Hello garden gals and guys! Welcome back to Fat Earth! I’ve got a special treat in store for you today!
If you think you can’t garden because you live in the city and have a small yard, think again! Matthew lives on the southside of Chicago and he is growin’ it up!
Check out his interview below. (Side note: for more great interviews, click on ‘A Stroll through the Garden’ under the title of this post above).
What’s your name and where do you live?
My name is Matthew. I’m from the Southside of Chicago.
How did you get into farming?
After a career in community activism/organizing, I came to the conclusion that the only way to leverage our numbers for power against greedy government and corporate America would be to turn our back on them. Most times people don’t believe what could be until it’s manifested. So I ordered some chickens, built some raised beds and planted some seeds in order to get started.
How much land do you have?
My front yard is about 500 square feet.
Do you have any farm animals?
Right now, I have 14 laying hens.
What is one of your favorite things about farming?
Farming is my therapy. When I began, my intent was to make a statement, but the more the garden began to grow, the more I grew inside. Activism took a lot out of me and caused a lot of trauma. I find peace in knowing that I can fight the system without the fighting, marching, and meetings. Every fruit I produce is another step towards freedom. The manifestation of something tangible, such as a tomato, gives us more than hope to look forward to.
What made you decide to grow food on your front lawn?
After my first year of gardening in my backyard, I ended up buying large acreage out of state in the Missouri Ozarks. The plan was to continue my small garden here in Chicago, while beginning to prep the land in Missouri. Those plans went south after I was indicted by the federal government and was not allowed to leave the state. Since I couldn’t go to my farm, I brought the farm to my front yard and named it “The Mini Farm.”
What is one of the most challenging aspects of farming your yard?
I would say that space is the most challenging thing I face. For all the things I want to grow, there’s always a struggle figuring out where I’m going to plant, and how will I do it in a way that doesn’t disrupt the growth of other plants. My limited space also gives me no privacy. City officials often stop by with threats of citations and fines, so I have to make sure everything is always intact.
Why do you feel it is important to teach your children about growing food?
The most important lesson I want my children to understand is that nothing just appears. There are stages and cycles involved in all things. There’s a measure of work needed to make anything manifest. Once they understand that, they can choose if they want to put the work in themselves, or are willing to pay a premium for someone else to do the work for them. As urban dwellers, we need to be reintroduced to the concept of cutting out the middleman. I want my children to have that understanding and leverage.
Tell us the mission of your farm in the Ozarks, Black Haven Ranch.
The mission of Blackhaven Ranch is to offer alternative solutions to urban oppression. As I’ve mentioned previously, a great number of urban dwellers, specifically black, have no real leverage. We have no infrastructure, which makes it impossible to create a sustainable economic base, thus leaving us with no political power. Without any of those variables, we are left only with what’s presented to us. The point of Blackhaven Ranch isn’t to show “the way,” but rather to expose people to options.
If you could offer one piece of advice to people wanting to grow their own food, what would it be?
The one piece of advice I would offer to those wanting to grow food is…… JUST GET STARTED! You’d be surprised at how little effort it takes once you have the seed in the soil.
And there you have it garden gals and guys! Self-sufficient living on the southside of Chicago! Matthew is proof that you don’t need a lot of space to grow your own food.
So what are you waiting for? Get growin’! The season has just begun!
Until next time garden gals and guys…
PS…If you’re on Instagram, you can find Matthew here. You can also visit him on his website at Black Haven Ranch.
Awesome story! Thanks for sharing! I miss gardening but yard isn’t fenced in and afraid the deer I see will eat my harvest. Thinking of a master plan. Saw advertisement for 7 foot fence. Will che k it out this week.
Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to read about Matthew! Deer are tricky. But there are lots of tips online on how to deter them. When I once leased some extra land to grow food, the owner did put up a 7 foot fence and that kept them at bay! Good luck! I hope you get to grow some food this year!