Saturday was the OKC Urban Ag Coalition’s
first annual urban farm and garden tour.
Rain came the night before
and continued much of the day Saturday.
It wasn’t the usual Oklahoma rain. Rather,
there was no wind,
so it fell almost straight.
There was no lightning.
It fell steady
and long.
Every OKC urban farmer or gardener
would be thrilled,
appreciative.
It was such a rare phenomenon,
there were no rain plans. Yes,
it might rain, but not everywhere,
not all day, not in Oklahoma!

The garden where I was set to volunteer
(get the signs up, lay out the materials, etc.)
was at the Del City Church of Christ.
This is a humongous garden,
founded by the support of one dedicated member
and tended by others in the congregation,
plus some people in the community. A generous
garage allowed volunteers shelter
and the church folks wanted to keep the tour open.

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DSCN5098Community garden in the rain at Del City Church of Christ

And that’s what we did. We welcomed the handful
of people who came. There was a festive feeling;
everyone was cheerful. An English-style rain
in Oklahoma
the first week of September! Much to cheer.
With umbrellas and rain gear,
we strolled the vegetable beds, lingered long,
talking vegetable growing, marveling in wonder
at the much-needed rain
that kept falling. It was a lovely morning.

Other gardens on the tour also stayed open,
but not so many people ventured out. So,
this Saturday—September 13, 8 a.m. to noon—
will be the first annual OKC Urban Farm and Garden Tour,
Day Two.
Go to the Urban Ag Coalition facebook page
and check out the gardens. At the first one you tour,
you will receive a list of the others. The whole tour is $5.

Everywhere on Earth, life is established on a functional community basis. Each distinctive bioregion is composed of mutually supporting life systems that have organized and sustained it over vast expanses of time…

A bioregion is an identifiable geographical area of interacting life-systems that is relatively self-sustaining in the ever-renewing processes of nature. The full diversity of life functions is carried out, not as individuals or as species, or even as organic beings, but as a community that includes the physical as well as the organic components of the region.

— Thomas Berry, The Great Work

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Sunday morning was clear and cool,
sunny,
following a day of sweet, soaking rain
in the city.
The final event of the first
Urban Ag Week
organized by OKC Urban Ag Coalition
and Transition OKC,
we gathered along the street in Warr Acres
between two apartment complexes.
A grassy ditch emerges
from one of the wooded apartment complexes
and flows beneath the street where we stood.
Because of the rains the day before,
there was water in the shallow, grassy ditch.
From this spot higher
than the land forms
to the east,
this is the head waters of the Deep Fork River
and Lake Eufaula.
From there, the water flows
into the North Canadian River
and eventually into the Gulf of Mexico.
We spent the morning exploring
in the Deep Fork Watershed
in an effort to get to know this
bioregion.
It looks like a city—
Oklahoma City.
In fact, it is a land form,
with natural water ways
and soils and winds
and trees and other plants,
birds, wild animals, insects,
fish.
We looked at the Deep Fork
behind Walmart
and alongside a city park
and behind an office building.
We walked along the edge
of its deep walls,
discovering giant trees,
layers of sandstone,
trash,
birds,
flowing water,
quiet beauty,
forgotten.

DSCN5108Learning about watersheds.

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Mapping the natural world around our homes.

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Exploring Deep Fork Creek

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DSCN5091Trash snagged in trees along the creek

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We came away,
more aware of our life
in the city
as part of a natural community.
We came away
inspired to stay aware
and be in touch
with the mutually supportive
life
in our bioregion.

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The second in Oklahoma City Urban Ag Coalition’s
film series is this Friday, August 22.
Symphony of the Soil is beautifully filmed,
globally, showing the intricate connections
between soil, water, the atmosphere,
plants, animals, people.

The New York Times:
Unfolding with gentle joy and an unexpected beauty, this ode to the miracle of the Earth’s topmost layer gives us a new-found respect for the ground beneath our feet.
The film is sponsored by TLC Garden Centers
and Transition OKC. Green Connections
sponsors the free reception
following the film. Kam’s Kookery
Chef Barb, of our Prairie Dinner fame,
will dish up treats
that make those intricate connections
delicious.
Doors to the Terrace Room
(follow the signs)
at Myriad Botanical Gardens
open at 6:30 p.m. Film starts
at 7. (All seats were taken at thefirst film.)
Reception follows.
Reserve tickets here.
Join us!

 

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CommonWealth Urban Farm

Some far-sighted,
wise,
gentle,
industrious,
soulful,
committed people
we work with in Oklahoma City
are working together
as the OKC Urban Ag Coalition.
Transition OKC,
a program of Green Connections,
is at the forefront of this movement.

Transition OKC and its partners CommonWealth Urban Farms, Closer to Earth, TLC Garden Centers, OSU-OKC and Myriad Botanical Gardens have formed a new coalition dedicated to helping urban agriculture thrive in OKC. We envision our friends and neighbors enjoying urban farms and gardens, edible landscaping, and permaculture while contributing to the health and well-being of our communities and planet.

We sponsor educational and inspirational projects and programs designed to raise public awareness of the benefits of urban ag and help OKC grow food while saving water and preserving biodiversity.

The first week of September,
the coalition is presenting Oklahoma City’s first
Urban Farm Week,
to teach the values of urban farms and gardens.
Timing of the week-long series of events
is to underscore the fact that now, in Oklahoma,
fall is an opportune time to grow food.
(We’ll be sharing more event details soon.)

Leading up to Urban Farm Week
September 3-7,
is a film series,
held in the Terrace Room
at the Oklahoma City Myriad Botanical Gardens,
7-10 p.m. A reception will follow each film.
Tickets for films are $5 and may be purchased
at the link above to the Myriad’s website.

MTH_PLAKAT_RZ.indd
August 8
is a film about collapse of bee colonies
globally.
More Than Honey
explores the reasons
that 50 to 90 percent of local colonies
(depending on the region)
are disappearing
and underscores the threat this is
to humans’ food supply:
no pollinators,
no fruits and vegetables,
no humans.
Noting the symbiosis between
bees and humans, Albert Einstein
predicted, “If bees were to disappear from the globe,
mankind would only have four years left to live.”
Currently, in China,
fruit trees are pollinated
by human hands.

symphsoil

August 22,
Green Connections is proud to sponsor
the reception
following showing of the film
Symphony of the Soil.
Our favorite local foods chef,
Kamala Gamble, who caters the annual
Prairie Dinner and Concert,
is catering the reception.
This beautiful film speaks to the life
we all have because of soil:
“The living skin of the earth.”
“We don’t grow plants, we grow soil and soil grows plants.”
“If we have declared a war against the soil itself then we are literally committing a species-level suicide.”

Grow-Cities-Poster

September 4
the final film of the series, Growing Cities,
will be shown during Urban Farm Week.
This is an exciting road trip around the U.S.
showing so many city gardening spaces.
It brings home the message
that ever since there have been cities,
for 12,000 years,
there have been people growing food
right where they are.

So very glad
for people committed
to permanent
cultures.

 

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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!