By Ian Taylor
This article is part of the Way to Grow Urban Farms series by Ian Taylor highlighting six hosts from the 2015 Chicken Coop & Urban Farm Tour.
When Ian and Jen first moved to what is now their urban farm in the Ravenna district the back yard was an unproductive 30’x30’ slope. Their first task was to terrace the unpromising space and build a system of raised beds to begin to grow their own vegetables.
“I love the freshness of the produce,” says Ian. “I’m jazzed about how much we can produce in a small space. We don’t have a lot of ground, so we concentrate on creative design to make the best use of every inch.”
That approach is clear from their tightly-designed garden and chicken-run and their success is obvious from the abundance of produce growing there.
“We place empty wine bottles along the edge of the raised beds to introduce heat into the soil,” explains Jen. “You know how hot your car gets on a sunny day? Well that’s the same solar energy we capture with these bottles to give the plants a boost in the spring.”
Ian and Jen added chickens to their urban farm four years ago, starting out with six birds. The flock size varies over time as birds come and go but they currently have eight laying hens.
Ian’s advice to anyone interested in urban farming is to “just do it!”
“If we’d tried to learn everything we needed to know before we started we’d still be reading,” he says. “Just start! Put plants in the dirt. You’ll learn along the way and there’s no substitute for experience. Also, the sooner you begin eating your own salads from your own soil the quicker you’ll enjoy the satisfaction of gardening.” Ian and Jen typically buy their plant starts and seedlings from the Tilth Edible Plant Sale each spring.
“Each year we learn more,” says Ian. “I certainly don’t claim to be expert at this. Right now we’re dealing with leaf miners, which are a new problem for us. But that’s just part of the learning process. And while we’re learning we get to eat salads from our own kale and chard that are better than anything you could ever buy in the store!”