Cultivating your inner farmer
Edible gardens and egg-laying pets feed the Mind, Body & Spirit
By Becca Edwards
During the Covid pandemic, many of us learned about strength and resiliency and cultivated a can-do spirit. For example, with the threat of food shortages and the stress of going to the grocery store, people in record numbers began farming edible gardens and purchasing egg-laying animals like chickens. Last March, the U.S. seed company W. Atlee Burpee & Co. sold more seed than at any time in its 144-year history, and Scotts Miracle-Gro reported, “36 percent more Americans are growing vegetables, herbs and tomatoes this year, with 65 percent of those individuals saying their decision was tied to coronavirus in some way.”
This movement toward being self-sufficient and sustainable has dug up the inner farmer in many of us, and even my family joined in “soil-idarity”. With the knowledge that animals can be therapeutic, we adopted two dwarf fainting goats (CeCe and Berryman), two cats (Sprout and Minerva), three Khaki Campbell ducks (Daisy, Randy Quacky and Commander), and a Lionhead bunny (Reese), who had two litters of baby bunnies (all of which we sold). Using social media to spread happiness and a message of compassion, my three young daughters and I also launched Edwards Urban Ark, which posts images of our animals with funny captions that are from the animals’ points of view. We also began an herb and vegetable garden that included parsley, rosemary, cilantro, thyme, oregano, celery, squash, potatoes, peppers and citrus trees.
By rolling up our sleeves and getting our hands dirty, we learned some important lifelong lessons, beginning with the sense of accomplishment that comes from harvesting a farmer’s work ethic. Whether you are prepping your soil for growing season or building a chicken coop, if feels good to be productive. As much as our kids may say they want to binge watch Netflix or play video games, they truly enjoy working with their hands and seeing a hard day’s work pay off when that first vegetable shoot emerges from the ground or when a duck lays an egg.
Our family also found that both the plants and animals taught us about ourselves and each other. Like us, they need love and care. You cannot just go through the motions and spray all your plants with the same amount of water or dump a large amount of dry food in an animal’s bowl. Different plants like different amounts of water, sunshine or special soil treatments. Different animals like to be fed at different times of the day and different types of food. When you have a farm, or quasi farm like us, you are forced to be mindful and really think about what each individual living thing needs. We found the more empathy and affection we gave to our plants and animals, the more empathy and affection we felt internally. In turn, we were able to externally express more empathy and affection.
With the birth of our baby bunnies, we saw firsthand the beginning of life and the power of motherhood. It was touching to watch Reese nurse and take care of her young. She would even tuck them into their nest at night.
The responsibilities of a farm, or again quasi farm in our case, are demanding, but in a good way. Upon rising, we do not immediately plug into our phones or turn on the TV to hear the latest stress-inducing news. Instead, our first priority is cleaning habitats, feeding the animals and then tending to the plants. It is almost a form of moving-meditation and extremely grounding and humbling. LL
If you have not yet started your own version of a farm, you’re not too late to the party. Here’s what you want to do:
1. Think about your objectives. Do you just want a small herb garden? Or, are you going for a full-blown vegetable garden?
2. Decide how much time and space you have to dedicate to your farm project. Note: It is always a good idea to start small and then organically grow into something bigger. This way you can ease into your new agro-lifestyle.
3. Research. You can do this online, by talking to other farm-friendly people, or heading over to your local Tractor Supply and just speaking with a customer service representative. Note: Everyone at the Tractor Supply in Okatie is super helpful and knowledgeable.
4. Set a budget. How much are you willing to spend? Know that this is an investment.
5. Make a calendar that lays out your growing schedule, as well as goals.