It has always been a dream of mine to have a little farm. When I was four years old, adults would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up and I would say, “A farmer.” I imagined myself in overalls and a red plaid shirt, spending my days playing in the soil. I realize, my childhood vision of farming doesn’t actually line up with the reality of the profession.
Life took a number of turns and farming never became my path. Instead, when I became old enough to make my own choices, I moved to a city and into an apartment without even a stitch of outdoor space.
Most of the time I am entirely at peace with the way things have worked out (after all, apartment living hasn’t stopped me from canning my little heart out). However, in the springtime, I feel a yearning to plant seeds in the dirt and help them grow. Still, I dream of having a little bit of outdoor space someday, to plant a garden and maybe even have a chicken or two (my husband is firmly against the idea of livestock).
One of the way I feed this longing to plant and raise and grow is by reading stories from other folks who are doing it. At the moment, my favorite farming and homesteading book is The Urban Farm Handbook by Annette Cottrell and Joshua McNichols. What’s so great about this volume is that for me, it is both an aspirational volume and useful hand book in the present day.
In addition to being full of all of someday useful information about chickens, backyard dairy and how to get the most food out of your city plot, it’s also bursting with recipes and techniques that I can implement in my apartment-based life. It has a lengthy food preservation section, as well as information on grinding grain at home, making butter/yogurt/cheese and even homemade soap and lotion.
There’s also a section on building food community, bartering and creating your own buying clubs. I know author Annette has done a great deal of work in building a buying club in her area of the Pacific Northwest and I’m certain that the advice and experiences she in folded into this volume will help lots of other folks do something similar in their areas.
The other thing that I love about this book is that it has a number of producer profiles. I have always found it fascinating to learn about the lives of the people who nurture the stuff we eat and this volume contains a number of them.
Finally, those of you who are looking to dig more deeply into the subject of urban farming and self-sustainability will love the resources section in the very back of the book. The authors have been incredibly generous in gathering up all the books, websites and sources for chickens, goats and grain that they’ve spent years acquiring into just a few pages.
All year, Annette is going to be hosting an Urban Farm Handbook Challenge and there’s still time to sign up. Each month as a different theme designed to help you learn how to take steps towards greater sustainability. I’m going to be helping out a bit this August during canning month and I’m looking forward to it! Click over to Sustainable Eats to learn more.