Over the Fence Urban Farm

Cooperatively farming small patches of Earth in Columbus, OH

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Hope for the Future

This is Leo.


In February, he wrote me this email:

Hi my name is Leo and I’m currently a freshman at Ohio State. I happened to find the Facebook page for Over the Fence Urban Farm, and immediately knew it was something I wanted to support. I’m originally from Hawaii, where through school trips and community service opportunities I was able to go to and help out at multiple local organic farms. I would love to be able to come and help out in your garden. Please email me back with any info regarding ways I can help.

I wrote back and let him know things would get going in March and gave him a rough idea of what days of the week might be good to come around. Low and behold, the first week in March, he got back in touch! He wanted to try to come around before he left for spring break. Things didn’t work out that week, but once he was back in town and completed his midterms, he reached out again. We went back and forth for a month and a half until, yesterday, we connected, just days before he leaves for summer recess.

Leo showed up on time. He was enthusiastic about what we’re doing here – asked questions, shared stories from his own experiences, smiled, helped with the chores, played with the chickens, and took a big bag of greens back to the dorm to make a salad for his friends.

Thank you, Leo. Thank you for reaching out and keeping in touch. Thank you for giving me hope for the future at a time when so many things in our country and around the world seem to be upside down and falling to pieces. Thank you for being a mensch. Have a great break and we’ll see you again in August!

(If you’d  like to read more about young people working on the farm in this post from last summer, “Help from Abroad.”)

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Service Learning with OSU EEDS Students

This afternoon I hosted half a dozen OSU students and their friends for some hands-on learning. I had visited and spoke with them last month during a Rural Sociology course at Ohio State they are enrolled in called “Population, Place, Environment.” My article, “Art Education in My Backyard: Urban Placemaking on an Urban Farm,” was included on their syllabus. Most are majoring in a multi-disciplinary degree program,”Environment, Economy, Development, and Sustainability.” I’m still trying to figure out what all this means, but it was great hanging out with them and hearing about their interests and academic pursuits.

Sarah is conducting a survey of people who live in the vicinity of urban farms in Columbus.
Joachim was recently appointed a parcel of land to garden through the city’s land bank.
Molly has been working for clean energy solutions.
Laura is interning with OEFFA.

It took me a little longer than usual to get things ready for the workday since we are still unpacking from the off season. With a little effort, I got the workspace opened up and found the tools we’d need.

Thelma and her friend Laurel arrived first, eager to get to work. I saddled them with resizing the last beds on the west side. This wasn’t easy as things have been out of wack from the start.

They got things marked off and moved soil around to get the beds back in line.

Then George, Sarah, Alayna and her friend worked on reestablishing the walking paths between the beds.

On the other side of the farm, Laura, Molly, and Joachim worked on the garlic beds. They removed the straw that was set in the fall, counted the plants, fertilized, and recovered them with a new blanket of straw.

It was a great afternoon – relaxed place, productive energy, engaging conversation – and I lamented the fact that there are only a few weeks left of the term, leaving us little opportunity for additional time together. A number of the students are graduating this spring and I feared that coming to the farm today might not have been well-timed. On the contrary, they reported that garden therapy was just what they needed. Since I’ve been grading my own students’ papers night and day with no end in site, it was just what I needed too.

Come back anytime, y’all.



Farming. My Misogi?

“We’ve evolved with a desire to challenge ourselves…How can you reach the edge of your potential without risking failure?”

Marcus Elliott
(Harvard-trained sports scientist who enjoys all-night jogs)


I came across this quotation at the gym the other day in Outside. It was part of an article about Atlanta Hawks’ 3-point shooter Kyle Korver and his friends’ annual misogi events. Misogi is an ancient Japanese concept with many interpretations. They all suggest some form of personal challenge that leaves the practitioner cleansed and refocused. This year Korver and his gang completed an underwater 5K relay carrying 60+ ad 80+lb rocks. (Insane, I know. Read the article for all the details.) I’m not sure how Japanese adherents to the more customary interpretations would feel about this, but that’s a topic for another blogger.

I’m an exercise addict, but I’m only physically competitive with myself. This seems to underline lots of Outside content. As I was reading about Korver, etal’s endeavors, I found my mind wandering to the farm. This time a year ago, I was planning for Over the Fence for the first time. I really had no idea what I was in for, but I approached my tasks with discipline and intention. By the end of the season I was so proud of what I had accomplished, including leading a group of folks to help me ensure that all these things got done!

Another of Korver’s mates said of completing a misogi “It’s this W—a win—you have in your back pocket. That can translate to somewhere else. You can say: ‘I have no idea what I’m doing now, but I know I did this crazy thing over here.’ ”

This has been an incredibly challenging year for our family in many, many ways. I’m sure that the success I found on the farm gave me energy to address responsibilities in other areas of my life. Perhaps it’s time to formalize my Spring 2015 goal of spreading our compost in a single day. Let’s make that the Over the Fence misogi. Rain or shine? It’s compost time! (Well, probably not in the rain, but you get my meaning.) Let’s do this.

(Date TBA).