Q & A with Farmer D

1. Where do you think the immediate opportunities lie for making progress in localizing the US food system?

For over 20 years, I’ve been gardening in the city; but, since  1999 I’ve been growing food “for real” in my own backyard. The most immediate opportunities for making progress always lie right in one’s immediate sphere of personal action—as close as outside one’s door. It’s a return to a lifestyle that existed in the past where things were small and slow and sensible. Progress starts with envisioning a new (yet old) lifestyle with the home as central to all aspects of life—work and leisure, food and energy. So, real progress means bringing the economy, beginning with the food economy, home again.

2. What do you see as the biggest challenges today?

One of the biggest challenges in this or any age is to stick with the necessary changes we need to make and hold fast to the end. As important as beginnings are, the real test is in reaching the finish line, which requires perseverance for the long haul. Because we tend to turn things over to others—experts—we lose the opportunity to develop true self-sufficiency. Through growing our food, along with other homesteading practices, we gain invaluable experience and the true rewards of doing-it-yourself. Going forward, we have to be willing to get past the idea stage and individually sweat the details, adjusting to unforeseen difficulties, and, above all, never quitting.

3. What’s the most rewarding part of the work that you do?

Attending Nature’s classroom almost every day and passing the prerequisite lessons, I am rewarded directly by the food brought to my family’s table. Because of where and how the produce is grown (in the backyard, organically), I have the satisfaction of knowing that it is good for us and for the planet, as well. Another reward comes from sharing this path to food security with others by spreading the harvest news via my family’s websites.

4. Anything else that you’d like to add?

Although green is popular today, it is easy, in our euphoria, to believe that things are getting better. But, with popularity comes superficiality. Therefore, it is necessary to get past the first flush of trendiness and search out deeper green steps. This will require the discernment of seeing beyond easy, quick, hip actions and the courage to work toward serious, long-term solutions. The real change the world needs can only come about through personal sacrifice.

Homebased, Homegrown, Homemaking

There’s a lot of stuff (books, articles, sites) now these days on urban homesteading – growing food, solar cooking, raising chickens, canning, etc.

Not only does urban homesteading involve all those self reliant aspects but one can over look the root word. “Home.”  (see Farmer D’s references above)

Too often we are so busy going hither and tither but never really looking at the world closer to home.  Do you know that the backyard is one of the most underutilized spaces in America and we all know that the front yard lawn is just plain wasteful.  Not to mention the hours we spend stuck on freeways – what’s the point to this madness?

What Would the Ingalls Do?

Our pioneer peers understood about home.   Heck, at times they were stuck days on end at home either because of weather (like in the Long Winter) or because they were miles from their nearest neighbors.   How is that they were content with place and people?

We often wonder could our little urban homestead stand on its own.  It’s not that we want to be isolated; this journey is all about community but sometimes community can be a crutch.   Can we as individuals stand on our own two feet if we have to?

OK, nuff on the serious side.

How are you/your family pioneering a path backwards to a simpler, back to basics life?

What practical “Ingallisms” do you practice or live by in this modern age? If you post your online conversation about this topic, don’t forget to link to your post via the comment box below.

What are you doing to turning your home into a home-stead?


  1. Gritty Pretty says:

    we love being at home! it’s like nowhere else on earth, you’re needed at home- the kefir needs to be put in fresh milk, the sourdough starter stirred, hens and ducks need to be fed, plants nurtured, the root cellar and greenhouse need checking, the crocks of pickles and sauerkraut, the fermentating herbal beers- there’s a constant movement that comes from tending your home.

    Its really about defining and keeping your particular culture, your little sphere of influence in the world. for us the talents of our artist friends have a great deal to do with HOME. We wear their fashion designs, hang their art, eat off of their pottery. and we notice that handmade objects are imbued with a sort of magic that make you feel the importance and beauty of every moment.

    we preserve our farm food, braid our own rugs, we spin, knit, sew, bookbind…and it all adds up to hOMe. get it? ommmmmmm… =)

    thanks for the blog and the question! i’ve been away from my homestead for two weeks of travel and feeling very disconnected and can’t wait to feel that rhythm of home!

  2. Charles says:

    Spot on Farmer D! What a wise and beautiful philosophy.

  3. viggie says:

    What would the Ingalls do lol…too cute.

