Over the Fence Urban Farm

Cooperatively farming small patches of Earth in Columbus, OH


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July and August Review

This season has been rough. I was under a lot of stress in the spring in various other aspects of my life and like Tita’s emotion-infused cooking in Like Water for Chocolate, I believe it had an impact on the farm. The erratic weather (a week in the high 80s, rounds of 2-3 inches of rain over two days followed by 7 dry days…) and an influx of animal pests displaced by road and sewer constructions throughout our neighborhood didn’t help either. And so, it isn’t surprising that I haven’t posted much in this space. I didn’t feel like I had much to celebrate.

Thankfully my friends and loyal CSA supporters have assured me, repeatedly, that they’ll support our work when times are good and when they’re not so good. They understand that that’s what community supported agriculture means. When the harvest is good, it’s great, and when it’s ain’t, it ain’t.

I suppose you could say part of what members received in their share this season was emails from me outlining the challenges we faced, as we faced them. I like to think of this as the “get to know your farmer” bonus CSAs and farmers’ markets provide.

With all this going on,  I had no idea two months had gone by since I posted here! And, in retrospect, it wasn’t all bad. Here are some highlights.

The Clintonville Farmers’ Market Kids’ Garden Club continued their meetings, field trips (Franklinton Farms and Rock Dove Farm), and had two great sales at the farmers market. They raked in over $100 which we’ll split between their harvest party and a donation to a yet to be determined local nonprofit.

We grew popcorn for the first time this year – in the kids garden and on the farm. Visitors who stopped by for the Clintonville Midsummer Garden Tour were surprised to see it. Thanks to our early planting, it was way more than “knee high by the fourth of July!”

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Edible Columbus featured me in the Local Hero column. It was great to run into people throughout the summer who saw the article. Made me feel almost famous. And appreciated.

We have a bunch of events coming up in September including the Simply Living Sustainable Living and Garden Tour – an answer to the wish my friends and I had for such an event in the spring after visiting the mainstream H&G show at the fairgrounds (see Follow-up on The Columbus Dispatch Home and Garden Show).  We’ll also be celebrating the beauty of small scale agriculture at Global Gallery September 14th for a reception celebrating “In the Footsteps of a Farmer: Fleeting Beauty,” a photo exhibition sponsored by an Greater Columbus Arts Council Artists in the Community grant.

Thanks for sticking with us in the good times, and the not so good times.


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Kids on the Farm: Spring 2018

It’s just the start of the season and already we’ve had lots of young visitors at the farm! We’re proud to be a place in the community folks seek out to learn what urban farming looks, feels, and tastes like. Here are a few images of groups who visited us in May.

Cub Scout Pack 41, a member of whom lives down the block, came around as part of their Fur, Feathers, and Ferns merit badge adventure. They held their regular meeting around the fire pit, helped plant potatoes, and transplant basil and tomatoes.

For the second year, students from The Graham School came by to get some ideas for the garden at their school. They are researching and applying for grants to support their work and I told them about the seed donation we received this year from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. They set some of those seeds – three kinds of squash – in addition to helping with some light weeding, basil transplanting, and visiting with the chickens.

Finally, The Clintonville Farmers’ Market Kids Garden Club had its first official meeting of the season. The kids (and their parents) were excited to see what’s been growing since they came out in April to prep the beds as part of our Earth Week event.

If you have a group that’s interested in visiting the farm. Let us know!


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Scenes from the Field: Good Ole-Fashioned CSA Work Day!

This past Wednesday I sent out a call for a CSA workday this afternoon. At that time the forecast was for sunshine and temperatures the 60s. This morning, the high was forecast to be 51 with clouds. As folks started to arrive at 3pm, it was about 43 with wind. But they came!

When we first started the farm, and for the first year or two, our work days were well attended social affairs. People warned me the novelty might wear off and attendance might dwindle. Each year brought enough new members to keep everything growing and the dream of our little cooperative going, but the past year or two overall numbers have been down. If I’m being honest.

And so I was genuinely amazed when an intrepid group of folks (OTFUF veterans and new recruits) showed up to lend a hand planting, spreading compost, and doing some other general maintenance on the farm today. It felt like the good old days. I didn’t take my boots off and crack a beer until 7:30. Here’s to more days like this. If perhaps a bit warmer…

Julian supervised the potato planting efforts, and took amazing photos, of course!

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Liz, Elizabeth, and our new friend Julian (the 2nd) spread compost in the high tunnel.

Cora and a few other kids on the block who are all members of the
Clintonville Farmers’ Market Kids’ Garden Club
planted a few surprises* to welcome their friends back next month.
The girls brought their mom, not shown, who lent much appreciated help
watering in our wake.

*Thanks to Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds who provided us with a $50 credit to their online shop in support of the work we’re doing! Thanks to your generous support, we’ll be experimenting with some new varieties of corn, squash, beans, and carrots this season.

