8 Important Benefits of Raising Backyard Chickens

Raising Backyard Chickens, a lovely farming hobby at our backyards.

If you are in Ghana, you will notice the raising of backyard chickens as a common trend in most households. Almost all farm households keep one type of animal basically for subsistence and chicken is the commonest of them. The practice of raising chickens in backyards hold some tremendous benefits beyond the obvious.

Why raise chickens in the backyard?

Now lets us look at the reasons that will compel you to start raising chickens on your own in your backyard.

  • Ready source of fresh, tasty free-range eggsChickens raised in a free-range system produce eggs that are relatively tastier. This is probably because they have access to a wider variety of vegetation and organism to feed on. Free range chicken eggs contain less cholesterol and saturated fat, and more vitamin A, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E and beta-carotene. Eggs can be collected fresh and consumed.
  • Eliminate food wasteTo supplement the feed for the chickens, you can add food left-over and other kitchen waste to feed them. Therefore, instead of dumping left-overs, you can convert that to good food again by feeding it to the chicken.
  • Source of manureThe droppings of the birds serve as good manure for your gardens. Make good use of it by collecting it from their coops and spreading on your gardens. Chicken manure contains high levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium and is more economically valuable than synthetic fertilizers.
  • A ready source of fresh, tasty, organic meat for the family.It is always a delight when we are asked to grab a chicken for weekend supper. The excitement and all besides a meal prepared with fresh, tasty, organic meat of a chicken. It is surely a family delight. For that alone, I made sure the birds are well catered for.
  • Pest control.Chickens love to eat protein-packed insects, and so helps to control a wide range of insects around the house. They will take care of the crickets, grasshoppers, snails and other pests in the garden. They love to eat many weeds too, and serve as post-harvest garden bed gleaners, helping you with work on your gardener.
  • The benefit of good health and long life.Heard of oxytocin?. It’s a stress-lowering chemical in your body that’s released when you hug someone you love or even pet your dog or cat. Anyone who has raised backyard chickens can probably say the same about the hen. Studies have shown that those of us with pets live happier, healthier and longer lives. Activities on chickens like picking of eggs, cleaning coop or feeding come with some excitement. You will usually find me talking to the hen whiles I do all that. It is an awesome experience.
  • Learning opportunity for childrenChildren learn a lot from the experience of raising chickens. The biology of chicken development and qualities of caring are among the lessons a child picks up as they raise their chickens.
  • Source of incomeThere is quite a demand for organic chickens and the sources are mostly those raised in backyards. They are, however, not always available. Families take advantage of that to make some money by selling some of the chickens or their fresh eggs. The money goes into supplementing the families budget.


Urban Backyard Farming for Profit

In this excerpt from The Urban Farmer, courtesy of New Society Publishers, Curtis Stone offers an innovative approach to urban backyard farming for profit — one that doesn’t require starting with acres of land in the country. In these urban farming business plans, which are based on his own experience and which have been refined over years, Stone outlines how you can start a gardening business while still working a 9-to-5 job, and increase your commitment and profits over time.

All the urban farming business plan models I’m proposing are designed to be scalable. You can start as a part-time farmer in your own backyard (Model 1), and then, after you gain some experience and feel comfortable quitting your day job to pursue farming full-time, you can scale up to 1⁄10 acre (Model 2) or 1⁄4 acre (Model 3). From there, you can continue to scale up as you see fit.

A quarter acre of land or less is the right amount to start with if you don’t have any previous experience in farming. I want to reiterate the lesson I should have learned after my first year: Don’t take on too much! Start small and grow slowly. On 1⁄4 acre, you have the potential to make $50,000 from the land itself, but if you incorporate some greenhouse or indoor microgreens, you could considerably increase that number — all by selling vegetables. This will all depend on your market streams. Understanding your market will be the key to your success in urban backyard farming.

Start a Gardening Business

Start-up costs. In order to spend less money as you start your gardening business, you’ll need to spend more time looking for deals on your major investments. If you can give yourself six months prior to starting, like I did, that should be enough time to build the infrastructure you need, prep some land, and look for the best deals on good used equipment. Using websites such as Craigslist, I found a lot of great deals, but I sometimes had to drive for hours to pick an item up. It was all worth it, though. I purchased a BCS tiller with three implements for $1,000, and I bought my first walk-in cooler for $1,000. If I had bought both of those items new, I would have spent $8,000 more. Be sure to shop around. Also, use Craigslist or other websites to post what you’re looking for — I found my BCS because of a post I published. The $7,000 I spent in my first season covered all of my major investments as well as seeds, tools, irrigation equipment, and fertilizer.

Revenue sources. To achieve ambitious revenue from 1⁄4 acre or less, you’ll need access to high-end restaurants and good farmers markets. Specialize in the crops that give you the highest return on the smallest amount of land in the least amount of turnover time. Your trade-off will be less diversity in crop selection. I wouldn’t consider operating a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program at first, as they’re best suited to 1⁄2 acre or more (Model 4).

The advantage of selling vegetables to restaurant markets is that you can grow large quantities of vegetables that have high margins. For example, I grow a lot of baby root vegetables, such as radishes, because some of my customers will go through 100 bunches per week. I grow them almost exclusively for restaurants. I can sell up to 200 pounds per week to all of my clients, but there’s no way I could sell that much at a market, or even in a CSA program; I’m lucky to sell 20 bunches on a good market day.

As you switch your focus to backyard farming for profit, you’ll learn over time what sells and where. Some items (such as Swiss chard and kale) sell better at the market than at restaurants. Learning which products do best in each area takes a little time, so track sales by customer and location in spreadsheets, continuously update them, and leverage this information over time for effective production and sales.

Basic planting strategies. On my farm, I’ve created two categories, Hi-Rotation (HR) and Bi-Rotation (BR), in which I organize all my land. HR areas are plots with constant activity. In them, I plant quick crops which mature in under 60 days, and turn them over four times or more. I don’t plan where all my quick crops will go — I simply decide which areas will be HR, and I leave the details of my weekly planting to the demands of the market. If I don’t sell it, I don’t grow it. I plant BR beds only twice during the growing season. In these, I plant a steady crop which matures in 60 days or more. For commercial urban farming, I don’t recommend growing crops with long dates to maturity, such as onions, potatoes, winter squash, melons, garlic, or corn.

Urban Farming Business Plan, Model 1

In this model, you can earn $21,600 as an urban backyard farmer. At first, you can keep your day job for a year or two, scale your hours back a little bit, and run a farm on a part-time basis. That way, you can give yourself some comfort and security knowing that you don’t have to go in head-first. I will say, though, that jumping in will make you learn faster because you’ll have a lot more skin in the game. But not everyone is willing to take a risk that big at first.

Setup and most profitable vegetables to grow. One-tenth of an acre — about 36 beds at 30 inches by 25 feet on one piece of property — would be a manageable size for this model. Ideally, your own front yard and backyard, or somewhere really close to home, would be your farm. If you were to run this farm with all HR beds growing quick crops, it could gross $28,800 in a 30-week season. But, I would recommend diversifying your farm to give yourself experience with growing a variety of different crops. Thirty-six beds at half BR and half HR could still generate $21,600 in a 30-week season. The outcome for this model is less about maximizing profit and more about learning systems so you can scale up later.

Customers. Focus on market streams that are less risky and take less customer-service time — that’s primarily farmers markets. Most markets run on weekends, so even with a Monday-to-Friday job, you can do a lot of work on the weekends and evenings and successfully operate this model. It might be possible to sell vegetables to restaurants a little bit, as long as you focus on small owner-operator types that you’re confident you could supply. Look for places that will use small amounts, such as an order of $60 per week. Also, make sure they can be flexible with what they get because when you’re learning, you’ll find things may be a little inconsistent. The challenge when selling vegetables to chefs is that they require more customer service. Text messages and phone calls midweek will be common, and if you’re not available for those, you’ll have more difficulty engaging with those customers.

Time commitment. Realistically, you’ll eventually have to scale back your hours at your main job. For example, you could work Monday through Wednesday from 9 to 5, and then work an hour or two in the evenings or early mornings before your 9-to-5 job. On Thursday, you could work 12 to 5 so you’d have time in the morning to harvest for market. You’ll need to have Fridays off almost entirely because if you plan to sell at a Saturday market, you’ll need Friday to process and package all of your products.

I’ve seen small families with children and couples make this type of farm work quite well. The more collective support you have, the more options you’ll have for when the farm work can get done. You’ll need to be able to commit at least 20 hours per week plus a half day selling vegetables at a farmers market in order to make this model work.

Urban Farming Business Plan Model 2: Earn $58,800 on 1⁄10 Acre

Farming on 1⁄10 acre could include running an urban backyard farming business at your own home in the suburbs or on an urban lot. If you have a front and backyard that are a total of 4,356 square feet, you might have enough land to run a farming business from home. With this model, in order to maximize profits, you must only focus on HR beds growing quick crops — that means growing only fast-maturing crops such as greens, radishes, turnips, and some herbs, and turning those beds over at least four times during the season.

Setup and most profitable crops to grow. With a farm this size, you’d have about 36 total beds (as in Model 1) and about 10 inches for the walkways. If all those beds were in HR, your income potential for a 30-week season would be $28,800 from just the field crops alone. This number could rise with greenhouses for the field crops and microgreens. If you produce and sell 50 flats of microgreens per week at $20 per flat, it would be possible to gross $58,800 from a lot this size. Also, if your season is more than 30 weeks (which is the average for North America), your possibilities will be greater.

I recommend growing arugula, cilantro, baby dill, salad turnips, baby lettuce, mustard greens, radishes, baby red Russian kale, and baby spinach. You can mix together all the greens I mentioned (except spinach) in a variety of salad mixes, and you can sell spinach and arugula on their own. Try different mix combinations to market as different products. Mustard and arugula together form a “spicy mix,” for example.

