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Making money out of your own parcel of land, whether it be five square meters, or 10, is easier than you imagine and as we push towards a more sustainable future, more homes are taking up their own versions of city farming with budding green entrepreneurs making more than $1000/week out of micro-farming.
There’s a philosophy I believe in called ‘just start’. Simply put, it’s removing the excessive planning and thoughts that people use to delay ideas, and instead, just start. And that saying is especially evident in the city farming world, with the method of putting a seed in the ground and watching it grow.
After that first seedling sprouts a shoot, you will come to learn new methods and innovate the ways you conduct your own city farming to start producing high turnover regular crops in your tiny space and onsell that produce to farmers markets, cafes, and restaurants.
City farming is just that. It’s a way of keeping up with the commercial consumption of fresh foods in cafes, markets, and restaurants as businesses take a turn towards providing more organic foods. And it’s how regular household owners are making an income comparable to a full-time white-collar job, just by working the greens in their backyard.
If you haven’t heard of it already, it’s no surprise. The city farming movement is very new, but the concept of growing your own foods definitely isn’t.
By 2050 our global population is expected to hit 9.7 billion, according to the UN. That’s 33% more than what we have on this planet right now. And what’s more shocking is that two-thirds of those people will be living in city areas which means there are a lot of mouths to feed in urban areas.
The interesting part of that is that even though most of the population is in cities, their foods originates far from those areas, often in regional farms hundreds or thousands of miles away. This removes the self-sufficiency of a lot of cities which are instead reliant upon the transport of foods which can easily be affected by disasters and other issues.
City farming introduces the idea of cities and urban areas to develop their own organic fresh foods to feed a local area or community, rather than relying on those far-flung farming areas.
Whether it be in front yards, backyards, abandoned lots, balconies, rooftops or just indoors, new methods of produce gardening have been utilized by various entrepreneurs seeking to make a change to the way we feed our cities.
By definition, according to Maximum Yield, city farming (also known as urban farming or urban agriculture) is:
A combination of different efforts aimed at growing fruits and vegetables in an urban area and then distributing them within that specific area.
So let’s take a closer look at how this might be achieved, and how some green-thumbed entrepreneurs are earning more than USD$1000 each week by farming in their own urban yards and how you can too.
It’s simple, people pay a premium for fresh, organic goods, even more so if they are in season produce and are varieties that are hard to find in stores.
This can be done on any time commitment, with small-time portions creating a small income, while the full-time farmers are able to rake in a very sizeable income. This is all measured on the type of production you want to run, whether it just be a small greens or mushroom patch, right up to a microfarm, which requires investment and work and has the most rewarding aspect of a homegrown business.
While there are a number of ‘how to’ guide’s out there available to you, in a general manner, the following is a step-by-step basic guide on how you would manage to get started. I would advise you to research each area a lot more to know the specifics about what might grow the best in your environment, soil and conditions, what time availability you have, and the area you live in with surrounding businesses and markets.
The first and most important thing you can do if you have a grass lawn like most do is to reduce it. Grass does nothing except consume water, aside from of course if you have a dog, where it can use the grass as a toilet, it is effectively useless.
In most areas, your lawn in your backyard or front yard will consume the same amount of water as most greens and vegetables would, so it is a much better way to utilize resources as you can generate food rather than just green grass.
When you are removing the grass, think about the quality of the soil you are going to be using to produce your mini-crops. Does your soil have a high nutrient count? Does it need to be fertilized? There are in fact starter crops that farmers use to replenish the nutrients of the soil to keep the ground fertile, so you may have to look into biohacking your soil for optimal results. A great source for this comes from Mother Earth News.
When it comes to soil maintenance, a quote I read on Reddit stands out very well, which says: “good gardeners grow plants, whereas great gardeners grow soil“.
Just looking at the nutrients of the soil above, it is important to remember that some plants will suck the nutrients out of your soil and leave your next crop with nothing in the ground whatsoever. Sure, if you want to grow something once this might work. But if you are looking at having regular seasonal harvests you are going to need to keep that bed full of nutrients.
