You Too Can Live on a Micro Farm

It isn't always easy wringing a living from a two acre micro farm, but Ivory and Belle Marshall found a way.

| September/October 1974

029 micro farm

In spite of suffering from emphysema, Ivory Marshall was able to use a low-wheel push plow on his North Carolina micro farm.


My wife, Belle, and I live on a micro farm—about two acres—just outside the town of Hendersonville in western North Carolina. We bought the place 12 or 15 years ago, when I was still able to work in restaurant and hotel kitchens and cotton mills. During my off hours I'd haul sawdust, manure, and leaves to put on my rundown soil, since I had the idea that crops could be raised intensively on our land as it's done in Europe. Also, we both suspected that chemicals might have caused my wife's cancer and were determined to raise our food without them.

Then, about two years ago, I was totally disabled with emphysema and came home to garden full time. My experience has given me some ideas I'd like to pass on to those who want to live off the land.

First—if I were going to homestead all over again—I'd try to find two or three acres in a secluded area, with a good spring or some other water supply. (Of course, a well can be hand dug provided you don't hit rock so hard you can't go through.)

We bought a small cottage with our place, and I think this is a good idea because to build and furnish a house is rather expensive. If there is no dwelling on the land you want, then your next best bet is to look for a good used house trailer going cheap.

Otherwise, your homestead doesn't need elaborate buildings. Scrap lumber available at dumps can be converted into a barn and chicken coop (or you can find an old building to tear down for a low price or nothing at all). If you live near a railroad you can get old ties that have been replaced. These make good framing for a root cellar, since they've been creosoted and will last for several years underground.

I'd advise putting a woven wire fence around your property. Then if an animal gets out of the pen it won't go over into somebody's field, nor will your neighbors' stock get into your place and destroy your crops. I have such a fence, five feet high, around my own land and have set rose bushes, dogwood, and other flowering shrubs against it. This provides a certain amount of privacy and a lot of space for birds to nest.

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