Over the Fence Urban Farm

Cooperatively farming small patches of Earth in Columbus, OH


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Victory-Over-the-Virus Gardening: Sabbatical in the Time of COVID-19

“In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.”
from In Flanders Field, by John McCrae (WWI solider)

Well, like everything else in the world at the moment, our plans on the farm have been evolving day-by-day. As a reminder for readers who don’t regularly follow this blog, I was supposed to be taking a year off from farming this season. (Go back to Embracing Persephone for more on that.) I was going to give myself, and the land, a much needed rest. I was going to travel, read more books, take more walks in the woods and learn to hunt mushrooms and other wild edibles, do more yoga…

I’m taking more walks and doing more yoga, and I was reading more books until the world shut down and now I’m back to the basement starting seeds and the backyard prepping beds. 

The worldwide COVID-19 outbreak has made the mission of our little farm more clear. We need to increase food sovereignty, our power to grow our own healthy, delicious, safe food. In the spirit of the Victory Gardens of WWI and II, I am stepping back into production and trying some new strategies to promote Victory-Over-the-Virus Gardens this year, to keep our community stocked with healthy, delicious, and safe produce. [Shout out to Ed Fallon in Iowa, via local friend of the farm “Jimmy Christmas,” for introducing the term which he shared on his blog last week.]

While addressing this moment of crisis as a window of opporutnity to get more people growing, I am also trying to maintain a sabbatical mindset. As scholars use their “year of release” from teaching to pursue research, I’m testing out a few ideas I’ve been thinking about but hadn’t gotten around to. Here are a few I’m playing with.

I) Working through my seed stash
One of my shmita plans was to “clean out the pantries.” In other words, I wanted to pay more attention to the abundance I already possessed rather than buying more, more, more. Towards that end, 99% of the seeds I’m growing were already in my seed library. I will miss the things I’m out of and would have purchased – especially the wide variety of tomatoes – but missing them is kinda the point. Sabbatical time, like crisis time, needs to be marked by some difference in order to make a lasting impact on our mindset.

II) Farm stand
I have been wanting to try a weekly farm stand for a long time. I hope this will attract more folks in my neighborhood to the work we are doing. Columbus is currently working on new zoning regulations to allow on-site sales for urban agriculture, so the time seems right to give this a shot. (With social distancing and hand sanitizing enforced, of course.)

III) Victory-over-the-virus Garden-in-a-Box
Finally, after a few years of successful perennial flower and herb plant sales, aimed at increasing pollinator habitat, we will be offering a series of plant collections to get more people growing, and growing more, this season. Ongoing conversations about climate change and research on bionutrient density loss through travel have promoted sourcing greens locally for awhile, but COVID-19 crisis has brought a new sense of urgency to that work. Faced with empty grocery shelves and halts to distribution, Americans are quickly waking up to the notion that food sovereignty is something we should all be concerned with.

And now, enough with the typing, I have work to do…


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Recognition of our Indigenous Past

With each year that passes we become a bit more aware of the painful truths that make up our collective national history. Last year, our mayor announced that Columbus, OH would no longer celebrate Columbus Day. Sadly, the change didn’t go so far as to adopt the name Indigenous People’s Day. We hope that in the future, the Columbus will consider such a move; honoring those whose ways of life were cut short by European colonization.

As we try to live in harmony with the Earth here on the farm, we work to reestablish a connection with the land which pays it respect as the native peoples did. And today we offer this land acknowledgement:

We, Over the Fence Urban Farm wish to acknowledge and honor the indigenous communities native to this region, and recognize that our host city, Columbus, OH and Clintonville neighborhood were built on indigenous homelands and resources. Today we recognize and pay our humble respect to the Wyandot, Shawnee, and Delaware, who stewarded this land for generations.