Is It a Farm Yet?

Sharon September 24th, 2009

I know a man who wanted to start a farm.  So he went out and bought 500 acres, fenced it and grew corn and hay, and ran sheep and cows on it, and then he had a farm.

I know a woman who wanted a farm, so she went out at bought 176 acres, four cows, a bull and a tractor, and then she had a farm.

I know a man who wanted a farm so he bought 49 acres, an old barn and a flock of sheep, and raised wool and grew plants to make dyes with and sold yarn, and then he had a farm.

I know a woman who wanted a farm, so she went out and bought 27 acres and raised vegetables, chickens and goats, and then she had a farm.

I know a man who wanted a farm, and went out and bought a house on six acres, built a chicken coop, grew a garden and sold pumpkins at the farmer’s market and eggs to his neighbors, and then he had a farm.

I know a woman who wanted a farm, and she looked down and saw that she had three good acres, and fenced them, and got a Jersey cow,  a garden full of cabbages and some hens, and then she had a farm.

I knew a man who wanted a farm and looked out and realized that he was renting a good half acre, and talked to the landlord and got angora rabbits, chickens and a garden full of raised beds, and then he had a farm.

I know a woman who had a yard full of forest, and who grew shade loving plants under the trees, gathered acorns for her chickens and worms for her ducks and grew mushrooms in woodpiles along the edges of her yard, and then she had a farm.

I know a woman who had a 30×80 lot, and she built a chicken coop, planted raspberries and basil against the house and is trying to convince her partner to let her get miniature goats, and then she had a farm.

I know a man who had no room in his yard for more gardens, but who talked to his neighbors and the city and found two backyards, a vacant lot and a corner of a church, and filled them with vegetables, and then he had a farm.

I know a woman who had no ground at all in her house, but had a balcony with bees on it and a dozen windowboxes full of lettuce and strawberries, worms in her kitchen and the right attitude, and then, she had a farm.


54 Responses to “Is It a Farm Yet?”

  1. Mary says:

    I have a quarter acre lot. A Homeowners Association and deed restrictions.

    I have two avocado trees, 5 blueberry bushes, a sweet potato patch, a vegetable garden, an herb garden, and 7 earth boxes full of vegies.

    I am so happy, I have a farm!

    Thank you for helping me to see it.

  2. Abbie says:

    Thank you! This is inspiring. I get down on myself since we could only afford 2 acres. But the RIGHT ATTITUDE is the best part. Perhaps I can have a farm (but fortunately my parents’ 60 acre farm is right down the road, in case I get claustrophobic).

  3. Julie says:

    And I too seem to have a farm….on a third of an acre with a chicken coop and rabbit hutch, six dwarf apple trees, two cherry trees, four grape vines, a peach, a quince, a young walnut, two hazlenuts, three clumping bamboos, two small fig trees,
    a raspberry patch, a strawberry bed, a rhubarb bed, two large blueberry plants, a goumi berry bush, and about 600 square feet of assorted raised beds. cool!

  4. homebrewlibrarian says:


    I have 5000 sq ft to work with! The front yard has currant and dwarf blueberry plants, prinsepia, strawberries, rhubarb, red raspberry, honeyberries (in 5 gallon buckets), daylilies, rugosa roses and shell peas along the chain link fence. The narrow south side yard has horseradish, lovage, asparagus, lettuces, celery, collards, cabbage, brussels sprouts, rhubarb, daylilies and nasturium. The back yard had yellow raspberries, potatoes, brassicas, two kinds of beans, Painted Mountain corn, three kinds of squash, three kinds of cucumbers, four kinds of tomatoes, four kinds of peppers, chard, two types of onions and several wild useful plants like chamomile, lambsquarter, white clover, dandelion, shepherd’s purse, fireweed and yarrow. And we plan to expand our beds next year. Plus we had two community garden plots where we grew hull-less oats, culinary flax, malting barley, amaranth and some beans.

    We can’t feed all six people who share the building for a year but I still think we’ve got ourselves a farm. Someday…maybe…chickens!

