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MIO in his 80 square foot garden
that yielded 400lbs in a single year
Itinerant Urban Farmer, Entrepreneur, Educator, Community Organizer, Nathan Ballentine is Man in Overalls. 
Growing in Jacksonville, FL
Connecting Globally
Nathan has been growing food since he was eight years old. In 2009, with an entrepreneurial spirit amidst the recession, Nathan launched his business as a way to inspire and support folks to grow food for self and neighbor. He combines ag. know-how with environmental design and human-focused strategies to help people grow lots of food in the least amount of space possible. He has worked with hundreds of families, community and school gardeners, small market farmers, and the FL Department of Agriculture (FDACS), where he started the Fresh for Florida Kids Food Garden and authored a school garden guide. In the FDACS Kids Garden, Nathan was featured in a series of food gardening educational videos.

Man in Overalls offers food garden consultation, design, installation, education, maintenance, and project management services

MIO at TFN's Collard & Cornbread Gathering
In 2010, Nathan connected with other dynamic good food leaders to co-found the Tallahassee Food Network. TFN is a regional coalition of the global movement that works to grow community-based good food systems. He served on the board and acted as its first (volunteer) executive director. While director, Nathan facilitated TFN's Collards and Cornbread Gatherings, a cross-cultural, community-based good food incubator network session that yielded related businesses, organizations, programs, policies, over 200 organization-to-organization partnerships, and (in 3 brief years) over $700k in leveraged funding for partner organizations. 

During 2011 TFN-organized Food Day activities, Man in Overalls overheard a youth group discussing their dream to start a farm. iGrow Whatever You Like, TFN's community youth empowerment & entrepreneurial urban ag program grew out of his collaboration with the young people. From 2011-2014, he served as the Start-up Coordinator of iGrow. 

MIO with wife, Mary Elizabeth and TFN
leaders Clarenia White & Sundiata Ameh-El
at Jefferson Awards in Washington DC
May 2014, Nathan Ballentine, Man in Overalls was honored as the Tallahassee Democrat Volunteer of the Year and received the Jefferson Award for Public Service for Tallahassee Food Network's efforts in growing community-based good food systems. He also received the Warren Wilson College Alumni Distinguished Community Service Award in October 2013. 

In 2014/2015, Nathan served as a TFN Ambassador while traveling the world with his wife, Mary Elizabeth. In addition to 35 states, they visited 19 countries, encountered 9 currencies, learned considerable Spanish and French. The two of them focused on learning culture, dance, and about the many community-based good food systems they encountered. 

In the fall of 2015, Nathan & Mary Elizabeth settled in Jacksonville, FL, the city of her birth, the town of his father's childhood. They purchased a home near downtown, and planted their own food garden, which feeds them daily and produces a bounty they are able to share with neighbors.

Nathan, Man in Overalls continues his work, now rooted in Jacksonville, FL to help others grow their groceries and maintains a blog of stories and tips at He has authored many food gardening resources including "So You Want to Start a School Garden," a guide published by the Florida Department of Agriculture. His work and words have been featured in the ABC, Urban Farming, Tallahassee Democrat, Natural Awakenings and Faith and Fitness. These resources, press clippings, and his educational videos are available on his website. He can be followed on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @ManInOveralls.

Additional Information
Major Projects
Fleet Farming Riverside
Southwood Community Garden
Kate Sullivan School Garden
FBMC Benefits Management Company Garden
FDACS Fresh for Florida Kids Food Garden
iGrow-Whatever You Like, an urban ag. youth empowerment program
Tallahassee Food Network, N. Florida's regional good food coalition
Other posts about Completed Jobs

Education and Agricultural Training
Nathan, Man in Overalls has been food gardening since eight. In high school, he began planting fruit trees. Throughout his studies in community organizing and social movements at Warren Wilson College (class of '08), Nathan managed a Permaculture edible landscape complete with vegetables, fruit trees, herbs and medicinals as part of his school's student work requirement. Also while at Warren Wilson, Man in Overalls began to study widely on different methods of small scale agriculture including organic, biointensive, permaculture, and SPIN Farming. In the years since graduation, his agricultural education continues via hands-on research & data-gathering, workshops, trainings, visits to farms and community gardens, as well as best-practice gleaning from books, Google, YouTube, and by way of conversation with other urban agricultural innovators. It's paid off: in a single year in his 80 square-foot garden, Man in Overalls raised 400lbs of food using organic methods while only breaking a sweat twice, to topdress and replant. He does, in fact, know how to help you #GrowYourGroceries the easy way.

