogger Kate said...

Oh, one other thing, with a little research I found a land trust near my home in Boston where they have lots of backyard farming workshops. I also found Brookwood Farm where I became a member and can volunteer and learn. I can help with sheep, chickens, veggies and fruit crops even as I learn the basics for my yard. Look out into the world and see what's around. It's out there for you!

March 5, 2012 at 8:30 AM  
Blogger From the Country Farm said...

Well said Jenna, once again you hit the nail right square on the head! It was exactly what I needed to hear this morning, for several reasons! Thank you, again.

March 5, 2012 at 8:34 AM  
Blogger karental said...

We just expanded from self-watering containers to raised beds. We went from one beehive to two. The chicken coop is built and awaiting occupants (maybe by the end of the week?) We live in the 'burbs, but not in a gated/deed restricted community. Because I am a registered beekeeper (Africanized bees in Florida, so being registered allows for testing every year)I received the USDA survey this year. It asked many questions about whether or not I sold produce, employed people, etc. I answered "no" to every question. The directions required me to print on the front of the survey "I am not a farmer". I wrote it with my pen, but not my heart.

March 5, 2012 at 8:52 AM  
Blogger karental said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

March 5, 2012 at 8:52 AM  
Blogger J.D. said...

Well, the name of my smaller than a postage stamp farm: Lunar Lettuce. Some plants are up and under the lights now, with more to plant during the full moon, hence the name Lunar Lettuce.

My grow pots believe it nor are made from newspaper. Not the ones that require a thing-a-ma-jig to make, but the origami ones.

Last year's experience in the urban farm world produced a nice yield, Hurricane Irene aside.

I'm doubling my efforts this year to put enough aside to get me through next winter.

Off to ebay to buy a pressure canner.

March 5, 2012 at 9:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a good push to get going on the garden. ;) Thanks for the inspiration, Jenna!

March 5, 2012 at 9:41 AM  
Blogger LeaningDuckFarm said...

What you think, you become.

March 5, 2012 at 9:52 AM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

Love it! First year of post-apartment living (finally have a YARD, though it's still a rental) and am building a raised bed. You are right - people will find a way if they REALLY want it. My tip for others - google search for your county extension office - I am a city girl who never heard of such places but they are a goldmine of info!

March 5, 2012 at 10:10 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

Keep making these sorts of posts, lady! I get emails like this from folks who take my classes and while they are most certainly taking steps in the right direction, you still have a certain element of "but I can't" which always makes me want to scream "you can do whatever you want!!"

If you want it, just make it so!


March 5, 2012 at 10:13 AM  
Blogger Pit Stop Farm said...

Jenna - I definitely needed this today - more than you know. While I enjoy our little bit of acreage with gardens and chickens, I have a deep, down in my sole need, to leave this urban area and move north to inhabit a large amount of land in New Hampshire/Maine/Vermont (would like at least 50 acres). Of course, it's my own hesitations holding me back. I would be leaving a very well paying and secure job to follow my heart. But really, I can't think of a better reason to leave this dreaded cubicle than to make my dreams come true. Now it's time to take a leap of faith.....

March 5, 2012 at 10:26 AM  
Blogger bookkm said...

Substitute "dream" for "farm" and this post is all-purpose. The excuses trip us all up. The fear of failing - ridicule? - rejection - clamp on the brakes.

Thanks for the pep talk - and I don't even want a farm!

March 5, 2012 at 10:35 AM  
Blogger becky3086 said...

It is amazing how many excuses some people can come up with. Sometimes though they can get inspired by just seeing posts of other people doing things. My brother-in-law found my blog a few weeks ago. He now has plans for raised beds, went and bought a meat grinder and is looking to get a canner. Encouragement is the key.
I too will say things like "I want to do this or do that" and I have my excuses but those things are still on the to-do list and eventually they will be possible for me and I'll get to them.

March 5, 2012 at 11:16 AM  
Blogger Gardn Of Weedn said...

So True! I was raised on a farm and I farm everywhere I go. I even farmed on my balcony in downtown San Diego. You can make it happen IF you want it. Dee

March 5, 2012 at 11:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've always been a country person at heart, and never felt "comfortable" in town - like a fish out of water kinda feeling. Been an avid outdoorsman most of my life. The "woods" are where I find the most peace.

I've been living in an urban area since 1990.

Over the years I've landscaped my tiny 1/10 acre lot with fieldstone (with lots of moss on it) imported one truckload at a time from rural friends' properties...... built a tiny pond... started a strawberry patch. Been gardening the last several years and really enjoy it - eating eggplant parmesean that I grew and harvested last summer, vacum packed, Janurary creates a really wonderful feeling. I love to watch birds out the rear kitchen window, I can burn quite a bit of time just sipping coffee and watching all the wildlife attracted to the little haven I've built up in my backyard.