    Kerri in AK

  5. Well…Damn! I think I’ve got a 2/3 acre farm!

    (Chickens, apples, pears, cherries, grapes, asparagus, raspberries, blueberries, elderberries, plus ~2000 square feet for the annuals and herbs. And next year, figs and bees.)

  6. NM says:

    Well. Now that you mention it … We have three raised vegetable beds, two apple trees, a quince, a pie cherry, a sweet cherry, a canopy of maples in the back yard that the wild birds love, a goldfish pond, dozens of roses, grape vines, a strawberry bed, a raspberry patch, all kinds of culinary herbs, a rhubarb plant, two blueberry bushes, a lilac tree and an overabundance of wild blackberries, all on our suburban lot. Danged if it doesn’t sound like a farm. Right down to the rusty old broken-down classic pickup truck in the side yard.

  7. MD says:

    We call our backyard the Green Milli-acres. 279 square feet of semi-shaded clay soil from which we’ve gotten over 90 pounds of produce so far this year, with (probably) a good month or six weeks to go before first frost. I try about 30 different things a year, old and new. My husband calls me “farmer” a lot, and fantasizes with me about having more land (not a “real” large farm, but a larger backyard, with maybe more sun for the corn). This is a wonderful affirmation! Thanks!

  8. Judy says:

    We’re working on it. We recently purchased our 5 acres with a run down old house and outbuildings. No animals yet, other than the dog and cats but we’ve got a large garden, blueberries, currants, raspberries, an apple tree and lots of wild plums. Thanks for the affirmation that we can still call it a farm, even here in the midst of the ‘real’ farms in Iowa.

  9. Katharine says:

    I LOVE it. My husband and I want a farm so badly. We can’t afford much land, so we just bought a house in a small town with nearly a half-acre lot. We felt badly about what we don’t have yet… but you know what? We’re going to plant a garden next year and darn it, we’ll be farming! Thank you for reminding me of that fact.

  10. AnnaMarie says:

    I sold more than $1000 worth of farm products this summer so according to the state of Vermont I am a farmer with the legal Right to Farm. I have .86 of an acre. Gardens now but chickens, rabbits and hopefully goats in the future.

    I loved this post.

  11. DiElla says:

    I live on a city lot with a highway a few feet from my back yard. I have an asparagus bed, a 20 by 20 and a 10 by 10 garden bed, 2 raised winter squash beds, 2 blueberry bushes, 2 peach trees and lots of herbs. I’m a farmer.

  12. Jim says:

    Farmgrrl is a condition of the heart (dodges thrown zucchini)!

  13. Laurie in MN says:

    I’ll take that zucchini if you don’t want it! :D

    Sharon, how beautiful! Gives me hope for my 5 x 15′ patch of semi sun, and the front yard that is going to need some stealth veggies in with the perennials. (3 times to spell that word. Yikes.) *crossing fingers in hope for a community garden patch next year….*

  14. Jen says:

    Great post!
    We just bought a bit over an acre with a small old barn for our future dwarf goats. In the spring we will have chickens and bees and we are planting berry bushes and trees like crazy this fall (in the south). according to my phase 1 garden plans I will have 1200 sqft of “farm.”

  15. Big Farma says:

    One week ago Monday I felt pride of ownership for my small city lot, the backyard in particular at this time, when I realized the driver of the big trash collection truck could see my native popcorn wave Hello, there! above the 6′ industrial metal fence. Both the driver and I joined in and waved at each other before his alley stop and as he drove away. The early morning connection felt warmly rewarding.

    I farm in 5 passive rainwater harvesting basins, and love them dearly. Last fall, I planted a Thai Roselle that separates one basin in half and that’s evolved to look like the loveliest blooming chandelier gently set down in well-composted manure to charm and illuminate (and produce calyxes of saveur certaine, my gosh, my goodness!)

    I also farm in 4 medium-sized silvery troughs where melons are trying hard to make me proud before the season ends; where native winter squashes have conquered an invasion of aphids (with the help of two well-positioned fragrant and half-naked garlic bulbs — is it warm in here or is just me??) and celebrate their victory with flowers as big as my hand — this big; where the tomatillo harvest was small and honest, and cheerful like childhood marbles at play.

