Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Sustainability on Our Little Urban Farm

Sustainability and finances on the farm.
Sustainability and finances on the farm.

I know sustainability is one of those buzz words people are probably tired of hearing, at least when it is about environmental issues. It is important to practice sustainability for the environment, and that is one reason we do it. But I'll be honest, it is as much or more about money, at least for us.

Even a small farm like ours can suck up the cash. Animals need food, gardens need food, people need food. Everything needs to be fed and cared for. If you are buying everything you need, it gets expensive. It makes sense to produce as much as you can and eliminate as many expenses as possible.

That is what we have been working for. I have plans in motion to seriously amp up our production. We already grow a good deal of our own food. We are also going to grow more of the animal feed, especially for the chickens. If we can reduce our feed bill, then I can justify more chickens. More chickens is good. More chickens means more eggs. More eggs without killing the budget would be excellent.

There are so many things we can do to reduce costs and increase output. Everything we do to become more sustainable equates to higher savings and earning potential. Our little farm is a tidy little business venture. It doesn't make a fortune, but we do alright. I think it comes down to producing as much as possible, using what we have and not letting anything go to waste.

Ultimately, my goal is to get this property to pay for itself. I need to make the intermittent income a regular, reliable, predictable income. We have a ways to go but we will get there. Just having the opportunity to make it happen excites me.

So with all that said, I'm off to the gardens to work on it.

Happy gardening,


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Another Reason to Mulch

Mulch protects topsoil.
Protect topsoil with mulch. 

The Santa Ana winds are blowing through Riverside today. Weather likes this reminds me of how important mulch is. It not only holds moisture in the ground, it prevents precious topsoil from getting blown away. And it reduces dust around the property.

Remember the Dust Bowl? It happened when the Plains farmers ripped up the natural grasses and planted crops, over-farmed and generally abused the soil. Then the drought came, and the exposed soil blew all the way to the Atlantic ocean.

It takes over 500 years to form an inch of topsoil. Topsoil is perhaps the most precious resource we have. Without it, there would be no crops. No food. Without it, civilizations crumble; people starve. So now you understand why it is so important to protect it.

Mulch is simply a covering for your soil. Organic is best, obviously. Aged wood chips, untreated grass clippings, straw, compost, even shredded paper can be used to cover the soil. Most experts recommend a mulch layer at least 2 inches deep. Some gardeners, like ourselves, like to lay it on a bit thicker.

So get your mulch on and protect that soil. We all need it to survive.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Build Your Neighborhood Food Network.

Neighborhood food networks build food security.
Neighborhood food networks build food security. 

America produces more than enough food to feed every person living here. And yet, hunger and food insecurity are very real problems. That is because there is an uneven distribution of the food we produce. Food needs to be accessible.

Neighborhood and backyard food gardens can meet much of the need. It may not be as simple as planting rows of lettuce and carrots, but it is a starting point. And maybe, when more people start growing, we might see neighborhood cooperatives where growers and members of the community trade food for food or food for services. When cities finally get with the program, we might even see more opportunities for gardeners to legally sell and trade produce in front yard garden stands. Wouldn't it be awesome if every neighborhood had its own garden market, where growers could offer produce to their neighbors?

Not everyone can grow or raise their own food, but we can all support our local growers, gardeners and food producers. Think about what you can do to support the people who are raising and making food in  your area. Do you know who or where they are? Do you grow or raise food at home? Connect with others and start building your neighborhood food hub.

You need a neighborhood food network. Just think about the possibilities. Fresh produce, eggs, baked goods, meats, milks, cheese grown and made just down the street or around the corner.

Get started. Go door to door, find those gardeners and food producers. Build those relationships. You could be the start of something amazing in your community. There will be people who pay for the food, people who volunteer their time to help produce the food, and people who help with provisions to keep gardens and urban farms growing and producing.  You will find people who can help you with promotion and admin duties. You can be the one who makes it happen in your neighborhood, on your street, in your city.

Make it happen.

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