Urban Homesteading in the Mile High City

From growing fruits and veggies to raising chickens, goats, and bees, we show you how to make the most of your backyard this summer.

May 2015

—Illustrations by Daniel Guidera

When the first pioneers rolled into Colorado via covered wagon, they had no alternative to growing, raising, and hunting their own food. Today, it’s by choice that an increasing number of Denverites are planting veggies, raising chickens, and even milking goats in their backyards. You may be wondering, Why bother?

“People are coming at this from a gajillion different places,” says Dana Miller, co-chair of the Denver Sustainable Food Policy Council, a group of appointed volunteers that advises the mayor. Think: preppers who want to be self-sustaining in case of the zombie apocalypse; do-gooders on a mission to help solve food-access problems; DIY-happy hipsters into handcrafted everything; parents worried about pesticides; and foodies craving the freshest flavors.

No matter your motivation, you’re in luck if you live in the Mile High City, where, over the past half-decade, urban homesteading restrictions common in other towns have loosened considerably. Hens and goats have been legal residents in Denver since 2011; Colorado’s 2012 Cottage Foods Act allows home cooks to sell low-risk foods prepared in their own kitchens; and last July’s residential sales ordinance means gardeners in Denver can now set up stands to peddle their produce in their front yards. On a larger scale, nonprofits are establishing community gardens in food deserts across town and hosting regular classes on beekeeping, raising goats and chickens, and preserving fresh produce.

In fact, there’s so much going on that in April the city hired a manager of food systems development who will try to wrangle these disjointed efforts to make progress toward Mayor Michael Hancock’s 2020 goal for the Office of Sustainability—that at least 20 percent of basic nutritional foods purchased in Denver will be grown or processed in the state. It’s a lofty (some say unreachable) goal, but it aims to decrease this startling statistic: On average, food travels 1,300 miles from its source to your plate. Unless, of course, your ingredients are coming straight out of your backyard. It’s easier than you might think to get started; let us show you how.

Urban Homesteading 101, Page 2
Common Urban Homesteading Misconceptions, Debunked

Farm City: Why the Burbs are Following Denver’s Lead

Veggies & Herbs, Page 3
Get (Your Soil) Tested

Where to Buy Plants
Expert Tips for Raised-Bed Gardening
The Tide’s Turning on Water Collection and Reuse

Preserving, Donating & Selling Produce, Page 4
Eat it, Share it, Sell it: What to Do With Excess Produce

RECIPES: Herb Butter, Herb-Infused Vinegar, and Quick-Pickled Veggies
The Do’s and Don’ts of Canning Food
Trend Alert: Fermentation
RECIPE: Ozuké’s Napa Cabbage Kimchi

Aquaponics, Page 5
Go Fish: How Aquaponics Works

Hops, Page 6
5 Great Reasons to Grow Hops

Fruit, Page 7
The Best Front Range Fruits

RECIPES: Spiced Apples and Strawberry Jam

Bees, Page 8
Meet Grocer Turned Beekeeper Pete Marczyk

By The Numbers: What’s All The Buzz About?
A Sweet Deal on Honey Processing

Goats, Page 9
The Pros and Cons of Raising Goats

Chickens, Page 10
Diary of a Hen Owner