 


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Celebrating Earth Week Columbus with the Kids Garden Club

Members of the Clintonville Farmers’ Market Kids Garden Club came to the farm today to celebrate Earth Week and get the garden ready for the 2018 season.

Here’s a few scenes of the garden before we got started.

One of my goals for the event was to move the fence from the edge of the raised beds to the space beyond them. This will provide the kids a lot more growing space and room to move. With the help of a few handy moms, we got that job done. Now the kids have a bigger space to grow, and the chickens have better boundaries.

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The kids cleared the straw blankets that were sheltering the soil over winter and spread compost all over. Then they played around with the broadfork.

We planted some seeds even though though my go-to garden calendar said it wasn’t a good day for it. We aren’t due to start regular club meetings for a few weeks. I’m hopeful that Persephone will look kindly on our efforts and the kids will have some seedlings to welcome them back.

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In all the excitement of getting to know new garden friends and keep activities moving throughout the evening, we forgot to water. Luckily, shortly after we said our final farewells, it rained. Fingers crossed for more good luck ahead…

Thanks to Trish Clark for suggesting we have a pre-season event as park of Earth Week, and thanks to Green Columbus for sponsoring our activity as part of Earth Week Columbus, “the largest Earth Day volunteer service opportunity in the nation, [planned] in partnership with community leaders, non-profits, and businesses.”

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Kids’ Club Harvest Party

The Clintonville Farmers’ Market Kids’ Garden Club finished the season this past weekend with a delicious harvest party featuring fresh food from their garden.

First, they harvested lettuce, tomatoes, zucchini, carrots, chives, and basil to make a colorful salad. They didn’t all agree on what to add to the bowl, but agreed they could just eat the parts they liked, and maybe, just maybe, try a bite  of something new.

They used pre-made tomato sauce and radish leaf pesto as toppings for pizzas we cooked outside on the grill.

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Some of the kids hadn’t tried pesto before our second market day in August when we ran a pesto taste test for people who stopped by our booth – radish leaf versus basil. The basil version won, but only by a couple of votes. The kids, the participants, and I were all surprised by the results. (If you missed the post about our first market day, you can find it here.)

The kids had a great time working together to put the meal together in between playing and feeding scraps to the chickens.

Since the party didn’t cost that much, we paid for the few supplies we needed (like cheese and beer for the grownups) out of our dwindling supply budget leaving the entire $84 dollars we collected in market profits available for a donation to the Clintonville Resource Center.

I’ll admit I had mixed emotions about running this program. I have wanted to add some formal programming to our farm activities – drawing on my experience as an educator and our mission to help others learn how to grow their own food. Until this time, however, I hadn’t made the move to offer any classes or workshops. This opportunity pushed me into that and I’m so glad! I learned a lot. I hope the kids did too.


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Kids’ Garden Club: Sold Out!

The Clintonville Farmers’ Market Kids Garden Club sold out their first market booth this morning! We brought a few pounds of new potatoes, a dozen or so cucumbers, bouquets of flowers and a few purple green beans (just for sharing as taste tests). The kids raised $50 which we’ll spend on provisions for an end of the season harvest party.

We organized the morning into three shifts – one hour each with two kids working each hour. It worked out well, no one had any meltdowns, no one got lost, all the kids got to interact with customers and one another as they learned new things, and we had fun!

I brought a bunch of activities to keep us busy.

A clipboard to tally our sales:

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a scale to weigh things:

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and buckets of flowers, jars, scissors, and string so they could arrange bouquets.

We discussed how to greet customers, did lots of addition and subtraction to figure out sales totals and make change, and thanked everyone with a smile. We’ll work on a few of these a little more before our next sale.


We didn’t get a ton of folks at our booth–we were a little hidden by a road block sign and often mistaken for the token booth sales booth–but those who did take the time to stop and say hi were excited about our project. One woman told me, “I didn’t want any potatoes today but then I saw the kids and I was like, “OK!”

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We’ll be back at the market August 19th. Come see us!

 


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Catching up with the Kids Garden Club

The Clintonville Kids Garden Club has been chugging along. So far we’ve talked a lot about weeding, seeding, and feeding as well as working with what you find at your site, including volunteer plants and the bounty they offer with minimal effort. Two weeks ago the kids harvested 3 pounds of potatoes from plants that came back from last year within the bounds of their garden. This week, we harvested seed from an overwintered cilantro plant. As we collect things, we discuss how we might sell them at our first market day – July 15th.

This week we had a pretty small group. The girls who were with me harvested a nice bunch of cucumbers. They had a snack at club and took a few home to share, maybe, with their families….

Here they are harvesting cilantro seed. We talked about how amazing it is that one little seed made this plant, which produced so many more seeds!  We also talked about selling packets of these seeds and encouraging people to plant them now. It’s never too late to “seed” afterall!

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After some weeding, feeding, and seeding (radish, beets, and squash), the girls and I made some line drawings of flowers we’ve been growing. We hope to get a little coloring book together to sell at our stand.

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Everyone went home with a small bouquet.