Can subsistence farming be done in the midwest states?

Tamarack, MN

Hello all,

I saw a book on ebay that says you could farm all your food even in the northern midwest states. I was just wondering what you all think of it. Is it feasiable or is the growing season to short? Just looking into it with the way the economy is.

The intro to the book was at

First post so sorry for any spelling errors or if this is the wrong place for this post.

Caneyville, KY(Zone 6b)

Looks interesting! Although you could probably find all the info free somewhere on the internet, the price is great to have all the info in one place. I'm curious enough to wonder how they do it in the upper midwest, so am also considering buying it.

I have seen a link on someone winter growing up around Chicago, but it involves a greenhouse, row covers, etc and then only for cool season crops, ie: lettuce, etc. Heating a greenhouse is pretty costly.

I'm not an expert, by any means, but here is some suggestions and ideas from what I've run across. One way is to have a few of each summer crop planted in area where you could easily put up a greenhouse over them in the fall to extend the season a month to two. If you have them in containers (5 gal buckets?) you could bring them in the house in the fall if you've got room in front of large south-facing windows or the basement etc, that you are already heating, you would need grow lights, but you could extend the season a little longer for fresh produce. On one website, the gal said she had 2 year old tomato plants in her greenhouse which was open to her kitchen on the southside. If I understand correctly, if you want plants to keep producing (other than just maturing the fruit or vegetable already on the plant) then you would need to polinate the flowers by hand. Other than that, the next best thing to do is to learn to can and dehydrate produce.

A lot of us here would love to be able to grow all winter!

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

Yes, you can subsistence farm clear up to Canada, you just pick crops and breeds that do well with the zone you're in. Canning, drying, and a root cellar will get you through the cold months... along with a freezer and a backup generator. =0) Join the local Master Gardener program, if there is one, and visit with folks at the feed store and in the grocery checkout line to find out how things are done in an area new to you. And don't forget the local county extension office.

Tomatoes are self-pollinating, you don't need to hand pollinate them. Fruit set might be a bit improved by gentling shaking the bush every now and then, simulating a gentle breeze.

Season extension takes some time to get down, requires more skill and attention in temperature control... fall and spring greenhouses will need to be vented or they'll cook your crop.

Check out Eliot Coleman's 'Four Season Harvest' and the 'New Organic Gardener' for ideas and concerns with season extension.

You can subsistance garden nearly anywhere in this country that there's water... it just takes different techniques for different climes. Some are easier and some are tougher.

I've always been amused by the idea of Chicago as midwest... from where I stand, it's more mid-east. LOL


Tamarack, MN

Thanks for the great replies! Extending the season with a greenhouse or moving the plants sounds like a great idea! Working with the right crops I am sure will help alot. Definately worth a try.

Elmira, NY(Zone 6a)

I used to live up in Moorhead, MN, gardenbumble, and that was the best garden soil I ever had. I can well imagine growing more than enough to live on there. The growing season is indeed short, and it would be hard to get the warmer season stuff, but I remember how sunflower seeds were a major crop there, so that would cover the protein right there.

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

Here you go GB... check out this thread:

Gardening clear up to the north pole! Of course, I think you have to REALLY like cabbage and broccoli. LOL

Anyway, that forum (cool climate gardening) probably has all sorts of info & experience for where ever you're thinking of growing...

Happy dirt grubbing!

Tamarack, MN

Thanks again for the great replies! Sounds good!

Huntersville, NC

not sure about your book but the magazine and website: Mother Earth IS the SOURCE for that!!
the answer is Yes!
Realising you have a short growing season Mother Earth can show how to EXTEND your growing season, use the time and space wisely.

Along with tried and true storage methods!


Moberly, MO

now is your ultimate goal to grow 100% of what you put in your stomach?

Huntersville, NC

btw - just thought of an item that might interest you:
EZ Gro stackers I think they are called.

(many are tired of fighting with the ground)
these use a specific growth medium or coir/perlite mix.

the stackers offers maximum use of space.
this is one with strawberries.

these are outdoors but could work in small greenhouse during winter months.
. . . just an idea.

This message was edited Jun 3, 2009 10:44 AM

Huntersville, NC

sorry i forgot the pics.

Thumbnail by 50glee
Huntersville, NC

. . .and you did mention the use of a greenhouse?


Thumbnail by 50glee

Post a Reply to this Thread

Please or sign up to post.