Category Archives: Urban Farming

Alternative Chicken feed

millet_grainFor those who are looking to reduce their dependence on corn and soybean based feeds. There are a number of online sources on alternative chicken feed formulation for small producers.

Lionsgrip has a good introduction and details on alternatives at has a list of % of protein by wt. of various food sources such as earthworms 28%, dried peas and beans 24%, and sunflower seed 26%. Interestingly duckweed is listed as 50%. They also have a homegrown recipe mix of Peredovik Sungflowers seeds, Sorghum, Millet, and Ground corn.

How do we move farming to the cities?

cityfarmingThis was originally posted as a reply to Sam Rose’s question on Ohio State University’s Local Food Systems network.

“So, the question is: how can we plausibly increase the amount of farmers? The answer seems to be to take farming to where most of the people are at: in the cities.” –Sam Rose

I very much agree. In bringing farming to cities, we face two major obstacles, neither of which are insurmountable.

The first is that, even with intensive models such as Square-Foot gardening, Grow Biointensive, or SPIN, farming still requires land. A person aiming only to feed his or her own family might find a backyard sufficient, but someone trying to grow enough to earn a living is going to need either a lot of land on which they can grow during the regular growing season, or a more modest space with a greenhouse in which they can grow all year.

For all romantic and idealized notions people may have about farming, most urbanites who have a steady paycheck coming in, especially from a white collar job that they’ve obtained through many years of college and career climbing, aren’t likely to chuck it all for a risky entrepreneurial venture that’s bound to mean less money (especially at first) and a life of hard, dirty, sometimes smelly, often uncomfortable, physical labor outdoors.

Of course, not all city dwellers have such cushy lives. Many are poor and/or unemployed. Many already perform physical labor with no hope of advancement. For these people, farming offers the promise of a better life. These people, however, don’t have the capital necessary to start, and usually aren’t financially savvy enough or well connected enough to get it. Even peasants farming in developing nations on plots of an acre or less have more land than most of America’s urban poor can afford to buy.

In a nutshell, those who have the means to farm generally don’t want to, and those who want to generally don’t have the means. This is true all over, but the problem is exacerbated in the city because of higher real estate prices. Community gardens are not the answer. They’re a good way for people to learn horticultural skills and to put some extra nutrients in their diets or a few dollars in their pockets, but the average community garden plot doesn’t come even close to what’s necessary to feed one person, let alone provide an income for an entire family.

This is where I put in my plug for Local Matters and offer high praise for the work Michael Jones and his colleagues are doing. They are developing a system to connect landless farmers with landowners willing to let others use their land. I am the beneficiary of their first test of this idea. They connected me with a man who owns about five acres in Columbus, maybe three miles from my home. In exchange for donating some produce to local food pantries and agreeing to manage a community garden on the front acre, I’ve been given access to the back acre for my own use. I worked out a similar deal on my own with another township’s community garden, and I’ve been leasing a vacant lot for $1.00 a year from the city of Columbus for the past few years. In aggregate, I now have around two acres on which to farm. This year, I’m offering a CSA for the first time. My gross sales to date this year (as of May 7th) already equal over 70% of my total sales for all of 2008 when I had only a half-acre–and the season is only starting!

I said there were two big problems. Getting land into the hands of the people who want to work it was the first. The second is the morass of municipal regulations criminalizing agriculture. I’ve written extensively about this elsewhere, so I won’t belabor the point here. Suffice it to say that in neighborhoods where hanging out laundry is prohibited and everyone’s Christmas lights have to match, the controlling authorities frown upon having livestock and hayfields next door. Until we can change urban sensibilities enough to eliminate or at least loosen up some of the agri-phobic codes and regulations presently in place, we can’t grow food in the city on a wide scale without constant harassment from health departments, zoning officials, and homeowners’ associations.