Urban Farming

Thinking of getting chickens or spiffing up your backyard mini-farm?
Here are some tidbits to feed your inner farmer!


Gather and Grow

34th Annual EcoFarm Conference
Asilomar Conference Grounds, Pacific Grove
January 22-25

Wine Tasting in Asilomar's Merrill Hall

Wine Tasting in Asilomar’s Merrill Hall

gatherThe EcoFarm Conference is just around the corner! You might think of it as a good food boot camp but much more pleasant, considering the organic catering, the beautiful setting (right on the beach with a coastal sand dune restoration), the butterfly sanctuary next door and, above all, the 200+ presenters who are on the cutting edge of making good food good. Programming ranges from technical and skills-based to inspiring, fun, and social. There are five pre-conference intensives (including one on Biodynamics and two on animal husbandry); 75 sessions; a photography exhibit on the history of corn; a raucous barn dance; several films, tastings, and mixers; and a huge seed swap.

Beer & Cheese Tasting in the EcoFarm Exhibitor Marketplace

Beer & Cheese Tasting in the EcoFarm Exhibitor Marketplace










This year’s plenary speakers are Dr. Kathleen Merrigan, recent USDA deputy secretary, who started the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative; famous animal and autism activist Dr. Temple Grandin; and Maria Rodale, Chairman and CEO of Rodale, Inc. Workshops have intriguing titles like Fracking the Farm, Apple Varieties for Hard Cider, From Field to Fashion: How Does Our Clothing Grow?, GMO Labeling: Update on Current Strategy and Action, and Is a Culture Based on Gardens Rather than Farms a More Sustainable Path?

Click here for more information.

All photos: Broken Banjo Photography


Books for your Inner Farmer

Reviews by Kristina Sepetys

Gaining Ground: A Story of Farmers’ Markets, Local Food, and Saving the Family Farm
by Forrest Pritchard (Lyons Press, 2013)

“Our family farm was broken. I made up my mind that, somehow, we were going to fix it.” In this well-written, thoughtful memoir, Forrest Pritchard tells the engaging and occasionally humorous story of his trials and tribulations working to save his family’s struggling Virginia farm, Smith Meadows, by converting it to an organic, free-range, grass-fed cattle and poultry farm. Pritchard’s experience points out many of the problems with the American food system and makes the case for growing and buying local, and supporting small farmers and farmer’s markets.


The Mobile Poultry Slaughterhouse:
Building a Humane 
Chicken-Processing Unit to Strengthen Your Local Food System
by Ali Berlow (Storey Publishing, 2013)

Humane slaughter facilities are critical to sustainable poultry production. They’re also in perennially short supply for small-family farmers and others looking to raise broilers. Ali Berlow, a longtime advocate for wholesome food and editor of Edible Vineyard, has written a guide to constructing a humane slaughtering and processing unit for chickens, turkeys, or other poultry that can be moved from farm to farm. These units can be funded and built by a community of small farmers, or constructed by an individual or collective to be used as part of a business or nonprofit. This short, accessible book covers everything from identifying and organizing interested community members to the mechanics of constructing the unit, government regulations, the permitting process, sanitation, safety, and other topics.



Recipe for Permit #417
Roast Chicken

Reprinted from The Mobile Poultry Slaughterhouse (2013)
by permission of the author, Ali Berlow, and publisher, Storey Publishing

Though my family has saved a whole Mason jar’s worth of wishbones in the years since the Mobile Poultry Processing Trailer arrived, none of the chickens tasted as sweet as Permit #417.  But there was no recipe for this dish when this culinary adventure began in my own backyard. —AB

1. Start by building a slaughterhouse. You need only a small one; one that fits on the back of a 10-foot x 15-foot landscaper’s trailer like a hillbilly Rubik’s cube so it can be towed from farm to farm by a small pickup truck.

2. Gather your ingredients. The main one is community – your famers, regulators, grocers, chefs, eaters. Take the initiative, form an alliance. Communicate regularly with your community.

3. Research poultry slaughter, humane slaughter, animal welfare, and local state and regulatory agencies that hold a vested interest.

4. Be transparent.

5. Stand strong.

6. Attend local food system conferences to connect with others and share ideas.

7. Acquire the equipment you need, and find and train your crew professionally.

8. Advocate for the right to raise food, to sell it, and to feed your family clean, safe, fair, humanely raised and slaughtered poultry.

9. Stand up respectfully to adversaries and nay-sayers.

10. Save your wishbones along the way.

11. Now cook that lovely chicken. Your first permitted bird will taste the sweetest. [Editor’s note: Berlow directs readers to a recipe on page 110 of her book.]

12. Return the bones to the soil.