To live on a farm is to live in the country. You are either the town mouse or the country mouse. You have big city glamour or small town charm. To most people's minds, it's as simple as that, and there is nothing in between. They assume that if they haven't got a place with 40 acres then they must be 'city dwellers'.
Mention farming and folks get a bucolic image in their minds of sweeping fields of grain and fat, contented cattle. Chickens peck and scratch near the barn door as the sun sets behind rolling hills. Gardens bursting with greenery and ripe bounty lay like little quilts across the lawn as twilight whispers by with sleepy sweetness.
Now imagine a small piece of country in the middle of a city. The sounds of traffic are muted out by the soft clucking of hens. Emerald cabbages gleam brilliantly against a fence, causing the passing school children to wonder what on earth these strange plants could be. Fruit trees begin to bud out, promising fruits that will be taken to the beach and the library as snacks, both within a 10 minute drive.
This is urban farming, a third option in between the two extremes of rural and rat race. To me, it's having my cake and being able to eat it slowly, and with relish. I can get up in the morning and fetch my eggs for breakfast, still warm and as fresh and delicious as nature can provide. But if I run out of coffee I have the choice to stop at any of about 8 coffee house choices from trendy to mainstream, the best being PFIA in Niceville. On an urban farm, life is definitely good.
There are difficulties with a countrified city lifestyle. Zoning is one. I'm lucky enough to be considered "county", even though I live in a populated area. Another thing to consider is supplies. Livestock need more then a local pet center can usually provide. I have a feed store close by, the wonderful and infamous Sue's Country Corner, hemmed in with McDonald's, CVS and a car dealership in an eclectic mix of town and country.
The benefits outweigh any difficulties, however, and the opportunities are many. For example, there's a scrap metal dealer around the corner from where I get my hay and chicken feed. All month I save aluminum cans from where I work and around the neighborhood.
When food buying time rolls around I recycle my metals and use the proceeds as a 'discount' off the chicken food. Last month my recycling paid for the food completely, and I still had a few dollars left over! In the country I'd have to drive so far to get to everything the gas alone would negate any economic bonus.
I think of urban farming as a solution for many of the issues we face today. If everyone kept a few chickens in their yard, just think of all the resources we'd save in fuel for delivery, chemicals for packages, trees for paper cartons, waste disposal from large chicken farming... not to mention all the table scraps that wouldn't go to the landfill!
In today's Age of Turbulence, as Greenspan so aptly calls it, we need to think less like consumers and be more creative. Outside the box thinking can be the difference between an impoverished lifestyle and one that finds richness waiting beyond the horizon you only thought was there. Like Columbus, you too might discover that your world has no boundaries.
I prefer my backyard live'stocks & bonds' to any high pressured make it big or bust lifestyle. Take a look around and see if you can't find your perfect solution hidden somewhere in between the layers of what we think of as our limitations. You might just find the best of both worlds.