Over the Fence Urban Farm

Cooperatively farming small patches of Earth in Columbus, OH


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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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End of Season Report – Kids Garden Club

It’s been a tough season on the farm. July into August was SUPER hot and SUPER dry. It was hard to get our CSA members motivated to come out and work. It was hard to get myself motivated to work.

A shining point was the Kids Garden Club, subsidized by the Clintonville Farmers Market. After three seasons leading the group, I felt like I hit my stride. We had a few established traditions to build on and fresh faces and energy to keep things interesting.

Yesterday I received a thank you note validating my feelings. This parent and her child showed up the second week of club and when I asked, “How did you find out about the program?” she told me she saw a picture of a friend’s child holding one of our chickens and she was sold.

She wrote, “When I signed H up on a whim after seeing a friend’s Facebook post, I figured she would get a little hands-on experience…. Instead, she got something much better; she learned (through fun!) about the many ways food gets to her plate. Your approach—field trips to local farms, stories, marketing lessons, talking to the kids like the intelligent, creative beings they are—made this an exceptional experience. Watching the kids debate the charity they would designate their remaining funds to was one of the best moments in democratic debate I’ve seen in some time. So thank you, thank you. I wish every child could experience this club. I firmly believe it would make our community, nation, and world a better place.”

Oh my god. So lovely. And just the validation I needed at this time in the season, and with big changes happening in other parts of my life.

Here are a few snapshots of the final third of our season. For more check out Season 3: Kids Garden Club and Update on CFM Kids Club.

We wrapped up our field trip circuit with a late July visit to Mother’s Peace Urban Farm located just a few blocks from us. As we walked through an ocean of zinnias in Fawn’s backyard, it dawned on me just how incredible it is to share with kids (and their parents) different ways to make use of one’s greenspace. We’re privileged to have land at our disposal and it still amazes me to imagine all the possibilites for using it beyond a boring patch of grass.

Fawn also talked with the kids about her bee hives and showed them some of the tools she uses (and generously lets me borrow from time to time).

Our second sale at the market was a success! At the meeting prior to the sale we reviewed and expanded on ideas for how to engage customers and lure them into our booth. One of the kids suggested tap dancing chickens which we all found hilarious. When she arrived for her shift the morning of the sale, she was disappointed I didn’t have any with me. Without hesitation, she stepped out in front of our table and started singing and tapping her feet. It was a riot and definitely got us some attention.

The kids sold out of everything we brought to market – tomatoes, potatoes, tomatillos, eggplant, flowers, garlic, peppers, flowers, and zucchini banana bread. They earned over $175 between the two sales, half of which was spent on an end of season pizza and ice cream party (before you start wondering what kind of garden club this is, there was also garden salad and veggie snacks!) and a donation to the Ohio Wildlife Center.

I had a wonderful time getting to know these kids and seeing them open up over the course of the season. And I’ll look forward to seeing them, and their folks, around the neighborhood.


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Follow-up on The Columbus Dispatch Home and Garden Show

Last week I was offered tickets to attend the Home and Garden Show and to give tickets away to readers of this blog. (To see my original giveaway post, click here.)  Thanks to all who left comments. I’m excited to hear how your plans and commitments to local food systems progress this season! In this addendum, I wanted to share my brief review of the show based on my experience attending this past Monday with some friends of the farm and our children.

In a nutshell: 
Chances are, if you are reading this blog you shouldn’t go to the home and garden show.

I should have predicted this based on the show’s sponsors, but I like to think of myself as someone who’ll try anything once. In short, this is a trade show not befitting DIY homsteaders or urban farmers. It’s a place for people to find others to build and plant things for them and there was little to no mention of sustainable gardening practices, planting with native species, or growing fruits and vegetables. So do yourself a favor, and stay home and get to work!

All that said, if you enjoy visiting conservatories, you’ll appreciate the picturebook-themed garden installations at the show this year. I can appreciate the effort the nurseries and landscapers put toward bringing these spaces to life inside the Ohio Expo Center.

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The Lorax garden installation. Mildly amusing, but not really useful as urban farming inspiration.

In the meantime, my friends and I will be dreaming up plans for a home and garden show befitting our kind. A good place to start would be visiting any number of farms and homesteads, like ours, that host open houses throughout the growing season. Stay tuned for updates on our 2018 open houses and Ohio-based events hosted by Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) and OSU Extension.


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When One Season Ends, Another Begins.

As my touring season ended, it was great to start gathering inspiration for next year from Bernadette.

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