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Showing posts from 2012

People Showed Up, Now What? -- Facilitating a Community Garden Interest Meeting

So lets say you're starting a community garden. You've done your homework, so you realize that when you're starting a community garden, the community aspect is just as important as the garden aspect. In that light, before breaking ground or applying for land from the City of Tallahassee or Leon County, you'll likely organize a community garden interest meeting.

A year ago, I mentioned asset-based community development (ABCD) in a post about my friend and mentor, Amanda Edmonds at Growing Hope in Michigan.  At the core of ABCD is the premise that everyone-- and by extension, every community-- has assets: skills, knowledge, resources, people they know, and organizational affiliations that teams can fit together like pieces of a puzzle to better their community.

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to put ABCD into practice when I aided Cristin Burns (marketing manager at New Leaf) in facilitating the Lafayette St Community Garden interest meeting. Below is an outline …

iGrow Dunn St. Youth Farm

How does a team of dedicated youth and adults create a major food-producing, educational, and inviting urban agriculture demonstration project on a 1/3rd acre vacant lot? How much food can we raise? How many people -- especially young people-- can we engage in urban agriculture? Can we make money raising and selling healthy, green, fair, and affordable food?

These are the questions we've been wrestling with at the Dunn St. Youth Farm, the main initiative of iGrow-"Whatever You Like," the urban ag youth program of the Tallahassee Food Network. My job as the program coordinator is connecting the team with area experts and arranging hands-on experiences, so we can discover our own answers to those questions.

Youth began work on the farm in July. The picture below shows Tierra, Khadijah, and Martin smoothing out the compost-mix in a 4'x4' raised bed, which they planted with sweet potatoes.

Throughout the summer and early fall, the iGrow team visited other farms and …

"Hey y'all. I'm Nathan Ballentine the Man in Overalls. Today we're going to talk about..."

Check it out!

I've been working with the FL Dept of Ag to create a bunch of "How To" Food Gardening Videos.  For example: "How to build raised beds," "How to plant," "How to water," and all kind of other basics.  Below are a few to get your started.  For the rest (and for the ones still to be released), stay tuned to the Fresh for Florida Kids Youtube Channel.

While I'm at it, I'll go ahead and show you a few other things as well.

I'm super excited about this: The City of Tallahassee TV station, WCOT did an "Eco-Smart" program on the new City Community Gardening Program.  It's half an hour and contains loads of info including the new process by which neighborhood groups can apply for and get access to city land on which to start community gardens -- a program that emerged from a partnership between the Tallahassee Food Network and the City of Tallahassee.

Lastly, I've got two more quick press items:

“The Man in O…

Fresh for Florida Kids Food Garden

My largest and most exciting project this spring has been the Fresh for Florida Kids Food Garden at the Holland Building, downtown on Calhoun Street.

Here are a couple pictures:

The garden has received a lot of press:
Florida Helps Mom with Age Old Message (Tampa Bay ch 10)
Commissioner Putnam Opens Fresh for Florida Kids Food Garden (Capital Soup)
Adam Putnam Plants Healthy Eating Gardens in Tallahassee (Sunshine State News)
     Adam Putnam on YouTube
Florida School Garden Program (WCTV)
Learning We've Got to Get Ourselves Back to the Garden (Tallahassee Democrat)

Amy Campbell-Smith at the FL Dept of Ag and Consumer Services (Food, Nutrition, and Wellness) has been doing a superb job of overseeing and writing about the garden.  Here's a sample of one of her fun updates written to her fellow gardeners:

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Kathy Sanders and I were just outside gathering good things from our garden!  There are strawberries, blueberries and a couple peppers on the filing cabine…

A Few Late Night Thoughts on Food Movement Success

Pushing three years ago, I clambered into overalls to earn my living encouraging and assisting folks to grow food for self and neighbor. I got my start standing beside the road with a pitchfork and sign that read, "Will Garden for Food."

On one level, I launched my business to earn an income*. On a deeper level, however, I got into food gardening, I reclaimed the overall-style of my grandfather because I sought to develop a platform of legitimacy from which I could support the food movement by connecting and aiding the many local players working to grow a resilient, community-based food system. (Much of my food movement facilitation work these days I do through the Tallahassee Food Network and with iGrow-"Whatever You Like," a Frenchtown-based youth-empowerment and urban ag project.)

The past few years have certainly been an exciting time to do food movement work. There's so much happening. I'll note a few highlights. (Just to be clear, I can in no way claim…

Tour of Spring

Front yard gardens, school gardens, community gardens, church gardens, workshops and iGrow Buckets... it all happens at once in the spring time.  Below is a sampling of what's been keeping Wendell and I busy the past several weeks.

Fresh for Florida Kids Dept of Ag and Consumer Services (Holland Building) Garden
(which is going to serve as the set for You Tube Food Garden Education clips to be shared state-wide with students and teachers as part of the DOA's new Farm to School program).

