Over the Fence Urban Farm


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Validation by Six Year Old

An important mission of our farm is demonstrating that good food, lots of good food, can be grown within city limits. I am particularly excited about passing this knowledge on to children, so they might imagine a new future for our public and private spaces. And so, it was with GREAT joy that I opened this text from one of our CSA families this morning.

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And then…

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So yeah, I’m feeling pretty validated today. Thanks Ezra.

Note: This post was previously called “Validation by Text Message” but after thinking about it, I realized it wasn’t the texting that made this exchange so powerful, it was the sic year old behind it.

 

 

 

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Tomatoes Growing Up One Vine

People sometimes look sideways at our tomato vines. We grow them up strings tied about 6 feet up from the ground, prune them down to a single fruiting vine, and they grow to be about 10-15 feet long by October. We fit around 20 plants in a 25 foot row. This practice was the result of reading Fell’s Vertical Gardening and watching a pruning tutorial on YouTube. (It’s linked in this post from a few years ago: “Tomato Fingers.”)

This year I’m trying to train more of our CSA folks to prune the plants. This is something I like to do myself both because I enjoy it and because it is somewhat exacting work. But I need to teach others what I’ve learned the past few years and I need to let go so I can get away from the farm from time to time! Pruning must be done at least once a week.

The hardest part for people to watch and understand is when I cut the suckers, some with stems 3/4 of an inch wide with flowers. They shouldn’t ever get this big but sometimes I miss one when they are young. I see the potential for fruit on those vines too, but I know from experience that it is easier for the plants to breathe, and for me to harvest their produce, when they are cut back.

People always ask whether the plants make as much fruit as they would if I let them grow out. I don’t have a scientific answer but have always assumed that since they are directing their growth in fewer directions the yield is concentrated to those areas and does better than spreading itself out. I still don’t have hard numbers to share- I’m a qualitative researcher afterall – but as the fruit sets this season, I do believe the proof is in these pictures. (top to bottom: Marbonne, Amish Paste, Sun Gold)

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Jodi Kushins, Urban Farmer

I was recently asked to consider the following questions as part of the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s (OEFFA) Women Grow Ohio project. The group’s leaders are putting together a website and plans for a second annual farm tour and wanted input from urban growers to balance out the voices of those in more bucolic settings.

How do you view your title? Are you an urban farmer, homesteader, grower, livestock farmer, gardener, or something other?

The responses shared by others before me were so eloquent. So beautiful. So confident. I felt not only at a loss for words, but humbled to be included in their group.

See this response from Sarah Campbell Taylor, for example:

Well we do call our business Jedidiah Farm. But at the risk of sounding contrary… Even though I grow on a larger suburban plot and do sell my products I don’t consider myself a farmer. I feel like throughout history and even now in many places people have done what I do- working hard to nourish themselves and others, sharing the bounty of their harvest with their community- and not necessarily considered themselves farmers. Maybe because it was just a way of life and didn’t really need a name? I hope that what I am doing won’t be unique for long, and that even people who don’t aspire to be farmers can see something in my lifestyle that they can envision for themselves.

Things I consider myself:
A mom who loves good eats.
A producer.
A revolutionary (I hope?)
A gardener/orchardist/goatherd[er]!
An experimentalist.
A person with a conscience.

You know the saying “if you want something done right, do it yourself.”? Well I love food. So I grow it and I share it.

When asked if she’d describe her approach “a homesteading lifestyle”, she responded:

Our lifestyle definitely includes homesteading, but I don’t think it encompasses the scope of what we are trying to accomplish because homesteading focuses on self-sufficiency while we our interests lean more towards sustainability, stewardship, community building and regenerative living.

Like Sarah, I named our project Over the Fence Urban Farm but felt a little funny about it for the first few years. Ultimately I called it a farm because it sounded better than Over the Fence Urban Garden. I second guessed my decision repeatedly and felt like a bit of a fraud when visiting larger operations. But, after a few weeks of thinking and living with this question, I am happy to call myself an urban farmer. Here are a few things that ran through my mind that helped me come to this conclusion.

After hardening off approximately 100 spring greens seedlings, I started sprouting another 100.

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Spring Greens Seedlings, Round 2

My yard doesn’t look anything like the (sub)urban lots around me. It looks like a farm. A small farm, yes, but a farm nonetheless.

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Through my efforts I am feeding others. Our small, backyard CSA fed 20 families last season. Granted, we didn’t meet all of their produce needs, but we made a healthy contribution.

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In the end, like Jedidiah Farm Over the Fence is not just about growing good food. I often refer to it as a community kitchen garden and feeding ourselves and others is certainly at the top of our agenda. But a large part of our mission is developing healthy soil and beneficial insect habitat, educating others to better grow their own gardens, and creative community building (see more on this in “Art Education in My Backyard: Creative Placemaking on an Urban Farm.” I don’t think these things are exclusive of being a farmer. To suggest otherwise ignores the role farmers play in our lives, communities, and ecosystems.

 

 


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Welcome to the 2016 Season!

In keeping with the unusually mild winter weather we enjoyed this year, overnight temperatures  are predicted to be above freezing for the foreseeable future.  That means it’s time to get the farm back in action. Here’s what it looked like yesterday morning. IMG_4994

The chickens have wrecked havoc on the beds all winter, scratching and kicking straw and soil every which way. Going into our third season it was time to remark our beds anyway – some had shrunk by a couple of feet on the ends – so the girls kind of did us a favor.

With help from die-hard CSA member Melissa, we got started measuring, moving and prepping the soil, and put a few trays of greens in the ground.IMG_4995

These babies were hardened off and ready to embrace the cool crisp air. (clockwise from top left- radicchio, lacinato kale, buttercrunch lettuce, rainbow chard, and romaine)

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Melissa pulled the plants from the trays…IMG_4991

…and I tucked them into their freshly (re)made beds.IMG_5010

Then we covered them with a frost blanket (sorry no photo), just in case Jack Frost comes back around this way.

Next week: The Return of Happy Hour on the Farm!


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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.

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And northwest.

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You can be sure there will be after shots.


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Four, Make that SIX, Weeks of Photos

Has it really been four six weeks since our last post?! It was four when I first sat down to write this one. That seemed like a long time. Six weeks seems downright negligent. But, while we haven’t been blogging, we have been busy. Here are some highlights. (Note: We have been pretty good at posting on Facebook. If you aren’t following us there, maybe you should.)

The romaine we transplanted during our last workday came in full and crisp.

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We have harvested HUNDREDS of tomatoes, oftentimes in a single day…

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DSC_0114 photo 3We distributed a ton of them through our CSA thanks to our “sarcophagus” system. (Term coined by Julian Halliday)

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We made and distributed roasted tomatillo salsa to nearly all members of our CSA…

This was a goody batch we sent to Rosa and George's band instructor. The red bottle is a tomato version.

This was a goody batch we sent to Rosa and George’s band instructor. The red bottle is a tomato version.

We also harvested, shared, and ingested TONS of kale, chard, and arugula, herbs, onions, cucumbers, beans. You can check out some of our favorite recipes, including our own K-Word Smoothie, on our recipes board.  We canned pizza sauce, chutney, and salsa verde (a cooked and preserved version of our fresh salsa that doesn’t really compare but when you are sitting on a mountain of tomatillos what are you gonna do?). We made refrigerator pickles and jardiniere. It’s been awesome.

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We have lots to do to get ready for fall. And some things we hoped to get done probably won’t this year. But, we’ll be ready next time around.