Urban Farm

From the Experts

How to Become an Urban Farmer



By Von Barnes

Urban farming has become increasingly popular across the country, and Louisville is no exception. With a population of over 1 million living in an area of just under 400 square miles, it’s easy to see why urban farmers are turning their backyards into micro-farms. Starting an urban farm in your space can be both rewarding and challenging; however, with some careful planning you can create a thriving source of fresh produce for yourself, family and neighbors. 

Starting an urban farm in your space can be both rewarding and challenging; however, with some careful planning you can create a thriving source of fresh produce.

There are two routes to consider before taking the leap: commercial or hobby. Do you want to sell at the farmers market and have a lot of customers? If your answer is yes, I recommend you get your farm number, which is provided free of cost from your local Farm Service Agency office (FSA). With a farm number, you will be able to tap into USDA grants and funds to help grow your urban farm operation. Keep in mind, you will also have to file a Schedule F with your taxes at the end of the season. 

If you want to farm as a hobby, the first step toward starting your backyard farm is to decide how big you want to go and what kind of crops you want to grow. Louisville is in hardiness Zone 7a, which means our growing season is roughly from April 8 until October 30. Your options include both fruits and vegetables. Tomatoes, peppers and squash, as well as herbs such as basil, oregano and rosemary thrive in the mild climate conditions found here. 

You will also need adequate space for growing these items, which could mean raised beds or containers if you don’t have enough room for planting directly into the earth. If you decide to grow directly in your soil, it is always recommended to get a free soil test from the Jefferson County Cooperative Extension office to ensure your soil is free from contaminants.  

Chickens make great additions to the backyard homestead as well. Not only do they provide eggs, but they also help fertilize soil naturally while eating pests that may otherwise harm other plants grown near them. With proper planning, chickens can do a lot of the ground maintenance to keep you from doing weeding and soil amending.

Once everything is set up, it is time to tend your garden regularly by watering plants when needed and waiting for the harvest. Be sure to keep good records on what you are planting and how much you yield. This will help you realize how much you should or should not do in all the years to come. You can also consider bartering with your neighbors. It is always good to have a few extra hands for the harvest and there is nothing sweeter than having a volunteer staff of happy neighbors. Reap the rewards of starting your own urban farm today!

From the Expert_Von Barnes headshotVon Barnes moved to Louisville from Central Florida, where he had learned about growing root vegetables and native tropical fruits. While in Florida, he earned a bachelor’s in mass communication with a minor in marketing and electronic music. After spending a little over a decade in multimedia production at the University of Louisville, he turned his passion for gardening and husbandry into Kentuckiana Backyard Farms. His urban farm focuses on food production and distribution, wellness and education, and agritourism. Currently, he is on the Food in Neighborhoods Steering Committee and Jefferson County Ag Development Board. Additionally, Barnes works with Community Farm Alliance as producer and host of the Blacker Berries podcast series. Learn more at www.KentuckianaBF.com.


Author Von Barnes was a speaker at Bellarmine’s fifth annual TEDxBellarmineU event on Feb. 3, 2023. View 1,000 Backyard Farmers: Growing a Legacy and the six other talks on the TEDxBellarmineU page.

Tags: From the Experts