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Urban Homesteading: Self-Sufficient Living in the City

Urban Homesteading
Urban Homesteading

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. -- For some, gardening is more than a spring and summer hobby. They plant cold weather crops as well and don't need a farm in the country.
In fact, they might live right next door.

Looking at Hollis and Nancy Palmer's quiet neighborhood and quaint Virginia home, you might never guess it includes a big backyard that's been transformed into a flourishing garden.

Their urban homestead, with its manicured rows and vibrant vegetables, provides a feast for the eyes and stomach.

In addition to turnips, you'll find collard greens, cabbage, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, broccoli, onions and garlic. And this is only their fall garden.

The Palmers' homestead also has what they call the "salad bar," complete with red and green romaine, red and green oak tree lettuce, and an assortment of herbs.

Gardening in Small Spaces

"A lot of people think, 'Well, I could never do that because I just live in the city, and I have just a plain old house,' or, 'I live in an apartment; I don't even have a yard,'" Hollis told CBN News.

"But I've wanted them to know that you can grow your own food in a very small area in your own backyard and get tons of food out of it," he continued. "And if you don't even have a yard, you can do it in containers; containers grow."

According to the University of California, Davis, "an urban homestead is a household that produces a significant part of the food, including produce and livestock, consumed by its residents."

The university goes on to report that having an urban homestead is primarily connected with homeowners who want to live in a way that's more environmentally friendly.

"Urban homesteading is really getting some traction, and I was glad to see that," Hollis shared. "You see it all over the world, and I encourage everyone... give that a shot 'cause it's so relaxing and peaceful."

"And it gives you good energy, and you can get good exercise, and most of all, you get some good eatin' out of it, so give it a shot," he continued.

Teaching Others to Grow Their Own Food

And the Palmers don't keep it all for their table. Hollis says they give away around 70 percent of their food.

People around the world also benefit from their efforts. Through their YouTube channel, Hollis teaches viewers how to garden; Nancy shows them how to prepare delicious field-to-fork dinners.

As a cancer survivor, Nancy is especially passionate about urban homesteading.

"When I had cancer, I found out... how toxic was a lot of the stuff that people are eating now," she told CBN News. "And so one of the things that God really put in us is to make sure you teach people to grow and eat your own food. That's the vision He gave me."

The Palmers' garden is not entirely organic, but Nancy says not to be alarmed.

"You can take the modern conveniences, little bit of the fertilizer... and use non-GMO seeds and heritage seeds and avoid pesticides and herbicides, and you could have a wonderful garden that's not a hundred percent organic but get the best of organic," she explained. 

"But it's good for it and healthy for your family, and that's my thing is to focus on healthier families throughout the world," she said.

Urban Homesteading as a Ministry

Nancy and Hollis also view their urban homestead as a ministry -- in person and online.

Hollis has found great comfort and peace working in the garden, especially after his son, Michael, passed away from a heart condition. He built a memorial to his son alongside the garden.  

"You spend a lot of time in the garden, and it's quiet, and you're by yourself," he shared. "And I spend a lot of time talking to God."

"Man, He revealed a lot of lessons I needed to learn during my season of grief right out there in the dirt," he continued. "So that's how I got back into it here... at this garden, we've taken it to a whole new level, and we love it."

At one end of the garden, a cross stands.

"Right after we built the garden, we made the cross, and we erected the cross at the end of the garden so when everybody walks by, they see it," Hollis said. "And it's a reminder... to everyone, including ourselves that everything that comes out of this garden is from God."

"We plant the seed; we water the seed, but God makes that seed grow, and He does the same thing with our life," he continued.

They also end their videos with a Scripture and prayer.

Hollis sums it up this way: Nancy is about health, and he is about gardening, and together, they're about helping to save lives spiritually and physically.

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