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View of the lot-deep CommonWealth Urban Farm
in Oklahoma City’s uptown Central Park neighborhood

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Back end of garden
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Recently-added sprouting house

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In the city this week,
I went to visit
someone I admire greatly.
Someones, actually,
though I only saw one:
Elia Woods.
She is a founding person
of Commonwealth Urban Farms of OKC.
We met Elia and Allen Parlier
during the permaculture course
a couple of years ago
and it was then we made our first visit
to their community in the Central Park neighborhood.
Starting with front yard gardens
and a composting project,
they were already well on their way
to establishing urban farming on empty lots
around the city. And
in the last two years, the CommonWealth community
has labored well,
establishing a mature urban farm
that fills a city lot with healthy soil
and healthy food.

On a muggy Oklahoma June day,
Elia and I sat in the shade
beside the garden relishing
all they have accomplished
and sharing conversation
about her dreams for all
that is still to be done
to grow viable urban farms in Oklahoma City.
There’s a waiting list
for their CSA, called the Veggie Club.
This year, they’ve added flowers
to their offerings,
and are selling sprouts
to restaurants.
CommonWealth is a model
for those who want to establish
viable urban farms producing
and selling
healthy, organic food.
They not only work the garden,
market the produce,
teach workshops,
they have been deeply involved
in advocating for city ordinances
that allow for and promote urban agriculture.

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Elia leading a workshop.

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Some of the CommonWealth Urban Farm community

CommonWealth Urban Farms’ vision is of a vibrant local food network in Oklahoma City, through which every person has access to real food while supporting the health of the environment and of the community. Our mission is to grow food on vacant lots throughout Oklahoma City, to provide training and resources for a network of urban gardeners, to create jobs that contribute to individual and community health, to expand retail outlets for locally grown food, to turn local waste into compost, and to connect neighbors and neighborhoods so that our common waste and underutilized resources become our common wealth.

We are passionately committed to creating a food system that is environmentally respectful, offers right work to its employees, supports the local community, is financially sustainable and provides healthy, real food to all eaters.

If you’re looking for a cheap source of food, our CSA is not for you. Corporate agriculture and Wal-Mart provide that, albeit at a high cost to our health and to our beloved earth.

This is what we offer: Fresh, real food, grown in living, fertile soil. Direct contact every week with your farmer. A chance to vote with your dollar for a just food system.

 

A couple of weeks ago,
visiting the close-to-the-city gardens of our friends
Bruce Johnson and Barbara Hagan,
also friends of the CommonWealth community,
Bruce shared that he had long thought
that the agrarian life was a rural life
and that the industrial life was in the city.
It has dawned on him, he said,
that there has been a shift:
that industrial agriculture is dominant in rural America
and that the agrarian life is happening in the city now.
Truly,
we can see it
right there in Oklahoma City’s Central Park,
at CommonWealth’s beautiful Urban Farm.

More of it.
We need more of it.
Tomorrow,
the CommonWealth farmers
and Green Connections‘ partners at TransitionOKC
join with other members
of the OKC Urban Ag Coalition
at an event they have organized
to support the urban farm and garden movement.
Grow It Forward
is 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, June 7
at OSU-OKC’s ARC building,
400 N. Portland.

What actions can we take to grow and strengthen urban farming and gardening in Oklahoma City? Come explore the possibilities in the first-ever urban agriculture Open Space event, where the community will set the agenda for change!