Urban agriculture practices explored in workshop
Attendees of a Marquette County Conservation District urban agriculture workshop held at an Ishpeming residence Saturday had a chance to see an example of a small backyard farm in the city while learning about the care and keeping of backyard chickens and rabbits, as well as a straw bale composting technique.
The workshop, Raising Small Livestock and Composting, aimed to teach attendees how to start raising their own chickens and rabbits by answering “some of the fundamental questions” about the process, said Jaime Beranek, urban agriculture assistant coordinator with the conservation district.
“We want to give people a jumping-off point if they’re interested in having rabbits or chickens in their backyard or starting a compost,” Beranek said.
Ishpeming residents and homeowners Amanda Buck and Andrew Corwin, who raise chickens, rabbits, quail and a variety of vegetables on roughly an acre of land in their backyard, have been doing so for several years. They opened their home Saturday to help educate others on how to do the same.
“It’s really the perfect environment for (demonstrating) how you could have a small farm in the city,” Beranek said.
Buck and Corwin told attendees about a variety of subjects relating to the care and keeping of chickens and rabbits, sharing their own experiences and firsthand knowledge on feeding and raising the animals, as well as providing them with housing and protection from predators.
Homesteading is an ongoing learning process, Buck emphasized.
“It’s been a lot of work,” she said. “There’s a lot of time spent out here, but every year it gets better; we improve more on what we’ve had the previous year.”
For Buck and Corwin, their garden, chickens and rabbits have allowed them to enjoy meals from their own backyard and helped them reduce trips to the grocery store.
“It’s nice to have a meal once a week that’s provided by our garden and our rabbits or our chickens,” Buck said.
The homeowners’ backyard farming practices served as an example to not only attendees of Saturday’s workshop, but also to the homeowners’ neighbors, they said.
“As soon as we start getting animals, the neighbors want to get animals,” Buck said, adding the pair has even sold chickens to their neighbors.
For those who want to get started on their own backyard farm, Buck emphasized that starting gradually is key. She recommends beginning with a small garden “just to get familiar with the process of homesteading,” before moving on to chickens, then rabbits.
It’s important to hold workshops on urban agriculture practices, Beranek said, as backyard farming has a number of benefits for personal and environmental health.
“I really look at it as human connection to the environment. And when it comes to food production I don’t think you could have a more intimate connection, growing your own food, understanding where it comes from, how it’s processed and how it’s grown,” she said.
The workshop was the third in a series of four urban agriculture workshops held by the Marquette County Conservation District that aim to help attendees learn “how to make your backyard more ecologically friendly and how you can become more connected to the Earth through practices in your own backyard,” Beranek said.
The series is supported by a $30,000 grant awarded by the National Association of Conservation Districts.
The final workshop, Native and Invasive Plants and Pollinators, will be held 10 a.m. to noon Sept. 14 near the multi-use path off Fourth Street in Marquette.
Advance registration is required. Registration is free and available at Marquettecd.com. The conservation district asks those interested in attending to register at least one week in advance. Snacks and materials will be provided.
For more information, call Landen Titel, produce safety technician at the Marquette County Conservation District, at 906-226-8871 ext. 105.
Cecilia Brown can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.