Over the Fence Urban Farm

Cooperatively farming small patches of Earth in Columbus, OH

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Phase One – City of Columbus Kitchen Composting!

While on sabbatical from farming last season, I joined in discussion with a growing group of folks launching CORC – The Central Ohio Reuse Coalition. I’ll have to write another post about that group and our mission. For now, here are our three main goals (and a logo draft by friend of the farm Melissa Freuh!):

  • Create public demand for circular policies & solutions to replace disposable
    “make-take-waste” packaging and food & drink container systems;
  • Push elected officials to enact policies/ordinances that encourage reusable
    solutions and reduce disposables;
  • Encourage and facilitate circular economy initiatives/businesses based on
    closed-loop, circular solutions that replace disposables with reusables.

Our group leader, and a good friend, Doug Calem is a citizen on a mission who has done a deep dive into reuse systems, worked hard to make connections with sustainable city groups throughout the region, and gotten a seat at the table with folks at the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Group (MORPC) and City of Columbus.

I tagged along with him this past week for a meeting with Aryeh Alex, City of Columbus Sustainability Manager and Keep Columbus Beautiful Executive Director, about a plastic education grant we’re working on with his office. It was a great conversation – at one point Aryeh noted how unusual it is to find residents who geek out about waste management – that gave me a lot of hope for Columbus moving into the future.

Doug had to leave a few minutes early so I got to talk one-on-one with Aryeh. I asked about the possibility of city-supported food waste composting. Kitchen scraps and other organic, compostable materials are the ones that make your trash can stink. It’s also the stuff that generates methane, a powerful source of carbon emissions, into the atmosphere. According to SWACO (Solid Waste Management of Central Ohio), 15% of what goes into the landfill in our region is food waste. The more of these we can divert from the waste stream and put to new use the better. Some reading this might compost at home, but that’s not possible for everyone across the city.

I was shocked when Aryeh told me that a pilot program for food waste drop sites around the city was announced in the 2023 Columbus Budget Mayor Ginther introduced a few weeks ago. I found this recording and listened for my pet issue (jump to 15 minutes or listen to it in context of other waste management issues a few minutes earlier). I’ll admit this was the first time I listened to a city budget preview presentation. I’m sure folks have torn apart various points of it and feel some concerns are less represented or addressed differently than they might like, but I was impressed, even a little inspired, to hear more about how the city approaches its fiscal responsibilities and investments with regard to safety, affordability and vital city services.

I liked when the mayor said,”Budgets are more than just ledgers and line items – they are based on our values.” Again, I don’t know as much as I should about city initiatives but I know I’m hearing more often about our Climate Action Plan and programs linked to it. The goal is carbon neutrality by or (hopefully) before 2050.

So, here’s what we have to look forward to in Spring 2023.

Free kitchen compost drop-off sites in city parks and recreation centers! The mayor mentioned two but Aryeh said there would be five online the first year with ten more added in 2024. Sometime down the road there might be as many as 50 and/or some city-subsidized curbside pickup option. Details are still in the works but the food scraps would likely go to one or both of two sites while SWACO builds its new recycling facility that will include a bio-digester. The first, and one I heard most about, is at the London Correctional Institution that offers a job training program for inmates to work in waste management. The city is already working with the program to employee graduates of the program upon their release. How cool is that?!

Another goal Aryeh mentioned that I have heard urban farmers speak about in the past is changing city code that would allow community gardens and urban farmers to receive and compost on-site kitchen scraps from neighbors. Sounds like they are working through the red tape so stay tuned for more on that as well as when to expect the drop sites will be open, ready to receive food waste, and tips on getting your materials there.

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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.


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.


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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Scenes from the field: 5.16.17

It’s been a busy couple of weeks since my last field report. I’ve started and saved this field report with three different dates. It’s gotten longer and longer every time and its time to let it go!

Made my first restaurant sale! 11lbs of greens to Rooks Tavern. Chef Aaron was a great customer.  Flexible and appreciative. Not sure when I’ll get back down there again, but at least now I have an idea of how the wholesale thing works.

The high tunnel is always thirsty.

Raddicchio in the tunnel – almost ready!

Winter sown spinach is going to seed.

Moving the compost to make room for more flowers. Here’s a cross-section. Inside its all broke down and ready to go!

The mild winter harbored last year’s Dahlias which I was overjoyed to see. Then the near freezing temperatures took a bite. They’re back again now but this just seemed too ironic not to document.

Carrots and radishes coming up where cucumbers will eventually dwell. Radish is supposed to repel cucumber beetles, one of my greatest nemeses! Will report more later on the results of this little experiment.

