Tenth Acre Farm is named after my first homestead in the suburbs of Cincinnati, Ohio. The size of the property was one-tenth of an acre (0.10-acre)!
Surrounded by American-as-apple-pie, ranch-style homes, my yard was surely never meant to be anything more than lawn. This is where I started growing my own food. My website followed shortly after, beginning in 2013, as a way to document my experiments and discoveries in permaculture gardening.
Here at Tenth Acre Farm, I share tips for applying permaculture to small-scale residential spaces: backyard gardens, front yard edible landscapes, and suburban micro-farms. I have a passion for discovering ecologically friendly techniques that are easy to maintain and increase biodiversity.
I hope you find something here that sparks inspiration and excitement for growing food, wherever you live!
Before I started homesteading, I was a high school teacher.
Perhaps it was a midlife crisis, but I realized that I wasn’t happy in my job. At the end of a particularly grueling year, I handed in my notice and gave myself the summer to figure out what I wanted to do next.
I call that period of life my ‘dirt therapy’, because all I wanted to do was have my hands in the dirt — playing in my garden and tinkering with plants!
During that first summer, I picked up a couple of part-time jobs.
As a landscape gardener, I learned about selecting the right plants for a job, as well as the process of design. I helped install edible landscapes, herb gardens, pollinator-friendly gardens, and other interesting landscape projects at our clients’ homes.
As a CSA farm manager, I helped coordinate a program that provided 100 families with organic produce every week throughout the growing season. I learned a lot from the farmer about the kind of commitment and coordination it takes to feed that many people.
During this time, I also became certified in permaculture, which is a system for designing agricultural landscapes that work with nature. Permaculture helped synergize many of the thoughts and ideas I had collected about how to grow food efficiently while regenerating — rather than degrading — the local ecosystem.
My first projects at home were fairly simple. While I was working at my new jobs and completing my permaculture training, I did small things like sneak vegetables into the landscape and grow crops in containers on my patio.
As I became more confident, I replaced the traditional landscape with edible perennials. A hedge of currant bushes now lined my front porch, and black raspberries hugged the front of the house.
This is when I decided to start documenting all of the things I was learning, and TenthAcreFarm.com was born.
I realized that there were many gardeners, like me, who faced obstacles like small spaces, sloping land, poor soil, shade, limited time, and dealing with neighbors, etc. I wanted to help them find success, because growing food has been such a rewarding experience for me.
At the same time, I realized that permaculture design was essential to my success, and I wanted to share actionable, easy ways for others to apply permaculture to their gardens and landscapes.
That’s when I decided to write a book with all of this in mind. The Suburban Micro-Farm: Modern Solutions for Busy People was first published in 2017. It was republished in 2018 in full color, distributed by Chelsea Green Publishing.
Recently, I moved to three acres, which feels like a lot of space! However, I still think of myself as a micro-farmer because most of the land is wooded hillside, not suitable for food production. I’ll still be growing food in smaller, concentrated areas. My newest, biggest gardening challenge is deer.
Thanks for following along!
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The Official Bio of Amy Stross
Amy specializes in permaculture gardening and edible landscaping, and enjoys teaching and speaking about these topics.
Some of the classes she has taught include:
- Capturing Rain in the Landscape
- Choosing Plants for the Permaculture Garden
- Forest Gardening
- Growing Community through Community Gardening
- Growing Herbs in the Vegetable Garden
- Ideas for Building a Permaculture Edible Landscape
- Stories from the Front Yard: How a Suburban Homestead Builds Community
- Suburban Permaculture
- The Permaculture Yard
- The Super Low-Maintenance Suburban Micro-Farm
- Turn Your Backyard Orchard into a Permaculture Food Forest
She holds a Masters degree in education and has received certification in both Permaculture Design and Community Garden Development.
The Tenth Acre Farm website was founded in July of 2013, and her first book, The Suburban Micro-Farm: Modern Solutions for Busy People was first released in December, 2016. A full-color edition was released in 2018, distributed by Chelsea Green Publishing.
13 Random Things About Me
- I have one child. She’s a cat (and the mischievous mascot of Tenth Acre Farm). Hey, when you can’t have kids, you get creative!
Mr. TAF and I met via an internet dating site for people who love the outdoors. In a twist of irony, we discovered that he grew up playing in my grandma’s backyard.
- I had a childhood friend who taught me how to eat ants. For some reason, the habit didn’t stick.
- I was so proud of the brownies I made for our childhood lemonade stand that I didn’t taste test them before selling. Turns out I used a cup of salt instead of a teaspoon. My brothers haven’t let me live it down since.
- I dislike the feel of velvet with a passion. So when I had an opportunity to ruin some velvet as a child, I went all in: I colored my grandma’s brand new, lemon-yellow velvet chairs with permanent red marker. Guess I showed that velvet who was boss.
- When I stopped biting my nails (as an adult), I switched to biting the skin around my nails.
- I practice yoga daily and value the ritual, but I’m horrible at it. I can barely touch my toes!
- I played collegiate soccer and am an avid fan of professional soccer and my local team, FC Cincinnati.
- I majored in veterinary sciences in college, graduated with a masters degree in Spanish education, and am now a certified permaculture gardener, educator, and author. Be open to exploring all the things! You never know what you’ll finally land on.
- I’ve been to Latin America four times, Europe a handful of times, and North Africa one time. I was assaulted twice, almost died once, ran out of money once, and almost had my bus hijacked by gun-wielding townies. I’ll let you decide which happened where. What I learned: If you live through the early trips, they get better, and eventually you get to experience amazing things drama-free!
- When I’m not in the garden, I’d rather be traveling. In fact, once upon a time I dreamed of being a travel writer. But then I looked back on my past travel experiences (see #10) and decided it probably wasn’t a good idea.
- What I don’t like: horror movies, parsnips, and “The Greatest Love of All” by Whitney Houston. We sang a (poorly off-key) rendition of it in high school choir and the song became lodged in my brain on repeat for decades. Sexual Chocolate’s version could win a grammy compared to ours!
- Can we make chocolate an approved breakfast food?
Ready to get started on your permaculture-inspired garden or landscape? Start here.