Urban Farm Story: Christina Pearson

Christina is the ultimate urban farmer.

You can take our word for it because we lived next to her in North East Minneapolis for over two years. It was really incredible to witness permaculture practices in action within a small urban setting. Christina and her husband Pete are dedicated to carving out a permaculture like homestead within their entire front, side and backyard with total fearlessness. Every inch of space has a purpose or a plan to contribute to this total food system they are building in the name of self reliance, healthy soil and good food. 

Name: Christina Pearson
Occupation: Multimedia Producer

Choice of unwinding beverage after a full day’s work in the yard
A super-dry hard cider. 

What inspires you?
Good food and watching things grow. 

How did you come up with your site design?
We hired a local company (Ecological Gardens) right after we purchased the property. Our goals have changed a little since then and we’ve made some tweaks, but it’s starting to take shape. For example, we’re adding a passive solar greenhouse that isn’t on the plan to get us growing year round. 

 

What is your overall goal with your urban homestead?
Primary goal is just to be more self sufficient. We’re a long way away from growing all our own produce, so my focus for the next couple years is to grow stuff we can either cellar, can or freeze, so that in the winter when local produce isn’t super available we aren’t having to get EVERYTHING from California or Mexico. Also, experimenting to see what works for us and what we like, so when we get there and are keeping track of a big production we kind of know what we’re doing.  I also want to help close the loop on what we do grow, so we compost and use the chicken litter so we don’t have to rely entirely on buying fertilizer and soil amendments. 

The Frank Lloyd Wright of Chicken Coops. Built entirely by Christina and her husband Pete.

The Frank Lloyd Wright of Chicken Coops. Built entirely by Christina and her husband Pete.

What challenges are you facing this year? 
This year's actually been pretty good for what we HAVE going. We had planned on planting a handful of trees earlier in the year, but it took until now get them. Our site plan has specific varieties recommended that aren’t necessarily what you’re going to find at your big box garden center and the supply just isn’t there right now. So, little change in plans there. 

The latest addition to the homestead is a home built mobile chicken coop that allows Christina to move her chickens around to pasture and manage pests, meanwhile the chickens get a snack and a little vacay from the main coop. Genius. 

What successes have you had or what are you the most proud of?
The chickens are probably what I’m most proud of, although really they take care of themselves, so its ridiculous for me to take credit. But, a year and a half later, we have the same four-day-old chicks I brought home and they’re healthy and they crank out beautiful eggs. We also learned a lot building the coop and it’s easily the coolest house project we’ve taken on. 
 

This looks like a ton of hard work, why do it? 
Both of us had parents that had big gardens growing up, so for me it kind of never seemed like an option to NOT have some sort of garden/food production at home. And permaculture just seems to me like the “right” way to do it. 


Introduce us to your chicken flock
We have four laying hens, all brought home as day-old chicks (from EggPlant) in March 2014.
We have two Buff Orphingtons, one Silver Laced Wyandotte and one Ameraucana. The Buffs are easily the most friendly of the bunch. The Ameraucana was SUPPOSED to lay me charming little blue shelled eggs, but we’ve never gotten a single blue egg. I always planned on naming them, but as it turns out they’re kinda dumb. Never really gave me much personality to go off of for naming. 

What lessons have you learned since starting your backyard chicken flock?
Mostly that chickens are crazy easy, and even though I grew up with chickens I psyched myself out once or twice. The first time one of my hens went broody I was on my way out of town for a long weekend with friends and couldn’t figure out what was going on. She came with me. My friend happened to be towing a trailer that weekend and we stuck her in a dog kennel and took her to Wisconsin with us. I’ve unclenched a bit since then. We mostly let them have free range of the yard now during the day, and are better at recognizing when something is actually up.

What quality do you think it takes to be a farmer?
For me, and for what we’re trying to do, the big one is being flexible. The weather, the god-forsaken-squirrel-beasts, the health of your seedlings and a million things can affect your plants and you gotta roll with it or you’re gonna be miserable. Especially for people like us who aren’t doing this as a matter of subsistence; we both still work 40+ hour day jobs. I try and remind myself that if taking care of the home and the garden was what I did, I’d have more time to see problems coming or plan smarter, etc…

Can you break down how your household sources food during peak growing season?
Peak season maybe 50/50 home and CSA. I try and grow a lot of stuff for preserving so that we don’t have an overload in the summer, because of course when we’re at peak, so is the CSA.  I LOVE our CSA (Harmony Valley), but in a couple years I’d like to be getting 75% of our produce from the yard, and then the CSA probably won’t make sense and we’ll supplement from the food coop. Hopefully, the greenhouse and continued focus on soil building will get us in that range.

Who’s stronger boys or girls?
I mean, I think 'yonce had it right! We run this mother!