A few years ago as I stared out that window contentedly, I realized something. That perhaps I should be true to my heart - and try to move to a more rural area, rather than trying to make the city more like the area I love.

I don't necessarily dream of a full fledged farm, but absolutely want to be out in the country...independent and self sufficient.

To that end, I've been slowly becoming more and more minimalist, more and more frugal, and have paid off all my debts aside from my mortgage, which I am now attacking. Being self sufficient as possible, tightening up on waste- heat, water, gas....... using coupons, and so on is a good practice to learn, and it moves me financially closer to the dream.

Gardening gives me better food, for little cost. And it feels so good to not have to depend upon someone else to grow food for me, even if the garden only produces a portion of the household veggies.

It is absolutely amazing how much money we can "bleed away" every day- fast food, coffee, magazines, the list goes on and on

I cannot just jump into a homestead right now. But as Jenna talks about in the post, setting the wheels in motion.... a tiny step at a time, is so joyful and empowering a process. Good things seem to "snowball" when we simply begin to take even baby steps toward the dreams we have, rather than making excuses, denying, procrastinating and so on.

I'm shooting toward paying off the mortgage within the next 2 1/2 years - renting out or selling this house, and moving "out there".

It's my dream, and my responsibility if it happens. Or not.

It's a good idea to scrutinize the finances, there are many people out there talking themselves out of their dreams because of "the cost", while they are leaking an unreal amount of money out of their accounts day in, day out..... on frivilous purchases.

If fast food, eating at restaurants, cable tv, expensive cell phone plans and so on are more important to a person than pursuing their dreams, then they may not have their priorities straight. It is tough to try to stop being such a consumer in today's society, but it can be done. 3 years ago I lived paycheck to paycheck and was always broke. Today, at the same job, roughly the same income, and a single parent, I manage to put nearly half my income into savings. Not by making more money, but simply by focusing on hanging onto the little that I do make.

Hopefully Jenna's post will cause a few "fence sitters" to maybe, just maybe........ take steps.

I may not get that urban land I dream of real soon, but one thing is for sure. It isn't gonna happen at all if I don't try.

In the meantime, gardening, canning, dehydrating and generally becoming an urban homesteader lifts my spirits, and moves me forward toward the dream.

March 5, 2012 at 12:15 PM  
Blogger JD Lynn said...

I emailed you recently and mentioned my ten year plan. I realized after I sent it that those ten years would never be up. Next year it would still be a ten year plan, instead of a nine year plan with progress.

Thanks, Jenna. I needed to hear this. I have revised my plans and dedicated half my dining table to seed starts. We are building a hoop house as soon as the ground thaws!!


March 5, 2012 at 1:13 PM  
Blogger Aisha said...

funny that this post came along, i have been eyeballing the plot of land infront of my condo and wondering if they will let me plant it since it's just sitting there as bare ground almost no grass. thanks for this be blessed and happy farming

March 5, 2012 at 1:36 PM  
Blogger Becca said...

Thanks for this post, Jenna. It's well timed.

Becca - Rabbit Moon Farm

March 5, 2012 at 2:07 PM  
Blogger Trekout2 said...

Anouther outstanding post Jenna.... I now have two chickens two rabbits and just finished building the rise bed garden out of old fence wood ... I love this stuff

March 5, 2012 at 2:11 PM  
Blogger Stacey said...

Thank you for this, Jenna. What a good kick in the a$$. We've got a ton of plans for this spring and I have to keep reminding myself that I can start by just getting some wood NOW and building the raised beds. I also have another dream that I needed a little push on it, too, so thanks.

March 5, 2012 at 2:12 PM  
Blogger spike said...

Every step you take as a farmer is rewarding. There aren't many things in life that are like that. Nice post. I'm sharing it because it needs to be heard. Thank you!

March 5, 2012 at 2:18 PM  
Blogger Amanda said...

I rent a .75 acre place that is in a fairly rural area, and my landlords are wonderful. We plan to stay here until we can buy a larger property, so I'm attacking it like we will be here for a while. The coop is being built now, and I have 9 week old chicks in my workroom. They are better than television. The garden beds are about 75% done, with three raised beds being built this week, weather permitting.