Grow microgreens, such as pea shoots, sun shoots, and radish shoots, and some specialty microgreens, such as ‘Purple Dark Opal’ basil, cilantro, and anything with bright color. Pea shoots and sun shoots are common in the health-food community, so it makes sense to produce a lot of those and market them to that demographic. Radish shoots and specialty microgreens are popular in restaurant markets.

Customers. The risk of this model is that your products and market streams will be very specialized. So, your success will be based on your ability to cater to niche markets and move all the 10 or so crop varieties you grow. A farm like this might work well in a larger city where you’d have access to some high-end restaurant customers willing to buy only specific crops from you. In no way will you be a one-stop shop for anyone, and that means you’ll have to cater only to the specific needs of your clientele. The other risk is that working on a small scale means your restaurant customer base will also be pretty small, so you’ll be reliant on a handful of customers to support you. If you lose some of those customers, then your income could be compromised very quickly. These are some of the risks involved in primarily focusing on restaurant markets. If a certain chef leaves, then you’ll have to establish a relationship with the new one. I’ve had customers in the past who spent $1,000 per week, and then the restaurants changed concepts and chefs the next season, and I lost them as customers. Some diversification with customers is important, but it’s even more important to build good relationships with your clients and to constantly keep your eyes and ears open when communicating with them.

Time commitment. Urban backyard farming for proft at this scale could be a full-time job for one person working at least 40 hours per week. The microgreen production alone would be close to 15 hours per week, and the rest of the time you’d spend processing and delivering field crops. If you’re able to sell only to restaurants and not bother selling at a farmers market, then that will save you an entire day’s work standing at a market booth.

Urban Farming Business Plan Model 3: Earn $87,000 on 1/4 Acre

Farming 1⁄4 acre is the perfect place to start if you’re new to this profession and are prepared to make it your full-time job.

Setup and most profitable vegetables to grow. Focus on quick crops and HR areas. Don’t grow any BR crops, such as tomatoes or summer squash. However, you could have up to four beds of kale without affecting your income negatively. On 1⁄4 acre, you’d have about 90 beds with about 10-inch walkways between the beds. If you’re growing in a cold climate, I’d suggest using either poly low tunnels (a season extender made with greenhouse plastic, pictured on Page 30) or high tunnels (Pages 32 and 33) to prolong the season. With a few season-extension techniques, you should be able to market for 30 weeks if you’re in most places in North America, except for in Growing Zones 5 and lower. In those climates, a 20-week season would be reasonable.

Ninety beds in HR could generate $72,000 in 30 weeks or $2,400 per week on average. If you add some microgreen production to this model, you could bring in considerably more income. If you targeted 25 flats per week at $20 per flat for 30 weeks, you could bring the total gross up to $87,000, and if you were to be a little more ambitious and produce 50 flats per week for 30 weeks, it would be possible to gross $102,000 from your 1⁄4 acre.

The most profitable vegetables to grow here are turnips, bok choy, radishes, arugula, baby red Russian kale, and spinach as well as lettuce, mizuna, mustard, and tatsoi for greens mixes. You could add baby kale and arugula to those mixes as well. Grow bunches of herbs, such as baby dill, cilantro, and parsley. You could also grow kale for bunches to add a little more variety. Your microgreens could include pea shoots, sun shoots, radish shoots, and some specialty varieties for restaurants and farmers markets.

Customers. Aim for a balance of farmers markets and restaurants. Look for the possibility of providing some niche products for another farmer’s CSA program. I wouldn’t recommend running your own CSA program at this size because you won’t have enough variety in your products.

The advantage of this model is that you’ll be growing a small diversity of crops, which will offer you more marketability in both farmers markets and restaurants. So, this scale of operation will allow you to broaden your customer base.

Time commitment. For the highest potential gross income, you’ll most likely have to employ at least one person, part-time or full-time.

Urban Farming Business Plan Model 4: Earn $123,000 on 1/2 Acre

One-half acre is the largest amount of land I’m going to propose farming. Otherwise, you’ll be getting more into rural farm plans that farmers such as Jean-Martin Fortier or Eliot Coleman put forth. Half an acre is a lot of land for an urban farm; if you focus on high-value crops, you’ll likely exceed what your markets will bear, so you’ll have to offer a wider variety of products. Also, with a farm this size, you’re going to need an employee or two. This 1⁄2-acre model is not ideal for anyone new to farming, but it’s great for those who already have a season or two under their belt.

Setup and most profitable vegetables to grow. This much land would allow for 180 beds. I’d recommend farming an equal amount of HR and BR beds and all the crops I mentioned for the other models, along with some indoor or greenhouse microgreens.

Customers. With this much production and crop diversity, you’ll have the ability to market to a fairly wide customer base, including restaurants and farmers markets, and you could also start a small CSA program. Even at 1⁄2 acre, the primary value of a CSA program is not the income it brings but the upfront cash at the beginning of the season. With this larger farm model, you’ll have higher overhead costs, especially start-up costs. Your fixed costs for seeds, labor, fertilizer, and transport will be considerably higher. Make sure that expanding to a farm this size is worth it. If you can still pursue high-end markets, then your extra profits will absorb any extra costs. However, if you have to engage more lower-yielding market streams, such as CSA programs and more days at farmers markets, you might still make the same net profit. The key to expanding a farm is understanding what your market demand is and whether there’s room to grow. If you’re saturating your markets, then expanding your operation will be pointless. If, however, you’re selling out at the farmers market every week, and you can’t seem to grow enough for your restaurant clients, then obviously you can expand to meet demand.

Time commitment. It would be possible for two full-time employees who are co-owners to operate a farm this size. You might consider hiring some temporary help in summer months for market prep on Friday, but for the most part, two experienced people could farm 1⁄2 acre and still balance life and workflow.

Final Advice for Your Backyard Farming Business

I find it’s best to almost meet demand, but not quite. It’s better to sell everything every week than to not sell 15 percent of your product. I’d rather be 5 percent short than have 5 percent left over. Every time you go home with product, you’re working for free. I’ve maintained work/life balance partly because I sell pretty much everything I grow. If you enjoy gardening on a larger scale and can develop a high-value market, then there’s nothing stopping you from turning your interest into a business.

Curtis Stone owns Green City Acres, a commercial urban farm. During his slower months, he works as a public speaker, teacher, and consultant, sharing his story to inspire a new generation of farmers. Look for The Urban Farmer at the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store.


Backyard Farming and Earning 6 Figures on Just 1.5 Acres

Gardening may just be a new kind of green movement, and one that definitely contributes to sustainable living and self reliance.

Gardening is becoming increasingly popular. As baby boomers retire and have more time to pursue other interests, many of them are taking up gardening. The benefits of gardening are many, and the healthy activity and sunshine for vitamin D, is just the beginning.1)

Strolling through a fresh and flourishing garden in the cool of summer mornings is a meditation that refreshes the spirit. There’s nothing like plucking and munching on a crisp purple pole bean, a sweet cherry tomato, sprig of parsley and some sweet purple basil.

There’s something about fresh picked produce that satisfies cravings and seems to soothe and invigorate at the same time. It’s as if our very cells perk up and take in a deep breath of fresh air.

Yard Gardens and Urban Farming

There’s a growing interest in gardening amongst Baby Boomers, Millennials and GenX-ers as they become increasingly interested in nature, self sustainability, and having healthier foods for themselves and their families.

Many are eager to learn how to make money from home doing things they love to do. Most of us never considered farming as a viable option, yet today Farmer’s Markets are flourishing with small farms and boutique crops as people from all walks of life are gardening and farming for profit. Some are earning supplemental income and others are earning full time income from gardening, urban farms or small farming.

Some are doing—or dreaming of doing—more than subsistence agriculture. Many seek ways work from home as well as how to make money online from entrepreneurial endeavors. Backyard farmers are able to create “value added” products to farming. Some are turning hobbies into profits by selling online through markets like Amazon and Etsy, as well as selling at Farmer’s Markets.

One lady in the Planting for Retirement (PfR) group makes framed art dried flower pictures into framed art and sells from her website as well as on Etsy. Another PfR member makes herbal remedies which she sells through local stores and events as well as online.

People who are into farming, tend naturally toward other handmade goods, such as  such making soap, candle making, jams and pickled products, dried and living floral arrangements, and woodcrafting.


The number one book selling through right now is The Market Gardener by Jean-Martin Fortier, who is earning six figures farming on just a couple acres.

Statistics from The National Garden Association2)

Millennials Garden More Than Ever
In 2008, 8 million Millennials were food gardeners. In 2013, the number had increased 63%, to 13 million. And they spent 89% more on food gardening in 2013 than in 2008, according to the National Gardening Association.3) The increase in Millennials has meant an increase in urban gardening, too, since Millennials move to and live in cities in greater numbers than previous generation at that age. Urban area gardening has grown by 29% in that same five-year period.4)

Farmers Can Make Six Figures on Just a Few Acres of Land

Grow food for yourself and your community with small scale farming. By small I mean you can make a good living farming with under 2 acres.

That’s what Jean-Martin Fortier is successfully doing on just an acre and a half on his award-winning farm, Les Jardins de la Grelinette. This micro farm earns $150,000 in revenue annually, and about 50% of that is net profit.

Here’s what Fortier says about his new book – The Market Gardener: A Successful Grower’s Handbook for Small-Scale Organic Farming:

“I felt that there was a need for a book like this. I have been involved with growing the food movement. My response was to tell people that they can grow and here is how.”

Jean-Martin Fortier, author of The Market Gardener, and his wife Maude-Hélène Desroches
Jean-Martin Fortier, author of The Market Gardener, and his wife Maude-Hélène Desroches. (Image via

Earn a Living from Your Garden

By Olivia Maki on

Fortier’s philosophy is “grow better, not bigger.” Better to him means not only better food that is grown in better soil, but it also means a better quality of life. He prides himself on the fact that he can take winter vacations with his family.


