Did you know that on just a quarter of an acre of land, you can grow enough to provide over 4/5 or 80% of the yearly food consumed by a family of 3 plus have a surplus left over to sell at the local markets? By using intensive farming methods, a "mini farmer" can produce as much in 1400 square feet as a conventional farmer can on 3/4 of an acre! (Source: "Mini Farming", by Brett L. Markham)
My name is Jeanine. I live with my husband, Bendar, and my son, Rohnin, in Clyde, Ohio. As of November, 2011, Ohio's unemployment rate was 8.5% (from http://www.bls.gov/web/laus/lauhsthl.htm) with many of Ohio's counties in our area at a higher rate than that, not to mention the unemployment rate in the rest of the United States and beyond! The jobs that are available are the lowest paying in recent history and certainly come with little to no benefits. In addition, food and energy prices are continuously rising.
People are going deeper into debt just to feed their families and put gas in their tanks. What if they knew that they could take their land, even if it's just a few hundred square feet, and turn it into a mini farming operation that would save them thousands of dollars on food every year and even generate revenue by selling surplus produce at the local markets? How much gas money could they save by taking fewer trips to the grocery store and eliminate the need to drive to a second job that is now unnecessary?
Mini Farm Project Sustainability aims to answer these questions and provide the people in our community and beyond with the tools they need to save money, generate income, and harvest fresh, healthy produce from their own mini gardens by using intensive farming techniques. We plan to make a documentary that follows our journey to become more self-sufficient while establishing our mini farm as a community resource to help others see what is possible and that it can be done. Many people in the U.S. feel that they need to change the way they live but are afraid to take the first step or don't know where to start. We will take that first step for them by becoming their support system, helping them decide where they will construct their gardens and other small support structures taking into consideration their land size, layout of their property, physical abilities of all household members, free time available to work the land, etc. We want to know what their goals are and help them to reach those goals, whether it is saving thousands of dollars yearly on food or more ambitious goals that include generating extra income. This may allow a mother to have more time with her children or a retiree to live more comfortably on a fixed income. For a family in danger of losing their home, it may very well tip the balance in their favor.
We will accomplish our ultimate goal in the spring of 2013 when we open a community garden where we host classes on mini farming and let people who have no land access grow their own crops on our land to save money on their food bill, freeing up income for other needs. Learning how to grow, harvest, and preserve crops will help people in our community and beyond to become more self-sufficient and therefore empowered to help themselves and others. We are hoping those we help will go on to become successful mini farmers and help other future mini farmers! We do not have, nor do we wish to have, a monopoly on this information.
The intensive farming methods we wish to employ include, but are by no means limited to:
- Planting crops in raised beds versus traditional rows which raises the temperature of the soil by around 10 degrees, thereby extending the growing season.
- Planting crops closer together, eliminating the need to weed, which will drastically cut down on the workload.
- Planting cover crops to replenish nutrients, keep soil in place, and create green manure.
- Thermophilic composting to kill pathogens and turn table scraps, animal manures, and green manures into nutrient-dense compost that will replenish soil depleted by growing crops.
- Covering raised beds with an inexpensive frame & plastic sheet, making it possible to extend the growing season to January, even in northern states.
- Using natural pest control to protect crop yields and prevent chemical insecticides and fungicides from contaminating crops by eliminating the need to use them.
- Preserving the harvests for later consumption using canning, vacuum-packing, freezing, storing via root cellar, and other preservation methods.
- Saving open-pollinated seeds from crop plants that flourished, eliminating the need to purchase seeds for the next crop year and increasing the chances of a more productive future harvest.
Do you want to learn more about intensive farming techniques? I recommend these books, though there are countless resources on this subject:
Mini Farming: Self Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre, by Brett L. Markham
The Backyard Homestead: Produce all the food you need on just a quarter acre!, by Carleen Madigan
The Urban Homestead: Your Guide to Self-Sufficient Living in the Heart of the City, by Kelly Coyne & Erik Knutzen
The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It, by John Seymour
If we are not able to raise the funds we need by July, the consequence is that it will take us much longer - likely years - to save the money we need to start mentoring people who are hungry for this knowledge. We need to get started this summer by preparing the land for crop growth, starting thermophilic compost, and reaching out to our immediate community and beyond through farmers markets, health food stores, community organizations, and especially through developing and dispersing our mini farming documentary.
