Backyard farming has become a more and more familiar term over the last few decades as people rethink where their food comes from and how they can become active participants in producing their own food. Backyard farming can be as simple as filling your patio with vegetable plants, and as complicated as including large animals on your backyard farm. This article is designed to get you started on your own backyard farming dreams.
In addition to reading this article, you can find more specifics in the articles throughout this website and you can get a few copy of my ebook: Modern Homestead, A Guide to Starting Your Journey.
Why you should start backyard farming
If you are reading this, you likely have your own reasons for wanting to start a backyard farm. For many people this is related to health concerns, environmental and ethical reasons, or food costs, but it can also provide stress release, a connection to the earth and simply delicious food for you and your family.
Before you decide to dive into backyard farming, it is a good idea to look at the big picture of all the possibilities available to you. No two backyard farms look alike, and you will develop your own goals and plans based on your reasons for creating a backyard farm and your access to, space, time and resources. You may already be engaged in backyard farming and looking to decide you next steps or you might just be looking for backyard homestead ideas.
What is a Backyard Farm?
A backyard farm is a space where you grow or raise your own food. Backyard farms (also called urban farms, micro farms, or modern homesteads) are generally designed for your own consumption unlike a typical farm, although it is possible to create a profitable backyard farm for small or local markets. Most backyard farms are found on smaller parcels of land than commercial farms and are thus interested in farming techniques that promote a diverse harvest and organic farming practices.
While a backyard farm most commonly focuses on growing your own fruits and vegetables or raising backyard animals, backyard farming also includes skills such as preserving food, cooking with fresh ingredients, green living and more. Backyard farms typically use sustainable and high yield methods such as permaculture and organic farming practice.
If you need ideas or insight, you can see examples of other people engaged in backyard farming on our homesteads page.
What do you Really need to Start a Backyard Farm
The first thing you need when you are deciding to start a backyard farm is the drive and the reason. You should start by considering what a successful backyard farm will look like to you since this is different for every person. Do you want enough food for your family for the year? Are you hoping to create a backyard chicken farm for fresh eggs? Once you know your reason you can set some personal goals and you can start to look at your specific situation and what you need to do to achieve these goals.
While it’s easy to set lofty goals, you also need to look at your own limitations and decide what goals are reasonable. Can you grow all the food your family needs for the year on a 1/8 acre plot? Probably not, but you can decide which crops make the most sense for you and perhaps find a local farm to help make up the difference. Or perhaps you need to look for a new property with more land!
If you’re looking for more resources on planning your backyard farm – Check out the Best Homesteading Books for Backyard Farming
The 3 main factors that will impact your backyard farming goals are your space, your time, and the resources you have available.
To start a backyard farm you need to start with your space. While you can grow some food on your patio and practice backyard farming in your home while living in an apartment, most backyard farms require at least some ground and land that can be used for planting. If you have a small amount of land, you will want to prioritize high yield crops and think carefully of what you hope to grow.
The total amount of space is not the only consideration. You should also consider the health of the soil, the amount of water and sunlight you receive, your neighbors, and local laws that might impact your backyard farm.
Sustainable backyard farming takes time. The good news is that over time as you learn more and improve your backyard farming systems you will get faster as certain parts of backyard farming. It seems like there is a never ending to-do list that only increases as we add more and more to our backyard farm. While it may be tempting to jump into backyard farming with big dreams, you will be more successful by starting small and building over time.
Another consideration is that learning new skills takes time. If you’ve never done any food preservation and you plant a ½ acre plot for the first time, you are going to be overwhelmed at harvest time as you learn new skills for canning, drying, freezing and preserving. Take your time and try to identify and build your homesteading skills over time. Some skills you will learn as you go and make mistakes, while you may want to consider a class for other skills.
Even though creating a small backyard farm can save you money in the long run, there are up front expenses such as tools, seeds, irrigation systems, chicken coops and more that can make starting seem overwhelming. In general, investing in quality resources will save you time but shouldn’t be a reason for not starting your backyard farm dream. Here are a few suggestions to help conserve your expenses when you’re getting started.
- Don’t skimp on your tools. Buy tools that will last for years. You are better off waiting and buying the better item than getting a cheap version now and replacing it next season
- Look for used items or borrow tools. This is definitely a good option if you can’t afford the tool you are looking for now but want to get started
- Think ahead! This may seem obvious, but if you are starting with 5 chickens but think you want more later, do you really want to buy a chicken coop now for 5 chickens and need to build a new one next year?