Itty bitty field sown fennel.

Visited with Columbus City Council member Elizabeth Brown to talk about the City of Columbus Green Business and Urban Agriculture Strategic Plan. This deserves a blog post of its own. Will get to that ASAP!

First bouquet of the season. Happy Mother’s Day to me!

Pulled the final bulbs of 2016 garlic out of storage. Wondering if we’ll be able to stretch it until the 2017 scapes come in…

Trying some new bush varieties of sweet potatoes this year.

Beyond thrilled to be planting the majority of our sweet taters at our friends’ Melissa and Andrew’s new place, our farm annex this year. I’ve missed being in the garden with them, so much. If ever there were folks who wanted a BIG garden in their yard its these two and I’m so psyched to see them get growing.

I’ve been going out at night to hunt slugs. Seems to be making an impact on the cabbage patch. Next up, strawberries…


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2015 Post-Compost Post

I’m tired.

There’s still a pile of compost on the driveway, but it’s less than half the size it was this morning. And it’s only there because I didn’t let folks mulch non-farm related areas. Those feel like personal responsibility. Not because we couldn’t have moved it all in a single day. So, once again, I am amazed by what a small group of people can accomplish when we come together and set our head, heart, and hands to it.

Here are a few highlights from the day.

The kids went worm hunting,



and they took the new wheelbarrow out for a roll.



Henry and Marc assembled our new farm toy – the broadfork.
Then Henry, David, and Andrew put it to work.



Cora, Melissa, Kate, Pam, Elizabeth, and I planted and transplated – leeks, cabbage, radicchio spinach, radish, kale, chard, peas, and fennel.



Then Carrie and I put them all to bed under a nice frost blanket.



And, of course, we moved about 7 yards of compost! (Go early team that didn’t get caught on film – Jess, Kathy, Damon, Emily, Mark, and Joanna, and Sarah!)

Looking Southeast – Before and After



Looking Northwest – Before and After



It was a VERY good day.

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It’s Time for the 2015 Compost Mosogi!

Last I posted here, the 2015 Compost Misogi was just a seed. That seed sprouted, took root, and will bloom this Sunday when CSA folks come by throughout the day to help us spread 10 yards of Price Farm Organics Zoo Brew compost all over the farm.

Everytime I talk or write about this, the voice inside my head sounds like a sports announcer, and I’m cool with that. This event has all the makings of a great test of endurance and determination – physical challenge + finite task.

Yesterday I picked up another load of burlap coffee bean sacks from Crimson Cup and laid them out in the paths between our rows. Don’t want folks sinking too deep in the early spring mud we’re sure to have. Sadly, it’s raining as I type, and we’re only 36 hours from the opening bell, but the pile is safely waiting for us under the world’s largest tarp. Thanks, Jenny! Something borrowed and blue for good luck, right?

Here’s the field looking southeast.


And northwest.


You can be sure there will be after shots.

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All About Compost

We compost our kitchen scraps, fallen leaves, and other assorted yard waste. We add it to our beds in the spring. But we don’t produce nearly the quantity, or quality, that we can get from commercial producers. A few years ago, we feel in love with a local product we found at City Folks Farm Shop called Zoo Brew from Price Farm Organics in Delaware, OH. Here’s how they describe it:

An all natural and unique compost comprised from cafeteria food remnants, zoo manure and bedding, brewery salvage, pet food remnants, yard trimmings & coffee grounds.  Abundant in nutrients and humus.  Excellent for use as a mulch with a natural black color. Both new landscape installations and older landscapes needing some fresh attention will benefit from this excellent compost.”

A few weeks ago, we had ten cubic yards of this black gold delivered to our driveway.

IMG_5027Yesterday, we started hauling it onto the farm. Beginning with the beds that will be planted first – greens, onions, herbs and flowers for our “bee highway.” Soon, perhaps even today, we’ll till it together with the first foot or so of topsoil. After weeks of going back and forth on whether we would or would not till, we decided we would this year and perhaps next. In the future we hope to have built our soil structure up enough to forgo this step and use a broadfork to work new organic materials into only the top few inches before starting new crops. I can already hear the earthworms screaming, but I know their friends and family will join us soon.


CSA members Katie, Coleen, and Liam Hughes joined us to help mulch our garlic beds with Zoo Brew which will help the beds retained moisture as well as feed them some good nutrients.


It’s starting too look like a real farm out there! Looking west at some of our 27 foot beds blanketed with compost from the central path, lined with burlap coffee sacks and straw.