Courtesy of Wally S., Wally’s Urban Market Garden, Saskatoon SK
Farmers are defined by their location. Crops, growing practices, markets, pricing, all are place-based. Whatever success I have had, though, has come from not allowing myself to be limited by the usual constraints. Take my land base, for instance.
I first started on 20 acres in the country. When I could not make the business work, I downsized to less than an acre using multiple urban backyards, including my own.
My urban backyard plots have numbered up to 25 and collectively have never totaled more than 2/3 of an acre. Over the years the yards I have farmed have come and gone. I gave up some when they were sold because I did not want to have to deal with new owners. Others proved to be too small. Not having to make a long-term commitment to any of them gave me time to figure out what was optimal.
That’s what led me to take on a few peri-urban sites about 25 miles from my urban backyard.
I’ve also picked up some properties in a small rural town a few years back because the price was right.
So right now my farm looks like this:
Urban: (my backyard plot and home base; includes a small plastic unheated greenhouse and indoor grow room) 1,000 sq. ft.
Peri-urban site: (2 plots owned by others) 20,000 sq. ft.
Rural: (plot owned by me) 15,000 sq. ft.
Growing at these broad range of locations simultaneously gives me a full site line of the trade-offs of each. In general, I see now I paid too much money in rent over the years. If I were ever to ramp up my urban production again, I would find owners who recognized the value of what amounts to my providing property maintenance who would not charge me rent. The plot would have to be sizable and in close proximity to my home base to make it worth my while now.
If you want to lump me into the hot new trend of urban farming, you won’t be wrong. Or if you think I belong to the agriburbia or back to land movements, that’s true enough too. I don’t like to be typecast, so I just call myself a SPIN farmer and leave it at that.