The Backyard Farmer

November 25, 2008 at 2:28 pm

Brad Moldofsky

I’m not a farmer. But I play one in my backyard.

In this blog, you can read about me trying to squeeze the most out of a tiny plot of Earth with minimal effort. My personal goal is to beat my record of how much of the year I can feed my family through my own labors and land (best so far: one day).

Some people carefully plan out their gardens, lovingly test and till the soil and spare no expense to get the most beautiful produce from their beds. Not me. I’m a rank amateur, and a cheap and lazy one at that. I’ve got plenty of room for improvement, but little spare time. I want to make the most out of the least input, so you can watch me educate myself on how to improve my technique, or learn from my disasters.

As far as credentials go, somewhere in my past I earned a journalism degree and a computer programming certificate. I’ve been a technical writer and a computer trainer, and I’ve run a small company designing and printing menus for the hospitality industry. So not much by way of farming credentials, huh? Lacking a green thumb as well as any farming pedigree, I have only a nagging yearning for self-sufficiency, awe for modern organic farmers and a growing distaste for the state of America’s food supply. My backyard is too small for my boys to play in, but too large to avoid mowing and maintenance. In a sense, my gardening desires are a form of lawn-care avoidance.

“If you really want to farm,” suggested my wife, “why don’t you rent a plot at the Community Garden?” The public plots are about a mile away, which is nearly a mile more than I care to walk in order to pull weeds. Also, I like looking out my window and shouting at the squirrels who feast on my produce and stare at me as I make angry faces and violent hand gestures at them. It seems only right to give them a free show with their dinner.

I should take this opportunity to mention Pearl Buck and Michael Pollan, whose books inspired me to get my hands dirty. A Pollan article once forced me to give up meat for a year, and though I’ve sworn never to read his work again, I keep doing so, with life-altering consequences. I wish he would stop already.

Decades ago, immediately after I finished reading “The Good Earth”, I walked outside and began shoveling out a garden. Still, it wasn’t enough. So I signed up to spend the season on an Israeli kibbutz where I’d hoped to pick oranges. Instead, I sweated for three months in an industrial bakery, hand braiding egg bread (challah) and tossing it into piles of sesame seed. But it turned out to be another life-altering experience anyway, and I’m happy to have had the opportunity.
So that’s me. This is where you can watch me try to double my self-sufficiency record (by my math, that would be 2 days of eating from the garden). You can follow my ups and downs, fact-finding, foibles, and forced alliteration. I’ll try my best to avoid the heavy pontification, self-deprecation and sarcasm. Although that’s asking a lot.