Spring Come Early at Turtle Rock Farm

Our March Newsletter

It was an exciting day
at CommonWealth Urban Farms.
The community prepared
for a special visitor,
spreading wood chips on a muddy path,
sweeping leaves and sticks
from the garden entrance,
filling an Oklahoma-made basket
with tender turnips, radishes, baby carrots,
micro greens and a card
with all our “thank you” messages.
All this
because Thunder player Kyle Singler
was coming to donate
$10,000 to CommonWealth!
He had visited the farm
a few weeks ago
and evidently liked what he saw
because we soon received word
that he had decided to make
a significant donation.
Friends, volunteers,
Closer to Earth youth
and others in the CommonWealth community
greeted this tall, friendly young man
who explained during the presentation ceremony
that friends in his home state of Oregon
were urban farmers
who taught him the value of growing
nutritious food locally, right in the heart
of the city.
We exchanged gifts—
a giant check
and a basket of food—
and toured the garden again,
lush and green
even now, mid-January!
We posed for happy photos
and widened the friendships
and the CommonWealth community.

The funds will be used
to build a hoop house
and improve CommonWealth’s
infrastructure. Kyle noted
that CommonWealth is near “my backyard”
and that he wants to support the community
that supports the Thunder team.
We hope he knows he’ll always
be welcome here.

DSCN9369Awaiting arrival

DSCN9372Friends in CommonWealth community

DSCN9373Closer to Earth youth

DSCN9380The Presentation ceremony

DSCN9401Farm Tour


DSCN9366Lia Woods and Allen Parlier, CommonWealth Urban Farms

More photos here, on The Thunder OKC website.


The New Year at Turtle Rock Farm

Our January 2016 Newsletter

It’s a beautiful autumn afternoon:
sunshine, cloudless sky, temperature
in the mid-70’s. The air is still.
If one were to be set down today
in the CommonWealth Urban Farms,
it would look like a spring garden:
Bright greens
growing in long patches
and pots. Broccoli plants, carrot shoots.
Oh, but look over there: tomatoes,
still ripening. Ah, yes,
this is the fall garden—the very best time
to grow vegetables in Oklahoma.

The secret ingredient: Lia’s soil mix

Seedlings ready for succession plantings


In some
cutting edge
ways, it’s not easy being green—
that is, farming—
in the city. The people who live and support
the idea of growing food in the city
in the form of CommonWealth Urban Farms
like plants to grow everywhere—
for food for many
along the food web including insects,
humans. In this neighborhood
the hope is that
trees and bamboo and flowers
and vegetables are planted
and nurtured in every possible space
instead of growing grass,
which requires mowing,
which means watering it
then cutting it,
watering it,
then cutting it…
It’s a personal preference—
for these Oklahoma City residents,
a preference to grow food
and habitat for pollinators
instead of burning fossil fuel
to keep a lawn of grass
and using water conservatively
through permaculture practices
including heavy mulching
and directing water to each plant.
Oklahoma City recently passed
legislation that supports urban farming.
And this week our Councilman Ed Shadid,
assistant city manager Laura Johnson
and other city staff
made a walk-about with CommonWealth community
residents to further the understanding
of how an urban farm works
and why it looks the way it does.





We are grateful for their visit
and their interest
as together we all do the cutting edge work
of leading Oklahoma City into the global movement
of urban agriculture—
of growing food right in our city yards.

There are people
who can’t stand
to let kitchen straps, coffee grounds
go into the garbage,
or—worse—use electricity
(burn fossil fuel) to grind
them into oblivion
in a garbage disposal. There is gold
in those kitchen scraps!
But not everyone has the space
or a source of carbon (leaves, manure, etc.)
to compost. Wheeling
into your Norman or Oklahoma City
neighborhood or office complex
to save the watermelon rind, onion skins,
wilted flowers, coffee filters full of used grounds,
egg shells, shredded pizza boxes (!), etc.,
is Fertile Ground. Often on bikes—
“Dirt Bikes”—
the members of this worker-owned cooperative
make weekly pickups of buckets of clients’ scraps
then deliver them to the closest urban farm
or community garden for composting. Clients
know that they are keeping waste
out of the landfill
and helping support the local food economy.

11708056_696596357140090_3870419073066591634_oEric Whelan delivering kitchen scraps to a community garden

I happened by the pickup spot at CommonWealth Urban Farms
a couple of mornings ago
when Terry Craighead was meeting a client
who worked nearby and stopped
on her way to work
to drop off her bucket with scraps.
They greeted each other,
Terry exchanged the bucket for a clean one,
they bade their “see ya next week” farewells
and off to the office she went.
This amazing act of kindness for the planet
and the community
took a few minutes,
allowed her to keep valuable nutrients
out of the landfill or sewer system
and contribute them to the making of garden beds
for urban farms and community gardens.
For this service
she pays a small monthly fee.
Besides local residents,
businesses also participate in the service,
gladly paying the fee for Fertile Ground workers
to pick up all those coffee grounds
and scraps,
and shredded pizza boxes.

DSCN7783Terry Craighead with coffee ground from a local business

Fertile Ground coop offers other services
as well: permaculture design for urban lifestyles;
construction, design and maintenance of raised bed gardens,
and zero-waste events for organizations and companies.

Today, I read news
of the loss of a five-square-mile chunk of Greenland’s
fastest-moving glacier (perhaps the largest calving on record);
more evidence of the biodiversity decline
in this, the sixth mass extinction on the planet.
Also, that the first airport in the world
to run exclusively on solar power
has launched in Cochin, India.
The huge news—good and bad—
can sometimes overwhelm us,
even paralyze our own efforts.
But the sight of a woman
bringing her pail of kitchen scraps
to Fertile Ground, a privilege
for which she pays $15 a month,
was deeply heartening. Seeing one woman
and a cooperative of workers
doing these simple acts
because they care about the planet,
is huge news.

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