Press (most recent to oldest)
First Coast News
-"Local Man Wants to Help People Grow Their Groceries"
Faith and Fitness Magazine
-"A Workout with Man in Overalls"
Action News Jax
-"Growing a Garden in Your Yard..."
FDACS: Florida Agricultural Promotional Campaign Magazine
-"the man in Overalls"
Urban Farm Magazine
- "One Thing" (by Man in Overalls)
ABC Documentary
- "A Peace of Bread"
Warren Wilson College Owl and Spade
- "Bluring the Lines"
Natural Awakenings of Tallahassee
- "Food Sovereignty" (by Man in Overalls)
Tallahssee Democrat Chronicle
- "Kate Sullivan Garden Moves to Phase Two"
Natural Awakenings of Tallahassee
- "The Man in Overalls Grows Food Gardening Dreams"
Tallahassee Democrat Local Front Page Feature
- "He's Definitely Pro-Growth"
For more, click here

If I can support you...
in growing food for self and neighbor, let me know. I offer turn-key food gardening support services here in NE FL and can support aspiring food gardeners in other places across the Deep South as well. To inquire about that, email me.

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Schedule a Site Visit
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Most viewed Man in Overalls posts of all time

Why Can I Eat Bread in France, but not the USA?

Updated 10/31/2017 as the National Organic Standards Board meets in Jacksonville, FL. This may well be the most important thing you read this year for your health. (Originally written in 2015 while I was traveling-- and eating bread-- with my wife in France.) I've got a food riddle for you from Paris, France: Why can I eat bread over here when it makes me sick at home? I'll share my best guess in a minute, but first, a little personal background. Since my senior year of high school, I've not been able to eat much bread at all. For five years, I was severely hypoglycemic, and everything I ate had to have more protein than carbohydrates. That meant, in effect, that I spent my years of college beer-less and eating lots of salad with meat on top. I ate tons of vegetables, very little fruit, basically no carbohydrates to speak of, meat, nuts, eggs, and cheese. If I accidentally ate, say, meat loaf that was, unbeknownst to me, made with bread in it, I'd spend the n

Man in Overalls - It's Like Washing Your Dishes

I often hear folks joke, "Yeah, I had a garden once. I put in all this money & effort, and I only got a handful of tomatoes. Each one of them cost $27!" And they usually end by saying something about not having a green thumb. My first tomatoes of the season I smile and think about a mental model I've been working on: Growing your groceries is like washing your dishes. While they're raving about how many plants they've killed, I'm thinking, "It's not your thumbs. I bet you don't have a sink. And if you do, are you using decent soap or that garbage from the dollar store? And did you mention you've never washed dishes before in your life? And you're surprised you broke a couple wine glasses with no more experience than a four-year-old?" My eyebrows furrow involuntarily belying my thoughts, "Really? That doesn't seem all that surprising to me." But, of course, not only would saying all that confuse people, it&#

Man in Overalls - The Valley of Food & Ag Startups: Warren Wilson College

If you're interested in tech, pay attention to Silicon Valley. If you're interested in food and agriculture, Swannnoa Valley, more specifically  Warren Wilson College , is the place to keep on your radar. Man in Overalls with (L to R) Mary Elizabeth, my wife and Rachel (Williamson) Perry, WW alum and herbal tea entrepreneuer I'm an alum and proud of it, class of 2008. I studied community organizing, wrote a 140 page thesis about social movements as my capstone. Nathan, as college Freshman on WW Electric Crew. (Look for the blue water bottle) It's a work college, one of seven in the country. Think universal work-study, so in addition to whatever one's academic track, students are also working in the cafeteria, the library, admissions, as carpenters, lock smiths, lab techs, and-- per the agricultural legacy of Warren Wilson-- as row crop, animal, and vegetable farmers, gardeners, and edible landscapers.  Personally, I worked on the electric crew a

Man in Overalls - Growing Great Soil

Good soil will basically grow your groceries for you, but how do you build great soil?  The answer is that there are two options:  a quick & easy way and a DIY, hard(er) way.  So we're on the same page, I'm continuing my  #GrowYourGroceries The Easy Way  series by digging into the how-tos of growing great soil. These stories and techniques will likely make the most sense after reading Geeking on Good Soil , my last update. (I outlined where I was headed in  The Big Picture.) As I was saying, the easy way to build a great soil is to fill raised beds with a terrific compost-based soil mix like my  Magic Mix  to jump start your food garden  productivity  from year one. From there, seasonally, you simply top-dress each season before planting with another few inches of compost-based soil mix. This is how I manage my own food garden and those of my customers.  Why? Because at the root of things, I'm a lazy food gardener, and long ago I decided to embrace it. 😎

