Backyard industry and urban agriculture includes people from across all socio-economic backgrounds as well as political persuasions that are actively engaged in what is often known as homesteading. Whether it is due to economic factors or people looking for a more simple lifestyle, the numbers continue to grow exponentially of those who call themselves homesteaders. Reasons for getting involved in the movement may differ from simply wanting to grow some of their own food to the passionate activist that seeks to opt out of an unsustainable globalized, industrialized agricultural system. Either way, one thing is certain, this is one enterprise that isn’t going away anytime soon.
Entrepreneurship has been around for centuries. With the advent of better technology and flexible work schedules, many people are choosing to leave the 9to5 scenario in search of a better life/work balance. For others the economic downturn and other factors have left them struggling to find work. Consequently, many individuals are deciding to start their own company or change careers. However, while IT and other technical jobs may seem the most obvious choice for someone working out of their home, far more often the choice is moving toward the start-up of a backyard or cottage industry.
There are many reasons why someone begins or “falls into” what could be termed “backdoor industry” or “urban agriculture.”
Are the main drivers at the core of this movement for economic, lifestyle, or political reasons? Yes, yes, and yes! Christine Faith who blogs at Right to Thrive states that homesteaders are often divided into two distinct ideologies. One group includes the more activist philosophy toward earth stewardship while conversely, others involved in urban agriculture may get involved initially for self-interest which often starts with distrust of current food systems that continue to see product recalls and edible goods being sold that should never have been allowed to enter the food chain. But along with lifestyle choices or political persuasion, food is at the core of our economy.
According to the Urban Agriculture Impacts Literature Review (UAILR) “urban farms and entrepreneurial gardens refer to projects that go beyond home consumption and grow produce for market.” The UAILR reports that community food projects funded by the USDA provided an estimated 2,300 jobs and incubated over 3,600 micro-businesses.
A quick stop at the grocery store is enough to see that food prices continue to rise while salaries struggle to keep pace. The USDA states that the average US household spends an average of $849 to $1283 for food monthly for a family of four. It is for this reason that you now find many people seeking to stretch their food budget by growing their own food. Before long some of those backyard gardeners realize they can not only provide food for their own family but also have an opportunity to supplement their income. While Faith says she tells people to keep their day jobs, with hard work you can break even or have some extra change in your pocket. If that’s the case, can the homesteading movement provide an economic benefit to the community?
Check out Part Two next week.
Vikki Walton is a passionate advocate for local food, local economy. She is a suburban homesteader, a certified permaculture designer, speaker and trainer. When she’s not posting homesteading information to Facebook or her blog at havensteader, she loves helping people to “get what they really want out of life.” She believes that the entrepreneurial spirit and small business are the key to economic growth and sustainability…along with chickens.