Monday, September 25, 2006

Urban Farming - What Does it Mean?

Lately I have become interested in urban farming, or producing farm products within the urban or suburban setting. Partly because I am at heart a farm-boy, partly because of the need for a more healthy source of vegetables, I began looking into the possibility of raising farm goods within a small 450 sq. ft. plot in my back yard.

First, I would like to point out that zoning laws have heavily influenced my decisions, and much of what I am going to talk about I have yet to implement, though I will start this coming Spring.

Farming has two main categories: growing fruits and vegetables, and raising livestock. Each is a step in development, which begins with plants and then moving on to various livestock options.

I will begin with plants because they are the least expensive to purchase, and the least difficult to raise. As with most people, I will begin with a garden plot. I already have some lovely grape vines growing, and will augment this with some salad greens, and various root plants. The greens will be part of a larger raised garden, while the root plants (carrots, Potatoes, etc.) will be grown in halved whiskey barrels. This is because the root plants need a more sandy soil that allows the roots to plump up.

I also will be building a greenhouse as an extension to my current covered porch (which will be enclosed this spring as well). Here I intend to grow at least one citrus tree, and experiement with growing a pineapple plant. This will be important, as I intend to eventually build up to a full farm that grows various tropical fruits in a greenhouse environment.

Now, I know what you are thinking.. A greenhouse in Utah with tropical plants? Isn't that going to cost a fortune to heat? Well, In addition to the plants, I am going to set up a fairly large water tank system for growing water plants and hydroponic lettuce. The water will help regulate the heat in the greenhouse, and will cut down on the amount of heating during the winter.

With the plants all set up, I then intend to look into raising livestock. As livestock is very restricted within West Valley City, I am going to try my hand at raising fish. This is another reason for the water tank system.

The system itself is very ingenious, as I have found it. Located here, it basically outlines a filter system that is built from natural filter materials, and works like a standard undergravel filter for a tropical fish tank. Brilliant in it's simplicity, it's just what I have been interested in.

Next, of course, is the livestock. Because of the cost of keeping carnivorous fish (trout, bass, or salmon), I have looked for herbivorous fish, namely Tilapia. This is a fairly new whitefish that is becoming popular because of it's farming capabilities. Because Utah is by no means a tropical zone (gets way below the 50 degree threshhold for Tilapia), there are no restrictions to raising this fish. That being said, it's nearly impossible to locate fingerlings to raise. I have been able to locate some possible contacts for purchase, but will not confirm until I have the system in place.

Ultimately, I hope to have a system that can be scaled up to a larger farm plot within the next 5 to 10 years, where I hope to augment income by selling produce at the Farmer's Market. As it is so far in the future, I am focusing on developing the system as it stands now.

Look for more updates in the blog as I start developing each portion!

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