Adventures in Urban Farming in Seattle

In addition to all my home improvement projects as late, I’ve started another project to transform our backyard into an urban farm (half of it at least). The economics of urban farming definitely doesn’t work out. I’m sure I’ll have to sell my carrots for $30/lb just to barely break even.

This is really a project to feel a connection to the food I eat. In today’s modern economy, we go to supermarkets to pick up produce and meats. The entire supply chain before that point is out of our view.

In short, what I’m learning is that it takes an enormous amount of labor, sweat, and pain to put together a basic garden to produce just enough food to feed our family. While we’ll never have the economies of scale as production farms, we’ll know exactly what we put into the soil, trace the source of the seeds we use, and harvest the food straight to our dinner table.

The second, and more important benefit of starting this mini farm is that it’s building community within my neighborhood. This is an experiment in change. When we first moved in, there wasn’t very much interaction. When we installed our chicken coop, it became the focal point of the neighborhood. People stopped by to ask questions. Some come by daily to visit with the chickens.

We hope that as more neighbors walk by and see the food being grown, they’ll have a chance to interact more and maybe barter and start an informal market.

Not shown in the picture is my compost bin. We’ve produced nearly a cubic yard of compost, freshly steaming each time you turn the pile. We’ve reduced our garbage bin to the smaller 32 gallon bin and barely fill that at all. Nearly everything we consume is recycled or composted.

Below is a snap shot of our garden up to date. The two beds have been covered with a landscaping fabric to keep in the heat and protect the newly seeded vegetables and herbs.


We put in river rocks from our neighbor’s rock collection. It would be fun to have flowing water but too wasteful to do so.


Here’s a removable bench that sits between the beds. Lola and Amelia are enjoying their time out in the yard.


This stack of cedar slowly became the raised beds. I used 2×6 cedar boards screwed to 4×4 cedar posts. It was very tempting to try complex joinery but I opted to use timber screws for simplicity. Even with that option, it took a better part of a weekend to sand down the boards, seal the end grains, and assemble everything.


In Category: Thoughts

Daniel Hoang

Daniel Hoang is a visual leader, storyteller, and creative thinker. As an experienced management consultant, he believes in a big picture approach that includes strong project leadership, creative methods, change management, and strategic visioning. He uses a range of visual tools to communicate business challenges, solutions, and goals. His change strategy is to build "tribes" of supporters and evangelists to drive change in culture and organization. Daniel is an avid technologist and futurist and early adopter.

Show 2 Comments
  • Kylina March 29, 2013, 5:48 pm

    I am just starting our garden and came across your “Urban Farm” and I can only hope ours looks like yours! I have a question about a comment you made. You said you are learning a lot from doing this garden, like tracing the source of the seeds you use. What does this mean and why would I do that? And of course, HOW do I do that?
    I look forward to more blogs of your garden and watching it grow!

    Thank you in advance for any information you are willing to share!

    • Daniel Hoang April 3, 2013, 9:02 pm

      You’re too kind. I bought my seeds from a local Seattle company,

      They source their seeds from local farms and are really doing the tracing to the source. That means that the seeds are coming from non-genetically engineered plants. Most of the seeds in conventional form are engineered to last longer during shipment, taste sweeter, more colorful, etc. However, they are sold to farmers and the crop only lasts for the season. In fact, there was a documentary I watched that the seed companies would actually prevent the farmers from harvesting the seeds at the end of the season because they were “proprietary.”

      Thanks for visiting. I just ordered several bags of ground oyster shells for the walk way. Some of the seeds are starting to germinate.