North Memphis Farmers Collective

A few years ago, I wrote a blog post about Adam Guerrero, an urban farmer in Memphis who was fighting for the right to garden in the city. I recently received an email from Stephanie Diane Ford, a colleague of his, updating me on their situation. The gardens have grown and several urban farmers there have joined to form the North Memphis Farmers Collective. They’ve had some challenges–not the least of which was the city cutting down their fig trees (sounds more like something you’d expect to hear out of Palestine than Tennessee)–but things have gone well enough for them that, like us, they’re trying to grow. They have a Kickstarter to raise money to buy a truck, a tractor, a chainsaw, and other needed equipment.

It’s really exciting–their goal is $10,000, and they’re less than $1,000 from succeeding. Unlike the “flexible funding” option I used on Indiegogo that allows you to collect whatever money people donate even if you don’t meet the goal, Kickstarter is all or nothing. If their donations hit $10,000 in time, they get all the money donated (minus fees). If they’re a buck short, they get zip (which is why I opted for Indiegogo instead). They’re close to success, but they only have five days left.

They’ve put together a really impressive video. I encourage you to go watch it even if you have no intention of helping them. It’s almost a mini-documentary about the troubles in North Memphis and what these farmers are doing to fix them.


Speaking of deadlines, our own crowdfunding campaign has ended. I’ve completed the application along with a list of community organizations that support our plan for the vacant lot next door. We didn’t hit the goal, but I think we’re making a more than fair offer on the place, considering its location, lack of a paved road to the driveway, and its view of the gas company substation. I just need to send it to them Monday. After Indiegogo sends us the money, I’ll start sending out the “perks” people claimed. I’ll let you know when I hear more.

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Our Video Is Now Online!

After a few long nights, and by the generosity of Elephant Revival, who allowed us to use their song, “The Pasture,” Mayda and I have finally finished the video for our Indiegogo campaign which launched five days ago. We’re trying to raise money to purchase a vacant lot next door. Doing so will make our farm big enough to legally be allowed to raise animals. Enjoy the video and share it with anyone else who might be interested.

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The Crowdfunding Has Begun!

As longtime readers of this blog are probably aware, we used to raise chickens. LOTS of chickens, at least as far as urban, backyard flocks go. We had a laying flock of about 75-150, with plans to have about 300, and at our most productive, I was taking about 100 broilers to the processor every two weeks. We sold meat and eggs at farmers markets, from our home, made home deliveries in the area, supplied Two Caterers and Red Snapper, and for a little while, even sold through Celebrate Local at Easton. Customers were happy, urban homesteaders were getting inspired, life was good.

And then our birds got stolen, along with a bunch of other stuff. To put a stop to that, I fixed up the old house on the land where I’d had the chickens, and my family and I moved in. But by the time we did so, the county changed the zoning rules and said we can’t have more than 24 chickens unless we have more than five acres. If we have more than five acres, they can’t say anything about it, as state law would exempt us from local regulation.

We wanted to buy the vacant lot next to ours, but we couldn’t locate the deceased owner’s next-of-kin. Eventually, I applied to have the county land bank take control of that lot. They cleaned it up, and two years after my initial application, they offered to sell it to us. During the time we were waiting, however, someone else told the land bank they were interested in that lot, too, so the land bank has invited us to submit an offer. We’re trying to get all our supporters to chip in, both to raise more money than we personally could offer, and to demonstrate to the land bank that there’s wide community support for us farming the vacant land.


Since this is a new beginning for our farm, I’m changing the name from Frijolito Farm to Woodland Urban Farm. “Frijolito” is a little bean. That was appropriate when we were just a quarter-acre and a few small gardens scattered around Columbus, but I think we’ve outgrown the name now that we’re looking at growing to almost seven acres. My vision for Woodland Urban Farm is to grow food, sell it along with handicrafts year-round at an on-site market, and offer meeting space for classes, workshops, and discussion groups for those interested in sustainable living and connecting with nature. If you want to be a part of this, please visit our Indiegogo site and contribute. If you’re not in a position to offer money, please share the link and encourage others to do so. Also, contact Curtiss Williams, Vice President of The Land Reutilization Corporation of Franklin County (614-525-4938), and let him know that you want Wayne Shingler to farm the vacant lot on Woodland Avenue, especially if you live in central Ohio. And to those who’ve so generously contributed already, thank you. We’ll receive the money a couple weeks after the end of the campaign, and I’ll send out your “perks” after that.

Support Woodland Urban Farm

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The Moment Is Here

Even now, three years after our last chicken disappeared, I still get calls from people looking for eggs or chicken. I hate taking these calls, because it hurts me to disappoint these people. I want to raise chickens, but I haven’t been able to do so for three years.

Initially, this was because I didn’t have adequate security. I was raising the birds at an old house a couple blocks away from where we lived at the time. After so many thefts and predator attacks, I decided I just couldn’t farm there anymore until I moved in so I could guard the place full-time. I focused my attention on fixing up that old house, and in 2013, my family and I moved in.

But at that point, I still couldn’t resume raising chickens, because the county had passed a new zoning regulation saying that no more than 24 chickens could be raised on any property smaller than five acres. We have something like 4.85 acres, so that put me out of the chicken business.

According to state law, however, if we had more than five acres, neither the township nor the county would have any authority to regulate agriculture on our land. In other words, if he have more than five acres, we’re exempt from the county zoning rule about livestock.

