Backyard Hartford Farms raises rabbits, chickens, tilapia and fresh vegetables at home.  He wants you to do that, too.  - Hartford Courant

Backyard Hartford Farms raises rabbits, chickens, tilapia and fresh vegetables at home. He wants you to do that, too. – Hartford Courant

Hartford – While there is still a lot of controversy surrounding the age-old question, Hartford resident Travis Stewart is sure what came first for him: the egg.

Then the chicken came.

a self-proclaimed backyard farmer on Preston Street, whose operation includes two raised gardens with kale, mint, and other vegetables; Aquaculture setup with over 50 tilapia and duckweed; The hydroponic system of growing Swiss chard, tomatoes and cucumbers, a broiler of 17 chickens and three rabbits, began five years ago when he and his daughter, Akila, hatched an egg as part of a science project. Two eggs, actually.

These two chicks, Sunny and Moon, grew to adulthood and led Stewart and his wife, Castle Brooks, to build an 8-by-8-foot coop and stock them with more chickens.

What followed was a steady supply of eggs.

“We showed some to some people, and then we started selling eggs,” Stewart said. “My friends started coming to me to say they love farm fresh eggs.”

That’s when Stewart decided to create daily videos that give people a window into what his life is like.

“There are no lessons, just about how I lived in Hartford,” he said.

Stewart and Brooks then expanded their operation to grow fresh vegetables in their backyard. It was around this time that Stewart, a proper martial arts instructor, started to feel more and more tired. He also began to suffer from relentless, piercing back pain. Visiting a chiropractor only made things worse.

Finally, backing off his wife’s urging for a test, Stewart learned he had multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer. Although the diagnosis was shocking, he did not panic.

“I said, ‘Well, what do I do now? “I have it. I can’t worry about it. What do I do now?” I said.

“I’m on this path. I won’t fight her. I cut everything [in the backyard]. We still have this gardening material.”

So Stewart, 43, continued to focus on his garden while battling cancer, which is now in remission. He was quick to point out that he saw a great specialist and underwent chemotherapy. But he also credits gardening with saving his life.

‘It’s magical,’ he said. ‘You have a seed. You put the seed in the ground, and only by faith know that with everything you do, you will produce and grow. If you do everything right, you don’t have to worry about anything. Just let nature happen. This is beautiful.

It grows; you are very excited. It grows and expands. From one seed, you get a whole bunch of different fruits or vegetables. I did this with my own hands.

His videos, which he posts on social media, including Facebook, have gone from providing a window into his life to persuading others to do what he does with whatever space they have.

“My platform now is I say, ‘You can do that too,’ he said. ”If you want to learn anything, learn how to grow a seed, even if it is in a pot or something else. You don’t have to do a big operation. Don’t compare yourself to me, because I’m different from you.”

Travis Stewart examines turnip plants inside a greenhouse he built behind his home in South Hartford.  Steward started with an egg and now has chickens that produce eggs, and a vegetable and fish garden for his family and friends to eat.  Michael McAndrews / Exclusive to Hartford Courant

While farming has a reputation for being labour-intensive, this is not the case with the Stewart setup.

“My backyard is designed for laziness,” he said. “Not because I want to be lazy….But I can come back here and finish in 5 minutes. I don’t have to do much with this.”

In his never-ending quest to improve and expand his operation, Stewart has associated with the Knox Urban Farming Program as well as local leaders like Kamora Herrington to sow the seeds of knowledge in other residents that backyard farming is not only possible, but achievable.

Stewart said Knox, which also provides free seed to Hartford residents for planting and gardening, is a “gold mine.” He takes every opportunity he gets to promote organizations like Knox, Hands of Hartford, and Hartford Food System through his frequently posted videos.

Patrick Doyle, CEO of Knox, said Stewart’s work fits right in with two of Knox’s missions.

“He’s doing a great job on his property by cultivating it,” Doyle said. “A large part of our work is about urban farming and gardening and really helping people in the city who want to grow food either for themselves or to sell as farmers or a small entrepreneur. We have the space and programming to help them do that. …

“He is just such a positive person and brings good energy to what he does. It is great to have with our community of farmers.”

A tilapia fish in a tank in Travis Stewart's backyard.  Steward has expanded his compact garden from chickens to cultivated vegetable gardens and aquaculture to feed his family and friends.  Michael McAndrews / Exclusive to Hartford Courant

Herrington utters no words to speak of Stewart.

“He’s a wonderful human being,” Herrington said. “Everyone needs to know about him and what he does. … Besides creating an entire ecosystem that can and will be self-sustaining, he does what makes sense. … You look at the martial arts piece, you look at the agricultural piece, and he discovers what he have. …

“He’s a lifelong learner….I want my son to be with him more…Learn how to be a man, and learn how to be a human being in control of his environment.”

Stewart says he grows everything for his family and anyone who wants to be a part of it.

“It was never for the money,” he said.

He also uses his back ranch as a way to connect with his children, Nathaniel, 12, and Akila, 15.

Stewart said Akila wanted to become a vet, hence the rabbits. And when he goes to the backyard to do some work, he calls on his kids for help.

Whatever you can do right now, do it,” Stewart said. “Come here with your kids, get some free seeds, plant them and watch the miracle happen. … Share. Pull your kids outside. Get into the sun. Get into the soil. Have this conversation. Listen. … Tell them, ‘Let’s plant something what together. I want to have a relationship with you. “

Find Stewart and a community of gardeners at FarmWithMe – Backyard farming in Facebook.

#Backyard #Hartford #Farms #raises #rabbits #chickens #tilapia #fresh #vegetables #home #Hartford #Courant

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *