To start a self sustaining farm in your backyard is really simpler than you might think but don’t get me wrong it will take some work to getting it started before planting your seeds. Because I’ve personally been doing my extremely thorough research while applying what I’ve learned and thought is something that is not only essential but required if anyone could sustain themselves in the event of a food shortage crisis or simply just creating a sustainable organic farming to feed your family.
Over the last two years we have been preparing for this by first purchasing a decent piece of land to start our backyard farm. One of the most important elements of creating a sustainable farm is WATER and great soil, without it your farm can not survive.
So here are some things to keep in mind when starting your sustainable farm:
- What is your climate zone ? Are you in a colder climate area or a tropical place ?
- What is the condition of your soil ? What will you need to get your soil ready for planting ?
- Should you till your soil or not ?
- What kind of farming should you do ?
- How should you grow your plants or trees ?
- Is there water accessible if your water service is none existent ?
- How big should your farm be ?
- Will you need electricity for your farm ?
- How should you design a self sustaining farm ?
Definition of sustainable farming
According to UCDavis – The goal of sustainable agriculture is to meet society’s food and textile needs in the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Practitioners of sustainable agriculture seek to integrate three main objectives into their work: a healthy environment, economic profitability, and social and economic equity.
USDA defines sustainable agriculture as a way to:
- satisfy human food and fiber needs;
- enhance environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agricultural economy depends;
- make the most efficient use of nonrenewable resources and on-farm resources and integrate, where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls;
- sustain the economic viability of farm operations; and
- enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole.”
My definition: Creating a self sustaining farm is the best way of assuring you and your family survive a shortage of food, not depending on coporate farming companies, not depend on supermarkets, grow healthier foods without chemicals or non-organic fertilizers and creating a healthy lifestyle.
So, what are the benefits of sustainable farming ?
- Growing healthier food than conventional methods.
- Use less water.
- Yield enough produce that you can even make a living or supplement your income from your farm.
- No need for harmful chemicals.
- Besides the initial costs of your farm it is very economical and will practically take care of itself after initial preparation.
- Better tasting fresh produce from your own farm.
- Reduce or eliminate deterioration of soil.
Climate plays a big role in how you will approach your sustainable farm.
One is dealing with cooler or colder climates and to keep your costs down here are a few tips before you get started.
- Create a plan and design layout of your farm.
- More than likely in colder climate you will probably use a green-house to grow vegetables or fruits that will not survive in cold weather.
- To keep your greenhouse at tolerable plant temperatures you will have to use some sort of heating. The good news is, you can use an economical GeoThermal system. Do this by using corrugated 6″ inch plastic tubes because they will withstand the pressure of soil on top of them. Your tubes should be at least 12 inches or more below the frost line in your area usually around 5 feet below ground ( check the frost line in your area to make sure ) and spread the pipes about 3 feet apart as you see in the image below. How long should your tubes be will be determined by the size of your greenhouse. Place some sort of screen to cover the inlet so no debris can get in. The outlet will go in your greenhouse where you will connect to a fan to circulate the air in your greenhouse. Use a thermostat to control when the fan comes on or off.
You can also heat your greenhouse using the compost method. Checkout video I found on Youtube below to see how you could do the same.
If your not using a greenhouse and want to keep your plants cool, plant other trees like banana trees or other trees or plants that can provide shade for them.
Preparing your soil using sustainable farming practices:
If the soil in your area is either extremely dry or have clay type of soil then here are a couple of tips to get the soil organisms working naturally:
- First step is to place either newspapers, cardboard, or get a roll of paper from HomeDepot to lay over the ground to cover weeds. This paper will block and turn your weeds into mulch. Do not use plastic materials.
- Lay down 4 to 6 inches of mulch over the entire area.
- Cover the entire area with Hay or fine sized wood chips every 6 months to a year.
- This process will take approximately six months to be ready for planting.
- Do not till your soil. Just layer more mulch on top every year to continue to develop your soil. Tilling your soil will deplete your soil nutrients then having to supplement your soil with fertilizers or other chemicals which also contribute to the degradation of your soil.
- Composting will provide much need nutrients for your soil.
- Use your tree prunings, leaves and branches ( chipped or mulched ) in your compost to create a rich mulch.
- Use maneurs from chickens, cows, or horses to include in your composting and mulch to use in your soil.
- Wood ashes a great source of potassium makes a great ammendment to your soil but if your farm or garden soil to has a higher pH of 7, give the ashes to a friend with a more acidic soil. Don’t use it around acid-loving plants such as blueberries and azaleas, or on potatoes, which get scab disease if the pH is too high. Use only wood ashes, not ashfrom coal, charcoal briquettes or fake logs. Source: Washignton Post
What kind of farming should you do ?
Are you planning to grow vegetables or are you planning to go all the way and create your own mini forest with fruit trees and other editable plants ?
Growing vegetables of course primarily depends on your climate and what you can grow in your climate zone but this does not necesarily mean that you couldn’t grow plants not specific to your area by using a greenhouse and using permaculture farming methods.
The kind of farming you should do depends on your needs and what is best for the area you live in. So, do your due diligence to learn more about the type of plants you would like to grow.
Is there water available to you other than city water service which frankly I will never use because of all the flourides, chlorine and other chemicals I don’t want in my food.
So, if you have a source of water great if not, you might want to consider drilling a well if possible and creating your own farming water system.
Unless you are using alternative power for your well water pump I’d recommend installing a manual pump so you would never have to worry if the electrical power is not operational because you’ll be able to still pump your water manually.
Another great way to have water readily available to you is by digging a good size pond to store water that could also be used to grow some fresh water fish that will provide natural nutrients to your farm or garden plus the benefit of fresh fish.
Collecting rain water by using storage tanks or 55 gallon drums is a great way to have water for your farm readily available. When using this type of water collection system I would advice to have your storage containers at a height where you can use gravity to feed water to your farm.
Even though if you consistently cover your soil with mulch, wood chips and/or hay you will not have to water as often, maybe every 3 to 5 days after your soil is mature enough to self-sustain itself which could be anywhere from one to three years.
How big should your sustainable farm be ?
My rule of thumb is, if is to big to manage it is to big for you. This will also depend on how much land you have available to grow your produce. Don’t get to happy and be all excited to think that 2 to 5 acres of land will be easily managed, NOT.
After all that warm fuzzy excitement wears off you could probably see it as a big chore or to big to handle. Start small and work your way up from there. Recruit your family and neighbors and share the fruits of your labor.
The layout of your farm is very important as you will see below in a sketch I personally made for my farm and how it all comes together.
Designing your self sustaining farm layout
There are several elements of your self sustaining farm that you should consider when designing your layout.
- If you will use a water pond as a water source, where will you dig your pond ?
- What size pond should you dig ?
- How will you get water from your pond to your farm ?
- If using an electric pump, how will you power your water pump ?
- If living in cold weather, will you use a greenhouse ?
- If your thinking of having a chicken coupe, where will you build it ?
- Will you be planting trees around your farm ?
- The pond should be near your farm or within your farm as you will notice in my layout below.
- The size of your pond will be determined by the size of land available to you and how big of a farm will you build.
- Using gravity to get water to your farm can be done with your water pond by designing your growing area lower than the pond. Build a small water canal around your farm from your pond to feed water to your garden area.
- If using an electrical pump that is not near your power source you could use solar or wind power to run your water pump.
- If living in colder climate and using a greenhouse the pond might not be an option for you but water storage containers collecting rain water can still provide water and it would be a great idea to have water storage inside your greenhouse for two reasons. One, you’ll have water that is not frozen if your using the geothermal system or simply using a heater inside your greenhouse. Two, water stores heat and will provide warmth for your greenhouse too.
- Chicken coupes provide many benefits not only to the farm but having organic eggs as well. Chickens make great compost and awesome soil supplement for your farm. One more thing I’ve learned during this process is that if you feed vegetables to your chickens their manure will not have a bad smell too.
- Planting trees around your farm have a few benefits and could provide a financial supplement too if you plant the right trees. Rosewood trees, mahogany trees, maple oak trees, walnut trees, ash trees, burch or teak trees and many others are trees used in furniture always on demand. When trees are 10 years or older can be sold to supplement your finances too. It’s all about being sustainable today and in the future.
Here is my self sustaining farm layout design hand drawn sketch ( Note: I am not an artist :-). This is approximately 1 acre land and incorporates all the elements discussed here in this article. All dimensions in this sketch are illustrated in meters.
As you can see the pond is on the south end of the property and at 1 meter elevation higher than the rice farm which is surrounded by a water canal 1 meter wide. Using this method, water from the pond can be transferred to each section of the farm and right below the rice farm is our vegetable garden.
It’s time to start a self sustaining farm in your backyard creating a way of life that will provide nutrients, supplemental income and healthy lifestyle for you and your family. A lot of thought has gone into my particular design and by no means is it the only way to do things but simply implementing methods proven to work in your farm too.
Starting a permaculture farm that is sustainable will not only provide benefits mentioned above but will also give you a sense of security should there be a financial disaster or a shortage of food and besides, you’ll be much healthier as a result.
Hope you enjoyed and found this article useful. Would love to hear about your farming ideas or methods we would love to share with our readers.
If you would like to learn vegetable gardening here is another great article: How To Vegetable Gardening Beginners Introduction.