Over the Fence Urban Farm

Cooperatively farming small patches of Earth in Columbus, OH

Spring Challenges, Maybe

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I started farming again this season rather than follow through on my planned sabbatical to give myself something to do that I could feel good about. To have something to work on. To have healthy food on hand to feed my family, friends, and extended community. Sadly, it’s been the hardest start to a season I can remember us ever having.

A late freeze killed dozens of tomato and tomatillo plants early on the morning of May 9th. This was just days after we donated plants to food access programs so we had minimal backups on hand. Last week we got 4.88 inches of rain in five days (May 18-22) followed by temperatures in the upper 80s, at least 10 degrees hotter than normal. This caused major crop failure in our spring greens, just as we were getting ready to distribute them. These are the crops I usually feel the most proud of, so their loss really hurt.

The day after the freeze I was texting with my friend Bernadett (Bernadett’s Farmacy). We’d been swapping weather forecasts and plans for protecting our seedlings for days leading up to the big chill. When I told her we lost a bunch of plants despite all my efforts, she sent me a link to the story of the Taoist farmer.

The story follows a farmer who suffers a series of what most people would deem unfortunate events ending with something most would consider a lucky break. Regardless, the farmer is always hesitant to label anything lucky or unlucky. “Maybe,” is his constant reply.

After sitting on this story for a few weeks, working through more and more of what I would consider bad luck, hunting for the silver linings, today things started to click.

I had grown only three types of tomato seedlings – following my revised sabbatical plans of using only the seed I happened to have in the basement, not allowing myself to buy anything new. Upon hearing we’d lost all our tomatoes, friends, including Bernadett, offered us extra seedlings they had. Now we have a much larger variety than originally planned. It makes me think a seedling swap could be fun in the future. Like a next level seed swap. So maybe things worked out in the end. At least for that chapter of the story.

The verdict’s still out on the others. I’ll be sure to report back as I find them.

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