Over the Fence Urban Farm

Cooperatively farming small patches of Earth in Columbus, OH

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June 2023 – Catch Up Brain Dump

Well, it’s been six months since I wrote in this space.

I can’t remember how many times I’ve sat down and typed an opening line like this. Usually I delete them. It’s boring. Who wants to hear a writer lament about their inability to make time to write? Just write something already. But sometimes marking that time has passed you by is important.

Not because I feel guilty for not writing. Not because I think I owe anyone an apology. But because I’m sorry I haven’t been making time for it. Not because I think you, dear readers, are having trouble sleeping as you await my next offering. But because keeping this blog has been good for me.

It has given me space to document and reflect on starting and maintaining OTFUF for the past ten years.

It’s given me a place to store memories. To track the seasons. To track tasks. A space to return to when memory fails and I can’t remember what I did or how well (or poorly) something grew last season.

This blog has given me a platform to record, to share, and dare I say, to inspire.

Releasing myself from writing, from feeling self- or social media culture-imposed pressure to post, was part of my shmitah practice last year. And as a wise friend helped me realize, when you give yourself a sabbatical, when you truly take a break, you can’t expect to hit the ground running the next year. This aligns well with contemporary Jewish thought leaders advocating consideration of a shmita cycle, of a focus for each year in the seven year cycle. Something like: Dreaming and scheming, iteration, reflection, recalibration, reiteration, reflection, rest, repeat.

One thing I really let go of last year was the need to make plans. I spent time on the farm as time and energy allowed. I watched what came up from the soil on its own as much as, if not more than, I willed things to come up. And so I entered this season unsure what I was doing.

I did spend some of my leave reflecting on what I did not want to do anymore; what I was grateful to have a break from as well. as what I missed. Figuring out what comes next is slowly coming in to focus. Bit by bit.

The first decision I made was to suspend our CSA program indefinitely.

Starting the farm on a community supported agriculture model allowed OTFUF to get up and running without having to spend much of our own money for infrastructure or supplies. It would take me a minute to count how many truckloads of compost, water bills, seeds, gloves, and bags of chicken feed we’ve bought over the past 9 years. It’s been a lot, and nearly all of it was covered with funds from the CSA.

The first few years those who joined not only trusted us with their financial contributions, they gave us their time. In many ways that was more important, and more valuable, than cash. We built this place with all of you. And we grew an incredible amount of food those first few years because we did it together.

Over time, however, our original members started their own gardens and stopped coming around as often. New members didn’t have the same interest or commitment to the collective or the work. This impacted both my enthusiasm for filling CSA orders – I was always in it for the transformational potential, not the transactions – and my ability to do so. Working with fewer helping hands, the farm wasn’t as productive as it once was.

So no more CSA. At least for now. If I hear from some substantial number of people reading this far that you’d be excited to be part of something like that again, I’ll reconsider. I’ll rededicate myself to scheduling work sessions, making chore lists, and assigning tasks. For now, I’m enjoying the freedom to just watch the flowers grow and I’m thinking about investing more in perennial crops like berries that provide year-round pleasure.

The increasing unpredictability of the weather also contributed to my frustrations around the CSA. Heat at the wrong time. Never enough rain when we need it and too much when we don’t. The drought we’re experiencing now makes me grateful not to be beholden to anyone. At the same time as it makes me wish I had money in the bank to pay the water bills when they come due.

All this has me wondering whether the farm is still a farm.

Along with suspending the CSA and absolving myself of the pressure to post regularly to social media channels, I entered this season with no established plan or efforts to bring visitors to the farm. Given that, would it be better to think of myself again as a gardener, or homesteader? Is that all I want? For myself? For the space?

Rereading what I wrote in 2016 when I first embraced the title Urban Farmer, I guess most of it still fits. I’m growing more food than the average home gardener and our yard looks even less like our neighbors’ now than it did back then. But I’m not feeding others like I was back then. And I haven’t been invited to share the farm on any tours or actively recruited scouts and school groups to come visit. Then again, while it feels and looks like August, given the lack of rain over the past month and recent heat wave, the season’s just getting started.