The couple’s approach to growing food is what Fortier refers to as “biologically intensive” or bio intensive, incorporating permaculture methods like conservation tillage,5) building permanent beds, 6) (as opposed to creating new ones every season), and crop rotation 7). Like many young farmers growing in colder climates, Jean-Martin cites Eliot Coleman8) as an inspiration.

The Market Gardener gives the aspiring farmer the sense that they can pick up the book and follow it step-by-step to start their own farm.

The book begins by explaining Fortier’s approach to small-scale farming and ranges from tips on how to choose a site to designing the layout. “The aim is to organize the different workspaces–inside and outside–so that the work flow will be as efficient, practical, and ergonomic as possible,” he says…


Fortier’s approach to basic skills and design concepts can be used all over the world. Jean-Martin and his wife, Maude-Hélène Desroches, have spent time on farms in Cuba, Mexico, and New Mexico which he cites as inspiration. “We had been to Cuba, and we had seen acres and acres of farms running on permanent beds without tractors and thought that was a brilliant way to do it,” says Fortier.“My message is that if you want to get into farming–if you’re young and you don’t have access to land or capital—this is a pretty bright way to do it without a lot of input. And you can make a living,” says Fortier.For an more information on how Jean-Martin Fortier is earning 6 figures per year on just 1.5 acres, we interviewed him for an article on There you will learn important tips on how small micro farms can be more profitable than larger acreage, and how much JM gets to keep after expenses, in addition to which markets are more profitable for selling produce. You can read that article here.

GROWING FOR PROFIT: If you’re interested in learning about earning money from gardening or farming, we invite you to join our Facebook group: Planting for Retirement. We’re a new group of people interested in learning how to supplement our income through growing something by sharing our wins, losses and lessons in the field.

Gardening is becoming increasingly popular. As baby boomers retire and have more time to pursue other interests, many of them are taking up gardening. The benefits of gardening are many, and the healthy activity and sunshine for vitamin D, is just the beginning.

The Advantages of Home Gardens

Home gardens take on many forms, from a few plants in containers to large garden plots in the backyard. Beyond the reward of homegrown produce, gardens provide health, environmental and enjoyment advantages for the gardener. The benefits of a home garden make the physical exertion and costs of gardening worth the effort.

Easy Access

A home garden gives you instant access to fresh produce, so that you’re not forced to visit the grocery store or farmers market to find it. You save time and money on gasoline rather than driving somewhere else to buy your produce. Depending on the type of vegetables you plant, you’ll also save money on the food itself. Growing vegetables at home does cost money on seeds and supplies, such as fertilizer, but a single plant often produces lots of produce, so that you often save money by growing your own. A backyard garden opens up new flavoring options or recipes. For example, if you feel like serving salsa but don’t have a jar on hand, you can use tomatoes, peppers and onions from your garden to make your own.


Growing your own food gives you complete control over the chemicals and products used during the growing process. Organic produce typically costs more at the grocery store, but you can grow your own organic fruits and vegetables at home by skipping the chemical fertilizers and pesticides. A home garden allows you to pick the produce when it is ripe, unlike produce at the store that is often harvested before it is fully ripe. The flavor and quality of the freshly picked produce from a home garden is superior to store-bought produce with unknown chemicals that was likely picked several days or weeks before being sold. The produce retains more nutrients when consumed shortly after harvesting, making your homegrown vegetables a healthier option.

Environmental Impact

A garden provides the opportunity to make a positive environmental impact. A compost pile allows you to recycle certain kitchen and yard waste products into a nutrient-rich additive for the garden. This reduces the waste you produce and provides natural fertilizer for your plants. If you choose to avoid or limit chemical use, you reduce pollution and groundwater contamination from your gardening activities. Garden plants often help reduce erosion by holding the soil in place. Mulching around plants in your home garden further reduces erosion and runoff.


For many homeowners, planting a garden provides enjoyment. Watching your garden go from bare ground to ripe produce or beautiful plants offers a sense of satisfaction. Some gardeners find the activity relaxing and stress-relieving, for overall mental health benefits. Caring for the plants gives the entire family a chance to work together. If you have neighbors who also garden, the activity sometimes offers social interaction. Gardening also offers a form of moderate outdoor exercise.


Photo Credits

  • Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images

About the Author

Based in the Midwest, Shelley Frost has been writing parenting and education articles since 2007. Her experience comes from teaching, tutoring and managing educational after school programs. Frost worked in insurance and software testing before becoming a writer. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education with a reading endorsement.


Benefits of Backyard Poultry Farming: A Trend in Rural India

Today, poultry is one of the fastest growing segments of the agricultural sector in India. Poultry plays an important role in the Indian economy and is an important sub-sector of livestock. Backyard poultry production is an age-old practice in rural India. The state sector has been taking care of backyard poultry units and the capital requirement of its co-operatives. Backyard farming has over the years contributed to a great extent to the agrarian economy of India. It provides livelihood security to the family in addition to securing the availability of food. Unemployed youth and women can also earn an income through poultry farming.

There is plenty of evidence to demonstrate the role of rural backyard poultry husbandry in elevating the food and nutrition security of the poorest households and reducing the livelihood insecurity (Otte, 2006). Backyard poultry is a potent tool for the upliftment of poor because it requires hardly any infrastructure set-up. Besides income generation and poverty reduction, rural backyard poultry can provide better nutrition in the form of valuable animal protein. Impressive growth has been achieved in the intensive poultry farming, but the rural poultry sector lack behind rather stagnant. The native chicken varieties adopted in free-range backyard conditions for centuries contribute about 11% of total egg production in India (Kumaresan et al., 2008).  Due to their low productivity (annual egg production average: 50-60 nos.), their contribution to the total egg output was almost static for the last few decades. Therefore, the consumption of eggs in rural areas is far below the national average egg consumption.

Backyard poultry production system is a low input or no input business and is characterized by indigenous night shelter system, scavenging system, with little supplementary feeding, natural hatching of chicks, poor productivity of birds, local marketing, and no healthcare practice (Mandal et al., 2006).

Advantages of backyard poultry farming

A lot of advantages are there for which rural poultry farming should always be backed up by Government and non-government organizations. Some are listed here;

  1. A low initial investment but higher economic return.
  2. A unit can be started with as low as two chickens to a large flock.
  3. It is free ranging system so feed cost is negligible due to better utilization of agricultural by-products and leftover feed and grains.
  4. Egg and birds can be sold in the local market with a high price because there is a growing demand for local chicken.
  5. Boost up in family income for better utilization of family laborers who are not able to perform other agricultural works like old family member or children.
  6. Backyard poultry farming acts as an ‘ATM’ because as per family needs the birds and eggs can be sold at anytime anywhere with cash in hand.
  7. Quality of chicken and egg is better in terms of organic farming as the birds are raised in stress less environment with natural input.  It is eco-friendly approach.
  8. Gives employment to the rural small-scale and marginal farmers.
  9. Aids in enhancing the soil fertility in backyards (15 chickens produce 1- 1.2 kg of manure/ day).
  10. Products from rural poultry farming fetch high price compared to those from intensive poultry Farming.
  11. Birds reared under free-range conditions give eggs and meat of low cholesterol concentration compared to those produced under intensive poultry farming.

Desi Indian chicken

Desi or indigenous birds are generally poor performers in egg and meat production. To obtain maximum profit from backyard poultry farming there is an urgent need in the country to improve the status of backyard poultry farming with an improved strain, which performs an excellent result when raised in the backyard with low inputs. Understanding the importance of backyard rural poultry farming in India, several research organizations have developed different backyard chicken varieties which have successfully been reared by farmers from many parts of the country. These improved varieties include CARI Nirbheek, CARI Shyama, CARI Upkari, CARI Hitcari, CARI Debendera, Gramapriya, Vanaraja, Giriraja, Swarnadhara, Nandanam Chicken I, Nandanam Chicken II, Nandanam Chicken IV, Narmadanidhi, Himsamridhi, Pratapdhan, Jharsim, Srinidhi, Kamrupa, Kaveri, Rajasri, Kuroiler, Gramalakshmi and Gramasree. These birds combination of native and exotic blood and possess other characteristics essential for backyard/scavenging poultry production. Phenotypically these birds look like their original native breed with two or three times more egg production with bigger size and weight, better tropical adaptability and disease resistance along with the capability of bearing the stress of sub-optimal feeding and management. Backyard poultry system is a common practice all over the country, so government of India funded bodies like ICAR-CARI, State agricultural universities, veterinary colleges, etc. have developed new improved varieties of chicken suitable for backyard system with more productivity in both eggs and meat quality. 

Good practices followed for backyard poultry farming

  1. Disease-free, improved strain, dual-purpose poultry birds may be procured for backyard poultry farming.
  2. Periodical vaccination should be done on regular basis.
  3. Clean drinking water and fungus free feed should be supplied to the birds.
  4. The poultry shed should be regularly cleaned and free from moisture and humid condition.
  5. Overcrowding should be avoided.
  6. If possible there should be separate space for the different age group of birds.
  7. The sick bird should be immediately separated/ culled from the healthy flock.
  8. Poultry equipment particularly waterer and feeder should be regularly cleaned and disinfected.
  9. There should be a restriction for outsider into the poultry shed or farm.
  10. The birds should be free from predators and should not be scared by other animals.
  11. Before procuring new flocks the shed should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.
  12. There should be provision for footbath in front of poultry shed.
  13. During summer and winter months the shed should be protected from the hot or cold wind by hanging curtain around the side of the wall or shed. In summer months water sprinkling also can be done.

