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Fresh Food From Small Spaces: A Beginner's Guide to Urban Farming

You don't need a red barn and rolling wheat fields. Urbanites, too, can grow their own food indoors, in cramped spaces, and without access to land! For real.

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Q.Many more urbanites are raising chickens or keeping bees. How does one deal with zoning laws?

A. Of all the food-growing topics I covered in my book, I have been most surprised by the overwhelming interest in raising chickens for homegrown eggs. This has been a huge trend over the last year or two, and local governments are responding by changing their outdated laws. Most of these ordinances, for public health or zoning reasons, limited the number of chickens or livestock that someone could raise on a city lot. In my book, I go through some examples of these laws. The good news is that many cities have been waking up to the fact that it is not a health hazard, nor is it loud or obnoxious, to allow someone to keep a couple of hens for egg-laying.

A few months ago, I gave a presentation in San Francisco and a gentleman was there who told me a story about how his young granddaughter had wanted to get some chickens but found out they were illegal to have in her town. So this young lady, who I think was in middle school, went to her town’s council meeting and showed them that all of the neighboring cities and towns allowed chickens. And she got them to change their law to allow this as well. So the trend definitely is in that direction, but urban residents should be especially careful to follow any applicable laws. Check with your city, county, or other local authority, and make sure that what you want to do is legal. If it is not, let them know they are in the dark ages.

Q.Is it possible to make an in-apartment root cellar?

A. Any small home might have some good areas for food storage. Even if you are buying most of your food, some produce is cheaper in season and can be stored for periods ranging from weeks to months. An apartment dweller can think of any unused space that may be good for storage, such as a closet, carport, cabinet, or underneath a staircase. There are different temperature and humidity requirements for optimal storage of various fruits and vegetables, and air circulation can be important, so someone interested in serious root cellaring should research this more thoroughly. I do not have a root cellar, but we normally store some apples and winter squash in the garage for later use. In addition, we have enough refrigerator space to store a few beets, kohlrabi, and carrots.

 
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