The #1 advice that I can give to people who want to get into urban farming is to take it slow. Too many people try to take everything on at once. In less than a year they’ve got the giant garden, 40 chickens, 5 goats, 12 ducks, 4 bee hives, 6 breeding rabbits, and 4 pigs. OK, I’m exaggerating, but not by much. It’s new and exciting and you want to do it all. I get it! I totally understand! But don’t do it all. At least not right away. Start small until you’re comfortable with it and then expand. But expand slowly.
I try to remind people that it’s taken Tom and I over 7 years of serious commitment to get where we are now. When you’re first learning to garden it can be overwhelming. Like many other activities it takes a lot more time to do when you’re just learning how. There are so many things to learn and pay attention to. Failure is going to happen and you can’t let it get you down. You have to pull yourself up and learn from the failures. It took me YEARS to finally grow a respectable pumpkin. I kept at it and can now grow pumpkins like this:
Nowadays we don’t spend much time gardening at all. In the spring we spend a few weekends prepping and planting and then in the summer we begin harvesting. We have automatic irrigation to take care of the watering and with wide beds weeding isn’t crucial once the plants get to a decent size. When we were comfortable with the time we were spending in the garden we got three hens.
Over the course of 4 years we’ve slowly added more animals and more gardening beds. We didn’t want to end up overwhelmed, which is easy to do especially when you have a chicken addiction like I do. We’re now at place where we’re comfortable and won’t be expanding much more. The only addition we are planning is to keep one of Sedona’s doelings so she’s no longer the third wheel around here. Other than that, we’re at a happy medium.
When introducing livestock it’s really important – I can’t emphasis this enough – to take it slow. Before taking on any livestock make sure to do your research and definitely make sure whether that animal is even legal to keep in your community. Take classes and meet others that are raising that species. Ask questions, lots of questions, and take the advice given to you. Figure out where you can get feed and supplies for them and where the closest vet is that will see that animal. Take on one species at a time and get into a good routine with them before taking on something new. Start with easier animals like chickens or rabbits. Evaluate how much work they require and whether you have the time to take on more. And, of course, be honest with yourself. If you’re already super busy with everything in your life are you really willing to commit the time that’s needed for more animals? Even if you really, Really, REALLY want goats but you barely have time to yourself they probably aren’t the right animal for you.
Taking it slow will ensure that you and your animals are happy and productive.