Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
It could happen to you: one afternoon you’re sitting on your back step with a cup of tea, perusing the tangle of overgrown weeds and neglected fruit trees on your rented backyard acreage and ruefully contemplating just how long it’s going to take to mow that much grass. Why couldn’t you have leased one of those row houses across the street? Then the yard would be a postage stamp, no need to mow at all. A snip of two with the kitchen scissors would probably be enough. And then it comes to you, in a sudden thought. You almost snort your tea as you realize: you don’t have to mow it. You could turn that grass into a market produce instead. It would cut down dramatically on the mowing, after all. You’d just need a few raised boxes, perhaps, say…forty. Yes, forty boxes at five feet by ten feet. That should suffice if you want to grow some produce over the terrible heavy clay around here. So you’d need to fill them with soil, of course. And compost. And blend it all up and add some organic nutrients, like kelp. (Can you buy kelp around here? You think you can.) And manure. And you’d need to seed everything with climate-selected heritage varieties and incorporate appropriately scheduled rotation crops for maximum production and have a portable greenhouse or two, cobbled together from old Costco shelter frames and fitted with heat-activated windows--what could be easier than that?? And you could have chickens…
It happened to me that way, anyway. It was such a warm day, and the plum tree was buzzing with wild bees so hypnotically that the idea of noisy, sweaty grass-cutting labour simply drifted away from my mind. Instead, after that initial bolting upright when the idea of farming struck, I just leaned back into my vision and dreamed, eyeing just how much land was available to me, realizing perhaps for the first time in 8 years of living on a three-acre waste of scrub trees and blackberries, just what the possibilities were. To my dismay, developers had been encroaching for months on all sides: gas stations, supermarkets, fast-food joints and townhouses were my new neighbours. Here, at last, could be my effort to halt them in their tracks: a local, sustainable farm plunked smack in the middle of a suburban sea. I could grow vegetables. Produce eggs and honey. Raise sheep and goats, and maybe even—dream of dreams—use small scale horse drawn equipment as on the small family farms of old.
Thus began the idea for Horse Drawn Farms.
PHOTO BY JENNIFER NYBERG