    This fall, I’m planning either a final larger and squarish basin or some raised beds to round out my backyard farming efforts. I have discovered myself to be of vine and vigor.

    No matter what, I harvest pure delight.

    Watch me farm my way around.


    Southwest Urban Farming Community of Tucson, Arizona

  16. sgl says:

    i had a 3rd floor apt balcony where i made 6 inch high raised beds from shipping pallets, creating all of 18 square feet of growing space. (two 3′x3′ beds) grew cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, spinach using “square foot garden” techniques. i called it “firefly farm.”

    (then the apt complex needed to paint the railing and i had to take it all down and give it away. i’ve since moved, and now i don’t have a farm at all, but i have a farmers’ market nearby. someday.)


  17. Margaret says:

    We have between a quarter and a third of an acre. Ducks, chickens, quail. Some beans, some potatoes, some tomatoes and lettuce in the polytunnel. Nasturtium taking over the compost heap. I’m an apprentice gardener.

    At the Harvest Festival last Sunday the closing prayer started with the words “Tend the soil…”
    Perhaps I might be a farmer next year.

  18. Megan says:

    I know a woman who wanted a farm, and she had a university degree, a history of living in a small intentional Christian community, a rudimentary knowledge of permaculture, a network of amazing knowledgeable people she wanted to draw together, a desire to write and work with wood, and close family friends whose orchard was running down without a vision or a clear successor. Not sure what happens with her yet.

    Thanks Sharon, this is the best post.

  19. Heather says:

    I farm on my 1/2 acre in suburbia. I have more sq footage for my gardens than my house, lots of fruit trees, blueberry bushes and soon strawberries. The chickens compost and till for me and the yellow lab guards it all from bunnies and groundhogs.

  20. Bill--TN says:

    Farming is a mindset. If you think you are a farmer, you are!!! It all relates to where you place your trust. Corporate agribusiness is just a blip on history’s screen. Sooner gone, sooner better, I say.

    I think the coming and prevailing mantra will be: I’ll feed you—will you feed me?

  21. Teresa Noelle Roberts says:

    I’m in a very silly mood this morning, so all I could think was “i can haz ferm? i haz a ferm!” I’d say realistically it’s more a medium-sized garden with a big attitude and delusions of grandeur than a farm, yet, but big attitude counts for a lot.

  22. rdheather says:

    At 15 acres I thought I had a farm, but golly! I need to get myself in gear!

    I really have to fence off the part I want to plant more trees so Horsie and the goats will quit eating them.

    This is very inspirational-”i will haz a ferm!”

  23. margaret says:

    Thanks Sharon, I needed that!

  24. limesarah says:

    I have no land and insufficient sun and a tendency to kill houseplants that are not philodendrons, but I have a share in someone else’s farm. And an extremely large philodendron ;-)

  25. Billie says:

    I LOVED your post. So inspiring to know that the 2 tomato pots on my balcony could be my farm.

    It must be a farm because despite the fact that I am 4 storeys from the ground, I found a nice FAT tomato work munching down on my tomato plant. How did he get there?

  26. Sue McCormick says:

    I decided two years ago that my 50×100′ city lot with a house, garage and blacktop driveway is a farm. On it I already grow 5 apple trees (not producing yet), 1 asian pear tree, 5 highbush blueberries, raspberries, rhubarb, strawberries, 1 fig tree, 1 key limetree, 1 olive tree(just started this year), perennial onions 2 kinds, chives, garlic chives, sage, thyme(2 kinds), mint, oregano, lemon balm, valerian, rosemary, parsley, bee balm, stinging nettles, yarrow, potatoes, sweet potatoes, celery, onions, leeks, enough garlic for all year, radishes, beets, brassicas, cucumbers, assorted squash, peas, beans, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, assorted greens, lettuce, and I have vermiculture in the basement. I forage for 10-12 bushels of apples a year from trees people don’t bother with. With those I eat, make cider and cider vinegar, eat, bake, make applesauce, give them away. Thank you for this posting. I love it!
    Sue in Maine

  27. Wendy says:

    It’s very inspiring to see all of these very enthusiastic small-space “farmers” :) . It’s amazing what can be done in such a small space.