Watch our social media streams for “flash farm sales” which we’ll host whenever we have an abundance. Sales will take place on site so folx who come by can see where the produce they purchase is being grown.

I’m also in conversation with Dr. Neraj Tayal about an Edible and Sustainable Backyards Hop here in Beechwold. If you or someone you know has a space that would make a good addition, please reach out!

Visiting Neraj’s space last season and hearing how much our work inspired his own is something I’ve been thinking about a lot. It demonstrates the power of having places like OTFUF in the community and the importance of inviting people in to see it. Over the Fence has always operated in a liminal space between community farm and private garden. We aren’t inherently public facing – not visible from the street or occupying a public space. People are always welcome, but you do need to request or have an invitation to visit.

I’m also continuing my work with the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) on the Agriculture Resiliency Act. This marker bill for the 2023 Farm Bill draws attention to issues and efforts that can help make agriculture more sustainable, for people and the planet. This includes the promotion of soil health, increased investments in local regional food systems, addressing consolidation that is driving up prices and contributing to waste, and funding investments to support organic research and beginning and BIPOC farmers. You can learn more about OEFFA’s 2023 Farm Bill platform, hear from proud organic Ohio growers, and take action here.

So, I’ll try to get back to posting here a bit more regularly; to reflect and to share. I’m open to hearing what kind of content you’re most interested in – Reports from the Field, Tips You Can Use, Farmer Field Trips, Farming Advocacy… And I also reserve the right to post, or not post, whatever inspires me.

XO, Thanks for reading this far.

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Phase One – City of Columbus Kitchen Composting!

While on sabbatical from farming last season, I joined in discussion with a growing group of folks launching CORC – The Central Ohio Reuse Coalition. I’ll have to write another post about that group and our mission. For now, here are our three main goals (and a logo draft by friend of the farm Melissa Freuh!):

  • Create public demand for circular policies & solutions to replace disposable
    “make-take-waste” packaging and food & drink container systems;
  • Push elected officials to enact policies/ordinances that encourage reusable
    solutions and reduce disposables;
  • Encourage and facilitate circular economy initiatives/businesses based on
    closed-loop, circular solutions that replace disposables with reusables.

Our group leader, and a good friend, Doug Calem is a citizen on a mission who has done a deep dive into reuse systems, worked hard to make connections with sustainable city groups throughout the region, and gotten a seat at the table with folks at the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Group (MORPC) and City of Columbus.

I tagged along with him this past week for a meeting with Aryeh Alex, City of Columbus Sustainability Manager and Keep Columbus Beautiful Executive Director, about a plastic education grant we’re working on with his office. It was a great conversation – at one point Aryeh noted how unusual it is to find residents who geek out about waste management – that gave me a lot of hope for Columbus moving into the future.

Doug had to leave a few minutes early so I got to talk one-on-one with Aryeh. I asked about the possibility of city-supported food waste composting. Kitchen scraps and other organic, compostable materials are the ones that make your trash can stink. It’s also the stuff that generates methane, a powerful source of carbon emissions, into the atmosphere. According to SWACO (Solid Waste Management of Central Ohio), 15% of what goes into the landfill in our region is food waste. The more of these we can divert from the waste stream and put to new use the better. Some reading this might compost at home, but that’s not possible for everyone across the city.

I was shocked when Aryeh told me that a pilot program for food waste drop sites around the city was announced in the 2023 Columbus Budget Mayor Ginther introduced a few weeks ago. I found this recording and listened for my pet issue (jump to 15 minutes or listen to it in context of other waste management issues a few minutes earlier). I’ll admit this was the first time I listened to a city budget preview presentation. I’m sure folks have torn apart various points of it and feel some concerns are less represented or addressed differently than they might like, but I was impressed, even a little inspired, to hear more about how the city approaches its fiscal responsibilities and investments with regard to safety, affordability and vital city services.

I liked when the mayor said,”Budgets are more than just ledgers and line items – they are based on our values.” Again, I don’t know as much as I should about city initiatives but I know I’m hearing more often about our Climate Action Plan and programs linked to it. The goal is carbon neutrality by or (hopefully) before 2050.

So, here’s what we have to look forward to in Spring 2023.