The second part of that is ensuring that you are able to regularly harvest and sell your crops (that is, if you want to make a business out of it), so you need to select plants and vegetables that have the following traits:
There are various foods that have high turnarounds that are highly popular with urban farmers and backyard organic entrepreneurs. Some profitable urban farming foods to grow are:
These are based on factors such as popularity of the crop, its demand, how much people are willing to pay for it, short turnover days to harvest, the amount of crop you get per foot (yield per foot) and one of the biggest factors being how long in the year you are able to grow it for.
Just because you have a small backyard or even an apartment, it doesn’t mean you can’t produce good amounts of fresh foods. In fact, with the right design of growing methods, you can triple the effective space of your area through looking at planting crops vertically.
Growing vine plants such as beans, tomatoes, peas and cucumbers are a great way to utilize that space. You can do this with PVC piping, wires, netting and trellises to support the vines and their heavy fruit as they grow up to six foot and produce great crops. In doing this, you need to make sure the vine plants have plenty of space in between each other and have plenty of soil to grow into, as vine-based plants often develop large root systems and draw lots of water out of the ground.
The other method is to built a plant system over another producer. This is quite common in greenhouses, where a vegetable or plant that doesn’t need as much light can grow on the ground, while microgreens are grown on a tray at waist-height above them. This allows you to grow multiple crops at the same time with different harvest times.
No matter what type of weather zone you are in, growing all year round can be difficult to achieve just because of seasonal weather pattern changes. To combat this, many urban farmers are using greenhouses, customised to the length of their backyard, in order to maintain perfect growing conditions all year round.
A great source for looking at new methods of vertical growing and what to use is Pinterest, which provides a great array of guides on how to grow in confined spaces, vertical farming, city farming and permaculture.
Be warned, there are local laws that may not permit you to grow certain vegetables in your front yard, or to limit the amount you can grow.
These laws can also be included in your Home Owner’s Association bylaws like what Outlaw Garden experienced, as well as others who have had their gardens destroyed because of public nuisance or unsightliness rules.
There are also various laws in some areas forbidding the farming of vegetables in your own yard and selling at farmers markets. People have been fined large sums of money for this practice. Yes, it might seem that they are out to get you, so you should read up on your local laws just in case you become a vigilante gardener.
You might be reading this because you enjoy gardening or the idea of being a little bit more self-sufficient in life. Or, you might be reading this because you are also entrepreneurially-minded and like the idea of being able to make money by spending the time in the backyard, and on the computer researching innovations in gardening.
When it comes to generating profit, there are three methods you can achieve this by. They are:
For large farms, retailers buy a share of what is grown on those farms at the start of the growing season and onsell it to the customer when it is harvested. This works in the same manner when you sell yourself to your neighbors and other people in your nearby community. It takes a bit of work to set up, but essentially you need to find out what it is people want in your area and grow it for them. You are now acting as an on-demand farmer for those people and are able to deliver a freshly harvested good rather than harvesting and then selling, which comes with the risk of not being able to sell your produce.
This same method works for the first money-making method and is the ideal scenario that will see you being able to expand your farm. If a cafe or restaurant is reliant upon you being able to produce fresh goods each month, then you have a consistent business with that buyer and are able to continually farm from your backyard and deliver to them for a great profit. This is, of course, once you are able to effectively run your own farm to constantly provide a commercial business with fresh goods every week or month.
Selling through farmers markets is simple and much easier but comes with significant risk. The risk for selling your produce at markets is that you might not be able to sell all of your product at the market, so you might have to face waste of your fresh goods. The other issue is that it depends on the foot traffic and interest of the market balanced with the stall fee you have to pay. Can you be certain you will be able to cover the stall fee, the expense of your mini farm, and the bills you need to pay to keep up the next month’s crops?
While the markets may seem like a risky option, they can also pay off quite well as you are not dealing with a demanding client, they are easy to get involved in, and generally, at a farmers market, greens and vegetables are a very in-demand product.
Remember about that philosophy I mentioned at the beginning of this post on ‘just start’, if you are even slightly interested in the idea of city farming, and enjoy working outdoors, mixing science, statistics, nature and business together, then just start by getting that soil fertile and planting your first seedlings.
Farmers that only use urban properties to farm greens and vegetables are making well over USD$1000 each week by working on the exact same principles as I have written about in this post. For instance, Curtis Stone, The Urban Farmer makes $75,000 annually using the same formula, as well as various other entrepreneurs who are making similar full-time incomes running their own greens businesses.
So get started with city farming.