    What’s particularly thrilling to see is all of those of us with our tiny suburban lots who are planting perennial food plants, and I’m especially excited to see Mary’s comment. Last year I posted a series of articles about staying in the suburbs rather than running off to an acreage in the “country”, and I received a lot of flak from people who lived or had lived in an HOA restricted suburb, and who insisted that it was not *possible* to grow one’s own food in such a situation. It’s nice to see that it is *possible*, and that we don’t have to make that choice between abandoning our homes or starving – we can both stay in the suburbs on our nanofarms and provide for ourselves.

    When it comes to the suburbs, especially, I think what Bill-TN says is right – “I’ll feed you … will you feed me?” is our future.

  28. Karen says:

    I have 2 1/2 acres one of which is wooded. We are letting it stay wild but starting to (attempt) managing it toward being more useful and less poison ivy. Currently it is home to birds, bats, squirrels, and lots of wild rabbits.

    We have started an “orchard” down one side of the property with 3 apple trees, 2 pear, 2 peach, 2 plums and 2 cherry trees.

    The soil is clay that is either hard as a rock or slick and sticky. So we have built raised beds and started gardening. I have perennial beds started of asparagus, blackberries, raspberries and blueberries.
    The veggies haven’t overwhelmed us yet. I’m still learning. This year the squash vine borers won and the soil in the tomato bed was too acid. Our bumper crops were cucumbers, eggplant and cantaloupes.
    I’m focusing on improving the health of the soil and trying to get the clay soil farmable (is that a word?) by adding compost and greensands.

    I get discouraged because I started so late. I’m in my fifties and not in great health. With effort I can put in an hour or two a day in the garden. It makes me sad that I may not live to eat the fruit from my trees. I try to think of it as being a steward of the land. I’ve started a journal that gives the dates and varieties of the trees and perennials I have planted. It keeps a record of the amendments I’ve added to the soil and what I’ve done to the “woods”. It will stay with the property if it must be sold and hopefully a family who will appreciate it will some day benefit from my beginning.

    In the meantime, I nourish the land and the land is my physical therapy. I am farming.

  29. The Raven says:

    How inspiring and beautiful!

    I love being able to acknowledge that I am a farmer, no matter how tiny my farm may be. (And it is getting slightly more expansive next year as we dig up our front yard for gardens!)

  30. Chile says:

    I rent a house on a small city lot. I tend the three citrus trees and my husband grows vegetables hydroponically in pots. I must have a farm!

    I also have a working farm dog that kills the mice in the compost bin. :)

  31. Rosalie says:

    I know two old dyke crones who rebuilt their home and gardens after a tornado blew their first farm away last year. They have been eating and canning from their new garden all summer, built a new coop for their ten new hens, and are having the first eggs for breakfast this morning.
    It’s another beautiful day in the Ozarks.
    Love from Okie-Mo’s,
    Rosalie and Terry

  32. Carla says:

    I thought I might need different “livestock” to call my place a farm, but yesterday I noticed one of the cats out hunting grasshoppers by the garden…hmmm

  33. DD49 says:

    Thanks for the optimism Sharon. My small farm of a pear tree, (apple & paw paw not quite ready yet) and plenty of raised beds in my back yard give me hope.

    On a day where the UN states we’ll have a 6-8 degree rise in temps by 2100 if we just do what we’ve committed to. Time to step up again.

  34. Adrienne says:

    Yay! Thank you for such an inspiring post. I have 60 sq feet of balcony that I’ve only had for two months now and by next spring I hope it will be a farm. Right now I only have a compost bin, some Swiss chard and lettuce, but it’s a start.

  35. kathy says:

    Love it Sharon!!! I’m a farmer with a 3 arcre Eden. Today is grim day news wise and getting grimmer. This made me smile.

  36. Yael says:

    Thanks Sharon–this is exactly what I needed to ehar today.

    Although now I have to think about how to start the sentence: I know a girl who moved home with her parents….. haha.