Free kitchen compost drop-off sites in city parks and recreation centers! The mayor mentioned two but Aryeh said there would be five online the first year with ten more added in 2024. Sometime down the road there might be as many as 50 and/or some city-subsidized curbside pickup option. Details are still in the works but the food scraps would likely go to one or both of two sites while SWACO builds its new recycling facility that will include a bio-digester. The first, and one I heard most about, is at the London Correctional Institution that offers a job training program for inmates to work in waste management. The city is already working with the program to employee graduates of the program upon their release. How cool is that?!

Another goal Aryeh mentioned that I have heard urban farmers speak about in the past is changing city code that would allow community gardens and urban farmers to receive and compost on-site kitchen scraps from neighbors. Sounds like they are working through the red tape so stay tuned for more on that as well as when to expect the drop sites will be open, ready to receive food waste, and tips on getting your materials there.

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Farmer Field Trip: Dr. Neeraj’s Farm

For the past few years, many people have asked me if I heard about the doctor in Clintonville who started a farm. None of them knew him or could tell me his name. He was a mystery farmer. Over time, I came to learn he didn’t just live in the neighborhood, but one street over from us. I tried to figure out which house was his. I craned my neck to peek over and through hedges as I walked Thompson. And then, one recent Sunday morning I met him as he was walking his dog down the street in front of our house. We exchanged numbers and today, I got to visit with Dr. Neeraj Tayal. Who literally lives around the corner from me. Well two corners, but you get my point. Really close.

From the moment he greeted me on the driveway until I said goodbye to he and his wife Suzanne well over an hour later, Neeraj was smiling. Something told me he was always like that, not just on unseasonably warm and sunny Thursday afternoons in early November. It’s not everyday you meet someone with a resting smiley face.

When we met on the street, Neeraj briefly shared that he had been to Over the Fence for a tour which inspired him to start farming. Given my ongoing uncertainty about what OTFUF_2.0 will look like, that meant A LOT to me to hear. Today he and Suzanne recalled that tour and how Neeraj came reluctantly, dragging his feet down the block. But, once we was here, he began to envision new ways to engage his longtime love of plants. He picked up a brochure for the OSU Master Urban Farmer Workshop Series that was on display and signed up.

It wasn’t easy for him to find the time for the classes nor imagine how he would maintain a backyard farm. He is a practicing physician and Clinical Professor of Medicine and a father of four, after all. But somehow he and his family made it work. And now, five years later, they have a thriving community farm he tends with four other families.

These longtime homeschooling friends gather every Saturday for 2 hours. As I’ve done at OTFUF, Neeraj serves as the farmer-manager. He determines the jobs that need to be done, and directs his folks on how they can help. He has also reduced his hours at the medical center so he has time off during the week to work the land and spend more time with his family. In addition to their CSA work, Suzanne using the farm as a lab for a homeschool science club.

Once I got home, I read Neeraj’s professional bio and was blown away by how clearly the farm seems to manifest his medical mission. He wrote, “I am particularly aware of the benefits of preventive health care and chronic disease management and the care for acute illnesses. I’m passionate about developing new and innovative ways to improve patient experience…” Sounds a whole lot like Hippocrates call to “Let food to be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

Beyond the human aspects, Neeraj’s work as a medical professional show up in his approach to farming itself. While we spoke he drew comparisons between caring for plants and caring for people. In both cases, he observes and asks questions. Does a physical examination and makes assessments about maladies and treatments. What’s underlying this issue? Nutrition? Environmental factors? In the hospital and in the field, Dr. Neeraj makes diagnoses and administers prescriptions.

So it seemed to make perfect sense that Neeraj’s farm reads like a test case for Jean-Michel Fortier’s Market Gardenner methodology, which served as an early inspiration. The Dr.’s science background serves him well in this regard. I couldn’t help laughing as he displayed his math wizardry around irrigation and fertilizer calculations compared to my more expressive arts-based techniques. The results of his medical assessment and computations were evident in the rows of fall proudce ready for harvest, seedlings preparing to overwinter, and cover crops doing their magic.

