Tiffany Dobson is a California native currently living in the State of Arkansas with her family. One of her passions is homesteading which is a lifestyle of self-sufficiency. She has been showcasing her "Stead in the City" journey on her social media platforms in hopes that her story will educate and inspire others to start gardening, learning about sustainability, and supporting their own local communities. In this interview, she shares her personal journey with us and teaches us about what we can do "to do right by the land."
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am originally from Sacramento, California. I’ve lived in Arkansas since 2015. My husband, my two kids, and I—we all moved here from Japan because my husband is active duty in the air force. We are stationed out here in Arkansas; we didn’t choose to be here [chuckles], but it’s grown on me. It’s starting to feel kind of like home. I don’t know if I will ever call Arkansas home, but I am starting to feel like I fit here.
What is Stead in the City? How did you get started on this project?
Stead in the City is my brand. That is my social media presence, and it is also the name of my garden. I came up with that name because I can’t call this a homestead since I live in a city, I have a regular backyard, I don’t live on multiple acres of land, I don’t have cows or pigs, but the reason why I have this garden, and the reason why I put so much effort into having a garden, pretty much embodies a homestead lifestyle. Stead in the City is a play off of Sex and the City, and I just felt like it was cute and it fit my personality.
Stead in the City is a raised-bed garden in my backyard. I have just under a hundred square feet. I also have a mixed flock of chickens, and all of that makes up Stead in the City.
What's the purpose behind Stead in the City? What are your goals?
"You can have a stead in the city without having a garden, you can have it without having chickens, and if your heart's in it to further the homestead lifestyle, then who says you can’t have a stead in the city, you know?"
My purpose is to showcase what I am doing but also to encourage people to do the same. I want steads in the city all over the world. I want everyone to embark on their own journey no matter what that looks like for them. You can have a stead in the city without having a garden, you can have it without having chickens, and if your heart's in it to further the homestead lifestyle, then who says you can’t have a stead in the city, you know? If that means that you only shop in season, that you have a compost bin, if you are trying to incorporate more sustainability in your life, then you have a stead in the city. In traditional homesteading, you live off your own land, but I also believe that the community is our land. We are the land, you know? My neighbor and what my neighbor has to offer isn’t necessarily mine in the terms of ownership but in order to do right by the land, we have to be able to rely on our neighbors and on our community, if that makes sense. For example, supporting local farmers. They may not be your direct neighbor, but they are part of your community and part of your local ecosystem.
"I want to show people that you can live sustainably but have it fit your lifestyle."
I want to show people that you can live sustainably but have it fit your lifestyle. I go to farmer’s markets quite often, but I still shop at the grocery store, and I still do very much love Target [chuckles]. I may not be living a one hundred percent sustainable life, but the little bit that I am doing is still helping take the load off.
You have said before that it's important for you to shop at farmers' markets and to support local businesses. Why is that?
"Shopping local to me is important because local stores will always put their community forward. They are very intentional about showcasing their community in an authentic way."
Going to farmer’s markets is so much fun [chuckles]. The very first farmer’s market I went to was actually when I was in college. I graduated from the University of California at Davis in 2012. When I was there, Davis would’ve been considered like the California country or the farmland. The Davis farmer’s market has vendors from all around Northern California, and some of them come from the Bay too. They put on this huge market, and it’s like an event. People used to come out and have picnics, and it was like a social gathering. It looks a lot different now because of the virus but they still do it. It’s a lot of fun and that was my exposure to farmer’s markets. They would have local bakeries or local restaurants, and it was a ton of fun. I was definitely spoiled with my introduction to farmer’s markets. I know it was voted one of the best farmer’s markets in the country at some point.
In addition to just being part of your community, you get exposed to new types of food. I go to a farmer’s market every weekend and they will have your normal zucchinis and yellow squash, but they will also have patty pan squash which most people have never even heard of that kind of squash. So, you get the opportunity to be exposed to a new variety of foods.
It’s the same with shopping stores, I try to shop local when I can. I love the convenience of Target or Amazon but shopping local to me is important because local stores will always put their community forward. They are very intentional about showcasing their community in an authentic way, whatever community that is, you know, the black community, women, other communities of color, or LGBT.
For people who want to start their own stead, name three things that you would consider easy for them to do first.
Get some kind of container, and I say that because you don’t necessarily need to use the traditional pot from a store. You can grow in just about anything as long as you open some holes at the bottom of it [chuckles]. After that, you need to get some soil and some seeds. That’s it [chuckles].
What would you say to someone who wants to start a garden but doesn't have a big yard to do so? Is it possible to start somewhere else?
"There are lots of ways to grow, you just have to find the best one that fits your lifestyle."
If you want to do it, just do it. For me, discovering five-gallon buckets was the best thing that could’ve happened to me [chuckles] because let’s say you want to grow tomatoes or cucumbers, you need a good size pot for that! It needs to be deep so that the roots can grow and it needs to be wide so that the plant itself can grow. Those pots are not cheap but you can call local restaurants and say, “Hey, do you have any buckets you are looking to get rid of?” I got two pickle buckets from a pizza place [chuckles], and that is a practical way to be sustainable. Then, find the sunniest spot that you have. If you don’t have sunny spaces, look for things that you can grow with shade. If that is not possible and you really want to start growing, research community gardens where you can buy pieces of the garden. There are lots of ways to grow, you just have to find the best one that fits your lifestyle.
For any questions or inquiries, contact Tiffany at: