image of food from microfarm
When you think of a farm or a ranch, you may picture acres and acres of land with a picturesque red barn, dozens of animals, and a farmer in overalls tending to it all. And while there are many farms across the country just like this, not all of them require a lot of space, heavy equipment or a location far out in the county. Microfarms are common in the agricultural and farming industries, and allow farmers to tend to animals and grow crops on a smaller scale, and usually right in the middle of busy, bustling city centers. A microfarm refers to an agricultural infrastructure that typically works on five acres of land or less. They thrive in urban areas, and their focus is on sustainability and a commitment to being eco-friendly. What sometimes starts as a garden can grow into a microfarm, focusing on specialty crops that don’t need to be produced in large quantities, such as tomatoes and lettuce. Common crops for microfarms include garlic, herbs and microgreens, and it’s common for microfarms to connect with a small, specialized niche in which to market their goods.
image of organic vegetables at a market

What are the benefits of microfarming?

Microfarming isn’t a new concept, but it has recently seen a resurgence as more and more people are adopting healthier and greener lifestyles in bigger cities. You don’t have to be an agroecologist to be part of microfarming; you just need a little bit of space and a passion for a greener, more sustainable lifestyle.

1. Interaction with nature

Microfarming means getting your hands dirty. It means connecting with nature on a foundational level. There is nothing more natural than using the soil, the sun, and a little water to grow food organically. Managing a microfarm gives you an opportunity to get outside daily, to spend time with Mother Nature and appreciate both the simplicity and majesty that comes with interacting with the Earth.
Don’t worry about the size. Start small. Don’t fight the weather or your grow zone, and the most important thing is your soil health! Samantha Longster, S&S Microfarm

2. Reduced labor

Compared to farms that span acres and acres, a microfarm requires a smaller investment in labor. You don’t need to invest in heavy machinery or workers to help maintain the crops. The beauty of a microfarm is that it becomes what you make it. You decide how much space, time and effort you want to invest. It stays manageable because of its size and allows you to do a lot of growth in just a little bit of space.

3. Access to high-quality food

One of the most significant benefits of a microfarm is knowing that your food is free of toxins and pesticides. If eating organically is important to you, growing your own food is one of the best ways to ensure that everything you eat is free of harmful chemicals. Even if your farm only harvests one or two specialty crops, you are still giving yourself the gift of food that is free of poisons and packed with nutrients.

4. Saves money (and trips to the grocery store)

Depending on the size of the land you’re working with and the animals and/or crops you plan to keep on your farm, the cost of starting your own microfarm will vary. However, when you consider the money you save from buying organic fruits and vegetables at the store, plus factor in the time (and carbon emissions) it requires to get to and from the store, a microfarm offers a cost- and time-effective way to get the healthy foods your family needs.

5. Good for your mind, body and soul

It’s scientifically proven that getting out in nature, growing things and interacting with animals is beneficial for your mind, body, and spirit. Managing a microfarm offers a sense of purpose for urban farmers and has been proven to provide mental clarity and stress relief. The CDC ranks gardening as a moderately intense activity, which, if done 2.5 hours a week can help reduce common ailments such as obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease.
Organic produce from S & S Microfarm
(image courtesy, S & S Microfarm)

A Microfarm Success Story: S&S Micro Farm

Samantha Longster and Scott Naugler like to get their hands dirty. They own S&S Micro Farm in Winter Haven, Florida, and the entire operation exists on one acre in a “downtown” environment. It focuses on small, sustainable, community and pesticide-free crops. When they bought their home five years ago, they put up a fence and turned a half acre of perfectly manicured lawn into the microfarm they have today. Sam and Scott started out with a few pots of tomatoes and peppers, but once the fence went up, they acquired some guinea fowl and other small farm animals. The goats produce dairy, the rabbits are excellent for fertilizer and the chickens produce eggs and serve as a free pest control service! When Scott was diagnosed with skin cancer, the two decided to make serious changes to their diet and wanted easier access to better food. They wanted chemical free, locally sourced fresh food, and when they realized it was hard to find, they started trying to grow their own.  The more growing and experimenting they did, the more they enjoyed it. Five years since they moved in, their small half-acre plot of land has grown to include even more chickens, rabbits, and goats. They grow over 60 different varieties of edible producing plants, including spinach, carrots, and avocado, and herbs such as mint, rosemary, thyme and sage. Because S&S Farms is totally pesticide free, Sam and Scott have learned the power of companion planting and how plants like marigolds and lemongrass can keep the pests away.
Organic produce from S & S Microfarm
(image courtesy, S & S Microfarm)
Sam has always said that managing a microfarm is much more about the health benefits than profit. She trades eggs and veggies for pots, they have rain barrels, they save seeds every year, all of their produce and plant scraps helps to feed the animals, and all the animal waste is used to create compost and rich fertilizer. It is a small plot of land that is doing big things for their health, their family and their community. “Don’t worry about the size,” Sam said when asked if she had any advice for someone considering owning a microfarm. “Start small. Don’t fight the weather or your grow zone, and the most important thing is your soil health! Don’t be afraid to ask questions of other farmers if you want advice.” Sam recommends volunteering at a local microfarm to get an idea about exactly what is involved in running one. Microfarming doesn’t have to be about profit. For Sam and Scott, it’s much more about healthy living than reduced grocery bills or making a few sales at the local farmer’s market.  It can simply be about spending time outdoors and having access to organic produce that doesn’t cost a fortune. It can be a way to connect with the community, teach children about responsibility and their role in sustainability, and living a healthier lifestyle. However, microfarming can be a profitable venture that produces a steady income by offering pesticide-free products to the local community. If your green thumbs are looking for something beneficial and eco-friendly to try, a microfarm provides countless benefits, doesn’t require a lot of space and can be a productive way to connect with both Mother Nature and your city.

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