Talking to Neeraj simultaneously helped me chill out about making plans for the future AND think about new ways to get my shit together. It was so great to meet him and hope we can keep our exchange going, inspiring one another to keep growing food and building community.

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Farmer Field Trip: Stratford Ecological Center

I’m not traveling as I’d hoped this summer, but the time is flying by. A few weekends ago, I took advantage of an invitation from OEFFA (Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association) to spend the day at Stratford Ecological Center in Delaware. If you haven’t been, you need to go. If you have, you probably need to go back.

Stratford was instrumental in my development as a farmer. I first learned about it when our older kids attended farm camp there, about 15 years ago. Despite its increasing popularity, the littlest was able to follow more recently. The drive up from Columbus isn’t short, about 30 minutes, but pleasant. About as closer to “a quick trip to the country” as you can get in Central Ohio without getting on the interstate. It used to be more quaint, but development has really changed to landscape between here and there over the past decade. In a way, all that building makes Stratford more special – 236 acres set aside to preserve nature and teach children (and their teachers and families) where food and fiber come from.

When you arrive, you enter through Stratford State Nature Preserve: 60-some-odd acres of woodland set aside to do what it will. Cruising through the narrow, winding road, you feel hugged by the trees and your blood pressure drops. After a few minutes, you emerge on the farm fields under big open sky. Depending on the year and the season, might be planted with hay, sunflowers, and other tall large field crops.

Walking around, you’ll meet the flock of chickens who live amidst the apple trees, pass through the high tunnel (the first I’d ever seen and still one of the prettiest) tasting greens, and pet sheep, llamas, pigs, and other mammalian livestock. Also on display are an edible rain garden, straw bale building, and . In the winter, the sugar shack is humming, converting countless gallons of sap into maple syrup.

The purpose of my visit this summer was to tour the farm with Jeff Dickinson, Farmscaper at Stratford since its founding in 1990, learn about the Agriculture Resilience Act (ARA) – a marker bill designed to get Congress thinking more about the connections between farming and climate, and help participants digest the lessons we learned through some creative activities leading up to contacting our legislators asking them to support the ARA.

“The Agriculture Resilience Act will expand resources for sustainable farmers working hard to build healthy soils and fight climate change, building on six key focus areas: increasing investment in agricultural research, improving soil health, supporting the transition to pasture-based livestock, ensuring farmland preservation and viability, promoting on-farm renewable energy production, and reducing food waste.” (OEFFA, April 22, 2022)

I learned a lot during the legislative briefing and participated in good conversations that got me energized to make some phone calls, send postcards to my representatives, and educate others about how sustainable farming can help mitigate climate change. I’ll post again with more specifics there. In the meantime, read up on the bill through the link above and consider picking an issue that resonates with you. Contact your legislator, talk to your neighbors about it, and write to your local newspaper editors.

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Farmer Field Trip: Wild Hare Prairie Native Nursery

When you love to grow things and see a new sign pop up in your neighborhood like this, you stop and take notice.

Christy Harris started Wild Hare Prairie Native Nursery as a pandemic project at her home on E Beaumont Road in Beechwold (aka northern Clintonville). I didn’t get a chance to stop by last season but took advantage of a free hour Friday afternoon to hop on my bike and make visit. Not only was it Earth Day, but I was just a few days out from hearing an inspirational talk about re-wilding private lands by Doug Tallamy through Sustainable Upper Arlington and the UA Libraries. (Thanks as always for the tip, Bernadett!) In addition to all that, it’s peak spring ephemeral season here in Central Ohio so you could say I have native plants on my mind…

I hopped off my bike and starting checking out the dozen or so varieties of plants Christy had on display in the driveway. They looked healthy, and while some seemed familiar, there were plenty of new things too and Christy was ready to tell me ALL about them! Latin names, growing habits, and more. I was impressed.

I followed Christy through the privacy fence across the driveway into the back yard. I was speechless; seedlings as far as the eye could see. Countless cultivars, literally as I asked Christy if she was keeping track and the answer was something like “not yet.” Even more remarkable, Christy is learning everything by doing. She has no formal education in horitculture and is so humble about her knowledge. She told me, “It all started with milkweed for the monarchs… Now I just try to grow as many plants as I can.”