It's interesting that you mentioned selling seed starts... I am certainly considering doing so next year. I realized I could easily have started twice as many as I have and could get another grow light or two. I'm thinking I could pay for my seeds and plants that way, perhaps not make a lot of profit, but at least break even. I'm also trying a large bed of cutting flowers, glads, zinnias, snapdragons and pollenless sunflowers to sell... and enjoy.

If I can just make enough to cover the feeding and expansion of my little microfarm, I'll be pleased as punch. And it's great to learn about everything now before moving to something bigger in a few years.

March 5, 2012 at 2:30 PM  
Blogger Suporna Sarkar said...

Very Nice Blog !
I Like This Very Much.
Methods of Modern Farming

March 5, 2012 at 2:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, thank you :) I guess I AM a farmer with my multiple beds of vegs - anywhere the sun gets through the trees, trays of seedlings under grow lights,pots of herbs every which where. I thought I had to have animals (other than my diggin' dog so guess he's one too) to call it a farm. I had better change my 'pen' name. Joy engulfs me!

March 5, 2012 at 3:53 PM  
Blogger Ann said...

Could I just say how very nice it is to have the old comment section back.
It's pure pleasure to read all the pleasant comments without the negativity. Good job, Jenna.

March 5, 2012 at 4:32 PM  
Blogger Cristhiano said...

Thanks for the kick on the rear end !! I just went outside and planted some carrots and radishes since it's 75F here in Las Vegas today !! it's easy to get frustrated with not having the plot of land you want, which can take you to the "do nothing" place in life !! It's better to farm a little...even in pots if needed than not to farm at all.

March 5, 2012 at 4:57 PM  
Blogger Alexandra said...

Love this post! Started some peppers and eggplant in my livingroom yesterday. Now I just need to get going on that raised bed!

March 5, 2012 at 5:35 PM  
Blogger Weez said...

Well said, Jenna.
Fruit trees and bushes planted last year. Vegetable seeds started in the craft room upstairs. And come April... 6 chicks for our own eggs. All on 1/3rd of an acre. CoyoteCrow Farm is growing slow but sure!

March 5, 2012 at 6:45 PM  
Blogger Brittany Aukett said...

Jenna i hope you check out my blog.. and pass it on.. I am a 22 yr old with a 40 hour a week job, a 4 year old, and live in the "city".. I sneak chickens and newly ducks, i have transformed my back and front yard into a garden, and can my own food.. best life ever. And one day I will get a farm until then i farm my 1/5 a acre :)

March 5, 2012 at 7:13 PM  
Blogger Brittany Aukett said...

oh my blog is..

March 5, 2012 at 7:14 PM  
Blogger Holly said...

what perfect timing you have...just got back from a 6 hour round trip to check out a farm for sale. A bit discouraging until I read your post. I know the right farm for me will happen...until then I'll keep expanding my backyard gardens/orchard/chickens. 'Tho I live in the city I'm selling eggs to neighbors!

March 5, 2012 at 8:05 PM  
Blogger Holly said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

March 5, 2012 at 8:06 PM  
Blogger Tara said...

Well said! I think people think it must be all or nothing.

@JD Lynn - start with a 10 DAY plan! From there you can move up to 10 weeks. 10 years is far, far too long. Who can reliably predict their own circumstances on such a timeline? Two years is about as far out as I'm willing to go. ;)

Godspeed with the dream-building, everyone!

March 5, 2012 at 8:35 PM  
Blogger Amy McPherson Sirk said...

Well said. I wanted a farm but all I have is my home in a small town. So I began to farm my back yard. I learned some old fashioned intensive farming methods and developed my skills while getting to know my soil and growing conditions. I now serve 20 families through a 20 week CSA. Sure, I'd love to have more acreage and I'd love to raise more livestock. But what I have for now is definitely a farm, even if it is only a third of an acre.

March 5, 2012 at 8:52 PM  
Blogger Lara said...

In my mind my little spot right now is called Redbird Farm, it’s a transient thing, but right now it’s here. I believe I do more with my less than 1/8 an acre than many people with 5 and it’s so much fun, quite the adventure. The goal is to feed myself and then move into the lucrative farmer’s market sphere down here in Maricopa Co. as well when things start to really produce. Keep writing Jenna :-)

March 5, 2012 at 11:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not quite a year ago, we had a drastic realigning of our life and career goals. We decided we really want to work from home (check as of last month), move closer to family and friends (check as 3 weeks ago), and buy a homestead (coming soon). It's been a crazy couple of years but it'll be worth it.

March 5, 2012 at 11:41 PM  
Blogger David said...

I found a neat video about a group of apartment dwellers who are communicating ideas with each other for growing a garden in their windows using inexpensive supplies. Using the wonders of the internet we can learn from each other's successes or mistakes and feel empowered to try new ideas!

