Featured Farmer: Deb from
Corner Cottage Chicken Emporium and Garden
Tell me a little about your urban farm. What is your farm’s name? Size? What are you growing? What kind of climate are you growing in?
Corner Cottage Chicken Emporium and Garden
This is a little irrigated corner lot a block south of ASU and Gammage Auditorium. The very back of the lot is the chicken yard/garden. There is a gate between the garden and the chicken yard. The chickens are only allowed into the garden from July to September. This is the time for the girls to weed, fertilize, compost and aerate the soil to get it ready for the next planting. The garden is about 400 square feet although not all is given over to veggies.
At the side of the house is a approximately 100 sq. foot herb garden. Right now there is: lavender, many different mints, lemon verbena, thyme and rosemary.
At the front of the house there are two little gardens (experiments) both about 10 sq. feet. I am experimenting with tomatoes, basil, parsley, cucumber, chives and lavender. It is an odd space and the sun is difficult to manage because there are so many large trees, but I have been watching the space (thanks Greg) and I think there will be enough sun.
Behind the garden proper and bordering our alley I have gotten rid of some oleanders and planted a lemon and orange tree as well as: onions, artichokes, tomatoes, pepper, broccoli, hollyhock, and nasturtium. This is for the homeless in the neighborhood. In the past they have asked to pick food, I always say yes, but they are uncomfortable walking up the driveway, and opening the gate. This way they can just walk by and pick what they need.
As I said we do have irrigation but I supplement plants in raised beds and pots as well as the Alley garden.
What initially got you interested in urban farming?
I have always been interested in gardening. I was raised in the middle of nowhere in Avra Valley Arizona. We had gardens, rabbits, cows, pigs, chickens and horses. A farm has always felt like home. As an adult and young mother we had a little farm in Laveen and then sold everything we had and moved to Washington State to “live off the land.” (It was REALLY hard!) We lasted 3 years and returned to Arizona and our families. We kept a garden at our home only minimumly while keeping up with careers and little/big children. When I retired I was determined to dedicate my time to growing as much food as possible. I took Greg Peterson’s home tour and was hooked.
Do you use compost?
I do use compost. When I first began I used truckloads of compost from Singh’s Farm. Now I make my own from hay, chicken poop and leaves/grassclippings.
Do you have any urban livestock? Chickens? Bees?
I have four hens. Elvira and Esmeralda are Rhode Island Reds, Pearl is a Barred Rock and Madeline-Rose is an Ameraucana. Maddie was rescued from the Humane Society 3 years ago and has never laid an egg. She does, however, keep all the other Zen Hens in line.
What do you do with the food you grow?
We eat most of the food we grow and some we share with friends and neighbors. This year I have tomatoes, peppers, onions, artichokes, cauliflower, broccoli, swiss chard and many herbs.
What is your greatest challenge in your farming endeavors?
For me the greatest challenge is summer, I have a tendency to throw up my hands in July and give the garden over to the ministrations of the chickens! I also find it difficult to lose a hen. I have lost two so far despite vet intervention and doing all I could to help.
What do you enjoy the most about farming/growing food?
I love being outside (even when it is hot hot hot). I like sweating and getting dirty, it makes me feel like a little girl. I love how the garden, looks, feels and smells. I love the sounds of the hens chortling and the wind passing through the wisteria vines. It makes me happy to care for these things. I feel urban gardening is good for a human being. It exercises us, it causes us to slow down and to notice how nature gets the job done in an unhurried way. It is healthy!! Eating your own freshly picking veggies and fruit is not only more nutritious but causes us to appreciate how much goes into a meal. In gardening we get a connection to the Earth, the sun and even the moon. We come to appreciate how plants and animals sustain us. Just as (or more) important is that, the effort we make to garden helps our beautiful beautiful planet. Less moving food from here to there using fossil fuels lessenssome pollution. I gives us a safer more diverse food chain. It is good for every body, with the exception of chemical companies and agri-business.
Do you think this is a growing movement? Is urban farming the future of agriculture?
I certainly hope urban and local gardening is the future, if we are smart it will be. I have no idea–humans are frail and illogical at times.
Do you have any advice for someone just getting started?
My advice. Go small at first (don’t move to Washington and buy 10 acres!). Take little steps a small planter or raised garden. As for chickens, always talk to your neighbors first even if it is ok in the neighborhood in which you live. I occasionally give the neighbors a 1/2 dozen eggs and they love it.
There is nothing like sitting in your garden in the evening watching the chickens settle in, the butterflies flutter drunkenly to where ever they go in the evening, the smell of herbs and flowers wafting around your shoulders to make you want to do this labor of love over and over again.