Monday, August 2, 2010

Urban farming inspiration

I've visited many field days where Iowa farmers show off their bountiful corn and soybean crops.  But last week, I went to my first urban farming field day, and it was so inspiring!

The event, sponsored by Practical Farmers of Iowa, invited guests to see how a few local residents in Ames have turned their backyards (and sometimes their front yards) into small-scale vegetable gardens.

Imagine my surprise when I visited the first stop on the tour and discovered goats in the backyard.  That's
right.  Goats.  Miniature goats. 

The homeowner, who also raises chickens and ducks in her backyard, said she liked the idea of raising her own livestock for meat, milk and eggs. She discovered that the City of Ames allows homeowners to keep up to four goats on their property.

These goats, which are about the size of a dog, are still young, but they won't get much bigger than they are now. Eventually, the homeowner plans to milk the goats so she can make her own goat cheese at home.  How cool would that be!

The homeowner also had a backyard beehive, and she said the bees go about their daily business of making honey and don't bother the neighbors, the animals or herself.

And the chickens and goats lived together in harmony in her little backyard.

The next stop was just as amazing.  A local couple decided to tear up their backyard, including their concrete driveway, so they would have room to plant whatever fruit or vegetable they like.

They built a greenhouse onto their garage for seed starting in the winter.

They used the same plastic greenhouse material to create a "privacy fence" around their garden.  The homeowner said they preferred the clear plastic fencing to a wood fence, because "fences aren't very friendly."

I was super excited to see all the apple trees they have been training to grow flat against their fence.  I've been wanting to try this myself in my backyard.

And look!  A grape arbor!  And there are a few clumps of purple grapes ripening in the sun.

Seriously, I couldn't stop taking pictures of all the amazing garden features in their backyard.  They have raised beds, a herb garden, tropical plants, cacti -- even a couple cabbage and broccoli plants tucked in along the sidewalk on the street side of their fence.  A-mazing!

After all this inspiration, my hubby and I are making plans to tear up our backyard and turn it into one big garden.  I would love to have more room to grow vegetables and flowers (I love growing flowers!), and we both HATE to mow our lawn.  (We both have grass allergies, but we don't want to spend the money to hire someone to mow our lawn, especially when we are both pretty fit people.)

It was so great to see what's possible when people have the courage to turn their backyards into something unique, beautiful and productive.

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