We live on rented land. According to park rules, we are not allowed to have the small, 20 square foot garden that we dug four years ago, but others in our park have tomato plants and small gardens, so for the time being, the landlord is letting this slide. I tried to grow medicinal herbs a couple years ago only to discover that my landlord had decided to dig up and mulch the area I had planted them which destroyed all of my plants. It is very limited what we are allowed to do on our rented lot, and I know there are many people who are in a similar situation or who don't have any land at all. This inability to work the land is why we need your help. If we already had our own land to start even a few hundred square feet of raised beds, believe me, we already would have done it, and we would not have the need to humbly ask for your help!
What We Need & What You Get
We need $10,000 that will go directly towards the down payment on a parcel of workable farm land on at least 2 acres. That's it. We are not asking for money to buy a pre-built greenhouse or truck in loads of bricks to surround the raised beds. We will build this mini farm as cost-effective as possible once we have the land by doing the work with a spade and garden fork, double digging the raised beds and surrounding them with low-cost wood or free cement blocks - whatever we can get our hands on. The $10,000 will simply allow us make a down payment to acquire the property - we will supply the man and woman power!
Time line of our project:
February - August (ongoing) 2012: Use intensive farming techniques in our 20 square foot garden on rented land. We will share our experiences with this endeavor in the documentary and on our website http://minifarmproject.com/, then apply this knowledge on a larger scale to the newly acquired parcel of land, comparing crop yields from conventional farming techniques that we had used in previous years.
April: $10,000 funding goal reached. A savings account will be opened which will be used solely to hold these funds for land purchase.
July: Apply for loan pre-approval while locating a suitable property.
August: Purchase property.
September: Dig raised beds. We plan to double dig at least 300 square feet of raised beds with plans to dig more as we have the resources including time and funds. To put this square footage into perspective, using intensive gardening practices, if we planted only one crop - carrots, we should be able to harvest 900 pounds of them in one growing season!
October: Attain straw, start thermophilic compost pile, plant cover crops.
November: Piece together video footage from February all the way to the current time, giving viewers an intimate view of the beginnings of our mini farm. We will distribute the work in progress with plans to expand on the documentary in the spring of 2013 when we begin preparing for the first crop year.
December 2012 â€“ February 2013: Develop our teaching curriculum, drawing from our experiences up to the current time and reaching out to more knowledgeable mentors in our area and beyond to help decide the best approaches to teaching intensive farming techniques. We will also start advertising our class dates/times at local farmerâ€™s markets, health food stores, websites, etc.
March: Start seedling indoors and begin preparing the land that will be used by students (prepare raised bed and compost areas as well as connect water supply to the area for crop watering/irrigation).
May: Plant our first big crop and begin our first mini farm classes.
If we raise additional money over the $10,000, it will allow us to:
- Buy a slightly bigger parcel than we originally planned, accelerating our plans to help the community by providing more workable land to those who have none.
- Dig more raised beds than the 300 square feet we are currently planning in the fall before winter comes, making it possible to plant more cover crops to create green manure for composting and plant more food crops in the spring.
- Spend more time working on our documentary, making it available to the international community in a more timely manner.
As a way to say thank you for your generosity, we have 8 perk levels for you to claim that range from $5 to $1000 that we will be overjoyed to give to you!
Other Ways You Can Help
Please share this campaign with everyone you know who may believe in empowering people to live sustainable, healthy lives. We are ambitious, but we need your help to get the word out and reach our donation goal! Feel free to visit our website at http://minifarmproject.com/. We can be found on twitter @MiniFarmProject and on Facebook and Google+ by searching for Mini Farm Sustainability Project. Do you need to write a paper or conduct a study to earn your college degree? Consider our mini farm as the subject of your studies. We are happy to share our experiences for the benefit of everyone! Consider a visit to our mini farm once it is operational, as we will have tours available.
We will bring positive change to people who are searching for a way to better their lives. Whatever you are willing and able to give, we are grateful. I hope I have conveyed my excitement about the capabilities of a mini farmer who has a little land to work, and I hope you are excited, too!