Over the Fence Urban Farm

Cooperatively farming small patches of Earth in Columbus, OH


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Like a Perennial, We Rise

[Basement-born seedlings chilling in a cold frame, in the high tunnel. (left to right clockwise – chamomile, nigella, malva, poppy, calendula, larkspur, snapdragon, celery, blanket flower, bee balm).]

Late winter and early spring have been so much richer since I started growing seedlings a decade ago. Indoor seed starting gives me months more pleasure watching things germinate and tending to plant babies in the nursery. This year was no different. I started right around New Year’s and now the basement seeding station and high tunnel are packed with product for our 5th Annual Pollinator Lovers’ Plant Sale with Bernadett’s Farmacy and starts for our CSA.

I feel at once like the soundtrack for my life in this moment could be Aerosmith’s “Back in the Saddle Again” and The Beatles “Here Comes the Sun’.” This time of year is really busy on the farm and it’s also a time of rising up from winter’s slumber. We’re savoring the last days of “soup season” and enjoying the bright fresh herbs and greens. I’m working on this idea of holding conflicting ideas in my head at once. It’s a theme that seems to keep popping up for me.

All that to say that I’m happy it’s spring. Very happy. And I’m finding it harder than usual to dust off the tools and get to work.

Don’t get me wrong – I’ve been out back every day since mid-February tinkering, seeding, propagating, turning, pruning, spraying, moving. I am so grateful, once again, to have the privilege to work the patch of land we are currently stewarding. And, I’m really starting to feel my age – physically and mentally. I move a little slower and with more creaks than when we got this started and I’m more hesitant to put my ideas out in the world. Not quite sure whom I want to commit to being at the moment.

We are all coming out of our Covid-chrysalides and figuring out who we will be now. It’s an incredible opportunity, and incredibly terrifying.

One thing that’s helping me build inspiration for the growing season is visiting friends’ farms. Last year was really isolating. Farming is already pretty isolating but I really missed farm visits. I didn’t realize how much.

Last week I got to visit Rachel Tayse at Harmonious Homestead and Bernadett Szabo at the new location of Bernadett’s Farmacy. It was so energizing. If you have the chance, go visit a local farm or gardening friend in the next few weeks. Share your plans, ask questions, just look. Here are a few of my highlights.

Where are you finding inspiration? I can always use more.


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The Farm as Artistic Space

I have so many thoughts to try to organize on the subject of this post. More posts will be necessary. Consider this Part I.

Three years ago I wrote an article for the art education journal Artezein (see Art Education in my Backyard) about the farm as it relates to and benefits from my training and experience as an art educator. But that was just a piece of the puzzle; a snapshot of my thinking. A meditation on what I offer others through the work. Since then I have been given more time to the notion of the farm as my artistic practice.

This has been on my mind since I got started. As I attended meetings of urban farmers in Columbus, I felt a sense of imposter syndrome. What qualified me to be in a room with these people? What did I have to bring to the conversation? In those moments, I often recalled the work of Nikki S. Lee who has positioned herself as a member of various cultural groups in oder to learn more about them, to try own their clothes and see the world from their point of view, and to make amazing photographs along the way.

After five years, I’m more confident in what I’m doing, and in calling it something like long-term, socially-engaged, participatory, performative, eco art project exploring relational and green aesthetics, and small scale economic theory. My use of all this jargon is part of the performance, as I play the part of academic as well as artist and farmer.

Since this all got started I have hosted numerous tours on the farm including a few for elected officials (see On Site with Columbus City Council Member Elizabeth Brown and City Council Farm Tour), blogged extensively, and offered spoken words and images at Pecha Kucha (check out a recording embedded in this post if you haven’t seen it already!). In each, I flexed my creative muscles – in multimodal directions.

After reviewing an exhibition of mobile photography at the Columbus Museum of Art, I started thinking about all the images I posted on Instagram to share the moments of “fleeting beauty” I experience while in the field. Like the conceptual artists who inspired me to engage farming as a creative practice, those images serve as documentation of my work. They serve as a gateway for people not accustomed to thinking of soil and water as artistic media entrance into the farm as creative space, not merely an agricultural one.

And so, it is with great pleasure that I am celebrating an exhibition of my photos at Global Gallery in Clintonville this month. The show was sponsored by the Greater Columbus Arts Council and will be up through the end of the month. I’ll be there for a reception this Friday night from 6-8pm. Hope to see some folks come out to talk about “The Work.”

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When One Season Ends, Another Begins.

As my touring season ended, it was great to start gathering inspiration for next year from Bernadette.

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