The backyard nursery was like no place I have ever been before, and I’m no stranger to garden tours. In addition to thousands of seedlings (including some that she’s been nursing for three years – Hello, Compass Plant!) there were established beds in sun, shade, part shade and even a wetland habitat with blooming marsh marigold. I can’t wait to visit again later in the season. As I told Christy, I intend to spend a lot of money at her house this year as I work on diversifying what’s growing at our place.

Christy is a local plant shero and neighborhood treasure. Visit her throughout the season – her inventory will change as things mature – and tell her I sent you!

Wild Hare Prairie Native Nursery is open from “sign up to sign down.” You can also find Christy at farmer’s markets all over Central Ohio this season, including Bexley, Franklin Park, and Worthington where she’ll be May 7th, as well as Facebook and Instagram.

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Farmer Field Trip: A Garden of Hope

This is the first of a series of posts I’ll be sharing this season highlighting growers in central Ohio. If I’m lucky, I’ll venture beyond the borders of the Buckeye state once or twice before the fall frost comes back around. I’m looking forward to taking the season off from our CSA in order to learn about what others are doing and contemplate new directions for our operation in the years to come. Hope you’ll join me on these adventures. – Jodi

This time of year, I spend a lot of time in the basement taking care of seedlings. It’s quiet, methodical work – sowing, watering, monitoring, thinning, transplanting – that seems perfectly suited for wintertime. But as soon as the sun starts shinning, and especially after the clocks spring forward and the temperature warms a little, I’m ready to get out.

As I’m taking it easy this year in observance of shmita, I have a few visits to other Columbus growing operations planned. Recently, I got to swing by the Howlett Greenhouses at OSU (along with longtime friend and photographer of the farm Julian Halliday) to check out how Amy Barr is getting ready for the season as garden coordinator for the James Cancer Center’s Garden of Hope.

Amy showing off her seedlings including ginger, rosemary, and other woody herbs regenerated from previous harvests.

2022 will be Amy’s 5th year with the garden, promoting the concept of food as medicine. From June-October cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers are invited to spend time in and harvest from the garden as often as once a week. While there, they learn about the nutritional benefits of a plant-based diet, which studies suggest may help prevent the growth and spread or cancer. In addition to increasing patients’ familiarity, knowledge, and access to healthy foods, the program promotes time outdoors and supports the psychological benefits of social engagement, breathing fresh air, and getting soil under your fingernails.

Amy works in concert with a dietician to teach participants how to add more produce to their plates. A healthy goal, she suggested, is to fill half the plate with vegetables and plant-based proteins. While they emphasize produce, they do not push a vegan or vegetarian diet. By visiting the garden, she reports, people are more likely to try new things. Staff and dietetics students from the university provide easy recipes to get people inspired by what they bring home.

In the same way the garden inspires participants, it has been inspired by them. Over the years, staff has expanded what they grow to meet the cultural demands of those they serve. After it was requested on patient surveys, Okra, was added to the garden offerings. Bonus: It has a beautiful flower. Patients have also taught Amy and her colleagues new ways to use familiar plants – like sweet potato leaves.

Like the rest of us, Amy and her team had to pivot their operations during the pandemic. Rather than a volunteer system, they ran the garden more like a tradition CSA – participants drove up to the garden and received a weekly share. While this was limiting in many regards, they learned that people were more likely to try new things when given them in a pre-made bag than when they were picking for themselves. This year they plan to try offering a “featured item” that everyone receives alongside those they gather for themselves.

If you or someone you know have or are living with a cancer diagnosis and are interested in learning more about The Garden of Hope, sign-up for their orientation April 30th, click here. You don’t have to be a patient at The James to participate and your caregiver (up to two, who need to register individually) can come along.

I can’t wait to visit the garden again this summer when it’s in full bloom. (Though it did look beautiful in it’s winter slumber….)

The Garden of Hope on The Ohio State University’s Waterman Agricultural and Natural Resources Complex @ Kenny Road.

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A Poem in Praise of Shmita


Erases all the messy bits of the city.

The broken sidewalks, the litter, the dirty piles of last week’s snow.

