I have a backyard farm. It's a micro-farm that covers 2000 square feet. If you have a hard time imagining what 2000 square feet looks like, imagine the size of a volleyball court, or slightly smaller than a half of a basketball court. If you want to know more about our family values and why I've focused my efforts on 2000 square feet, read this post.
I decided to focus on 1 crop to keep my focus as limited as possible. I have 3 children between ages 2 and 5. And a full-time job. And a beautiful wife. And I'm happily married and want to stay that way. So at the tip of a friend, I decided to focus on spinach because of its relative ease to market and sell. Many retailers need spinach - nearly any restaurant uses spinach in multiple salads and dishes, grocery stores sell shelves of it, juice bars use hundreds of pounds monthly.
I had a hard time committing to the simple act of ordering seeds until I could get my list of needs on paper with a corresponding budget. Once I got my ideas out on paper, I felt more confident with having a list of what I'd need. Here are 5 critical things I learned would be needed to start.
Seems a little basic, right? I already have soil in my backyard. Grass grows in it. But I decided to import compost rather than work the soil in my backyard. I had heard repeatedly from experienced farmers on Chris Blanchard's "Farmer to Farmer" podcast that biologically diverse, organically rich soil is the foundation for any successful crop, and a non-ignorable best practice. Fortunately, our local city has a fantastic composting program and I was able to buy 20 cubic yards of great, seed-free, weed-free compost for $400 (that's $20 per yard for those of you pulling out your calculator). I also had to contract a dump truck to haul it to me, which cost another $150. This has been the most expensive part of the micro-farm investment so far. It's been well worth it to have weed-free, organically rich, easy to work soil that has yielded a great crop.
Wheelbarrow and Shovel
You'll need to spread all your soil to a depth of about 3 - 4 inches. I used a freebie wheelbarrow and shovel set that was given to me by a friend. Even better if you have a utility tractor available to spread the load of soil. But if you have to use your back like me, you can do the whole job over a weekend in about 15 hours, or less if you get help from a friend. You can buy both on Amazon for about $60.
Unless you have a ridiculous amount of time on your hands and absolutely love the tedium of planting tiny seeds by hand, a direct seeder, like an Earthway Seeder (Amazon for about $110) is a must! I was able to plant a 2000 square foot plot in about 30 minutes. If I'd planted by hand, it would have taken me a day. The Earthway Seeder was easy enough to use, and my kids were able to "help" me! I've loved having my kids involved, even if my rows end up a bit crooked, or my crop yield is a bit lower. They are working hard with me, which normalizes hard work from an early age, and I get to teach them basic biology, farming practices, and the beauty of economics and entrepreneurship. I'm seeing them learn firsthand that hard work is profitable (Prov 14:23).
Here's a video of my son using our seeder, which looks quite a bit like me when I first tried using it. Enjoy.
I used two different varieties: Space and Seaside from Johnny's. Space came at the recommendation of a well known micro-farmer named Curtis Stone. It has been a good variety with a good yield. I gambled on Seaside. I read that it is a good, heat-tolerant variety that stays smaller and is good for harvesting baby leaves. I think I've preferred Seaside! I ordered two 10,000 seed packs - one of each variety and spend less than $25.
I used a very simple sprinkler made by Melnor for irrigation. You can get much more high-tech with your irrigation. My dream is to use the Rachio smart sprinkler controller, but there's no need to spend this much money to start. You can water a large plot with the Melnor model for about $20.
I've listed some of the basics for starting your own backyard farm. In total, I invested about $1000 in the first phase of my backyard farm, which I was able to make back in the first 2 months of sales. If you would like to have my complete list of must have items for starting your own back yard farm, click the button below and I'll email you my personal list with a corresponding budget!