  4. Terri Alice says:

    My partner and I live on 20 acres in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. We are off grid and working towards water harvesting for all our irrigation needs. We have an enclosed raised be vegetable garden, which we are planning to expand. Until we can do that, we supplement what we grow by belonging to our local CSA.
    We are committed to keeping the native landscape in tact and planting more natives for the wildlife. We drive as little as possible, and opt out of consumerism as much as we possible can. We are vegan for ethical and ecological reasons. We are retired teachers and
    former So Cal residents (Riverside). You all are an important part of our sense of a larger community. Thanks

  5. amber says:

    We live in the city and we compost, you would be amazed at how much less trash we take out each week. The compost helps me to make beautiful raised planting beds on top of the the asphalt which is my back yard!

  6. V Schoenwald says:

    I live in an agri area in a small city. I am not off the grid, but I have done all that I can to conserve elec and natural gas, and have a combined elec/gas bill of $118.00 a month. I run oil lamps, watch the utilities, cook and bake outside if the weather is decent,ie. no snow. I grow 60% of my own families food, barter for meat with what I can, can, make yogurt, bread, will try making soap next spring. I am on SSI and am WAY below the poverty level, but I do not starve at all and enjoy home with all my heart, it is my cave, my hide-a-way, I have very little to do with my neighbors as most are druggies and live a horrid and disheveled lifestyle which I cannot do anything about, as they do not want to change. So, I am very content with home. I hook rugs, sew, barter, and read. Where I live, it is cold in winter, and sometimes the spring gets weird also, but I run cold frames and am getting greens and lettuces now and if the weather holds, I will do so until Christmas, then start again at the end of Feb and start seeds again in my frames. I love what I do. I do not go without.

  7. Susan says:

    I live in a suburb, in a condo with no yard space, and none of my friends are interested in sustainable living. Despite my limitations I am determined to live as “Little House on the Prairie” as possible!

    I cook much of my food from scratch, including baking some of my bread (could still do this more often).

    I recently got a freezer which should help with the above.

    I use natural, mostly homemade cleaners.

    I avoid wasting water, electricity, gas and other resources. I have a dishwasher (came with the condo) but prefer to use the two dishwashers on the ends of my arms!

    I avoid using disposable items as much as possible. Nine times out of ten I use a rag and throw it in the wash, and I save the paper towels for really grungy cleanup jobs.

    I’d rather make something or buy it used than buy something new.

    I have a patio that’s mostly in shade, but I plan on learning how to grow at least a few herbs on the fence.


  8. Ben says:

    Well, we live in the city and planted our first full garden this year with the help of my wife’s parents. We expect to quadruple the size of our garden next year. I think where this endevor of ours is going to buying a microfarm outside of of our hometown (Fargo), with enough room for growing food and possibly critters. We have changed our eating habits dramatically this past year and now we are changing our impact habits. So far, we love it.

  9. Brenda says:

    I do the same as many of your other comments. Even though I work full time all the while wishing to be on a farm somewhere, I live in a subdivision in the city so a garden is out of the question as it goes against association rules. I found away around it by planting what I call my “itty bitty” garden in my flower beds( in the back yard of course) and in pots on my patio. I bake my own bread, love, love, love to can and preserve food and to make many of the things we need. I can’t stand to shop and would love to be 50 miles from the nearest store. I’m not sure when I started to feel this nagging inside to live a more self reliant lifestyle but I can tell you this, I am a 40 something and NO ONE in my life~family, friends or coworkers feel the same so I am isolated but it’s ok, I enjoy a challenge. I am starting small but feel that someday I will have some space for at least a small garden and some fruit trees. I have learned to be content with where I am. Life is too short to dwell on the things we don’t have and as for now I will continue to garden and make the changes in my life.

  10. Ciaran says:

    Just today, I finished planting broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and celery. This is the second year I have planted winter crops. Having the fresh vegs in my backyard saves me from going to the local supermarket for fresh produce and coming out with oh, so much more than I need. The less I shop, the more I stay at home. The more I stay at home, the more opportunity to work on our homestead. A lovely little cycle that I am just beginning to truly learn. I am grateful for people like you who share what they have learned and let others know it is possible to feed yourself and your family out of the backyard. Thank you!

  11. madeline duffin says:

    in july of this year, i bought a coop from ontario and had it shipped out here to alberta. Now in the depth of snow outside, the two hens are safe and warm in the deep litter of hay and a heat lamp inside their house. My son and i transformed our front and back yard using sheet mulching techniques and started to grow most of what we ate during the summer and grew enough to sell some produce to a local resturant. My house is one of the few in this city that is growing a garden in front instead of a lawn. As more snow is falling tonight, i can remember how lush the garden looked in the summer and how it will be again next year.

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