And it’s quiet.

Few cars on the street, shops closed early and

You wonder why more families aren’t out dancing in the snowy twilight.



Focusing on rest and reconnection prepared you to take advantage of this moment. 

You gear up and head out.

What could be more important than living this one beautiful moment.

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Hope is Flowers

Well, the entire 2021 season has come and gone and I haven’t posted anything in this space. That last offering was about flowers (see Cultivating a Love of Flowers) and those were one of the few things that did really well this year. Guess this proves the notion that you get what you give. I put energy towards flowers in the spring and we reaped the benefits. That said, and despite everything I wrote in the spring about developing an appreciation for flowers, you can’t eat them, at least not enough for a balanced diet.

As always, I felt inspired to write, there was plenty on my mind. I maintained our social media feeds so at least there is some record there of what transpired. But it was a hard year. Global weirding was in full effect and we saw long periods of super hot and dry weather alternating with lots of rain and spells of unseasonable cool. My energy and enthusiasm waned – I didn’t go out to work as much as I used to or organize CSA work sessions as regularly as in the past. More wild animals came to dine at our salad bar than ever, causing crop failure on multiple fronts. And we saw diseases, like tomato mosaic virus, I’d only read about before.

So, I can’t say I’m completely sad it’s October. We’re cleaning up and looking to the future. But this time I’m playing a long game. Last month, at the Jewish holiday of Rosh haShanah, an official shmita year began. Some readers will remember this is the seventh year biblical sabbatical called for in the Torah of Jews living in the land in Israel. I planned to take my own shmita year in the summer of 2019 as it was out 7th farm season (see: Embracing Persephone: My Shmita Year). That plan was derailed by the Covid-19 pandemic and I see 2021-22 (5782 on the Jewish calendar) as a second chance to take a much needed break.

As I look back on the year gone by and start to imagine the next seven, I have a few things I’m genuinely thankful for. Blessings worth noting and planning to make a part of our work moving forward.

First, Thanks to all the people who sent messages and photos of how the farm impacted your lives! From produce you turned into hot sauces, cocktail mixers, and new sandwich toppers to the seedlings you took home, nurtured, and enjoyed I’m grateful for your new ideas and appreciations. It’s so great to know what happens to the bio-mass we put out into the world.

Second, thanks to everyone who hosted me for farm and garden visits this year. From old friends to new acquaintances, to strangers I didn’t get to meet, I’m inspired by your work in rural and urban spaces throughout Central Ohio and beyond. Here are a few of the highlights.

(clockwise from top left) Mezzacello, Olde Towne East; Ithaca Community Garden, NY; Highland Youth Garden, Hilltop; Sharing Garden, Beechwold; Gomer’s Garden, Clintonville

Thanks also to those who visited the farm and reminded me its not like everyone else’s backyard. Where I saw mess, you saw magic. Where I saw what could be, you saw what was. Thank you for coming to sit by the fire pit for a chat, thank you for leading yoga classes in the driveway, thank you for sending your children to us for camp, and thank you for following us on social media and letting us know what we are doing is helping you see possibilities in your own spaces.

And finally, we circle back to the flowers. Thank Gaia for the flowers. I didn’t count the number of bouquets I cut this season, but I know it was a lot. As our friend Julian recently suggested, each one was a love song of sorts – a collection sown, grown, and gathered with love. And as our friend and yoga instructor Emily suggested, flowers offer us an opportunity to pay attention, to cultivate our mindful presence as we work to navigate and co-create new normals. That’s something I hope to do a lot of between now and Fall 2022. You may or may not hear much from me between now and then but I’ll look forward to being with you on the other side.

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Cultivating a Love of Flowers

I came to flowers later in my gardening life. I cut my teeth growing edibles. As a new gardener, I had a set of self-proclaimed black thumbs, little knowledge, a limited amount of resources, and couldn’t fathom why anyone would spend time cultivating plants that couldn’t be eaten. What was the point of flowers, really?

I soon learned how important flowers are to a healthy vegetable garden – and which ones can be eaten! As Lisa Mason Ziegler teaches, Vegetables Love Flowers. And so do bees and birds and other bugs that help our ecosystems thrive.