In order to increase poultry production at the farmer’s level, a systemic training program should be organized specifically for rural tribal women. Furthermore, adequate arrangements should be made for disease prevention and control. Additionally, extension and motivational work along with technical support should also be conducted in the villages to en-courage farmers to rear and consume more backyard system of poultry production. Since this means for the sustainable livelihood of poorer sections of the society and also contribute to social food security, gender equity and rural employment to women. Improvement of local breeds and their conservation for future can be done hand in hand by Government and farming community.


1,2,4,Ph.D scholar, Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Izatnagar, Bareilly, U. P.

3, scholar, Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Izatnagar, Bareilly, U. P.


Kumaresan A., Bujarbaruah K.M., Pathak K.A., Chhetri B., Ahmed S.K. and Haunshi S. (2008). Analysis of a village chicken production system and performance of improved dual-purpose chickens under a subtropical hill agro-ecosystem in India. Tropical animal health production. 40(6):395-402.

Mandal A.B., Tyagi P.K. and Shrivastav A.K. (2006). Research Priorities in Poultry Nutrition and Feed Technology to 2020. In: Sasidhar, P.V.K. (Ed.). Poultry Research Priorities to 2020, Proceedings of National Seminar, November 2-3, Central Avian Research Institute, Izatnagar, 96-114.

Otte J. (2006). The Hen Which Lays the Golden Eggs: Why Backyard Poultry are so Popular? PPLPI Feature,

Tags:Backyard poultryPoultry IndiaRural farmingAgriculture


Seed, Soil, and Sun: Discovering the Many Healthful Benefits of Gardening

Early in the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, as lockdowns put millions out of work and headlines forecast food shortages, anxious Americans picked up their rakes and spades.

Many people were cut off from social gatherings. They were worried about bare shelves and contaminated grocery stores. And they needed something to occupy schoolchildren.

In response, record numbers of people began cultivating coronavirus victory gardens. In a matter of weeks, seeds, seedlings, and fruit trees sold out online and in gardening centers.

As it turns out, the impulse to garden is actually a great idea — whether or not you’re coping with a crisis — because gardening is one of the healthiest hobbies you can develop. Keep reading to learn about the many benefits of gardening, for you and your community.

Outdoor gardening can help your body fight disease

You’re more like a plant than you may realize. Your body is capable of photosynthesis — the process where plants make their own food using sunlight.

Your skin uses sunlight to make one of the nutrients you need: vitamin DResearchersTrusted Source estimate that a half hour in the sun can produce between 8,000 and 50,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D in your body, depending on how much your clothes cover and the color of your skin.

Vitamin D is essential for literally hundreds of body functions — strengthening your bones and your immune system are just two of them. StudiesTrusted Source have also shown that being out in the sun can help lower your risk of:

If your vitamin D levels are low, you have a greater risk of developing psoriasis flares, metabolic syndrome (a prediabetes condition), type II diabetes, and dementia, as well.

All of these factors have to be balanced against the risk of skin cancer from overexposure to the sun’s rays, of course. But the science is clear: A little sunshine in the garden goes a very long way in your body.

Gardening builds strength, promotes sleep, and helps you maintain a healthy weight

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source says gardening is exercise. Activities like raking and cutting grass might fall under the category of light to moderate exercise, while shoveling, digging, and chopping wood might be considered vigorous exercise.

Either way, working in a garden uses every major muscle group in the body. This fact won’t surprise anyone who’s woken up sore after a day of yardwork.

Studies have found that the physical exertion of working in a garden may help offset both age-related weight gainTrusted Source and childhood obesityTrusted Source. And researchers at the University of Pennsylvania reported that people who garden are more likely to get a solid 7 hours of sleep at night.

Gardening can help protect your memory as you get older 

Doctors have also known for some time that exercise improves cognitive functioning in the brain. There’s some debate about whether gardening on its own is enough to affect cognitive skills like memory. But new evidence shows that gardening activities may spur growth in your brain’s memory-related nerves.

Researchers in Korea gave 20-minute gardening activities to people being treated for dementia in an inpatient facility. After the residents had raked and planted in vegetable gardens, researchers discovered increased amounts of some brain nerve growth factors associated with memory in both males and females.

In a 2014 research review, analysts found that horticultural therapy — using gardening to improve mental health — may be an effective treatment for people with dementia.

In fact, in the Netherlands and Norway, people with dementia often participate in groundbreaking Greencare programs, where they spend a large part of the day working on farms and in gardens.

Gardening is a mood booster

Studies in the United States and abroad have found that gardening improves your mood and increases your self-esteem. When people spend time in a garden, their anxiety levels drop and they feel less depressed.

In a multi-year study published in 2011Trusted Source, people with depression participated in a gardening intervention for 12 weeks. Afterward, researchers measured several aspects of their mental health, including depression symptoms, finding that all of them were significantly improved. And those improvements lasted for months after the intervention ended.

Gardening calms you after stressful events

Working in a garden can help you recuperate if you’ve experienced something stressful.

In a 2011 study, researchers exposed study participants to a stressful activity. Then they asked half the group to spend time quietly reading and the other half to spend time gardening.

When researchers tested the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their bodies, they found that the gardening group had recovered from the stress better than the reading group. The gardening group also reported that their moods had returned to a positive state — while fewer of the readers had.

Gardening is an effective tool if you’re recovering from addiction

Horticultural therapy has been around for millennia, so it probably won’t surprise you to learn that working with plants is part of many addiction recovery programs.

In one study, researchers noted that plants provoked positive feelings in people recovering from alcohol addiction, and were an effective rehabilitation tool.

In another studyTrusted Source, people in an addiction rehabilitation program were given an opportunity to participate in natural recovery, where they were allowed to choose either art or gardening as their natural therapy. People who chose gardening completed the rehab program at a higher rate and reported a more satisfying experience than those who chose art.

Family and community gardens foster feelings of connection

School gardens, family gardens, and community gardens are sprouting everywhere. The reason these small local gardens are flourishing may have as much to do with human interaction as it does with the produce.

In one studyTrusted Source, students who participated in school gardens took photos of their work and shared what they experienced. Students reported that the skills they learned and relationships they formed gave them a sense of personal well-being.

Working in a garden with people of different ages, abilities, and backgrounds is a way to expand both what you know and who you know.

Tending to a young gardener?

Share these books with the growing readers in your life:

You can find these books at your local library or bookstore, or order them online by clicking the above links.


Gardening can give you a sense of agency and empowerment

Growing your own garden has, historically, been a way to resist injustice and claim space in a world that doesn’t always respond to your needs.

During the forced internment of Japanese Americans in concentration camps in the American West, thousands of gardens sprang up behind the barbed wire enclosures. Stone gardens, vegetable gardens, ornamental landscapes with waterfalls and ponds — each cultivated to reclaim both land and cultural identity.

In an ecofeminist study entitled “Sisters of the Soil: Urban Gardening as Resistance in Detroit,” researcher Monica White describes the work of eight Black women who looked at gardening as a way to push back against “the social structures that have perpetuated inequality in terms of healthy food access,” allowing them “to create outdoor, living, learning, and healing spaces for themselves and for members of the community.”

As they plowed neglected land and cultivated crops in the midst of barren food deserts, these gardeners were simultaneously improving their own health outcomes, fighting against unresponsive corporate food suppliers, and building a sense of self-determination.

If you’re looking for a way to combat inequities in the food system — or any injustice in your own life — you can begin with this powerful act: Grow something of your own.

Read more about gardening from authors of color

You can find these books at your local library or bookstore, or order them online by clicking the above links.


Gardening can help you manage ecoanxiety

The American Psychological Association echoes the findings of numerous researchers: For many people, watching the gradual, unchecked effects of climate change is increasing daily stress levels and creating a burdensome sense of guilt.

One of the most difficult aspects of this ecoanxiety? ResearchersTrusted Source say it’s the feeling that you’re powerless to do anything about it.

To combat the negative health effects of ecoanxiety, you can garden with the aim of mitigating climate change. The National Wildlife Foundation recommends these actions if you want to cut carbon on your own — and in doing so, cut down on your own environmental anxiety:

  • Use manual tools instead of gas-powered ones.
  • Use drip lines, rain barrels, and mulch to cut your water consumption.
  • Compost to reduce waste and decrease methane production.
  • Turn your yard into a Certified Wildlife Habitat and encourage your neighbors to do the same.
  • Plant trees to absorb carbon dioxide.

You’ll need to take care of yourself while gardening

As is true of almost any activity, gardening poses certain risks to your health and safety. The CDC recommends that you take these precautions while you’re in the garden:

  • Pay attention to product directions any time you’re using chemicals in the garden. Some pesticides, weed killers, and fertilizers can be dangerous if used incorrectly.
  • Wear gloves, goggles, long pants, closed-toe shoes, and other safety gear, especially if you’re using sharp tools.
  • Use bug spray and sunscreen.
  • Drink lots of water and take frequent shade breaks to prevent overheating.
  • Keep a close eye on children. Sharp tools, chemicals, and outdoor heat may pose more of a threat to kids.
  • Listen to your body. It’s easy to injure yourself when you’re toting bags of mulch and hoisting shovels full of dirt.
  • Make sure you have a tetanus vaccination once every 10 years, as tetanus lives in the soil.

Key takeaways 

Gardening invites you to get outside, interact with other gardeners, and take charge of your own need for exercise, healthy food, and beautiful surroundings.

If you’re digging, hauling, and harvesting, your physical strength, heart health, weight, sleep, and immune systems all benefit. And those are just the physiological outcomes. Gardening can also cultivate feelings of empowerment, connection, and creative calm.

Whether your patch is large or small, a raised bed, community garden, or window box, getting dirty and eating clean are good for you.

