Man in Overalls helps you #GrowYourGroceries!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

"Food Pantry Has Fresh Mission" - Tallahassee Democrat

"On the corner of Meridian and John Knox roads, manna doesn't fall from the sky.

But on the third Saturday of the month, upwards of 65 bags of groceries might fly out the door bringing sustenance to those in need, no questions asked.

Faith Presbyterian Church and St. Stephen Lutheran Church, which are literally a stone's throw away from each other, have dubbed their food pantry Manna on Meridian in the hope that other churches and individuals might join them. They opened a week ago.
In addition to canned goods, cereals, pastas, peanut butter and spaghetti sauce typical of many pantries, the churches plan to provide fresh produce from their two gardens. Nathan Ballentine, who oversees the one at Faith Presbyterian, hopes they will inspire other gardeners in the area to donate their surplus crops.

"People who are struggling can only afford low-end stuff like canned and dry goods … and don't get the nice crisp crunch of something fresh," he said. "We want to say, 'Hey look, we honor you. You're in a tough spot, but you're getting the best.

The idea for a food pantry had been brewing for a while. Cheryl Stewart from St. Stephen..."(click this to read the rest).

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Other Food Gardeners

Turns out there are lots more folks doing food gardening around the country-- and even around the southeast-- than myself.  I'll keep adding to this list as I discover more food garden entrepreneurs.  For now, this is who I've found:

Rashid Nuri with Truly Living Well Farms in Atlanta
I met this guy during my stay in Atlanta January, '10.  He farms stray pieces of land, say, adjacent to an apartment complex.  He'll approach the ownership and ask, "If I clean up that kudzu over there, can I farm on that half acre?"  He's currently got three plots around southside Atlanta and it working on securing a fourth.  He also does food garden consultations, edible landscapes and raised-bed installations.  "There's a spiritual side to this work," Rashid told me, "I concentrate building the soil, and I let God grow the food."

Farmer D in Atlanta
I heard a lot about this guy and his business while at the American Community Gardening Association "Train the Trainer" workshop in Atlanta.  From his website: "Forget any stereotype of the farmer you may hold. Let go of any notion of the humble rustic in overalls of yesteryear and even the jacketed corporate farmer of today. Farmer D is an entirely new brand of farmer. With a thumb more “green” than any of his predecessors. Daron ‘Farmer D’ Joffe, is the future’s farmer. He lives to make a difference in the world. He farms because of a passion for the earth and the biodynamic methodologies that can save it."  His services include food gardening consultations, school garden installations, organic lawn and garden care, as well as on-going individualized food gardening maintenance.  Farmer D also has several garden stores in the Atlanta area.

Lindsay Mann with Sustenance Design in Atlanta
This lady is another urban agriculturalist/edible landscaper that I learned of while in Atlanta.  Her business has designed and installed edible schoolyards, urban farms, edible rain-gardens, and residential food gardens.

Bountiful Backyards in Durham, NC
This business, explicitly social entrepreneurial in nature, is about replacing lawns and turf grass with fruit trees, berry bushes and vegetable and herb garden in order to recreate a localized foodscape.  They offer food garden consultations, installations, and workshops.  They also work with school gardens.

City Farm Boy in Vancouver, British Columbia
In Jan '10, I used a free ticket to visit my sister in Seattle.  During my stay, we made a run up to Vancouver for two days, and while there, I had the opportunity to track down Ward Teulon, the City Farm Boy, himself.  At that time, he'd been in business for twelve years.  Like Farmer D and Rashid at Truly Living Well Urban Farms, he does residential food garden consultations, builds raised beds and the like.  More and more, however, he is tending towards the urban farming end of  things.  Last year at eight different sites within five kilometers of his home, he cultivated a total of 8000 sq.ft to supply a 30 member CSA.  Spring/Summer 2010 he plans to increase his CSA to 50 members without increasing his bed-space.


Rox Sen let me know about this "Meet SPIN Farmers" website (i.e.,SPIN, Small Plot INtensive).  This list has an additional 20+ farmers, some of whom are doing food gardening and urban agriculture.  Others are implementing micro-farming in rural landscapes.

Let me know if you know of others doing this work, I'll include them.



Vickie Spray, a local is also doing food gardening in the area.  It's great having a local peer in the business.  If I'm too busy or you're interested in hiring a cool lady instead of myself, take a peak at her website:



A few more food gardeners I found referenced on a blog about resilient communities: in San Francisco, CA in LA in Portland, OR in New Haven, CT in Edmonton, Alberta

The thing I find interesting about all these food gardeners is that they offer regular maintenance schedules: weekly, monthly, and seasonally.

