Farming the Neighborhood

Transforming lawns to gardens means “plenty” of food and a sense of community in these suburban backyard homesteads.

| December 2016/January 2017

Sarah Sailer never thought her life would look like this. “My neighbors have seen some interesting things,” she says, such as Sarah climbing on her roof in a full bee suit to check the hive and then biking down the street wearing the bee helmet and gloves, trailed by 20 college students. She’s been seen crossing streets carrying cabbages in both arms and transporting ducks.

Sarah, her husband, Jeremiah, and their four daughters turned their lawn into garden and began growing their own food as a solution to the family’s health concerns and the cost of organic vegetables — and they achieved a lot at their 1⁄5-acre backyard homestead in Loveland, Colorado. In fact, they were among MOTHER’s 2014 Homesteaders of the Year. Eventually, though, they began to run out of space and dreamed of expanding, but couldn’t afford to buy a big piece of land.

“I was looking longingly at farms because of the space, but we love living in our neighborhood that’s so close to downtown,” Sarah says.

Then she had an idea: Why not farm the neighborhood?

Neighbor Lynn Peterson had noticed the Sailers’ thriving garden and approached Sarah after her own failed attempts at suburban gardening. Sarah shared her vision of a neighborhood farm and offered to help the Petersons convert their lawn to garden and to share produce. A few weeks later, the Sailers, a friend, and a local youth group cleared out weeds, hauled in compost, and covered the lawn in wood chip mulch.

“Their 1⁄2-acre corner lot has a beautiful amount of sunny space, which we filled to the brim with vegetables,” Sarah says.

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