Over the Fence Urban Farm

Cooperatively farming small patches of Earth in Columbus, OH


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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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Update on CFM Kids Club

The Clintonville Farmers’ Market Kids Garden Club is having a great season. In late June we visited Swainway Urban Farm’s indoor growing facility for our second field trip. The kids were interested to see how Joseph mimics natural temperature fluctuations and creates humid conditions that encourage mycelium to fruit into mushrooms, even if most of the kids said they had no desire to eat them. The parents, on the other hand, were all drooling at the sight of the oyster, shitake, and chestnut mushrooms we saw.

As we moved from the mushroom tunnels to the microgreens grow room, Joseph surprised the kids when he announced, “Please don’t pet the greens!” But as soon as we were inside, we all understood the nature of his request. Trays full of thousands of tiny plants sat under grow lights, glowing like pillows of moss in the forest, begging to be touched. Joseph described his schedule for germinating and growing the greens as well as the rich compost he makes with the potting soil and roots they leave behind.

Honestly, this tour was a little tough for the kids because it was inside, in a small space. But I’m glad we went. I’m glad they got to see that people are growing food professionally in spaces like this. With climate change, more people are talking about the future of indoor farming.

And, this trip offered a clear example of how this club benefits parents, not just their kids. Some asked if they could join the outing even while their kids’ were away at camp or visiting relatives. They had a desire to peek behind the curtain at one of the longest growing and commercially successful farmers in Clintonville. I don’t blame them. I’m always inspired when I hang out with him too.

July 13 we had our first sale of the season at the market. This is always exciting for the kids. Our group is on the young side this year and the crowds intimidated some of them, but others jumped at the opportunity to talk to people who stopped by and get them to buy the vegetables and herbs we brought from their garden.

(Photo Note: we had our potatoes and garlic in the basket seen on the left for the first hour or so of the market. Once we took them out and put them on the table, as seen on the right, they started selling better. Lesson learned about booth display!)

I also continued the tradition of bringing an activity to extend the garden club members’ learning and help them introduce market patrons to new things. In the past we held a basil versus radish leaf pesto taste test (guess which won?!) and blindfolded herb identification test (sniff sniff). This time we brought eight flowers blooming in the garden and on the farm.

We had lots of folks (mostly women and girls now that I’m thinking about it) stop by to play “Test Your Flower Power.” We all had fun watching them try to match the flowers with the cards I made with their names and some information on their growing habits, benefits for pollinators, and medicinal and culinary uses. Potato proved the toughest to identify. Others included borage, mint, chamomile, tomato, calendula, yarrow, and nasturtium.

The little kitchen scale I bring along isn’t certified for sales, but it is a big hit. The kids love to try to get to a perfect pound. And I am always impressed, and cheer loudly, when they do!

Our next sale is August 10th. Come find us!


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Field Trip: Freshtown Farm

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One of the best parts of my gig leading the Clintonville Farmers’ Market Kids Garden Club are the field trips. These three evenings provide a great excuse for me to get out during the season and see what other farmers in Columbus are up to. Tonight we visited with Marcie Todd at Freshtown Farm, at their northside growing site. 

The kids (and their parents) had a great time walking around checking out the space, a parcel FF leases from a generous long-time supporter of urban growers. The site is just over two miles from our farm, but feels like the country.

We tasted young hibiscus leaves, broccoli, zucchini, and mulberries. And we got to meet and pet the property owner’s two goats – both males so no milk, sadly…

This aspect of the program really gives the kids perspective on the various ways people are growing in our city. Meeting the folks they see at the market is good for the farmers too. Our kids (and their parents, aka the ones who have the money!) are excited to go find Marcie’s booth and buy her produce.

A final note of thanks to the folks at Acre for a gift card we presented to Marcie to thank her for the time she gave us. If you haven’t eaten there, summer is a perfect time to try their farm-to-table offerings.


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Season 3: CFM Kids Garden Club @OTFUF

We’re thrilled to be hosting the Clintonville Farmers’ Market Kids Garden Club for a third season! (Seriously, about the exclamation point.)

A few kids came around in late April for a garden cleanup as part of Earth Day Columbus’s week of service. We got started with our regular weekly meetings the third week in May.

There are lots of new participants which is exciting. The veterans are moving up into mentorship roles – leading weeding and seeding jobs, reading to the younger kids, and setting a great example as they model appreciation and respect for the work we do together.

The first session we planted tomatoes and strawberries gifted to us by our friends at Mother’s Peace Urban Farm and Animal’s Garden collective. When they weren’t planting in their space, the kids went on a scavenger hunt for different flowers around the farm. Our last five-ten minutes are always reserved for visiting with the hens.

Our second session the older kids read Peter Brown’s Curious Garden to the younger kids. And everyone worked hard to get the herb, eggplant, pepper, and sunflower plants Swainway Urban Farm donated to us in the ground. We’re so thankful for all the support we get for this program from our local urban farming community.

The kids tasted a range of things we’re harvesting on the farm now. The snow peas were an obvious favorite. That so many of them ate the celery shocked and amazed me.


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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.