Last medically reviewed on June 17, 2020


Six Benefits of Growing Your Own Food

Get out your gardening tools and stock up on seeds. Growing your own food provides fresh ingredients for your meals, but you’ll soon see other benefits of home gardens that you may not have expected. Here are six ways to make the most of growing your own vegetables:

1. Control your crops

Growing your own produce lets you control what ends up on your family’s table. You decide what fertilizer, water and pest control to use, as well as whether to grow organic. Be sure to do research on the following:

  • Your hardiness zone
  • Plant water needs
  • Plant sunlight needs
  • Fertilizer safety and types
  • Pest and weed control options

2. Live the ‘fresh is best’ lifestyle

Nothing beats flavor-and-nutrient-packed power of fresh-picked fruits and vegetables. Once harvested, produce begins to lose moisture and nutrients. At the grocery store, the freshness of your vegetables is largely out of your control. But when you’ve grow your own fruits and vegetables, you can know exactly when they’ve been picked and how fresh they are.

3. Make your yard inviting

A vegetable and fruit garden can add life, color and beauty to your backyard. The smell of ripening strawberries and the sight of crisp cucumbers are a warm invitation to people and pollinators alike. Plants that sport beautiful flowers to encourage pollination—like beans, peas and fruit trees—can really make a splash in your backyard. Plus, the insects they attract will likely pollinate other plants as well, making your whole garden grow faster.

When you decide where to put your garden, keep in mind what plants may need. Do plants need a lot of sun or a lot of shade—or a little of both? Depends on what you’re growing. Read the tag that comes with the plant or look it up in a gardening guide. Give plants the right amount of sun exposure they need to thrive. Also be careful not to place plants too close together. Follow the spacing instructions to allow plants room to flourish fully.

4. Cut down on your grocery budget

One of the biggest advantages of growing your own food is that it can save you money. The price of a pack of seeds is almost equivalent to what you would pay for a single vegetable or fruit at the store. It may even cost less when you factor in the money spent on the gas used to drive to the supermarket. Plus, you can grow organic vegetables for a fraction of what they retail for in store. When taking food costs into consideration, gardening can become an appealing option to cut back on your grocery bill.

5. Make gardening a family hobby

a girl holding a vegetable in a garden

Gardening is a fun, family-friendly activity that allows kids to get their hands dirty and learn where their food comes from. From planting seedlings to building salads together, starting a vegetable garden is a great way to get your family off the couch and onto their feet.

6. Make your health a priority

There’s one important nutrient gardening can give you before you even take a bite of your produce: vitamin D. The sun’s rays promote vitamin D production, which is vital to our health. Tending a backyard garden for about 30 minutes daily can promote better sleep and positive energy. Just remember the sunscreen.

Now that you see the benefits of starting a vegetable and fruit garden, learn how to plant one in 10 simple steps.288


Urban agriculture: A viable safety net for the urban poor during times of crisis?

One of the most devastating side effects of COVID-19 and the associated national lockdowns is the impact it is having on food access for the poor. Sub-Saharan Africa, with an already fragile food system, where rapid urbanisation and the rise of urban poverty pose substantial challenges to food security and nutrition, is likely to be hit the hardest. A simulation by the IGC shows that an eight-week lockdown could result in 168 million people across sub-Saharan Africa no longer being able to afford their usual food consumption. As leaders scramble to respond, various stakeholders have highlighted urban agriculture as a solution to improving the resilience of the urban poor to this, and other future shocks. But such a proposal requires further scrutiny: although urban agriculture can bring significant benefits of improved nutrition and community stability, urban land is scarce, and locking the city into a low-value activity could hamper future productivity if it is not adequately regulated.

Transforming unused city space into nutrition, economic opportunity, and resilience

Urban agriculture involves individuals, families, or communities growing crops or keeping livestock within their plots (backyard farming), on rented urban land, or on institutional lands such as schools and hospitals. It can also include using derelict or underutilised open spaces such as roadsides, along railway lines, under power lines, rooftops and marshland. A variety of crops and livestock are produced, often using novel methods to make the most of limited space and resources, including vertical gardens made from sacks and hydroponics systems using mineral nutrient solutions instead of soil.

It is surprising how much food can be produced from such little land: research shows that yields are usually much higher on smaller farms, and urban farming operations are no different. Just a square metre can yield 30kg of tomatoes a year, 100 onions in 120 days or 36 lettuce heads every 60 days; and with modest water requirements of just three litres a day. Old car tyres, lined wooden crates and redundant plastic containers are all inexpensive ways to grow root crops, vegetables, mushrooms and fruit. Moreover, vertically stacked chicken and rabbit houses, using locally sourced material, substantially increases the number of animals that can be raised, providing an important source of dietary protein.

Produce from urban agriculture is usually consumed by the family or community. For poor urban households that typically spend up to 80% of their income on food, home production has the potential to provide substantial savings, with the additional advantage of dietary diversification and improved nutrition. For larger operations, there is also often surplus that can be sold at the side of the road or at the increasing number of city farmers’ markets, providing welcome additional income for the farmer. Studies in Senegal have shown that just ten square metres can yield between USD I5 and USD 30 a month in excess produce sold. Other benefits include increased urban greening, shorter supply chains, building community cohesion, and creating productive opportunities for the youth, women, elderly and disabled.

What’s the catch?

Urban agriculture will never be the bedrock of national food security. Given the scarcity and high cost of urban land, it is unable to reach the scale required for mass affordable food production in the same way that rural agriculture can. High yields do not make up for the significant logistical costs of numerous micro-farms, and would require strong cooperatives for quality control, marketing and transportation of goods to even come close to competing with rural operations. Moreover, cities are only places that promote productivity and liveability when they are densely populated with close connectivity between people and work. Urban land needs to be invested in and transferred to its highest value use, reducing sprawl and enhancing the efficiency of city operations.

By this logic, however, vacant and underutilised urban land can be made more efficient by devoting it to more informal urban agriculture practices. In these cases, no market-related rents need to be covered, and any farming conducted will be on a micro-scale. However, this usually means farmers’ land rights will be tenuous, leaving them vulnerable to be removed by city authorities or legal owners of the land at any time. Contestation around land rights can also prevent vacant land being used for urban agriculture from being transferred to a more productive urban activity in the future. Thus, while land use may be made more efficient in the short run, it can be impeded in the long run.

Urban agriculture in times of crisis

Although not the solution to all economic and food security problems of the poor as many claim it to be, urban agriculture does have the potential to improve the resilience of communities to market shocks. Markets are prone to internal supply chain shocks as well as external physical and economic shocks, thereby impacting prices and market participation. The current coronavirus pandemic is a clear example of such a shock, disrupting supply chains and eliminating incomes to access food through the restrictions placed on movement of people and goods. In some countries, food prices have risen by more than 100% due to panic buying, in tandem with large portions of the population losing their incomes.

The trade and distribution disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the value of short and local supply chains during times of crisis, with less transportation, lower storage and refrigeration costs and greater variety of fresh food. Further, local produce from backyard gardens and other available spaces are proving to be vital safety nets for many low-income urban dwellers, providing essential food supplies within their neighbourhoods. In some cases, even taking off as viable economic enterprises as demand for local and innovative food delivery services increases. African cities may be particularly amenable given that vacant and underutilised land can often be found in abundance; while so too can the urban poor – a vast majority of whom are under-employed and vulnerable to crises.

Implications for cities’ COVID-19 policy response

Unfortunately, urban agriculture falls between the two stools of agricultural and urban development policies; as such, it is mostly unregulated, unrecognised and receives no public assistance. This results in a haphazard and high-risk approach by urban farmers. For urban agriculture to be a viable option to improving the resilience of urban dwellers to the economic shock of COVID-19, it first needs to be recognised as a legitimate solution. For example, urban farming has now been highlighted as a critical part of the Freetown City Council’s COVID-19 preparedness and response plan, with the rationale that it will increase compliance and resilience in informal settlement communities when lockdown measures are in place. Provisions have thus been made for training to be provided by extension officers, as well as distribution of vegetable seeds, holding devices (such as pots and tyres), tools and soil.

However, for long-term success, this recognition needs to be complemented by clear regulations that capture the short-term benefits whilst avoiding the long-term costs. We need to place urban agriculture within the broader food system, assessing trade-offs with urban land use planning and better distribution networks to low-cost, large-scale rural food production. Its promotion and control need to be integrated into national and local agricultural development strategies, food and nutrition policies, and urban planning policy instruments. Ongoing training would be needed to make urban farmers self-sufficient over time, and strong logistics solutions combined with e-commerce initiatives should be supported for more efficient distribution of goods. In this way, urban agriculture can provide a productive activity to help the most vulnerable citizens of the city weather this crisis, without impeding future urban development.


Farming Cities: the Potential Environmental Benefits of Urban Agriculture

With urbanization being a common theme for the future, urban agriculture has long been considered a possible solution to growing food while also reducing human impact on the environment. Farming in cities “takes the form of backyard, roof-top and balcony gardening, community gardening in vacant lots and parks, roadside urban fringe agriculture and livestock grazing in open space” (Urban Agriculture, 2016). Such changes that urban agriculture would demand are under intense scrutiny. Questions arise as to whether it can be applied on a large enough scale to be of any worth, and whether the costs of implementation might be too high compared to those of current agricultural practices. The current practices are unlikely to ever be discontinued, though they are proven to have unmistakably negative environmental impacts. Such impacts are especially evident in those cases which employ the use of chemical fertilizers, synthetic pesticides, and industrialized machinery (Industrial Agriculture, 2013).

The value of urban agriculture lies in places other than largescale application, however. Not only are its methods more environmentally friendly, it could also have a potentially remediating effect on the damage urban activity is exacting on the environment. Van Leeuwen et al. (2010) acknowledges a wealth of services vegetation performs, “all contributing to a healthier urban climate for both humankind and nature” (p.21). These broadly embody moderation in one form or another of rainfall, erosion, temperature change, and solar radiation, all of which take place in urban settings. Van Leeuwen et al. (2010) also discussed the theme of organic methods and community effort common within the modern practice of urban farming (p. 22). Research into its key functions such as decreased land-use and pollution mitigation have proved to be potentially beneficial. However, concerns abound for its capability of being sustained long term, the cost of implementation compared to traditional agriculture, and if this implementation is plausible on a larger scale. The root of doubt ultimately lies in the risk of adopting a more invested system of urban agriculture. The question is whether such implementation will result in a progression toward healing the bond between humans and nature, or if it might just prove to be an irreversible blunder.

