Tucked away in a very urban area in San Diego, about only twelve minutes away from San Diego International airport, you’ll find a micro-farm. It sits on 2.5 acres and is inhabited by two young families. All four adults have jobs (there are also three children under ten years old), but they still find the time to raise chickens, goats, turkeys, rabbits, tend a couple dozen fruit trees, and maintain a prolific garden because they have found a passion in something that they love. They balance the best of both worlds: city life conveniences at their fingertips and the perks of farm life– fresh eggs for breakfast and slaughtering your own Thanksgiving turkey. They have dubbed themselves: Radio Acres Farm.
Micro-farming is not a new idea, in fact a simple Google search will yield a growing Pinterest page (seen here). Here is one motivational picture I found for gardening in even the smallest space available:
Sometimes referred to as Urban Farming, the EPA defines this type of farming as “[c]ity and suburban agriculture tak[ing] the form of backyard, roof-top and balcony gardening, community gardening in vacant lots and parks, roadside urban fringe agriculture and livestock grazing in open space.” Proponents (or those who partake) in this efficient farming technique are quick to point out the plethora of benefits it has to offer. A few include: food security, income generation, energy reduction due to local farming, and the inspirational and educational aspects for both youth and adults. Opponents (city planners, nosy neighbors and health officials) claim that this rural activity is misplaced in an urban setting, can harbor malaria and other diseases (whose threats can by eliminated by practicing safe food-handling techniques), and can pose other public hazards (although, I failed to find out just what those public hazards might be). Regardless of whether or not you are in favor or against micro-farming, the bottom line is simple: city zoning ordinances dictate that a property is zoned for agriculture and exactly what falls under restricted (or unrestricted) practices. Whether or not, and to what degree, you too can start your own micro-farm is in the hands of your city’s legislature.
In the midst of this growing trend, I had the opportunity to visit Radio Acres Farm. I talked to owners of the farm, Kim and Sarah, and asked them some itching questions I had about their life on the farm over the last three years.
First of all, who came up with this idea of sharing a home with each other and starting a micro-farm, and did it take some convincing?
Kim: Well, the idea started off as a joke. We were good friends on vacation up north together. We drove by a farm and said “Look there’s a farm! We should buy it!” However, we were both in a situation where Sarah and B.J. were looking to buy a house and we were, too. We started off looking for land up north, but needed to live close to a city because we all had jobs. Sarah eventually found the farm we’re on now.
Sarah: No convincing. Kim and Jeremy were initially pushing for bigger farms up north, but a smaller scale was needed.
Who lives on the farm and what are their roles?
Sarah: Me and B.J. and our two month old son, Jackson. Then there is Kim and Jeremy and their daughters, Camille and Estelle. Families switch off duties week-by-week. Gardening one week and taking care of the animals the next. There are not very many plans around here other than that because we are not operating on a large scale.
Kim: Each of the adults also have specific roles which are discussed at our house meetings every week. I’m the secretary, Sarah is the treasurer, B.J. is in charge of new projects, and Jeremy is the house chaplain.
According to your blog, you decided to start Radio Acres because you were seeking a ‘more simple life,’ were there any other reasons or are there new reasons now that you’ve been there for awhile?
Kim: Oh, good question! We also wanted to be some place in the a neighborhood that was a “tougher” part of the city. Somewhere we can be a positive aspect of the neighborhood.
Sarah: We also wanted to live a more interdependent life and in a neighborhood where we can rely on each other and help each other out. That hasn’t changed.
Kim: We wanted it to be a place where we didn’t have to be part of the “rat race”. Two adults, working full-time, that make their money to live. We are spending more time at home with our family and raising our kids.
What are most rewarding and most challenging aspects of sharing a home and farm with another family?
Sarah: I think the top rewards would be watching something grow– we started this place. I like to see it grow and change. We keep deciding to farm more land, raise new animals, and what to do with the house. I like to see the whole property grow. This is also a challenge: to figure out what we are doing and how to move forward. Finding the resources and how to plan with multiple parties to move forward can be difficult.
Kim: It’s easy to take for granted. If it wasn’t for another family we wouldn’t have the time to do any of this. When would we find time to milk a goat or tend a garden? It definitely has its perks, like last month Jeremy and I were able to put the kids to bed and sneak out for a 10 o’ clock movie. The challenges are, like Sarah said, it’s hard to have four people agree on something
Whenever I visit the farm, my kids are drawn like a magnet to the goats, chickens, rabbits, and turkeys. Then they move to pining over whatever is edible on your trees and garden. This is an exciting and educational environment for a child to grow up in, but does it lose it’s luster for your children? What do you do to keep them engaged?
Kim: The thing that is funny to me, is that it hasn’t. Recently me and Jeremy decided the girls were old enough to take care of the animals as one of their chores. They were totally fine with that. They really like them and know that they have to have responsibilities in order to keep them around.
Sarah: Jackson isn’t old enough for me to comment on this yet, but I do notice that it hasn’t lost being exciting for Camille and Estelle. They can’t wait to take people around the garden, show them the animals, and hike around the hill whenever anyone comes over.
Camille and Estelle with their goats.
Reading your blog, I’ve seen quite a few interesting and ambitious activities your farm has to offer; from cheese-making classes to growing tea for a local coffee shop. Are there any new endeavors on the horizon?
Kim: Supper club! We are talking about getting on the supper club bandwagon. Doing a dinner event where we charge per plate per head and offering food and wine pairing with food all from the farm.
Sarah: Impregnating our goats. We didn’t personally do it, but we took them to be “freshened”. We will know soon, it takes a couple months to be able to tell. We’re also trying to landscape our backyard; continuing to make this a place for having people over.
Kim: I think if we continue to make this place nicer it will be better to offer more classes and things like that, too. We’re also doing a breeding meat rabbit project– that’s something new that isn’t on the blog yet.
How likely are you to encourage another family (or two) to start their own micro-farm? What advice would you give them?
Sarah: I would encourage people to do it for sure. There is a lot in that question because there is a lot of challenges in doing the micro-farm and living with another family, but I think it’s easier to do it that way. You definitely need to find a compatible group of people. If you know a compatible group of people, I would totally suggest doing it with them as opposed to doing it alone. The farming or gardening part is easy. Anyone can do it on any amount of space; someone in an apartment can garden on their patio if they’re creative enough.
Kim: Communication is really, really important! I joke about marrying another family because it wont work if you don’t talk about things. You have to put it all out on the table if something is bothering you. That is why we do meetings once a week and knowing that it is a safe place helps. I would definitely suggest regular scheduled meetings.
Thank you for your time, is there anything else you would like to add?
Kim: I made butternut squash soup with onions for dinner and every ingredient came from our garden. We cook a lot and it’s really cool being able to do that and knowing where it all came from.
Header was generously provided for use from the Radio Acres Farm blog.