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slides: Ten Things to Include in Your Beginner’s Urban Farm

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


Throughout Portland, many denizens romanticize old-fashioned farms based off of the tall tales we hear from our rural neighbors. Indeed, chickens are alive before they are fried and served at award-winning restaurants like Screen Door. Who is raising these chickens, you might ask? Often, it’s people with day jobs just like you.

Fun loving, organic-minded hipsters need to know two things before beginning their very own urban farm: it’s going to take money, and it’s going to take time. However, it’s insanely rewarding. Your urban farm could become your job. 

With surging numbers of chickens being abandoned by locals who decide they just don’t have it in them to be both a farmer and a barista, there is still hope that urban farming will continue and that animals will add responsibility -- and profit to many gratified lives. Here is a comprehensive list of what supplies you might need to get a successful urban farm up and running in your own backyard.


Related Slideshow: Slideshow: Ten Things to Plant in Your Beginner’s Farm

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Chickens are an essential investment for an urban farm as they boast two tactical resources: poultry and eggs. Luckily, while shopping for your urban farm, you don’t have to ask if the chicken or the egg comes first: it’s definitely the chicken, and it’s a worthwhile venture. In Portland, you need a permit if you plan on buying more than three chickens but even if you want to stick to three, you’re going to need feed. Three chickens consume about a fifty-pound bag of feed in 2-3 months, so expect to pay about $25 for feed while additional chick feed is $30. You can buy chickens at Livingscape Nursery as well as feed and waterers. 

3926 N. Vancouver Ave.

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Like chickens, you might also be looking for ducks to add to your burgeoning urban farm. Ducks produce eggs charged with protein as well as savory meat, feathers for linens and crafts, as well as fertilizers. Shimmery, fantastic ducks can be found at Naomi’s Organic Farm Supply. Seriously, don’t just stop at chickens – toss in a duck! Just remember: you are only legally allowed to own three ducks (or fewer) without having to obtain a permit. 

Naomi’s Organic Farm Supply at the Green building at 2615 SE Schiller St. on the corner of SE 26th & SE Schiller St.

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Red Worms

The only worms most of us experience are gummy. But think again: the infamous creepy-crawlies are actually an urban farm composting sensation through the trending process of “vermicompost.” All you need is a worm bin and some red worms. Just toss your vegetable and fruit scraps into the bin and voilà, the worms have dinner -- and you have compost. Just like that. For purchasing red worms, a large container, and some bedding (which the worms eat and also transform into fertilizer), check out Pistils Nursery. Note: red worms are the best kind for the job, but they probably won’t survive in your garden. 

3811 N. Mississippi Ave.

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Bees are a thrilling addition to any urban farm and are highly recommended for those not particularly faint of heart who also possess a sweet tooth (e.g. remember, the goal here is homemade honey). However, keep a couple of obligatory Portland rules in mind in regards to owning bees: you will need a permit that will set you back $31. If you plan on having less than four or five hives, you must notify all neighbors within 150 feet of any potential hive placement and you must locate the hive at least fifteen feet away from any public walkways, streets, or roads. If you want to become the beekeeper you were born to be, start by purchasing your bees at Bee Thinking.

1551 SE Poplar Ave.

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You can’t have a farm without a goat. Urban farms are no different. Like chickens and ducks, goats provide the urban farmer with milk and meat. Goats are temperamental animals (make sure you build a sturdy fence) but they also produce between 1 and 3 quarts of milk in a single day. If you are fine with half a quart of milk per day, and you prefer a breed that is adorable enough to potentially walk on a leash, try a mini goat. Either way, it looks like you won’t be going to the grocery store for your dairy anytime soon. Of course, you do need to find a goat store. Here’s a solid resource for obtaining a goat: Naked Acres Farm. Think of all the cheese!

16301 SE Foster Rd.

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Lavender is kind of a thing. You have probably sampled (or bought in bulk) the lavender flavored ice cream from Salt & Straw. But did you know that lavender farming is known to produce a noteworthy profit for urban farmers? Fresh flowers are often sold in bundles and are utilized for soaps, sachets, perfumes, herbal pillows, oils, and yes – food. The flowers are particularly easy to dry and the smell is truly romantic. Grow lavender by getting yourself a rock garden (as this is ideal for planting), and plant your lavender in the spot that catches the most sunlight (as it’s a Mediterranean plant). Buy plants at the Portland Nursery.

5050 SE Stark St. 

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Gourmet Mushrooms

We all know mushrooms: usually they are found atop a garden salad. But did you know that mushrooms are also a specialty crop worth exploring as a budding urban farmer? Mushrooms can be grown indoors and they have an unusually high return per square foot. Two specific subcategories of mushrooms worth investing in are oyster and shiitake mushrooms, which you can purchase over the counter at many grocery stores or farmer’s markets (either fresh or dried). Currently, mushrooms cost about $7 per pound and make $17,500 worth of harvest from a 10 x 10 space. In terms of purchasing mushrooms, a great place to start would be the Portland farmer’s market held in the Park Blocks by PSU each Saturday from 8:30 am to 2 pm. 

Corner of SW Park & SW Montgomery. 

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Do you want to harvest large quantities of organic fish and plants year-round in small urban spaces without even purchasing soil? Do you want to make a potentially immense profit? Welcome to aquaponics. Though aquaponics allow us to eat fish, it also allows us to utilize their excrement, otherwise known as ammonia. Ammonia produces bacteria that turn the ammonia into nitrites that can then be used to fertilize plants. Who knew poop could be so bankable? If you’re interested in aquaponics, you may want to invest in a few types of common fish: carp, goldfish, catfish, or barramundi are good species to start with. Check out Wet Spot Tropical Fish if you want to mull over your many finned options. Get lost in here: if you let yourself, you might feel that you just scored free entrance into an aquarium!   

4310 NE Hancock St.

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Want to have a berry good selection of homegrown fruits? Start with planting your own blueberries! Blueberry bushes can be planted during the fall and they harbor tangible results seen through the following summertime: making them a year-round voice within your urban garden. Blueberry plants are popular but not difficult to uncover, you can easily find them at the Portland Nursery

5050 SE Stark St. 

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Gourmet Garlic

One of the most profitable potential crops to incorporate into your urban farm is none other than garlic, specifically “gourmet” garlic. Specialty types of gourmet garlic (e.g. Rocambole, Purplestripe, and Porcelain) sell for as much as $10 a pound and are particularly easy to grow in the Northwest region. Similarly, Elephant garlic pulls in $6-8 per pound. That’s enough money for a burrito at Los Gorditos with avocado. With good soil, an acre of Elephant garlic can produce up to 15,000 pounds. That is so many burritos.

Important tip: get garlic at your local farmer’s market or nursery before you purchase it at a grocery store. Why? It may have been treated with growth suppressants. A great local farmer’s market to check out is the one held at the PSU Park Blocks each Saturday from 8:30 am to 2 pm.

Corner of SW Park & SW Montgomery. 


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