5/7/2010 in San Francisco in Lexington, MA

and in Oakland, CA in Austin, TX

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Kids Food Garden Workshops

3-4pm, Sat., February 13th, March 13th, April 10th, and May 22nd
(Mostly) in the Garden at the Pink House, 1920 Chowkeebin Nene
with Nathan Ballentine, aka the Man in Overalls (

Are your kids full of questions?  Why this and why that?  Do your kids like playing in the dirt?  Do they like playing with worms and bugs? Do you wish they'd eat more vegetables?  Do you wish they'd learn where their food comes from?  Are they up for the challenge of starting their own vegetable garden?

Starting in February, we'll construct, fill and plant a raised bed full of seasonally appropriate vegetables.  Over the course of four months, we'll build, fill, and plant a raised-vegetable garden; plant some more, mulch, troubleshoot pests and sick plants; and finally, with help we'll, pick, cook, and eat vegetables.  Every month when we re-group, we'll start the morning by sharing stories from our own gardens, asking questions, and tasting what's available in the garden.  Then, we'll get to work planting and caring for our Kids Spring Food Garden.

Additionally, in order that your children can continue gardening and learning between workshops, every family/ household of children will take home one (mini) raised garden kit with instructions for installation, planting etc. Every month, children will receive a new instruction sheet and (when applicable) more seeds and plants for their garden.  In this way, they'll learn by observation, joint-endeavor, and "by themselves" (i.e., with your help and guidance) back home.

The workshop series registration is $25/child and open to children 5-12.
The garden kits (including lumber, hardware, mushroom compost, seeds and plants) cost $50.  Though not required, they are highly recommended so your child(ren) can continue gardening and learning at home.
Scholarships are available.
Please respond via email by Sat, Jan 30th to reserve your child(ren)'s space.  First come, first serve.
(There are 10-12 spaces per workshop series-- additional workshop times will be added if needed to accommodate interested kids).
Make check payable to Nathan Ballentine. Mail or drop check by 1920 Chowkeebin Nene, Tallahassee, FL 32301 on or before February 6th. 

Children are encouraged to come explore, ask questions, taste, learn by doing, and stop by to look or ask questions in between workshop Saturdays.
Adults are invited to come, watch, listen and learn.

Please reply (maninoveralls at gmail dot com) or call (322-0749) with questions and/or to sign up.
Nathan, aka the Man in Overalls 

(Certified substitute teacher in the Leon Co. School system.  Additional experience with children via baby-sitting, church children and youth programs, and via my 12-year-old niece who I've cared for since infancy.)

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"Wow, look at the grass stains on my skin. I say, if your knees aren't green by the end of the day, you ought to seriously re-examine your life." -- Calvin to his buddy Hobbes.
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"Grow your own food and share it"

The Man in Overalls

Aka Nathan Ballentine

Part Food Gardener, Part Educator, Part Community Food Organizer, I'm available for hire and service.  From creating raised vegetable gardens, planting fruit trees and herb gardens; to supporting community gardens, hosting gardening workshops, and volunteering and fundraising for local non-profits, I am engaged in food gardening social entrepreneurship. Please let me know if I can be of help.

ManInOveralls at gmail dot com

I've been food gardening since eight when my mother set me on a vegetable garden as a homeschooling project.  Years later, just before leaving town after graduating from high school to attend college out of state, I began experimenting with fruit trees.  Then, throughout my studies in community organizing and social movements at Warren Wilson college, I managed an edible landscape complete with vegetables, fruit trees, herbs and medicinals as part of my alma mater's student work requirement.  Additionally during my time at Warren Wilson, I began to read widely on different methods of small scale agriculture suitable for home food production including organic, biointensive, permaculture, and SPIN Farming.  In the years since graduation, my food gardening education continues via workshops, trainings, visits to farms and community gardens, and via research about and conversation with other urban agricultural innovators.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Atlanta Community Garden and Urban Ag Visit

Whew, what a couple days in Atlanta!  And, who knew such incredible Community Gardening and Urban Agriculture work was going on here in Metro Atlanta?!  I remain impressed.

Here are the gardens, farms, folks, and programs that I visited in the past 48 hours (in chronological order).  Links route to the garden/farm website, listing on the American Community Gardening Association (ACGA) website, or to an article that references said garden or farm.

