Featured Farmer: David from Davey Jones Homestead
Tell me a little about your urban farm. What is its size? What are you growing? What kind of climate are you growing in?
My farm consists of a few designated areas I have in the backyard on my city lot. I have two fenced-in areas and a corn patch. The biggest fenced-in area is 11ft-by-16ft and I am currently growing broccoli, bush beans, cabbage, carrots, chamomile(for the nutrients it puts into the soul), dill, eggplant, lettuces(butter head, iceberg, & loose leaf), marigolds & nasturtiums (for pest control), Melons(Jenny Lind & Moon And Stars Watermelon), onions, peas (snap & shelling), peppers(bell, corno do torro & jalapeño), tomatoes, spinach, & summer squash. The other fenced-in garden is 8ft-by-10ft and I am growing raspberries, strawberries, and tomatoes in that garden. My corn patch is 8ft-by-14ft and in that I grow Country Gentleman corn, cucumbers between the rows (to keeps weeds down), sunflowers along the border (to attract bugs away from the corn) and pole beans up the sunflowers. I'm in hardiness zone 5 and the climate is very drastic with very cold winters with several feet of snow and very hot summers with high humidity.
What initially got you interested in urban farming?
I started my first garden last summer and it was mostly just basic veggies, lettuce, carrots, peppers, and peas, and I started it for two basic reasons: The first was because of how expensive organic vegetables cost at the market and the concern of pesticides/herbicides used on non-organic. The second reason is self-sustainability. With so many natural disasters and food shortages around the world, I feel more secure knowing that I can go to the backyard any time that I need to.
Do you use any organic, permaculture, hydroponic, biodynamic, or other methods?
My gardens are 100% organic and I would say that my planting style is a hybrid of square foot and companion planting. I use a compost/compost tea, worm castings, and bush beans to fertilize the soil and I use chamomile to put nutrients in to soil for the veggies to absorb.
Do you use compost? Where do you get it and how does it help your plants grow?
I have a compost pit in the corner of my yard that I put all my grass clippings, leaves, veggie and fruit scraps, and eggshells into. As soon as the soil can be tilled I mix in as much compost into the soil as I can and also a lot of leaves so that they can break down later in the season. The leaves attract a lot of worms which help fertilize.
Do you have any urban livestock? Chickens? Bees?
I do not currently have any livestock but am working towards getting a flock of chickens next summer. I would also love to get into beekeeping but cannot due to my family being allergic to bee stings.
What do you do with the food you grow?
We either eat most of what's harvested or share with family. We have made a lot of baby food and eat fresh veggies with almost every dinner. I also save as many seeds as I possibly can and whatever I do not use I try to share with friends, family, and coworkers.
What is your greatest challenge in your farming endeavors?
The biggest challenges I face are time—I have a 2 month-old baby boy that requires a lot of my free time. Also, bugs & weeds—growing organically has its pros and cons.
What do you enjoy the most about growing food?
I start a lot of my plants indoors during the winter and I enjoy having some green during those months. I also spend all winter planning out the layout of next year’s garden. I would say that the most enjoyable part is being able to harvest after months of planning, planting, and watching it grow. Knowing that I created it.
Why do you think urban farming is important?
Urban farming is important for several reasons. I think that we need try to reduce our impact on the planet. We also need to be aware that we can grow foods without chemicals and genetically modified plants. We need to teach children how to grow and be little more self-sufficient. Everyone who grows even the smallest garden makes a difference. It’s also very important for our own health.
Do you think this is a growing movement? Is urban farming the future of agriculture?
I do think that urban farming is growing in popularity and will continue to grow as food and fuel prices continue to climb. I hope that as it grows so will awareness of commercial agriculture and the practices that they use and how dangerous some of those practices are.
Do you have any advice for someone just getting started?
The best advice I can give is to not be afraid to try something new. I started my garden trying to spend as little as possible and I wanted to see a return on investment. It turned out being better than I thought it would and has now grown into a hobby that I am very passionate about. You do not have to spend a lot of money to get results; you just have to be resourceful. I have gotten a lot of ideas from reading articles about homesteading from the early 1900s.