Whether you want to get back to the land, be a little less dependent on WalMart or your local grocery store, or conserve more of our natural resources for the future I have a message for you. YOU CAN start anywhere.
A lot of the books, magazines, and blogs that I read are great sources of knowledge. The majority of them all push the same message; you don't need land to farm. Another theme is you can start homesteading now where ever you live. I believe both of these are true. But, how the heck do you do it without land? How the heck do you get started? What do you do if you are cash strapped and land poor? Most of the resources don't tell you how you can get started other than renting land or starting a community garden.
Renting a plot of land probably isn't the wisest if you have no experience. Apartment complexes aren't the most community garden friendly either. So how do we get started?
I'm suggesting two avenues that you do simultaneously. First go online and google your local Farm Bureau. Get the number to your local office and call it. Tell whomever picks up the phone that you are looking for a farm that you can volunteer with. They should give you a couple of names. Here in San Diego its La Milpa Organica and Tierra Miguel Farm. Now go to their websites and look at what they produce and what their philosophy is. You don't really want to go to a farm that sprays if you are interested in organically grown food. If you like what you see contact them. Tell them what you are interested in - learning to grow food - and work out when you can volunteer. I suggest for the first time early in the morning for half a day. Farming takes some easing into. Then go do it. Over the next few months you'll learn so much (even if you only go once a week). Plus some of these farms give fresh produce to their volunteers for helping out. Depending on how much you volunteer you could wind up volunteering yourself into your own source of fresh fruits and vegetables. No matter what you'll start to learn how to grow your own food and that's the point - to build up our knowledge base.
The second thing you need to do is take stock in what you have. How many windows and windowsills do you have? Do you have a patio? Front stoop? Garage corner? What available space do you have? Next what is the orientation of that space? Which way does it face? North, South, East, West. That is important because we need to know which sides get the most sun. Then how much sun does that area get? Does anything caste a shadow over the space like a tree or another building. My back patio gets the morning sun directly on it but by 10 am only the railing is getting sun. So all my growing has to be oriented to grow on the railing to get the 6 hours of sunlight I get. Most plants need a minimum of 6 hours of light with 8 being the best. But don't fret we can find something to grow out there. Is there ventilation from a breeze or does the corner just get baked by the sun? Watch the area(s) that you are thinking about for a couple of days and jot that down in your garden journal. You have to have a garden journal to jot down all your volunteer knowledge and to keep track of when and what you planted.
Luckily, it is the beginning of the fall winding down for most vegetable farms. If you live in an area where you can grow year round then you are fortunate. Honestly, I can't wait to get back to the East Coast and have seasons. Seasons offer you a natural cycle of work and rest. I'm not big on farming year round. I want my yearly vacations too! Since it is winding down it gives us some time to start thinking about next year's garden. Also if you volunteer now they may have more time to spend with you to teach you more. So now is the perfect time to get started.
Don't go out and buy anything yet. We'll get to all of that later and I'll show you ways to keep from breaking the bank on your garden supplies. In fact we can get a good bit of it for FREE! That's always nice.
So the two things to do is contact your local farm bureau and volunteer and take stock in what you have available. I know these seem like they are gardening centric and not necessarily homesteading centric but they are the first steps and when you start talking about self-sufficiency everything becomes intertwined. I'm interested to hear what volunteer opportunities everyone finds and what resources they have available to them.