In an urban environment with lots of concrete, steel and asphalt, you might not think immediately of homesteading. It doesn’t look like there’s much food growing, and some cities have very restrictive laws on keeping “farm” type animals.
But a growing number of people are seeing success with urban gardening and farming.
Homesteading is about being free to live your life the way you want, with a system that supports you doing that. And being as self-reliant as possible.
Eat what you want, work how you want, live how you want.
Many people do this in rural settings, with lots of land and few neighbors.
But for one reason or another, over half the people in America live in cities. Some for jobs, some for family, some for culture and amenities.
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Because of the legal and space restrictions of urban living, you won’t have a sustainable water source, or power generation.
You also likely can’t produce 100% of your food, or build a sustainable natural material dwelling in a city.
In addition, you won’t be reusing graywater or use a composting toilet.
I say all of this not because I’m trying discourage anyone. Far from it!
Everyone should try to learn homesteading and self-sufficiency skills, and do the best they can for their family.
Though I’ve tried to fight against it, I’ve come to learn the hard way that it’s best to just “bloom where you’re planted.”
Sure, not having tons of land can make it tough to have cows, but there’s lots of homesteading type stuff you can still do in an urban setting.
Gardening and food production is where most people start becoming homesteaders, so we’ll start there.
Perhaps not all of these options are available in your area, but many will.
First, consider your house or apartment/condo. Many places have an outside patio/balcony where you can do container gardening.
Most allow plants in pots, so why not grow some tomatoes or cucumbers.
It takes very little space, and you can still get lots of production.
If you’re allowed a fish tank, you can even do a small aquaponics setup, inside or outside.
Some buildings find that adding a green roof and lower their heating and cooling costs. Plus you get tomatoes.
You might find a roof to use just for the asking or vegetable bribery!
Next, see if there are any community gardens or city co-op gardens in your area. Many cities have them in public areas because people want to garden but don’t have their own space.
They usually don’t charge much if anything, and will sometimes do watering as well.
Some churches will also grow a community garden, and they may also do a work exchange for produce.
Check out how community organizations and companies are growing food and keeping animals in your city.
More gardening ideas
Join a CSA (community supported agriculture) and do a work exchange. These usually fill up fast, and the sooner you can get in the better.
You will get experience growing food, and get credit towards your produce from the CSA.
Often these are smaller organic or organic-without-certification farms, and they grow great food.
Another idea is to rent garden space from a friend with a yard. You could just pay them in food. People like free stuff!
They save money on having to water and mow the lawn, and you get food and experience gardening.
Curtis Stone does this for his urban farm.
Pick your own adventure
Go to http://pickyourown.org and find U-pick farms in your area. This is fun for kids and adults, and you don’t have to worry about growing the produce.
Plus farmers love to talk about growing, so you can usually pick their brain for ideas.
There are all kinds of places that sell tree fruit, vegetable, cane fruits and strawberries.
What to do with all this food?
Part of being self-reliant is having at least a little food storage, considering how easily natural disasters can interrupt food supplies.
So now you’ve got your food, but you need to make it last longer than the week while it’s fresh.
You need to learn how to ferment, dehydrate, can(jar), and cook/freeze it.
The previous Pick Your Own link has recipes that tell you how to process your food into long-term storage.
Now you know how to grow and preserve all that garden produce.
I have heard that some people keep bees or chickens/quail, sometimes illegally.
Some cities are starting to turn towards allowing chickens (without roosters) and other quiet and less annoying animals in urban environments.
Quail can easily be kept inside an apartment or condo, since they are very quiet and don’t need much space. And they can provide lots of eggs (and meat if desired).
I believe they are one of the more efficient meat animals.
The other benefit of keeping animals is nitrogen-rich manure. Compost it and add to garden plants.
Urban farmers like the before-mentioned Curtis Stone and Growing Power sell their produce and making a living doing urban farming.
They also employ several people, providing them with an income as well.
Healthy food is becoming more and more popular.
So there is good money in providing a valuable and highly desired product, to those happy to pay you for it.
This method lets you grow good food and get paid for providing it to people who also want it.
So now you know it really is possible to homestead in the city, though differently than you would in the country.
- You can grow food, even in small spaces
- Join church or community garden projects
- Look into CSAs and pick your own farms
- Preserve that food!
- Raise small animals for eggs, meat, and manure
- Make money from urban farming
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OK, that’s all folks! Do you have any questions or comments about urban gardening, sustainable homesteading, permaculture design or anything else? Ask your question down below and let’s talk! You can also use the contact form, or email me at info at thepermaculture dot life.
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