March 6, 2012 at 10:37 AM  
Blogger Anja said...

I agree with you for the past ueats i habe 'farmed' in my cortyard, i was able to produce potatoes, beans, peas, harlic, salad, cucumber and tomatoes in a spot thay jusy roughly 2x3 meters. I wasnt allowed animals other then my dogs. This yeat will be very limoted as i am moving mid harvest season to fulfill my dream

Ots never to early to gain the skills you need to realize your dreams

March 6, 2012 at 12:57 PM  
Blogger Noël McNeil said...

Thanks for the added boost to those of us who have hit a farming slump! I am 'Queen of Excuses' and it needs to stop. ;)

Thanks Jenna!

March 6, 2012 at 3:35 PM  
Blogger jojo said...

Enough said! Amen.

March 7, 2012 at 4:32 AM  
Blogger Crazyorganicmom1 said...

HOORAH Jenna! My 8 year old little girl (who isn't so little anymore) whispered in my ear last night while I was giving her a piggy-back. She whispered.... "Daddy, I really want to live on our farm." I was up until 11:00 working on our website, facebook page, networking, etc... I have a lot of motivation to keep moving...and you just gave me more inspiration this morning. THANK YOU!

March 7, 2012 at 7:03 AM  
Blogger John said...

Great post - I grew a few veggies on a 10-square foot bed behind my apartment 8 years ago and after 4 years in our current house, last year I really got inspired to use my 1/5 acre lot to it's fullest potential instead of just dreaming of land all the time.

March 7, 2012 at 10:00 AM  
Blogger donna rae said...

YES, Yes, yes!!!! We live in a rapidly becoming urban suburban area. We can't have chickens. But we raise food all year. Right now we are harvesting beets, salad greens, onions, kale, collards, joi choi, broccoli, and lots of herbs. Radishes are almost ready to harvest. I can after work with a mini home canning set from Ball, purchased at a chain grocery store by my daughter. It holds 3 jars at a time. Last summer I filled the pantry! We purchase what we don't grow from local farmers we know by name. We compost in a space smaller than our city garbage can. WE CAN DO IT!!!

March 7, 2012 at 10:58 AM  
Blogger jojo said...

Enough said! Amen.

March 7, 2012 at 12:34 PM  
Blogger Chengwatana Farm said...

Hello all, and congratulations on following your dreams. I was once in the same boat, and now have my own farm and am following my dream. One suggestion I would make is to consider teaming up with someone who does have land and equipment. Lots of farmers are more than happy to take a motivated young person under their wing and help them get started. Blessings!

March 7, 2012 at 3:05 PM  
Blogger dixiebelle said...

Great post! We urban homestead on 1000sqm in Australia's capital city, whilst trying to balance everyday life with us both working (me part-time) and little kids/ community commitments etc. If you really want it, you can find a way, BUT the reality is, trying to do it all can end up backfiring too. Go into your 'dream-into-reality' with well-thought out plans in place, and consider that you may have to give-up something else that takes your time & effort (be it hobbies, social life, housework) if you want to avoid burning out.

My husband and I were having a little fantasy the other day about starting/ running a CSA, with seasonal produce boxes (inspired by those in Australia doing it already, and from reading The Dirty Life by Kirstin Kimball too). We dream that we could make a living doing what we love, but doing it full-time... instead of trying to find the balance. However, 'being a farmer' is not so simple, it is hard work, it takes skill & time, which perhaps not many understand (not me, either, but I have more awareness that most people I know). But to be honest, suggesting that people can just start growing food in your closet and sell it, I think does injustice to what our producers and farmers actually do.

March 7, 2012 at 9:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I admire your spunk and endless optimism, Jenna. Unfortunately 3A Farm would never make it here in Chicago. It would violate the zoning code against commercial farming in a residential area/building, and as we're learning with our aquaponic farm, to get a business license to farm indoors in the city and sell what you grow, you must be licensed and inspected as a wholesale food warehouse, and definitely would have to be in a manufacturing or commercial building (we are, but still are running into nightmares of red tape every step of the way). That apartment farmer could probably get by selling under the table to friends, but could never get a booth in any city-run or most independent farmer's markets here because of this... I'm not saying don't do it. But sadly, unless your farmer has another way of earning a legitimate income, and is happy to farm as a sideline in the underground, he or she better move to somewhere more friendly to small businesses and startups than our "City in a Garden" (Urbs in Horto is the Chicago motto, but that doesn't extend to makin' a living... for now).

March 9, 2012 at 4:36 PM  

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