The Urban Farmstead
We call the place we live “Vista Street Farmstead.” It’s a house in Hollywood, one block from Sunset Boulevard, with a front and back yard, maybe 1/16th of an acre? But almost every available square foot of dirt is dedicated to growing fruits, vegetables, and flowers. Blessed with copious sunshine throughout the day – and the year – we’re able to cultivate enough food to feed our family of three – and contribute fresh organic locally-grown produce to our neighbors.
We have everything from apples to zucchini. Papayas. Guavas. Tangerines. Sweet potatoes, sweet peas, sweet peppers. Corn, cauliflower, cucumber, cabbage, carrots, kale. Raspberries. Romaine. Radishes.
It all flourishes here.
Birds, bees, worms, beetles, squirrels – we have millions of local residents. So many lives are lived here, even as we sleep. Especially as we sleep. Our farmstead has vitality: it’s full of life. And lessons.
We have a donation table out front, offering organic veggies to the public. Sometimes a gadfly quizzes me on the content of my compost, and sometimes someone wonders out loud how so many vegetables can be grown without pesticides or fertilizer. And sometimes someone wants to know, if it doesn’t make money, and only produces enough food to feed you eight out 12 months, how do you sustain yourself as a “farm?”
The best answer comes from author Nic Esposito, whose memoir of urban farming in a rough area of Philadelphia, “Kensington Homestead,” is required reading for anyone interested in the joys and challenges of growing vegetables in a city. In the book, he’s interviewed by a skeptical young reporter trying to figure out what’s “really” going on at his neighborhood garden. Is this a business? A charity? A front for something else? She asks him the sustainability question.
“Real sustainability for us,” Esposito explains, “is that we can do this without putting too much of our own money into it and not allowing it to take over our lives. Maybe we could make some money off the food we sell. Maybe this would be a super fundable non-profit. But really, we just do this because it’s a good thing to do in our community and that’s where we want to keep it.”
Growing food in your yard is indeed a good thing to do in your community. It’s a good thing to do for yourself. It’s a good thing to do for the planet.
It’s great, actually. It’s marvelous.
When the sun is shining and the flowers are blossoming and the garden is giving far more than it has taken, we feel like it might be the best thing we can do with our land.