Man In Overalls - My Compost System

Composting, they say, is an art form. But, truth be told, I'm just too lazy for all that. My own compost philosophy is, "Crap rots in the woods, doesn't it?" But really. :) Whenever I think of home gardening systems, I always reflect back on my grandmother. She gardened up until the week she died at 93. She planted by the signs and assured me that's why her collards were not eaten up by bugs and were able to grow for 3 years running and up to 8 or 9 feet tall. She had a little rototiller, planted straight rows, mulched by spreading leaves to keep the weeds down. She threw out a little 10-10-10 from time to time and kept the cabbage worms at bay with Sevin dust. She hoed if the weeds called for it. But mostly, she harvested. Her pots were always full and her freezer always stuffed with produce: collards, mustards, turnips, peas, tomato gravy, squash, you name it. Now, I don't use 10-10-10 or sevin dust, and I'm not big on tilling. However, the thi

Man in Overalls - Summer Garden Blues & What To Do

Welcome to mid summer in the Deep South! If you're anything like me, you're actively looking for excuses to avoid going outside this time of year. The heat doesn't so much radiate down from the sun as it seems to rise from the side walk. Rain helps- for about ten minutes- and then simply adds to the humidity as it vaporizes on the payment, so that it feels like you need a snorkel to make it from the house to the car, but of course, it only gets worse when you turn on the AC, and that first puff of hot air feels as though someone just wrapped your face in a plastic bag - not to mention that if you cut your grass yesterday, you're going to have to do it again... tomorrow. And, lets not even talk about how fast the weeds grow this time of year! Or the insects seem to multiply! Oh, home... :) Here's the good news: If your garden looks a little worse for wear, it's okay. Really. Mine does too. As much as I aim for- and largely achieve- a productive & beauti

Man in Overalls - When to Plant Tomatoes

" Plant 'em in the spring. Eat 'em the summer. All winter without 'em's a culinary bummer ," as John Denver sings in "Home Grown Tomatoes."  So, just when should you plant* your homegrown tomatoes? Or, more generally, when should you plant your spring food garden? (For an abbreviated version of this post revised & published in Edible Northeast Florida, click here. ) Since tomatoes along with other spring favorites like squash, corn, green beans, cucumbers, peppers, and the like are "frost sensitive" (in other words, they'll die if it freezes), it's all about the "last frost date" for your area. Unless you're a weather savant and remember the last freeze for the past twenty years, you'll have to do some investigating. You could look up your Plant Hardiness Zone  on this cool "interactive" map from the USDA, and you'd learn that Jacksonville is in zone 9a, Tallahassee is in 8b, and At

Man in Overalls - How to Start a School Garden: Design

Before you get to build your school garden like this, before you can help kids get their hands dirty like this,  or teach kids in your school garden like this, there are a few things you've got to take care of first. The #1 most important thing you've got to do is build your team. I say- with no exaggeration-- that human infrastructure is THE most important aspect of developing a successful school garden. But, I already wrote about building your school garden team last time. Assuming you're on track with that, a simultaneous step is to begin developing your school garden design. Here are a few things to should consider as you develop a school garden design: Purpose In your school garden interest meeting, one of the first questions you should ask is: "Why are you interested in a school garden?" Interestingly, this question serves two purposes. First, it helps the team gel because there will likely be a lot of overlap in answers. This will

Man in Overalls - An Ode to Collards (Now with my recipes)

I love growing my groceries in the fall - watching the miracle of growth, having ready-access to the freshest produce money-can't buy, the many flavors, getting to try new varieties - all while the temperature drops to more and more pleasant levels. I enjoy growing most anything in the fall, but, if I had to choose just one thing to grow every fall for the rest of my life, it would be collard greens, hands down.  It's a health thing and an effort-to-yield calculation, but in the beginning, the roots of my collard green passion were seeded by family. When I was a kid about 9 or 10, just a couple years into gardening in the front yard , my aunt, the family documentarian showed me a clipping of my late grandfather from the Graceville New (or was it the Jackson County Times?) beneath his 9ft collard greens that he had kept alive multiple years, growing them into small trees. Not to be outdone, my grandmother grew a collard forest of her own. Seizing the moment, my