  37. Grandma Misi says:

    I just spent a few minutes harvesting an entire pineapple field on Farmtown, in Facebook, does that count????? Just teasing…
    I consider myself a gypsy of sorts… no “land” or anything really of my own. But as a caretaker of someone elses property (who is pretty set in what they want done on their property) I can say that I’ve got strawberries, lemon cukes, mucho tomatoes, hot peppers, lavender, rosemary, oregano, one adorable pumpkin growing in a pot on the deck, lemon balm, nasturtiums, huckleberries, blackberries, wild ginger, and hopefully soon chantrelle mushrooms. There’s probably lots more but I can’t think of them right now. I also have 3 raised beds at my daughter’s house with tomatoes, cabbages, onions, pumpkins, peas, beans, flowers, peppers, summer squash… wow, I’m offcially a farmer too – with no land of my own. Yeah for the stealth and guerilla farmers! (sorry, can’t spell today)

  38. Lynne says:

    Oh, I got all choked up at that. Wonderful.

    We also have a farm. 140×80 foot lot. 3300 square feet of garden beds and paths plus fruit trees, hazelnuts, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, saskatoons, grapes, hopefully hardy kiwis, herb bed, and Willa, Wendy, Buffy and Vicki (chickens) and Pudge (12 year-old cat).

  39. madison says:

    I farm on a patio with a cherry tree, an apple tree, kale, cabbage, spinach, lots of garlic, rosemary, thyme, dill, basil, chives, grapes and three tomato plants.

    My livestock currently consists of a fat lazy cat who hunts spiders and plays with them! And a wild boy child :)

  40. Lisa Z says:

    I have a 50×150′ city lot. I have 3 apples trees, one cherry and one mulberry tree, 6 raspberry bushes, 5 blueberry, one currant and one gooseberry bush, and herb and vegetable gardens on all sides of my property. I have four hens, a dog and a cat. And I, proudly, call myself a farmer!

  41. Lisa Z says:

    Oh, and I forgot two elderberry bushes and grapes. Loads and loads of grapes from our ancient grapevines this year! Anybody want some?

  42. sealander says:

    20 different kinds of fruit, berries and nuts, more than 20 sorts of vegetable, 15 different herbs, 2000 head of livestock (go worms!), 10 chickens and one chicken herding cat. Plus the tribe of slug munching hedgehogs. All on less than 1/8th of an acre. Oh yeah, and weeds right now……lots and lots of weeds. Guess I’m a weed farmer :)

  43. Deb says:

    We have wild parsnip everywhere on our land. It’s horribly invasive and worse than poison ivy if you happen to touch it but I think the roots are edible.

    How does one store parsnips over winter? Do I dip them in wax?

    Our fall chore is to get the garden plot we are going to put in next spring tilled up and ready. I have so much land and almost none of it gets enough sunlight to plant anything that the actual garden space is small. I’m hoping to supplement my worker share from the CSA next summer.

    You’ve inspired me this summer, Sharon!

    Deb in Wi

  44. Jen says:

    You ought to make that into a children’s book.

  45. Beaweezil says:

    I agree with Jen, you should have that printed into a children’s book.

    I need to stand tall a little more often and say, “I have a farm.” Why do we tend to down play our contribution?

    I’m going to link this from my blog if that’s ok, I think everyone needs to read it.

    Thank you Sharon.


  46. Marilyn says:

    It is not the farm that I want it to be yet, but it is ten acres with two garden spots, three pear trees, four apple trees, two plum trees, wild blackberries, three blueberry bushes, and raspberries. We added three chickens and three bee hives this year. We built our home in 2003, before we were “aware” of peak oil. (I wasn’t living under a rock…just entrenched in a job in corporate America that left little time for anything else) If I could do it over, I would build less house and build a barn. Our original vision was to have a small garden and a few fruit trees. Our new vision is sustainability. I don’t underestimate the challenge. I look forward to it (most days). I so appreciate Sharon and the community she has built online since it’s difficult to find like-minded people in our area.

  47. Susan in NJ says:

    Seems to me that you’ve got the makings of a song there.

  48. Marilyn says:

    LOL! Yeah…all I need is five golden rings.

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