Many gardeners might be reluctant to garden in Penfield, NY. Just a few miles from the Canadian border halfway across Lake Erie, this suburb of Rochester, NY, features small house lots, neighbors who pride themselves on their meticulous lawns, and hungry deer and other wildlife with no natural predators and plenty of nearby shelter in parks and golf courses.
Yet here urban homesteader Joe Gersitz has chosen to make his stand. Driving up Hotchkiss Circle to his house there is no chance you will go wrong. Instead of the pristine landscaped yards which surround him, Joe has chosen production agriculture on his shaded front and back lawns. The fruits of his efforts are lit-erally to be seen everywhere – piles of produce surrounded by stacked hoops, stands and trellises which have been taken out of use by the time of my October visit, soil covered by cardboard and cover crops, massive compost bins, rain barrels at every gutter, plastic bins and trays, watering cans, solar dryers, dug ponds, partially dismantled small greenhouses, buckets and makeshift devices of every sort.
“I grew the squash vertically this year,” he grins “in front where I have the cover crops now. In the circle were tomatoes and where the taller cover crops are was squash, melons, and cucumbers. I’m going to the store now to get some tomatoes for our lunch!”