Seminole Montessori Preschool Garden
(Lots of fun working with parents and children throughout the day.)

Faith Presbyterian Church Garden
(Kids grow food to give away through Manna on Meridian food pantry. Also the location for workshops that we offer on distribution Saturdays with folks coming to get food.)

Whole Child Leon/ Wesson VPK Garden -- TD article
(Engaging kids in the 95210; encouraging children to get their five fruits and veggies every day.)

Dena and Jenna's Garden

Child of a Farmworker

My mother grew up in Jackson County on a small farm.  Her family grew cotton, corn, and peanuts like everyone around them.  Unable to pay the mortgage, her family planted crops in the spring; laid them by; headed to Michigan for the summer to pick cheeries, strawberries, peaches and the like before returning to harvest their crops in north Florida.  With the onset of winter, the family loaded up for a temporary move to south Florida to harvest citrus before coming back to north Florida in the springtime to repeat the process.

I was raised by a farmworker who taught me to identify with folks tending our food, to recognize the skill and ceaseless work necessary to grow and harvest the groceries we can easily take for granted. 

I was raised in a faith that is rooted in the cries of the enslaved Israelite people who were expected to make bricks without straw. From an early age, I heard words such as, "In Christ there is neither slave nor free...."

It is with such a background t…

March 2012 Natural Awakenings Features Man in Overalls and iGrow Buckets

Open publication - Free publishing - More march 2012
Food Sovereignty
Nathan Ballentine
"Though we do not talk about it much in the food movement -- even, for that matter, amidst the Tallahassee Food Network -- what we are working on is the democratization, the decentralization of our food system, soil to seed to harvest to dinner.
        The big question is, "Who controls your food?"
        ...more on page 28 in Natural Awakenings.

Grow Your Groceries
"The iGrow Bucket is a self-watering mini food garden build using two five-gallon buckets.  It was a water-reservoir at the base that allows for bottom-up watering, which encourages the roots to grow down and helps ensure consistent moisture for maximum food production.

"The buckets -- a product developed by Wendell Mitchell and Nathan Ballentine of Tallahassee Food Gardens -- are being manufactured by the Frenchtown based iGrow- "Whatever you like"- Youth in order to underwrite their dream to start an …

Post Industrial Cities and Food Movement Roles Models

Amidst the growth and details of plants, gardens, recipes, farmers' markets, kids' gardens, workshops and the like, I am sustained by encountering and re-encountering a few of my food movement role-models.  Let me introduce (or re-introduce) you to three people/organizations that I draw on regularly.

Last Thursday evening, I joined the FAMU Environmental Sciences Student Organization for a screening of Urban Roots, a film about Urban Farming in Detroit.

The film suggests that Detroit is paving the way and providing an example of what post industrial cities will or could morph into-- especially in terms of resilient, community-based food systems. An inspiring movie of possibility.  I was especially attuned to the words of Malik Yakini, Executive Director of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network since we met and had lunch last November out in California at the CFSC conference in Oakland.  He is especially interested in involving black folks in urban agriculture, whic…

Man in Overalls Grows 390lbs of Food in Small Garden

For Immediate Release Monday, January 23, 2012 Contact: Nathan Ballentine 850.322.0749
Man in Overalls Grows 150lbs of Food in Small Winter Garden The yield was harvested in only three months during the height of winter.

(Update: Upon moving away just 9 months after we installed and planted our 80-square-foot, front-yard food garden, my wife and I had harvested (and meticulously recorded) 390lbs of fruit, veggies, and herbs, an estimated produce value of over $1600.)
How much money has your front yard grown this winter? Gardeners in one Frenchtown household harvested over 150 pounds of food--a $600 value--in the past three months. In three raised beds with a total area of 80 square feet--the size of a very small bedroom--Nathan Ballentine, aka the Man in Overalls and Mary Elizabeth Grant-Dooley grew broccoli, collards, cabbage, carrots, herbs, and a host of other plants to eat, sell, and donate. "It's way easier to grow food than folks tend to think," …

Looking Towards Spring - Topdressing

Spring is around the corner.  It'll be time to plant potatoes in February.  Most of the charismatic vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, green beans, squash) go in, in mid March to Mid April.  Come May, it'll be time for okra, sweet potatoes and the like. (Planting Guide here.  Additional resources here.)

If you're gardening in raised beds, whether your garden currently looks like this...
 Or this...

...before you get around to spring planting, you'll want to fill or topdress your beds with an extra layer of compost.  How much?  My general rule is to add as much as it takes to re-fill the frame.  Depending on how long it's been and how deep your raised beds are that measure can vary quite a lot.

But in general, how do you figure out how much compost you need?  It's a simple length x width x height = quantity.  The complexity is that you've got to get your units all on the same page for your math to work.  Multiplying inches by feet by yards will produce a n…