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The Urban Farmer: Veggies, Fruit Trees, and Chickens

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The last few years have seen a surge of interest in learning to be more self-sufficient. For some people, this means finding a way to go completely off-grid. But that’s not attainable, nor necessarily desirable, for a lot of people. So, many people have been finding ways to become more self-sufficient within their urban environment. 

This spring, with most of the world in lockdown, interest in gardening has skyrocketed. Everyone wants to learn how to garden and grow their own food. Whether the buzz is rooted in concerns over food security or a sudden interest in the trending “cottage-core” movement””we’re happy to see it! Victory Gardens have made a huge comeback, and it’s exciting to see people learning firsthand what goes into the food they eat. 

Becoming an urban farmer is becoming more and more appealing. Edmonton is lucky; our city understands the importance of agriculture and allows us not only to garden to our heart’s content but also to keep urban hens in our backyards. 

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Veggies to Grow in Your Backyard

Alberta summers might be short, but these prairies are full of fertile soil and bright sunshine. We can grow tons of delicious veggies here. Crops like potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, parsnips, beets, turnips, and rutabaga are awesome because they can be stored all winter, giving you a stash of fresh veggies when the growing season seems a long way off. Parsnips can even be left in the ground all winter, and they’ll taste that much sweeter when harvested in the spring.  

For fresh summer meals, you can grow luscious tomatoes, peppers, peas, beans, corn, cucumbers, lettuce, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, zucchini, and many other vegetables

Fruit Trees to Grow in Your Backyard

We may not be able to grow peaches like our southern BC neighbours, but we can grow a surprising amount of small fruits in Alberta. Our harsh winters won’t keep us from growing several citrus trees and delicious varieties of apple, cherry, chokecherry, crabapple, pears, plums, and Saskatoons””all items that can be preserved as delicious sauces and jams, canned whole, or bagged and frozen. 

In the shrub realm, we can grow amazing haskap berries, raspberries, blueberries, currants, cranberries, goji berries, pineberries, and strawberries. We can also grow some pretty delicious grapes here, and don’t forget rhubarb! Homemade strawberry-rhubarb wine, anyone?

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Keeping Hens in Your Backyard

The City of Edmonton also allows Edmontonians to keep urban hens in their backyards. Previously, there was a limit of 50 coops permitted within the city, but in 2019 they lifted that limit. It’s not quite as simple as running out to buy some fluffy baby chicks, though. In fact, you have to buy hens that are at least 16 weeks of age, which are nice and all, but decidedly less cute and cuddly than the little yellow guys.

If you don’t have chickens yet, it’s also important to note that you need to permit to keep them. At the time of writing, the city is not accepting new applications due to COVID-19, but they’ll inevitably reopen applications in due time. Once permits are open, the city requires residents to review the city’s guideline document, register for an introductory course (aptly named “Chickens 101″), register for a Premise Identification Number (PID), and then apply for the development permit. Just in case you thought raising chickens would be easier than buying eggs at the store.

However, if you have your heart set on becoming Edmonton’s next poultry farmer, the process is not insurmountable. You can start building your coop and run once you have submitted your application, but you won’t be able to bring chickens home until you’ve passed inspection. To ensure the welfare of the chickens, and keep your neighbours happy, your coop must meet very specific standards, available on the city’s website

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Getting into urban farming is not just fun; it has many other benefits as well. Understanding the effort that goes into producing our food gives us some perspective on the food production industry. If pursuing these hobbies are worth the effort to you, you’ll also be opening a wealth of opportunity for your entire family to learn about food, nature, and science. But possibly the best bonus of growing and raising your own food is the pride you can take in knowing that you successfully produced some of the food your family is eating. 

If you need some advice, supplies, or inspiration for getting started, stop by our garden center and let us help you get started. 

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Read through our Growing Guides for tips to enrich your garden! 

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