Benefits and Capacities of Urban Farming

In many ways, the value of urban agriculture lies in its potential to address concerns raised by urban development and human activity. Ackerman et al. (2014) explore one of the environmental benefits of farming in cities. The authors introduce the phenomenon of the “Urban Heat Island (UHI)” (p. 192), the observed higher temperatures in urban areas relative to nearby rural areas. One of the primary reasons for the rise in global temperature is the excess of greenhouse gases, mostly CO2, which trap the heat from solar radiation reflected from Earth’s surface, instead of letting it back through the atmosphere. Not only do cities give off more heat because of their high levels of human activity, they also give off more emissions because of this human activity. Consequentially, their “micro-atmospheres” trap more heat. In addition, the abundance of steel, glass, and other reflective surfaces in such a closed area act like a series of mirrors, reflecting solar radiation instead of absorbing it. Thus, cities are typically found to be warmer than other areas, anywhere from 0.6°C to 12°C warmer (Ackerman et al., 2014, p. 192). Enough plants in an urban setting, Ackerman et al. (2014) claim, would provide several benefits. These benefits are akin to those global ecosystem services rendered valuable to the entire human race. One obvious service is the shade larger plants like trees would provide. In general, leaf cover “blocks and redistributes incoming solar radiation and diffuses light reflected from nearby urban surfaces” (Ackerman et al., 2014, p. 192). Barring agriculture, such an effect can be achieved with simple planting on roofs and roadsides. However, introducing the agricultural element would afford green spaces the additional function of providing food.

While an increase in planting and greenspaces in cities helps to mitigate the effects of human activity, the UHI may not be an entirely negative development. George et al. (2008) observe the effect of the urban microclimate on plants. Warmer environments created by cities, specifically Baltimore in this study, seem to result in a higher plant biomass, particularly with perennials. Over the period of five years, the cumulative plant biomass and speed of succession in the urban area were both greater than that of the suburban and rural sites (George et al., 2008, p. 641). Biomass, however, is not the only measure of value. One must also view the diversity of the plants that grew at all three sites, that is, the variance in the species that grew there. By the end of the five years, annuals were all but absent from the urban site, with perennials, particularly the woody variety, being the most dominant (George et al., 2008, p. 642). George et al. (2008) offered the explanation that annuals, more akin to pioneer or primary succession plants, cannot compete well for resources against the larger perennials. Here is seen the ecological phenomenon of secondary succession. By contrast, there was a balance at the other two sites between the annuals, herbaceous perennials, and woody perennials at the end of the five year period (George et al., 2008, p. 642). Perhaps, though, if the study had proceeded for another five years, they would have observed a similar process of secondary succession in suburban and rural areas, but at a slower rate than in the urban area. This may appear to be a positive development, though more research is necessary to understand its full extent. Considering, the aforementioned functions of plants in cities, and those arising from increased secondary succession, may help to cool these urban microclimates.

In addition to heat and emissions mitigation, urban farming may have an effect on the storm water that falls in cities, in terms of both volume and quality. Green roofs are proven to reduce storm water runoff by anywhere from about 52 percent, all the way to 100 percent (Ackerman et al., 2014, p. 193), since the plants themselves take up water as part of their biological processes. They also are found to have an effect on the water they do not take up. Whittinghill et al. (2016) studied the effects of different greenspaces in New York City on storm water. The greenspace studied was a rooftop farm, and the pH levels, conductivity, turbidity, and apparent color of its runoff were compared to those of non-vegetated rooftops, previously studied greenspaces from other literature, and unaltered rain (that which did not fall on greenspaces) (Whittinghill et al., 2016, p.199). This runoff comparison revealed pH levels to be much lower in the rainwater than that of the runoff (Whittinghill et al., 2016, p. 199). Such levels are within the EPA’s parameters of safe drinking water, which lie between 5 and 9 (Whittinghill et al., 2016, p. 198). This is perhaps evidence to suggest that city greenspaces can help neutralize the acidity of rainwater. In addition to storm water purification, Leake et al. (2009) point out that “potential health benefits [of urban farms] may significantly offset or compensate for the apparently minor risks that follow from the higher loads of environmental pollutants” in urban settings, such as fertilizers, pesticides, and other emissions (p. 5). Many of the benefits encompassed in urban farms are, however, would still hold if they were merely urban greenspaces. Once the need to grow crops for food is introduced, a new set of complications arise.

Potential Shortcomings of Urban Agriculture over Simple Greenspaces

Although there is significant advantage to urban agriculture, it is not without its limitations. Concerns about urban agriculture seem to reveal several limitations present not only within its own system, but also in the current system of its implementation. Two of the seemingly largest concerns for largescale urban farming are to create an environment suitable for growing plants, and to find enough space in cities to grow them. While rooftop farming is not affected as much by these concerns, they must be addressed for ground-level urban farming, if that is to be implemented. One basic need of plants is light. While, plants could still be grown outdoors in urban environments, the potential for complication is greater considering the presence of skyscrapers and the shadows they cast. Another necessary resource is arable soil, and contaminated soil, being a common occurrence in urban areas, poses an obstacle to this necessity. LaCroix (2014) singles out lead as an especially prevalent and problematic contaminant. Its sources include “lead-based paints and leaded gasoline.” Although these have long since been “phased out of production,” their dangerous by-products still linger in the soils of many older urban areas (LaCroix, 2014). Other contaminants consist of various solvents, including organic compounds, compounds derived from fossil fuels, and other heavy metals (EPA, 2011). Not only do these contaminants pose adverse effects, they can reach humans in a variety of different ways. Skin contact is the most direct, but contaminants can also be absorbed from the soil by plants and incorporated into their tissues (LaCroix, 2014). The concept of biological magnification dictates that concentration of a contaminant increases as it travels through the tissues of successive trophic levels in a food chain (Tran, 1999). Since humans would be consuming the plants grown in the contaminated soil, the concentration entering the human body is even higher.

Despite the aforementioned positive effects of a rooftop farm on storm water runoff, Whittinghill et al. (2016) found a few negative impacts as well. The authors acknowledge the variation of climate from area to area (p. 196). This presents the difficulty of drawing a definitive conclusion about the positive effect of greenspaces on storm water. Another concern is the concentration of macronutrients introduced into the storm water through the plants. The use of fertilizers and organic matter like that found in compost introduce another level of complexity into the storm water mitigation system. The farm Whittinghill et al. (2016) studied released runoff with significantly high levels of nitrate, ammonium, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and sodium compared to the storm water that did not fall on the farm (p. 200). Nitrate and phosphate are of especially high concern. High enough levels in the waterways in and around cities lead to eutrophication, algal blooms, dead zones, and the eventual and undesirable degradation of surrounding ecosystems. Some of the nitrogen and phosphorus could perhaps be absorbed by landscape surrounding the runoff area, potentially serving as an additional agricultural zone. Although the concentrations of macronutrients in runoff from this rooftop farm are lower compared to those from traditional agricultural runoff, some levels still exceed EPA guidelines for safe exposure (Whittinghill et al., 2016, p. 203). Waters running from urban farms could also potentially carry pesticides with them. These waters are reaching and disturbing local natural water systems, whether through point sources such a discharge pipes running from urban sewage, or through nonpoint source, meaning diffusion through the land that absorbs the water (LaCroix, 2014).

While creating a suitable environment for starting and maintaining a farm may be a matter of planning and gradual remediation in cities, spatial considerations present entirely different difficulties. In the way of scale, one must ask whether a city-wide network of urban agriculture would be implemented with the intention of feeding and sustaining some of its inhabitants, and consequently, how much space would be required to accomplish such a goal. Kessler (2013) recognizes the advantages of vacant lots and empty rooftops and making them green. Other possible spaces include parks, old playing fields, and even cemetery land. Though Pfeiffer et al. (2013) acknowledge that the “development of urban agriculture enterprises is strongly influenced by access to land” (p. 82), the problem truly lies in spatial limitations and the parameters these impose upon the degree to which urban agriculture can sustain even part of a city population. Such an ambition would seem to undermine the real potential of urban farming on a smaller scale, and would perhaps dissuade people of its potential entirely. Ackerman et al. (2014) provide results from a multi-year study from the Urban Design Laboratory at the Earth Institute, examining the plausibility of adequate food production from urban farms in New York City, as well as implications for the sustainability of such an undertaking. They found a correlation between “inadequate healthy food access, high incidence of diet-related diseases, [and] greater percentage of vacant land” (p. 196). Thus the spatial distribution of potential farming areas is conducive to produce demand. That being said, acreage estimates for sufficient land to grow produce range from 162,000 to 232,000, but the actual estimated capacity of potential growing spaces fall vastly short of these figures (Ackerman et al., 2014, p. 195). These findings, however should not deter plans of implementing urban farming where it is possible to do so.