- Decide how to balance time and resources. You can purchase and put in an irrigation system or you can water by hand. Decide what makes more sense for you on your own backyard farm
Planning a Backyard Garden
A backyard garden can be as small as a few pots, or large enough to feed your family through the whole year. When you get started in backyard gardening, it is easy to get carried away with all the details and specifics of each crop, and all the best practices. It is important to remember that at the heart of backyard farming is the simple fact that if you put a seed in the soil, and mix in a little sun and water, you are likely to get something to grow. Of course the more you work and tweak, the better your outcomes, and the more you will get from your garden.
To get started with your backyard garden, create a list of what food you want from your space. If you don’t like turnips – don’t grow turnips! Most backyard gardens are made up of a combination of fruits, vegetables, and herbs, although you can also include grains and nuts depending on your goals and your space. Next, draw a map of your property and start generating some ideas of how to design your space. Remember that some crops are perennials and will come back every year (e.g. fruit trees, strawberries, asparagus) and some are annual, or yearly, crops (e.g. tomatoes, peas, basil). You will also want to also take your plans for backyard animals into account when making this plan.
Once you have a basic plan, your first task will be in assessing the soil and building up that soil. Soil is the foundation of your garden so don’t skimp on creating good soil. You will also want to start building in systems for water, weeds, and more.
Adding Animals to Your Backyard Farm
So you are thinking of backyard farming, and want more than a garden plot. Adding animals to your homestead can quickly increase your enjoyment and supplement the food coming from your garden. In addition to meat, eggs, and milk, animals can also contribute to the homestead by creating manure, consuming bugs and weeds, and making fiber and feathers. Raising animals humanely means you know exactly where your food comes from and how it was treated. Before you jump right in, remember that raising animals also requires time, space, resources and planning.
If you don’t think you have space for animals, think again. Even small homesteads can support carefully selected animals, and larger homesteads can benefit from a large variety of livestock and fowl. In addition to the homesteading benefits of the animals, poultry and livestock are entertaining, and provide a wonderful education for children and families.
Some of the animals you might want to consider for your backyard farm include chickens, bees, ducks, goats, cows, sheep, quail, rabbit, turkey, pig, geese, fish, and more.
READ MORE about Selecting the Best Backyard Farming Animals
In the Home
Backyard farming is about more than what happens outside, it can be about reclaiming a way of life in your home as well. For many people, this means food preservation and cooking with fresh food, making your own soap, using natural fibers, woodworking and more. Many of these practices and skills don’t even require your own land and are a great option for people who are not yet able to start their backyard farm dreams outside due to a lack of space, time or money. Take time to decide what skills you have and what you want to learn so you can better reach your own goals.
While we all have different reasons for backyard farming, practicing techniques that benefit the earth are important for producing healthy food and creating a sustainable planet. Can you have a farm in your backyard with heaps of pesticides and fertilizers? Sure, but the benefits of using these products will be short lived and will ultimately lead to the need for more products and weaker soil. The backyard farming movement has embraced organic and earth friendly practices and these practices are important parts of backyard farming.
When thinking green, you will want to consider your home and backyard farm energy usage – can you use renewable energy or decrease your energy consumption? You should also consider things like water usage and packaging. This of backyard farming as a lifestyle choice and carry over the backyard farming principles into you entire life.
Time to Get started Building Your Backyard Farm
Backyard Farming is a process and there are many things to consider when you are ready to get started. If you are serious about getting started and building your backyard farming dream, have have 2 bits of advice that at first might seem to contradict each other:
- Look at the steps below and spend time learning, thinking and planning
- Just start
I fully believe that having a well thought out plan will save you time, money and frustration in the end. There is a huge benefit to learning as much as you can before you start building a farm in your backyard. On the other hand, I have seen many people stop before they start from a sense of being overwhelmed by all the decisions before them. Even while you plan and learn, find something that will let you get started – plant a small herb patch or pre-order chicks for the spring. A little pressure may be just what you need to get started!
- Get my free ebook, Modern Homestead: A Guide to Starting Your Journey and join the community. You can follow us on our Facebook page
- Research – there are many articles here on the website as well as some fabulous books and other resources