It is a common misconception that urban farming isn’t possible here because nothing grows in Arizona – the dry, dusty Sonoran Desert we call home. Whether you’re new to our state or perhaps a longtime Valley resident that may feel our environment is not conducive to growing healthy food or raising animals, do we have some great news for you!
Today we’re talking ‘urban farming,’ a recent topic on Closed + Recorded with our Realtor, Ryan Simon, and Broker / Owner, Joseph Maggiore! Yes, urban farming is a real thing, and thriving, in the Phoenix Metro area. Urban farming, or urban gardening, can be defined as the practice of cultivating, processing and distributing food and raising animals in or around urban areas. And starting your own urban garden might be easier than you think.
Ryan Simon is a longtime Valley resident who, with his wife, is an active urban farmers. The two bought a spacious property ideal for growing some of their own food, along with having some goats and chickens. For the Simons, the benefits are all encompassing, from health and cost-savings, to personal satisfaction and having control over where their food is coming from.
For Ryan, his number one reason for being an urban farmer is because of the obvious differences in the taste and quality of his homegrown vegetables compared to store-bought -specifically tomatoes that can be stuck in the shipping process for up to a year. Kale takes on a sort of sweetness, unlike the tough and bitter bunches found in the produce section, and herbs like rosemary grow like crazy while a tiny bundle costs a few bucks.
You don’t need a large lot, however, to begin experimenting with urban farming. Raised beds are a fantastic way to get started. With raised beds, you can add the right mix of soil and achieve a beautifully cultivated look, all while saving your back from squatting down over your garden. Irrigation also becomes easier with drip systems or simply by running a hose to your planter beds.
And because Arizona is so warm during our relative winter and spring, we actually get two growing seasons! So while everyone else is locked in winter, we’re actually starting a good growing season for lettuce, artichokes, beets, carrots, peas, and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower.
When it comes to animals and the rules that go along with it, some areas of the Valley are less strict than others. For anyone who wants to own and raise animals, chickens are a good baseline starter. In Phoenix, for example, any lot under a half-acre is allowed to have up to 20 chickens. Both Phoenix and Scottsdale tend to be more lenient when it comes to owning chickens, pigs and goats, while other parts of the Valley are much more rigid.
Mesa, for example, requires a fifty dollar annual livestock license to own goats, sheep or horses. Owners are also required to follow a certain code of conduct and adhere to Mesa’s point-based system which assigns points based upon property size and the size of the animals an owner would like to have, like a point for a horse or half a point for a goat. Miniature goats and pot belly pigs qualify more as house pets here.
When you’re ready to begin urban farming that involves animals, checking first with your city’s ordinances and what may or may not be required for permits is the first step and removes any confusion or potential situations in your neighborhood to arise.
Urban farming in the Valley is not only an achievable reality for many homeowners, but can provide countless benefits and greatly enhance the experience of owning your home. Start small, dabble and experiment. Witnessing the growth of one thing leads to the desire to plant another and another as you add homegrown produce to your plates.
What is the first step that you can take in urban farming and what would you love to grow? Be sure to watch the episode, below, and check out these great resources from Ryan and Joe that will guide you on the best times in the Valley to grow and harvest:
- Urban Farm Desert Planting Calendar
- Native Seeds Search Planting Guide
- Vegetable Planting Calendar for Maricopa County