Blue Heron Community Garden

Good Shepherd Community Church Community Garden/Urban Farm

Sister DeBorah Williams at Mother Clyde Memorial West End Community Garden

Rashid Nuri at Truly Living Well Natural Urban Farm

Decatur High School Community Garden

Oakhurst Community Garden

Scott Park Community Garden

Bobby Wilson,  Atlanta Urban Gardening Program Coodinator and President of the American Community Gardening Association (ACGA)

Fred Conrad, Atlanta Community Food Bank (ACFB) Community Garden Program Coordinator

Martha Gross, Community Garden/ Food Security Activist in a Gainesville, GA Latino community.

Decatur High School Community garden.

Rashid Nuri and Bobby Wilson working together in an urban garden.

Tomorrow I'll be at the Community Gardening "Train the Trainer" workshop co-sponsored by the ACGA and the ACFB.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Chamber...

When you stop by the Chamber of Commerce to brainstorm about "How to take your business to the next level" and the Senior Vice President remembers seeing you beside Thomasville Rd with a sign that says, "Grow Your Own Food and Share It," you can't help but smile.

Wintertime and the Living is... Freezing

Wind, ice, chance of snow, and I'm headed north.  Brrr.

This coming week, I'll be making a run to Atlanta in my little-truck-that-could for a community garden educational trip.*  While in Atlanta, I plant to a) visit metro-area community gardens, b) attend a "Train the Trainer" workshop co-hosted by the American Community Gardening Association (ACGA) and the Atlanta Community Food Bank (ACFB), and, last, c) I'll meet with Fred Conrad, Community Garden Coordinator for the Food Bank.

The training, I'm especially excited about because 40-70 other community gardening activists from all over the southeast will be in attendance.  I anticipate it will be a great chance to share stories, questions, challenges and successes.  As I continue volunteering with Damayan and supporting Assistant City Manager, Jay Townsend's office in investigating the possibilities of community gardens on city land, time and time again I am reminded that having locally accessible community garden models from which to develop ideas is super helpful.

Speaking of local models, I've recently been in touch with leaders of three local community garden gems: the FAMU Community Garden (on Orange Ave), a new Community Garden in Havana, and City Square Community Garden in Apalachicola.

FAMU Community Garden
In early December, I met with Damon Miller, the coordinator for the FAMU garden.  The garden's been open since 1974, has been in three locations, and Mr. Miller has been apart of the garden since its inception-- first as a gardener himself.  The plots are 40x40, but due to the ever-growing wait-list, they are considering sub-dividing some of the plots into 20x20.  There's one gardener who's 86; two have been gardeners faithfully since '74.  Typically, the only time they have theft problems is right around the holidays when folks come in and "go grocery shopping so they can have that big meal."  Mr. Miller's full of stories.  His phone number is 561-2095 if you have questions or want to sign up for a plot.

Havana Community Garden
Yesterday, after reading about Havana's new community garden in the Tallahassee Democrat, I got in touch with Bob Bruggner who's organizing the garden.  They're getting started this spring.  It's right along US-27 on the way into town.  Bob tells me the food bank, the city of Havana, a handful of churches and youth groups, and a host of individuals who have already signed up are coming together to make it happen.  There are going to be 38 15ftx15ft plots that cost $30 annually, and "space is VERY limited."  January 12th and 26th, they're having community meetings for interested parties.  Take a look at their website or call Bob (850.539.9421) for more info and/or to reserve your plot.

Perhaps the most interesting part of my conversation with Bob was how he organized a field trip of Havana City Officials, food bank leaders, and other Havanans to visit Apalachicola's City Center Community Garden.  At the garden, the Havana leaders met with Apalachicola gardeners and city officials who had already walked through the process of establishing their garden.  Upon returning to Havana, Bob related, everyone was on board.

Apalachicola City Square Community Garden
In light of Bob Bruggner's words of praise for the Apalachicola garden, I asked for a contact.  Karla Ambos, he told me, was the woman I wanted to get in touch with.  Indeed.  Having just emailed yesterday, she replied with a full history of the City Square Community Garden and an invitation to visit: "If you can give me enough advance notice, I'll do my best to have the mayor and city administrator available to speak with you also."  A get it done kind of lady.

The idea for the community garden came from a discussion about beautifying the city and the Food Pantry's need for fresh vegetables.  Someone mentioned that it would probably be cheaper to grow their own than to find more funding.  They broke ground in November 2008.  Currently, there are 54 gardeners who share 29 raised beds.  Additionally, there are two open tilled plots mananged by the food pantry and 50 Charter School students.  email citysquaregarden at gmail dot com if you want to know more.