Another large concern seems to be the degree to which the installation of an urban farm from site to site fluctuates in cost. Pfeiffer et al. (2013) have found that “availability and affordability of urban land can vary tremendously” (p. 82). Included within this variability would presumably be the unpredictability of the cost of site treatment. Is the land to be privately or publically owned (Angotti, 2015, p. 338)? Would the farm be commercial or local and affordable (p. 338)? And while the land can be found, bought, and treated, gaining access to other resources adds another level of complication to the spatial issue. Water, for instance, is not readily available in all areas, and so “access to a reliable water supply…can also limit site selection” (Pfeiffer, 2013, p. 84). On a sociological note, Angotti (2015) notes the danger of romanticizing urban farming. Building and maintaining a farm of any kind entails hard manual work that “can either address or exacerbate deep divisions of class, race, gender, and age” (p. 339). In the way of additional costs after installation, one must ask whether would labor be paid or unpaid (p. 339). If urban agriculture were implemented with high enough degree of intention, it could very well become its own industry, demanding its own force of paid workers, a point of success. On the other hand, urban farming could be viewed as a community undertaking on a local level, aimed at volunteering, cohesiveness, and group responsibility. The more urban farming grows as an idea and a reality, the more diverse it becomes, as noted by Cohen et al. (2015), “in terms of goals, forms and participants” (p. 104). Because of the vast expansion and diversification of urban agriculture, as well as a lack of coordination between already existing farms, difficulties arise in determining “how to effectively allocate resources to support” it (Cohen et al., 2015, p. 104). A network of urban agriculture as can be presently visualized with all these stipulations taken into consideration is patchwork at best, hardly an integrated system, but a network nonetheless, and a very feasible one at that.

Answering Concerns about Urban Farming

Barring its many limitations, urban agriculture should be viewed as a thing to be improved and built upon. As it is, solutions, amendments, and additional considerations in light of its apparent shortcomings are not entirely absent from research. For instance, LaCroix (2014) details practices used to make soil more conducive to this new sort of land-use. She warns against the immediate planting of “root and tuber crops” whose edible parts have direct contact with the contaminated soil, and instead recommends starting with plants that produce aboveground fruiting bodies. The EPA (2011) also suggests ways in which prospective urban farmers can help to avoid adverse effects of contaminated soil. One passive solution—passive in the sense of not adding anything to the system—is the use of raised beds (p. 6). A few active solutions employ the use of “soil amendments to stabilize contaminants” and the replacement of contaminated soil with “clean soil” brought in from somewhere else (p. 6). One common amendment is compost, whose organic material helps to dilute the contaminants in the soil (p. 9). One long-term, but more natural approach uses “phytotechnologies, which utilize plants to extract, degrade, contain, or immobilize contaminants” (p. 6). To prevent the previously discussed bioaccumulation through the food chain, these plants require special disposal (p. 6). By contrast, Leake et al. (2009) report the active replacement of the entire topsoil at one site (p. 4). However, such undertakings as or similar to this are labor- and cost-intensive (Kessler, 2013, p. A331), which would impact a cost-benefit analysis of starting an urban farm in the first place. Systems already in place, such as Pittsburgh’s AgRecycle, are capable of providing such services as soil replacement and amendments city-wide (AgRecycle, 2016). Although some of the more organic and passive methods presented for remediating soil entail gradual, long-term processes, ultimately contaminants can be cycled out, providing a more conducive growing environment for urban agriculture.

In answer to concerns about urban farming, water supply and quality must also be addressed. The issue of supplying enough water to urban areas for farming presents another challenge to cost-benefit analysis of urban agriculture. In many areas of the country according to Smith (2008), the cost of potable is higher than that of raw water, which refers to “untreated, nonpotable agricultural water” already used for traditional agriculture (p. 98). Previously, potable water was much cheaper, but over the years circumstances have reversed, and although the majority of the water supply in urban areas is used to water the landscape, many systems do not have a supply of the now less costly raw water. Smith sets forth a dual system of irrigation, one with potable water and one with raw water for urban landscape irrigation, typically supplied to agricultural lands by “mutual irrigation companies,” or “ditch companies” (Smith, 2008, p. 97). Such a system, Smith argues, could be applied to urban areas (p. 97), in which case the raw water would be the portion provide to farms in the cities. Storm water is a resource to be taken advantage of for watering urban farms, but as mentioned before, the quality of this runoff is a potential issue. While there is a specific standard yet to be determined for appropriate macronutrient levels in this runoff, there are methods for mitigating the impact it has on surrounding natural ecosystems. Whittinghill et al. (2016) suggest a simple reduction in the loading of fertilizers and pesticides. In general, an organic approach to farming is more desirable for minimal environmental impact.

Permaculture is one such organic technique used with increasing frequency. The word “permaculture” combines the words “permanent,” “agriculture,” and “culture” (Akhtar et al., 2016, p.32). It is defined as a “land use and community building movement which strives for the harmonious integration of human dwellings, microclimate, annual and perennial plants, animals, soils, and water into stable, productive communities” (Diver, 2014). While it is by no means specific to urban farming, it could prove to be an invaluable asset to the movement itself. Adaptation on the part of humans would mean adopting such a way of thinking and growing food that will help to reduce the need for manmade pesticides and fertilizers. Thus, with the further mitigating attribute of permaculture integrated into its design, urban agriculture could be presented as an attractive alternative to traditional industrialized agriculture. Permaculture is more than just a method, though, it is a theory of human interactions with the rest of nature (Akhtar et al., 2016, p. 32). It is a set of ethical constraints that dictates the design of sustainable farming systems, something which Akhtar et al. (2016) use to propose a more natural scheme of management.

Most commercial and industrialized agricultural systems revolve around vast plots of a single crop, such as those seen in American cotton, corn, and wheat fields (Industrial Agriculture, 2013). Contrary to this practice of monoculture, permaculture involves the “exploration of nature’s pattern” (Akhtar et al., 2016, p. 32). It acknowledges and employs not only the functions performed by the elements of a natural system, but also the interrelatedness of such a system and its elements. When considering the long-term sustainability of permaculture the concept of regeneration is crucial. Rhodes et al. (2015) include it with their suggestions for permaculture. They define it as the idea that “a completed object can generate more energy than was used in its own manufacture,” which they describe as “emergy, or embodied energy” (2015, p. 404). For instance, a wind turbine would be regenerative if the energy cost of its manufacture and installation was at some point surpassed by the amount of energy it produces during its lifetime. That is, if it produces enough energy to make another one. Such a concept can be applied across a plethora of processes, but we will maintain focus on what it means for urban farming.

In terms of food production, a system is regenerative if it employs a constant cycle of feeding by-products of its crops back into the system itself (e.g., composting plants post-harvest and leaves dropped from city trees to use as nutrient rich soil for the next planting) (Rhodes et al., 2015, p. 404). Included in the design Rhodes et al. (2015) set forth is the idea of “resilience” in which the system can maintain a given function in several different ways (p. 404). A greater level of resilience would seem to arise from a greater diversity of elements in the system. Ensuring a certain yield from a system with less resilience would perhaps demand artificial forcing for greater output than is natural, an example of non-regenerative farming. Such artificial forcing could come in the form of fertilizers, which would introduce further toxins into the system and aforementioned runoff. It could also come from machinery fired by fossil fuels, which would introduce further emissions into the atmosphere. Less energy focused on artificial means of growing food and more energy focused on employing an organic and more naturally-oriented means would perhaps result in less environmental contamination. Permaculture paired with urban agriculture would by no means replace traditional agriculture, but may help to mitigate its environmental impacts in providing a potentially competitive alternative to growing food in cities. In addition, urban farming integrated with these organic approaches would offer better locally-sourced food options, and would perhaps lessen the demand for more highly-processed and non-regenerative foods while increasing overall health.

While the complete dependence of cities on their urban agriculture seems unattainable given the results from Ackerman et al. (2014), it is not to say local production cannot be greatly beneficial. For example, some crops need very little space to grow, making their growth in urban settings more favorable (Ackerman et al., 2014, p. 195). Combined with biointensive methods, Ackerman et al. (2014) estimated that the amount of tomatoes consumed each year in NYC could be grown on just 8,260 acres (p. 195). In addition, these biointensive methods require less than half the normal amount of water and land, and little to no fertilizer (Ecology Action, 2006). For over forty years, John Jeavons, the director of Ecology Action, has been educating communities around the world on the biointensive method, providing information on effective farming to the public (Ecology Action, 2006). Peiffer et al. (2013) introduce similar ideas of “space-intensive” growing, which implement “dense spacing and intercropping,” as well as an emphasis on careful “field design” (p. 88). Another solution is to create a suitable year-round conditions conducive to growing, instead of relying only on the warmer months (Pfeiffer et al., 2013, p. 88). As a way of extending the growing season, greenhouses are often implemented, which trap heat from solar radiation and keep an area warm even during colder months. Sethi (2009) experimentally determined the optimum rooftop greenhouse design and orientation for the highest absorption of solar radiation. The greenhouse with an “uneven span” (meaning larger south-facing roof and wall than north-facing) and an east-west orientation was found to receive the highest amount of solar radiation (p. 53). The design has a sloped roof and vertical sides, in contrast with designs of slanted sides or arched roofs, which were found not to absorb as much solar radiation (p. 47). This difference in designs and orientation illustrates the importance of careful planning in urban agricultural technique for maximum crop yield.

Another concept prevalent today which addresses the spatial problem is “Zero-Acreage Farming” or ZFarming. The intention of ZFarming, as described by Specht et al., (2014) is to “create entities linking food production and buildings with multiple uses of residential or industrial waste resources (e.g., waste water, waste heat, organic waste) to establish a small-scale resource saving system” (p. 34). Similar to the aforementioned permaculture, ZFarming contains an element of regeneration in its design, since it is cycling various types of waste back into the system. Although its name implies no use of space whatsoever, ZFarming, and especially a largescale application of such, is by no means truly “zero-acreage”. The idea is simply that it employs space that is already present in and on buildings. However, in comparison to conventional agriculture, which consumes thousands of acres of open landscape, ZFarming uses next to nothing in the way of square footage, especially when implemented on pre-existing rooftops.

