Spring Come Early at Turtle Rock Farm

Our March Newsletter


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.

Let me show you the lay of the land—
the growing things—
at the CommonWealth Urban Farm
community where Turtle Rock Farm
now has a presence. We’re new arrivals,
still settling in,
getting oriented to life here—
plants, animals, birds, people—
discovering our part.


The food forest was planted
in an empty lot years ago.
Nuts and fruits
are now available to all
in the community.




The Central Park Community Garden
(CommonWealth Urban Farm
is in Oklahoma City’s Central Park
neighborhood) is open to all in the area
who want to grow food or flowers in a bed.
Fruit trees
and an herb garden
are well-established.









Flowers, attracting pollinators,
front most of the gardens in the community.


Many vegetables are grown
in back and front yards.



The CommonWealth Urban Farm
and CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)
is more than one-seventh of an acre.




The farm will be expanded
as the soil
in another empty lot is remediated
from chemicals used long ago
to kill termites. A variety
of sunflowers grow there now.



Sometimes people say to us,
“I’m so glad you all are out there
doing what you do at Turtle Rock Farm!”
We are always a little taken-aback
by that kind of response. Glad
to be appreciated, certainly—
and glad to have the opportunity to respond
with something like: “Sustainable practices
are for everyone, everywhere—not only out here
in the country, on a farm.”

So it is with hope and excitement
that we support the great work of the people
in the Oklahoma City Urban Ag Coalition,
including Transition OKC,
who are offering educational events
at the first OKC Urban Ag Week.
We’ll be helping out, leading a workshop too.Here’s the line-up.

Join us!


Container Growing Vegetables: The container makes a difference 

Tues. Sept. 2

11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Whiskey Cake, 1845 NW Expressway, OKC

$5 ticket includes serving of whiskey cake

Call 405-582-2263 to register







Kurt Reiger, President of Smart Pot, a locally owned and operated Oklahoma City business, presents a lunch-and-learn class on the national movement of container-growing vegetables. Smart Pot gardening containers provide an excellent balance of water retention, drainage and breathability — perfect for vegetables. Come early (doors open at 11:00 a.m.) to order lunch from Whiskey Cake’s locally-sourced menu!

The Pollinator Pocket: Attracting Bees to Benefit Edible Gardens

Tues. Sept. 2

7 – 8 p.m.

Plenty Mercantile Rooftop, 807 N. Broadway Ave., OKC

To get your ticket click here — tickets $5








Join Oklahoma’s own Jamie Csizmadia, Landscape Architect and Owner of Olthia Urban Prairie Garden Design, as she discusses the importance of native habitats adjacent to home edible gardens. Participants will learn why the presence of wild bees improves food production. Learn how to attract and keep beneficial pollinators, including the best indigenous plants for the job. Attendees will take home a classic layout for a front yard Pollinator Pocket + Edible Garden design geared toward the typical OKC residential lot.


Organic Gardening Simplified with Howard Garrett, the Dirt Doctor | Sponsored by Smart Pot

Wed. Sept. 3

7 – 9 p.m.

Terrace Room at Myriad Botanical Gardens, OKC

To get your ticket click here — $5 tickets






Nationally acclaimed author and radio host Howard Garrett, a.k.a. The Dirt Doctor, presents his recommendations for organic methods for landscaping and backyard gardens. Book signing and free reception sponsored by Smart Pot to follow.


Autumn Gardening Workshop with Howard Garrett | Sponsored by Smart Pot

Thurs. Sept. 4

11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Myriad Botanical Gardens, Conference Room, OKC

Tickets $12 / $10 Members 

Nationally acclaimed author and radio host Howard Garrett, a.k.a. The Dirt Doctor, discusses the benefits and methods for growing a bounty of food in the fall in Oklahoma. A tree-planting demonstration will be included. Attendees will receive Howard’s Basic Organic Program Handout and will have a chance to win books and natural organic products.


Growing Cities film screening | Sponsored by TLC Gardens | With support from Myriad Botanical Gardens and Transition OKC

Thurs. Sept. 4

7 – 10 p.m.

Terrace Room at the Myriad Botanical Gardens, OKC

Tickets $5


Growing Cities is a brand-new documentary which examines the role of urban farming in America. This inspiring film asks the question: How much power does urban farming have to revitalize our cities and change where we grow food and the way we eat.

Special free reception sponsored by Kam’s Kookery and Guilford Gardens following the screening.

Lunch & Learn: Community Gardens and the New Oklahoma City Urban Agriculture Ordinance

Fri. Sept. 5

Noon – 1 p.m.

Paramount Screening room @ 701 W. Sheridan, OKC

Free — please RSVP by calling 405-297-3692 or e-mailing madeleine.wiens@okc.gov

Learn about the landmark City of Oklahoma City ordinance adopted in 2014 which supports and encourages composting, rainwater harvesting, and other activities on a variety of garden types. Find out how this could benefit existing urban agriculture efforts in Oklahoma City and share ideas for a future community garden program.

Whole Foods Fall Gardening Workshop, Cooking Demo & Fun for Kids

Fri. Sept 5

10 – 11 a.m.

Whole Foods, 6001 N. Western Ave., OKC

Free to attend — register at www.eventbrite.com

Discover an easier way to garden in this free workshop at Whole Foods Oklahoma City. A range of nutritious greens and vegetables can be grown in our climate through the fall and even the winter – with less watering, weeding, and work.


Urban Farm and Garden Tour

Sat. Sept. 6

8 a.m. – Noon

Advance tickets available at Whiskey Cake at 1845 NW Expressway, OKC

Tickets $5 available the day of the tour at select tour locations








Journey deeper into the natural wonder and abundance of urban farm and gardening sites — 14 in all — throughout Oklahoma City! On the day of the tour, you’ll pick up a site brochure with addresses, descriptions, and a map to enable you to visit as many sites as you wish at your own pace. Discover the beautiful and inspiring array of edible landscapes, urban farms, and community, school and home gardens thriving in Oklahoma City in this informative self-guided tour.

Volunteer to help with the tour here, and score a free organic cotton T-shirt and 2 comp tickets!


Exploring a Sense of Place: The City as Nature

Sun. September 7

9 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Tickets $5


“You can’t know who you are until you know where you are.”
—Wendell Berry

Basic to human existence is our life in the natural world. We are part of an interdependent, living organism we call planet Earth. In the city and in a technologically-focused society, it is easy to feel separated from the natural world that is our home and on which we depend. Learning to grow our own food puts us in touch with this amazing planet in a more intimate way. How does this happen, right here on the streets and in the neighborhoods of a city? The city is in nature too.

This workshop will help us pull back our view of the city and see it situated in the natural world. We will begin to get reacquainted with our bioregion, deepen our sense of place by visiting a couple of sites along Deep Fork Creek, exploring our natural history and mapping our “home.”

Meet at 9 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 7 at 9 a.m. at the Head Waters of Deep Fork Creek—Ann Arbor, half a block south of 39th Expressway. Park in apartment complex parking lot, east side of Ann Arbor. You will be given a map of the stops. Most of the morning will be spent at Zachary Taylor Park, 633 NW 52nd. Come to the northeast end of the park.

Pat Hoerth, of Turtle Rock Farm, will lead the workshop. For questions, call 580.917.6011.





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



Back end of garden
Recently-added sprouting house



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.


Elia leading a workshop.


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.
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.
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!