When you hear the term hobby farm, you probably picture a small farm in the countryside with a few acres and some livestock. However, you may be surprised to learn that many hobby farms also exist in urban areas.
Water conservation is a big part of the urban gardening movement
Urban gardening provides many benefits besides growing food, such as the chance to interact with nature, extra motivation to spend time outdoors, the opportunity to get some exercise, and a way of conserving water.
Particularly in places where drought can be a problem, such as Denver, Colorado, water agencies, schools and residents have taken up gardening to conserve water. The reason being, vegetable gardens on average do not use as much water as green lawns.
Drought conditions in some areas of California have led water agencies to pay residents sizeable amounts of money in return for planting low-water plants instead of growing green lawns.
A San Diego company called Urban Plantations calculated that growing a vegetable and fruit garden instead of a lawn can decrease water consumption by 66 percent.
Replacing lawns with drought-resistant plants is good for water conservation and feeding your family
“Once we put the numbers together and started explaining it to people, we started seeing a lot of interest,” said Mat Roman, office manager for Urban Plantations. “People want to put in vegetable gardens instead of desertscape, and that’s both current clients and prospective clients. We’ve seen a tremendous increase in business.”
While the idea of xeriscaping (growing drought-resistant plants in place of lawns) may have started as a water-saving move, it is now recognized as a way of getting more value from the water. Not only are you growing something, but you are providing food for your family too.
“I think vegetable gardens are a perfect example: You can save water. You can grow food. You can have organic vegetables for your family at the same time,” said Mark Cassalia, a water conservation specialist for Denver Water.
“Our years of data from water bills and our partnership with Denver Water has helped us to understand that community gardens use about 40 percent less water than lawns,” said Jessica Romer, director of horticulture for Denver Urban Gardens, a nonprofit organization.
Urban gardening is a growing movement
The idea of urban gardening is growing. Increased awareness due to promotion from water agencies and companies like Urban Homesteader has led to the popularity of this new movement.
The Urban Homesteader is “a multi-platform media project that shows how to turn your small urban space into a modern homestead. Think beehives on condo rooftops, chickens roosting in your tool shed, and cucumbers grown on the front lawn.”
From livestock to farming, it’s a great experience for families
There are other reasons to run a hobby farm at your urban home. For example, Dominique Salamone (a former sheet-metal factory forewoman) has a dozen hens, a rooster, and an overgrown vegetable garden on her three-quarter-acre home.
“You have to be committed,” said Salamone. “Raising livestock takes time and knowledge. And it helps to have a handy spouse.”
In talking about her hobby farm, Salamone explains that it “gives her a sense of purpose” and also provides healthy meal alternatives besides red meat dishes. She is also able to teach her young children about nature.
“The eggs are delicious, the chickens relax you,” said Salamone, “and I like having something that gives back.”
The hobby farms in today’s urban areas often include a variety of animals, including turkeys, goats, cows, bees, and potbellied pigs.
Beekeeping supplies and poultry feed stores are thriving as urban areas become “countryfied”
“Business has been amazingly good,” said Danny Finkelstein, owner of Chatsworth’s Valley Hive beekeeping supply and service store. “It is normal in other countries for people to have their own food in their yard and their own bees. But we are seeing a rise in urban beekeepers.”
“The poultry feed end of the business has grown hugely in the past two to three years, due to the backyard farmer,” said Robin Hoeflinger, a Newbury Park hobby farmer who has been selling animal feed products.
Young kids and teens are getting a lot from the experience as well. “It is a lot of work to take care of the animals and be responsible, but a lot of young people today don’t get to have that experience. I feel like I am accomplishing something. My friends think it is cool. And I think I might want a job with animals in the future and believe that these skills will help me with that,” said Kayla, Hoeflinger’s 15-year-old daughter.
“I live in the city,” said Hoeflinger. “But when I am at home, it’s like we live in the country.”
If you have ever considered starting a kitchen garden, there is no time like the present. With a little planning and assistance from companies like Urban Homesteader, you can have a thriving hobby farm right in your own backyard. What are you waiting for?
—The Alternative Daily