In their research, Thomaier et al. (2015) found that over 64% of all ZFarming practices in developed countries is comprised of rooftop farms or gardens (p. 45). In addition, almost 70% of ZFarms employ soil-based methods, which for rooftops entails “soil placed directly on rooftop” (p. 46). This often requires the use of greenroof technology such as greenhouses. While rooftops are integral to ZFarming, however, the very fact that they are pre-existing would raise concerns about their integrity. Depending on their age, they are limited in their ability to maintain a certain structural capacity in accepting soil and water loading. Repercussions of overloading could be disastrous, resulting in degradation in building integrity, or even roof collapse. To prevent this, Pfeiffer et al. (2013) suggest use of lightweight soil or soilless alternatives, which include “expanded slate, shale, or clay mixed with sand and compost” as well as “coir [coconut fiber] based potting material” (p. 87). Another alternative technique to soil loading is hydroponics, a soilless method of growing plants in a “nutrient solution root medium” (Hydroponics, 2016). Because of its need for such unique materials and unconventional methods, ZFarming is “characterized by demanding high standards of technology, maintenance, operation, and investment,” especially in “early stages of development” (Specht et al., 2014, p. 34). However, Oberndorfer et al. (2007) observed that green roofs experienced a fraction of the heat flow experienced by a roof void of plants, specifically in the heat of summer (p. 828). This in turn lowers the “energy demands of the building’s cooling system” (p. 828). In addition, Oberndorfer et al. (2007) found that have plants on a rooftop reflects some of the ultraviolet radiation away from the surface, prolonging the life of its waterproofing membrane (p. 828). In mediating the daily temperature change of the rooftop, plants also kept the membrane from expanding and shrinking enough to cause itself damage (p. 828). The services of cooling, insulation, and deflection of radiation lower the amount of energy required to maintain the internal equilibrium of the building. This helps to offset the aforementioned cost of installation. Thus, the value of the input for rooftop ZFarming heightens the value of the output and the resulting payback.

Vertical farming is a specific type of zero-acreage farming that directly addresses the space problem, following along the lines of all other kinds of urban architecture by building upwards. Despommier (2013) discusses a specific type of indoor vertical farming, called “controlled environmental agriculture (CEA),” which takes full advantage of modern technology (p. 388). It employs the use of the aforementioned hydroponics in place of soil and “spectrum-specific, higher efficiency light-emitting diode (LED) grow lights” (p. 388). Vertical farming as a method of ZFarming is unique in that it is aimed at “reducing greatly the architectural footprint,” of growing food (p. 389). It is also unique from other types of ZFarming in that, unlike the previously discussed small-scale community farms and rooftop gardens, it is already massively commercialized (p. 388). It seems that because of this commercialization, vertical farming also maintains the highest potential out of all the other urban farming approaches, “for large-scale production of a wide variety of crops in close proximity to, or even within, urban centers” (p. 388). On the subject of fertilizers, Despommier discusses the dangers of contamination when using byproducts of human feces (p. 388). While the soilless approach of hydroponics still requires fertilizers, the need for irrigation, and so also the potential use of storm water, is eliminated. However, while the danger of contamination is reduced, so also is the potential for the integration of regenerative methods into the system of vertical farming. These “high-tech vertical greenhouses,” however, are systems within themselves (Despommier, 2013, p. 389). With them comes the promise of the development of a largescale system that can be implemented in cities across the board.

Zero-acreage farming is not without its own disadvantages and limitations. The timely development of new technologies and techniques required to fully realize this sort of farming seems to be the greatest of these, along with timely funding (Thomaier et al., 2015, p. 46). The fact that ZFarms are likely to be community endeavors, does present the possibility of crowdfunding, donations, investments, grants, and unpaid labor to maintain them (Thomaier et al., 2015, p. 46). ZFarming practices may also lack elements crucial to sustainability. In addition, most methods employed in ZFarming are engineered for small-scale application and usually prove to be costly (Thomaier et al., 2015, p. 46). They are also not always certified as organic (p. 46). While vertical farming specifically may seem the closest of all the options to large-scale potential and impactful implementation, it is by no means exempt from the previous statement. Its use of hydroponics and artificial lighting if anything makes it the least organic out of all the approaches. And yet, it appears to be one of the most viable options currently available for effective food production. While it could potentially provide the same pollution-mitigating functions as discussed with the benefits of urban agriculture, vertical farming’s use of artificial methods is a movement away from the natural process many other approaches like biointensive growth and permaculture are engineered to maintain. The dilemma presented is between a technologically-advanced methodology, or one that is more naturally-oriented and focused on using what is already present within a system to achieve maximum sustainability in food production. The dilemma seems to be also between effective, largescale, most likely commercial implementation, or regenerative farming centered on a local volunteer pool and community.

Regardless of the choice, the fact remains that farms and cities are crucial to maintaining the human population in a sustainable way. They do not, however, need to be kept separate. Indeed, integrating the two may have far-reaching benefits. Among these are the mitigation of the effects human activities are having on the environment. Such ecological services as deflecting solar radiation, absorbing carbon emissions, and storm water purification are already performed by naturally occurring systems. Placing such agents in areas where human activities are most concentrated takes full advantage of these functions. While urban agriculture holds the promise of a more local and sustainable way to grow food, it is not an undisputed concept. Its limitations stem from foreseen difficulties in implementation. These include the variability of space in urban areas and obstacles in creating and maintaining a suitable environment for growing plants in such a way that the output of food and other services will offset the cost of implementation. New methodologies arise in answer to these concerns, ideas such as vertical farming technology and an organic, permacultural approach. As humans, we are set apart from the rest of life on Earth because of our intelligence and capacity to progress. Because of our ever-growing population, cities are fast becoming a common theme of modern civilization. Many would agree that having green spaces in cities is “something so essential for the urban quality of life” (van Leeuwen, 2010, p. 23). Thus, it should not become a movement away from nature, but rather a system centered on co-existence with it. Urban agriculture could be just one step on the journey toward achieving this relationship.


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Vegetable growing and backyard chickens: Gardening, farming booms during coronavirus pandemic

As people pick up new hobbies while they remain in self-quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic, interest in gardening and farming is experiencing a boom among Americans. 

Developing a green thumb is a way to pass the time for some people, but others are using it as a way to attempt to make sure they have access to fresh food after panic buying led to shortages in grocery stores. In addition to emptying shelves of seeds and gardening tools, Americans are also buying animals, particularly chickens, to produce a steady influx of eggs. 

It’s no coincidence that the interest in chickens comes at a time when supermarkets in the country, particularly in the northeast, are experiencing a shortage of eggs. Regionwide, egg retailers’ orders from wholesalers have increased by anywhere from double to 600%, and supply can’t immediately be increased, Brian Moscogiuri, marketing director for the commodity market monitoring firm Urner Barry, told USA TODAY. 

Across social media, plant lovers are sharing the works in progress and landscape projects taking place at their homes.

Nicole Burke owns a garden installment business in Houston, where she’s seen a surge in customers ready to put their green thumb to the test.

“We’ve doubled our install orders for this month,” said Burke, owner of Rooted Garden. In 2017, Burke started Gardenary, a website that coaches users on beginning their own gardens.

“Our hits have almost doubled in the last week,” Burke told USA TODAY. “I can tell a lot of people are searching for help gardening.”

A gardener setting a plant.

Gardening for beginners 

Rebecca Broom from Madison, Mississippi, decided to take one of Burke’s online tutorials to get started with her garden. 

“I feel that our personal gardens can help fill in should we have shortages for things like fresh lettuces, tomatoes and other vegetables that can help sustain us,” said Broom. 

Farms such as Soul Fire Farm, have also seen an increase in members interested in installing their own home gardens. The farm, located in Grafton, New York, helps people in the community build their own gardens, installing an average of 10 gardens per year. The farm already has 50 people signed up for garden installation services for 2020, according to the farm’s manager Leah Penniman.

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Interest in gardening has increased as people look to pass the time with new hobbies and to be more self-reliant after recent panic buying that led to short-term food shortages.

“This climate of uncertainty is leading people to want to take their food security into their own hands,” Penniman said. 

Chickens for backyards

Todd Larsen, executive co-director for the nonprofit organization Green America, said that he’s seen an increase in people interested in buying chickens for their backyards.

“There has been a run on chickens because people would like to have their own access to eggs,” Larsen said.

Larsen recommended that, before deciding to buy chickens, homeowners should confirm if their municipality allows residents to own backyard chickens.

“The further you get from an urban environment, the more lenient it gets,” Larsen explained. He added that, if someone finds themselves in a suburban area that restricts the ownership of chickens, residents can reach out to members of their city or town council to revisit the code.

Farm supply store Agway is selling out of chicks as residents in the area take up farming. Debbie Milling, manager at Agway in Liberty, New York, said the hatcheries where the store usually obtains its chicks are having trouble keeping up with demand. 

“Sales have been extremely heavy,” said Milling. “As we go to reorder, we find out some breeds are sold out already.” 

With growing concerns about food shortages, Jazmine Peoples from Stafford, Virginia, decided to buy six chickens during the first week of March. 

“We wanted to get enough production that we can supply ourselves with eggs because that’s something we noticed a lack of the last time we went to the grocery store,” Peoples said. “Right now we’re just sticking with chickens, but eventually down the road we might be getting something else.” 

Lowe’s home improvement stores also has seen a jump in sales when it comes to gardening products, Lowe’s president and CEO Marvin Ellison told USA TODAY in a recent interview.

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Ellison sees the increased interest in gardening as a positive way to combat the COVID-19 virus.

“If we can keep a customer busy in their yard,” Ellison told USA TODAY.  “It keeps them at home and not somewhere else.”

After Angela Elliston, 22,  a student at the University of Puerto Rico began taking her classes online, she has more time on her hands and is focusing on her home garden, which includes herbs like basil and cilantro. 

“Being in quarantine makes you sit down and practice simple living,” says Elliston. “You realize that these little tasks are fulfilling.”

Follow Coral Murphy on Twitter @CoralMerfi.