Rachel Huff and her family did it. She wrote about it in the September 2012 issue of Prepare Magazine in an article called “City Living Without Using a Grocery Store.”
Rachel, her husband Tom and their teenage son are urban farmers who make the most of a quarter acre they call Dog Island Farm in Vallejo, California, in the San Francisco Bay area. They grow an astonishing variety of vegetables and fruits, thanks to their Mediterranean climate. They raise chickens, turkeys, goats, rabbits and bees, too.
Rachel and Tom were my guests on yesterday’s DestinySurvival Radio show. We recorded the show ahead of time because they’re very busy people, as you might imagine. On the morning we recorded our interview they were harvesting honey.
Their urban farming venture started about eight years ago with a vegetable garden. Then they added chickens. As time went on, things snowballed.
While they’re more prepared than most other city dwellers, preparedness wasn’t their main objective when they decided to skip going to the grocery store for a year. They wanted to get control over their food supply and live a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle.
Grocery stores, big box stores, convenience stores and restaurants were off their list of places to frequent. Much of their food came from farmers, the farmers market and specialty stores. Their experiment taught them much about processing their own food as well.
Being comfortable with what they were doing, they decided to go their last three months without buying any food elsewhere. Living on what they grew and canned was more of a challenge.
As you might expect, their produce is grown intensively and organically. Everything they raise is for themselves, since they’re not allowed to sell what they grow. However, they do barter.
These days they buy a few things from stores, such as sugar and soy sauce. But they’ve learned not to be as dependent as most of us are on our conventional food production and distribution system.
Rachel is a landscape designer who knows how to get the most from their land. Tom likes getting his hands dirty, building things and hunting. They enjoy what they’re doing, and together they make a good team.
How Tom and Rachel accomplish what they do is all the more astounding when you consider they both work full time jobs. But when it comes to running their place, Tom says that’s what nights and weekends are for. Rachel says she can’t see living any other way.
And they love teaching others what they know. They teach classes, publish info on their Web site and occasionally do shows like DestinySurvival Radio.
Their advice to others starting out as urban farmers? Go slow. Start with a small garden. That’s especially true if you’re working solo, such as when your spouce isn’t on board with the project.
And realize it will take time. Tom and Rachel didn’t get where they are overnight.
These same principles hold true if you want to skip going to the grocery store. Be sure that’s what you want to do. Plan ahead. Find recipes you like, since at times there may not be much variety in what you eat.
And be adaptable. Things will go wrong. Or at least not like you expected.
Hear my interview with Rachel and Tom when you listen to DestinySurvival Radio for October 18, 2012. Check out their blog site at www.dogislandfarm.com. They’d love to hear from you, especially if you’re in the San Francisco Bay area and need help getting started into urban farming.
Oh, yes. I meant to ask Rachel why their place is called Dog Island Farm, but we ran out of time. If you’re curious, you can find out at the FAQ page on their site.
So, just how long could you get by without going to a grocery store for your food? If it’s more than a week or two, how do you do it? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.