*Thanks to Heart of the Earth for financing my trip to Atlanta, so I might bring back, share, and further local efforts to "live sustainably and harmoniously within the web of life" by supporting regrowth of our local food systems.
within the web of life

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Links and Videos Worth Noting

Revive the Victory Garden
In 1943, Americans planted over 20 million Victory Gardens, and the harvest accounted for nearly a third of all the vegetables consumed in the country that year. Emphasis was placed on making gardening a family or community effort -- not a drudgery, but a pastime...

History of Food Gardening at the Whitehouse

Teens 4 Good
An innovative entrepreneurship program that revolves around a youth-led urban agriculture business. Amazing. "Started in 2005, Teens 4 Good has helped transform many neighborhoods in the Greater Philadelphia area by providing local food that tastes better, is better for the environment, and helps to stimulate our local economy."

Growing Healthy Kids
The nonprofit has established a goal of planting 200 gardens with children by March 2010. The program will target children ages 8 to 12, as research suggests children who plant and tend a garden are more likely to consume its vegetables. You can also take a look at their blog.

Palm Bay, FL tests Community Gardens
City leaders will plant a seed to see whether community gardens could be perennial favorites among green-thumbed citizens. Palm Bay Parks and Recreation Department staff is working on a half-acre prototype garden on a city-owned six-acre lot near Nemo Circle and Salmon Drive in the northeast section...

American Community Gardening Association (ACGA)
A bi-national nonprofit membership organization of professionals, volunteers and supporters of community greening in urban and rural communities." They have amazing resources for folks trying to start community gardens. (Next week, January 15th and 16th, in partnership with the Atlanta Community Food Bank, they'll be hosting a "Train the Trainer" workshop. I'm going. If you want info and/or to attend, let me know. We could carpool if you like.)

"After War, Finding Peace and Calm in a Garden" -- NYT article
"Reggie Mourning wears a Marine Corps sweatshirt and two 9-millimeter pistol rounds on a chain around his neck. There’s an M14 round hanging from his keychain. His tour of duty with a mortar unit in Vietnam was long in the past, but never really ended. “I was more or less a Neanderthal — everyone was scared of me,” he said. “I have a problem with people. Period.” But when he speaks of this year’s harvest at the center’s vegetable gardens — the tomatoes and eggplant, lettuce and kale, basil, squash, corn, peppers, collard greens and the rest, he sounds like someone who, in a way he never expected, has found a measure of peace..."

White House Food Garden

Urban Agriculture in Atlanta, GA

A New Year for Food Gardening

What do Tom Cruise, Angelina, Brittany, and Tiger Woods have to do with Food Gardening? Well...

Last week, I read a fascinating article in Newsweek entitled, "Celebrity: the Greatest Show on Earth." The interesting part is the author's argument that "celebrity"-- as a form of art, not the celebrities themselves, per say-- provides the national community with something to rally around, talk about, and relate with. In the midst of a social environ where politics are taboo and TV, movies and book readership are not as ubiquitous as they once were, "celebrity" provides narratives around which we can find common "experience."

It's an interesting argument, and it seems to ring true with what I see as I run around in overalls. As the author writes, "Celebrity is one of the few things that still crosses all lines. As disparate and stratified as Americans are, practically all of them seem to share an intense engagement, or at the very least an acquaintance, with the sagas of Jon and Kate or Brad and Angelina... which is oddly comforting. These are American's modern denominators, and...they give us something we can all talk about." Indeed, just this past week I overheard my father chatting about Tiger Woods with strangers on a ferry down in S. Florida, and my folks are hardly the type to follow the tabloids. Celebrity is everywhere.

So, what's this got to do with Food Gardening?

Here are the connections. For starters, over the past several months here in N Florida, I've found that food gardening, home canning, good cooking, fruit trees, stories of our parent's and grand-parents' farms, etc are already common denominators that give us something we can talk about. From the housing projects to Killarn Lakes, I hear talk about collard greens and cornbread. Chatting with liberal and conservative folks alike, I hear stories about the value of growing our own food.

The second connection is my hope for the new year. My wish is that food gardening will become even moreso our shared conversation and common experience, something to rally around, talk about, and relate with. I want raising and sharing food to be as widespread and common as is celebrity. When people stand around awkwardly at parties or wonder what to say to new people they meet, I want folks to say things like, "Did you hear more people are gardening this year than ever before in American history?" and "Really? I started a vegetable garden the other day," and "That's awesome. Yep, my grandmother has a really big garden..."

So this is my hope for 2010: that more people than ever before in American History will grow their own food and share it. And we're off to a good start. When the comics start advocating the food movement, you know this stuff is going mainstream.

How about a new food garden in 2010?

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