Thursday, July 7, 2011

Guest Post: The Road to the Farm

I've got another great post for you. Today you'll be meeting Anna, the blogger behind The Road to the Farm. From her apartment in St. Paul, Minnesota, she and her husband are carving out a handmade, homemade life, and not letting a lack of land stop them. Here Anna shares her thoughts on and solutions for homesteading on a small scale.

Home Grown Dreams
Anna Hewitt

"Do you dream of having a few acres, growing your own food, keeping chickens, maybe a goat or two? Do you fantasize about walking out your back door and picking buckets of berries or apples or fresh corn? If your backyard is anything like mine, it has a few patches of grass and several cars occupying the parking spaces. As an apartment dweller and renter, I have all of these dreams and not a scrap of land to call my own. Although I hope to have a farm or homestead someday in the not too distant future, I am not letting my circumstances keep me from living the life I want.

A farm, or homestead, means different hopes, dreams and ideas for different people. My interest is strongly connected to my love of food (growing, cooking, preserving and eating it) so I focus my landless efforts on this. While I think it is crucially important to work toward your dreams and long-term goals, I believe in the importance of living your dreams now, despite your circumstances, rather than waiting until everything works out perfectly to make them happen. Here are some of my ideas for bringing your farm to you, no matter where you are.

Growing – You don’t need land of your own to start growing your food. You could start as small as a jar of sprouts on your kitchen counter. I have a shady area outside my back door and have filled it with containers of herbs, flowers, greens and a few vegetable plants. They could use a little more sun, but having plants right outside my kitchen brings me immense joy. I urge you to embrace your green thumb wherever you are and plant some seeds or seedlings.

Many towns have community gardens where you can rent a plot of land to grow on. If you are new to gardening this is a great way to learn from other growers and start on a small scale.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a system where farms sell shares of produce to customers. Often, CSA farms also offer works shares. If you are interested in learning about farming on a larger scale, you can learn by working on the farm in return for your share of produce. You can also join by paying up front for a whole season of produce. Frequently, CSAs encourage their members to become involved and get to know each other, which is an opportunity to join a community of others who are interested in local food.

Eating – If you don’t have time to grow it yourself, there are still many opportunities to find fresh produce to fill your kitchen. Farmer’s markets have sprung up all over the country. Buying directly from the farmer not only supports local agriculture, it is also a chance to get to know the people who grow your food. If you have questions about growing and eating in your region, your farmer probably has answers.

Pick-Your-Own farms are a good way to get lots of fruit (and sometimes vegetables) for freezing and canning. It is part of my summer ritual to pick and freeze strawberries and blueberries so we can eat them in pancakes, muffins, and smoothies for the rest of the year.

Throughout the summer, I keep in mind that all of the local abundant food isn’t going to last. If I have something extra, I try to freeze it. When tomatoes are piling up on farms and in markets, I buy an abundance and make salsa and sauce which I can for us to eat all winter. Even though I’m not growing it myself, I am still planning ahead and providing for the winter.

Making – I satisfy my need to create, grow, and make it myself by making as much of our food from scratch as I can. I don’t have a cow or a goat, but I can get organic, locally produced milk from my co-op. I make yogurt weekly and make crème fraiche, butter and a soft cheeses whenever I can. My sourdough starter lives on the counter and I tend it with the care I will eventually bestow on a flock of chickens. Weekly bread baking is a ritual that keeps me connected to our food needs. Building, brewing, fermenting, and crafting are among many other ways of cultivating your creative side.

Connecting – Though I hope to one day produce much of my own food, I don’t believe in self-sufficiency. No one can do it all themselves and, if they did, they would miss out on the benefits of what their neighbors can provide. Community thrives in urban and rural areas, in gardens and on sidewalks.

Wherever you live, chances are there are other people who are interested in growing, eating, and making from scratch. Some may already have land or practice skills that you want to learn. Connecting with other people who are living handmade lives can be an incredibly rich resource. Here in the Twin Cities, I attend a monthly food swap where I get to meet other people who love homemade, share something from my kitchen, and try what they’ve made. There are meet up groups, skill shares, canning classes, farm tours and neighbors out there ready to teach you more and learn from your experiences.

Whether you have a field, a window box, or a worm bin, how are you bringing your homemade and home grown dream to life?"

Thank you, Anna, for your inspiring post! If you've got something you think might resonate with small measure readers, hit me up! We'll see if we can't work something out.


{ T G L } said...

This was a really helpful post for us urban dwellers. And I am intrigued by the remark, 'I don't believe in self-sufficiency'. It's a fine balance to strike between becoming less consumerist (which is a good thing) while at the same time becoming not too isolationist (which would not be a good thing). I guess I believe in the middle ground, a type of 'complex simplicity'. We all need community, even with a simpler life.

Thanks for sharing!
This Good Life

Kim said...

I love this. I also have dreams of having a few acres to grow my own food...but until then I'll do like Anna and focus on buying local produce that I can put up or freeze for the winter for my family.

A quote comes to mind...Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can. -ArthurAshe

Andrea said...

I agree with this wonderful article. We have always said, "It's not where you live, but how you live". Your thoughtful advice sums it up nicely. Thank you.

Erin said...

Ah. Living outside Vancouver, BC, my desperation for land is equalled only by the million-an-acre land prices. But these are encouraging words. Thanks!

Erin at

Anna said...

Thanks Ashley for letting me share my ideas! Thanks to everyone else for reading. It makes me really happy to know that there are many of us making our way with what we have.

TGL -- I definitely believe in consuming less and creating more, I just like the idea that we don't all have to make or grow everything we need but we can focus on our strengths and share what we have.

Thanks again!

Janna said...

What an excellent post! We live in a small house on a small lot in a big city and try to make the most of our little "urban oasis." We've landscaped mostly with vegetables, herbs and berries, and we keep a small flock of chickens. We also keep bees. I love your emphasis on maintaining a level of self-sufficiency no matter what your situation. It just makes me feel good to know we can provide for at least some of our own needs. Knowing you can grow things and makes things is a little like having money in the bank. Thanks for the inspiration!

Eileen said...

What a great mindset you have.
I finally have my little spot in the country, but even when I lived in a subdivision I had my secret clothesline out back (rebel that I am) and my pots of herbs and tomatoes on the deck. : )