The year we started the farm, following a lesson on pollinators during the OSU Master Urban Farmer training program, I planted a bee highway in two beds that stretched across the farm east to west. Many of the plants were native perennials I purchased through the Worthington Gardening Club – Aster, Coneflower, Bee Balm, Sedum. Over time I added more; Yarrow and Columbine, Chives, Coreopsis and Black-Eyed Susan to name a few.  

When those plants outgrew themselves, I started dividing them and selling the offspring to generate additional funds for our work. At our first sale in 2017, I sold maybe 100 plants.

Fast forward five years and we have over 40 different types of seedlings for sale and have partnered with our fabulous friend Bernadett Szabo who grows mostly medicinal and culinary herbs. I’ve expanded my offerings beyond native and perennial flowering plants to annuals as well.

(Some of the flowers we’ll have for sale May 1st!)

Over my time on the farm I’ve come to realize flowers have lots of purposes. In addition to supporting pollinators and adding color to the landscape, people love to give and receive flowers. Flowers bring people joy. They make an occasion feel special. Our CSA members enjoy receiving bouquets alongside their edibles, and the community has supporting the farm and other nonprofits through additional sales.

At a sale I had last fall – “Buy the flowers before the frost kills them!” – a women who purchased a bouquet turned me onto Lisa Mason Ziegler’s work. In addition to her treatise on companion planting mentioned above, she has a ton of resources on extending the flower growing season. She even partnered with Johnny’s Seeds, like Eliot Coleman before her, to offer tutorials and recommendations on seeds and other supplies for growing Cool Flowers.

This season we’re trying some of Ziegler’s methods for jump-starting the flower season, and following some of her recommendations on varieties to grow. Some of these will be available at our 5th Annual Pollinator Lovers’ Plant Sale and Open House on May 1st.

I’m not ready to give up growing greens and tomatoes for flowers, but I have found found my love for them. And I look forward to sharing with you.

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Like a Perennial, We Rise

[Basement-born seedlings chilling in a cold frame, in the high tunnel. (left to right clockwise – chamomile, nigella, malva, poppy, calendula, larkspur, snapdragon, celery, blanket flower, bee balm).]

Late winter and early spring have been so much richer since I started growing seedlings a decade ago. Indoor seed starting gives me months more pleasure watching things germinate and tending to plant babies in the nursery. This year was no different. I started right around New Year’s and now the basement seeding station and high tunnel are packed with product for our 5th Annual Pollinator Lovers’ Plant Sale with Bernadett’s Farmacy and starts for our CSA.

I feel at once like the soundtrack for my life in this moment could be Aerosmith’s “Back in the Saddle Again” and The Beatles “Here Comes the Sun’.” This time of year is really busy on the farm and it’s also a time of rising up from winter’s slumber. We’re savoring the last days of “soup season” and enjoying the bright fresh herbs and greens. I’m working on this idea of holding conflicting ideas in my head at once. It’s a theme that seems to keep popping up for me.

All that to say that I’m happy it’s spring. Very happy. And I’m finding it harder than usual to dust off the tools and get to work.

Don’t get me wrong – I’ve been out back every day since mid-February tinkering, seeding, propagating, turning, pruning, spraying, moving. I am so grateful, once again, to have the privilege to work the patch of land we are currently stewarding. And, I’m really starting to feel my age – physically and mentally. I move a little slower and with more creaks than when we got this started and I’m more hesitant to put my ideas out in the world. Not quite sure whom I want to commit to being at the moment.

We are all coming out of our Covid-chrysalides and figuring out who we will be now. It’s an incredible opportunity, and incredibly terrifying.

One thing that’s helping me build inspiration for the growing season is visiting friends’ farms. Last year was really isolating. Farming is already pretty isolating but I really missed farm visits. I didn’t realize how much.

Last week I got to visit Rachel Tayse at Harmonious Homestead and Bernadett Szabo at the new location of Bernadett’s Farmacy. It was so energizing. If you have the chance, go visit a local farm or gardening friend in the next few weeks. Share your plans, ask questions, just look. Here are a few of my highlights.

Where are you finding inspiration? I can always use more.