Steven’s Journey to Backyard Farming
Steven Cornett has the farming bug!! Or rather, the backyard farming bug. Maybe someday, he wants to farm a bigger piece of land in the country. But right now, the farming in the city is fulfilling his dreams.
He happily works many hours to get his backyard farm off the ground.
Until not too long ago, he also worked a regular job – a job he actually liked.
But, he says, he quit that job a few month ago and never has been happier.
It all started 6 years ago when he and a friend decided to give farming a try. Both worked part-time jobs and spend the rest of their time building their farm.
There was no time for girlfriends or parties. Steven and his friend Jared were too busy following their farming passion and loving every minute of it!
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Steven tells us about their journey turning the absolute awful San Diego soil into a market garden which provided them with an income.
Hint: It helps to know people who need to get rid of animal bedding from a county fair. Another example how waste can be turned into a valuable resource.
After a couple of years of farming with his friend, Steven went to teach English in Korea. There, he did a lot of reading and found Masanobu Fukuoka’s book The One Straw Revolution.
Reading this book and learning more and more about Permaculture set Steven on his path to becoming a soil farmer. His focus is to build soil. The veggies and other products are an extremely valuable side effect.
This is the knowledge base he used in his urban backyard farming adventure.
After coming back to the US, it was time for Steven to start his own farm. Married now, he and his wife found a rental in the small town of Lemon Grove which was quite rural until not that long ago. Many remember going to the local farm to get milk and the days when the whole town had only one traffic light.
The dairy farm is gone now and is replaced by a housing development. But there are still plenty of properties with a small house and a big yard in town.
A family friend of Steven’s happened to have such a property available for rent and was enthusiastic about the idea of backyard farming to take place in his yard.
As Steven mentioned, he sees himself foremost as a soil farmer. He started right away to put everything into place to turn the mediocre soil he found into a vibrant fertile growing ground for his market garden.
These are the steps he took:
- sheet mulching
- cover crop
Steven’s first task was to build a predator safe chicken coop. Even backyard farmers have to be concerned about all the chicken lovers out there. The fact is that everyone loves to eat chickens!! The friendly neighborhood raccoons, possums, foxes, coyotes and such are delighted if they can score a tasty chicken meal. And the not so friendly neighborhood dogs just like the idea of killing that squawking thing which runs away from them.
One of his first investment was wood to build a secure coop and fencing to keep the chicken area protected at all times.
Very quickly, the chickens earn their keep by turning scratching and pooping and shedding feathers – all great material to incorporate into a compost. Of course, eggs are also a valuable contribution to the income stream of an Urban Farmer.
Soil – the Key Component of Backyard Farming
Soil is the key component for successful backyard farming. It took Steven almost 6 months to prepare the soil for the planting of the first market crop.
First, he covered the area he was planning on farming with black plastic. This is a process used to eliminate noxious weeds and seems to work for our much hated on Bermuda grass.
Then he sheet mulched, planted a cover crop, defined his walkways, tilled under the cover crop and started planting.
Since the initial tilling, Steven has practiced the no-till method.
Please visit Steven’s website for pictures of this process. It is something we all can use in our own gardens.
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How often have you heard the phrase “If I only had money, I would…”
Steven started his backyard farm for less than $10,000. That might still seem like a lot of money to some, but that figure included the purchase of a truck. Many might already have a truck, or can trade in their car for a truck, or have a friend or family member who can supply the vehicle.
Without the vehicle, the startup cost went down to about $ 5000.
Again, much of these costs might be negotiable.
Steven, as of now, is making about $1000 per month of his 1/4 acre backyard farm.
He worked a part-time job until a couple of months ago. Now, with more time to devote to his farming enterprise, he can add more income streams.
He has a partner who is contributing to the household income.
He had saved enough money to cover expenses for one year.
Listen to the podcast to find out more about Steven’s Journey.
Steven can be found online as Nature is Always Right.
Here are links so you can find him easily.
To find out more about Jared’s farm where Steven got his start in farming, check out this website.
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