It just so happens that there’s a vacant lot adjoining our land that’s big enough to put us over that five-acre mark if we were to buy it. A little over two years ago, I contacted the county land bank to have them seize the property and sell it to me. Last year, they bulldozed the burned down house on that lot, cleaned up the trash, and planted grass. There were some delays while they offered the elementary school on the other side of the lot the opportunity to buy the land, but the land bank is finally offering me the chance to buy it. In the time I’ve been waiting, however, another person has come forward and expressed interest in buying it. (I don’t know who they are or what they want to do with the land.) So rather than just telling me how much they want for it, the land bank is telling me to submit an offer.

Obviously, this is going to drive the price up. I don’t have the cash on hand to make a competitive offer right now, and there’s no way we could get an affordable bank loan, having declared bankruptcy last year, so I’m starting a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. I’m not sure what the exact launch date will be, as I’m still putting together a video, but it will be soon. It probably won’t take me more than a week, but Indigogo has announced a rate change beginning July 15 that could potentially save me a few hundred dollars in fees if I wait until then. It’s just a question of whether I can put off the land bank long enough to do that.

I’m hoping that, with your help, we can make this place a destination for people who want to support and learn about urban agriculture.


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The Sap Is Running

We tapped some of our trees for the first time today. At first, I was having trouble with the sap dripping out around the spiles, so I tore strips off a plastic grocery bag and wrapped them around the spiles like Teflon tape on a threaded pipe fitting. This caused the spile to fit snugly and created a plastic washer to keep the sap from dripping down the bark beneath the spile. Once I figured that out, I found the trees to be very productive–at least the maples, anyway. The black walnut trees I tapped are barely dripping.


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The Criminalization of Choice

The government refuses to force food manufacturers to list GMOs on their ingredient lists. But if you’re trying to avoid genetically modified food, at least you have the option of growing your own or buying from a local grower whose methods you can observe…or do you?

Writer Bonnie Kristian talks about how the same thinking that motivates governments to outlaw services like Lyft and Uber is resulting in people being prosecuted for growing food.


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native wood, treen, hand carved

To feed our wood stove, I’ve been gathering fallen limbs and trees from the forest and bucking them with a miter saw. It takes me about an hour to get enough wood to last us 2-3 days. Then I set a few logs–about enough to fill the stove twice–on top of the stove to dry out, with about another day’s worth stacked near the stove where it can get mostly dry. By the time I put it in, it’s as dry as it should be.

In doing this, I’ve accumulated several small pieces of spalted maple and black walnut. Yesterday, sitting in front of the fire, I started carving a bowl out of one of the chunks of spalted maple. That’s a picture of it up there. It’s not done. I just did some rough hacking with a hatchet and chisel while sitting in front of the fire. I still need to work a lot more on it with a curved knife (which I don’t yet have) and some sandpaper (which I also don’t have, come to think of it).

Other than bowls and knife handles. does anyone have any ideas for what I could make out of these pieces? They’re too pretty to just burn. Mayda is pushing me to do cutting boards, but I’d need a froe to split out planks for that, and I’d have to plane it by hand. I don’t have a planer, a bandsaw, a lathe, or a router, so that limits what I can do efficiently. I’d thought of spoons, but most of these pieces are such that I could only do flat ones or really short ones. Once I have a curved knife, I could probably do some little cups–basically just bowls of different proportions.

Any ideas?

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Jack’s Magic Beans


No, those aren’t giant coffee beans. It’s come to my attention that there’s a demand for pawpaw seeds and people are paying outlandish prices for them. One person out in New Albany was selling nine seeds for $4.00, and that’s considered to be the lower end of the going rate now. Some people are charging more. I guess I’ve been out of the loop. I just gave away close to a dozen overripe pawpaws to a woman who wanted the seeds. Didn’t charge her anything.

Nine seeds for $4.00! That’s more than Glass Gem corn seed goes for! That figures out to almost 45-cents a seed!

Well, I can do better than that. I still have some ripe pawpaws intact. There is no “processing” to them at this point beyond just squishing them out and rinsing them off. I’ll even stick them in the fridge so the seeds can begin stratifying for the winter.

Pawpaw seeds for sale: 3 for a dollar

That’s three bucks for nine seeds. And I’m inside the 270 loop in northeast Columbus. Come get ’em. Heck, for this price you can buy them and resell them at a profit.

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Summer’s End

The deer, having accidentally ripped through the flimsy deer netting I put up, have figured out that they’re capable of breaking through it, so it’s become useless. Many nights over the past couple weeks, I’ve had to run outside to chase deer out of the garden.

Earlier this summer, they’d torn down the netting in one corner, and I repaired it with sticks and wire.

primitive deer fence, renewable building materials, urban forest farm Columbus

After they started ripping down other parts, my first thought was to do the same there, and I spent a day working towards that.

urban pioneers, stick fence, deer fence garden

But then I thought better of it. The nights are getting cold and our wood stove isn’t hooked up yet. Before I can hook it up, there are a bunch of other things I need to do to the house. I don’t have many nice days left to do so. The garden is pretty well done for the year anyway, and deer season for archers begins September 27th. Better, I think, to focus my attention on fixing the house (and practicing my marksmanship), and let the five deer who’ve been grazing here get fattened up cleaning out the old squash and tomato vines. The ODNR says I’m allowed to kill four of them this year. If I can do so, that will probably see us through the next year and then some as far as red meat is concerned.

Mayda’s been saying I should use welded wire to fence the garden. It would be effective, but it’s also a lot more expensive. If I don’t have the money for wire fence, I can set aside sticks for making the fence as I’m cutting firewood.

Having pretty much given up on the big garden for the year (other than planting garlic, which the deer have always ignored), we’re just gathering up what we can before the deer eat it, selling some of it to Mayda’s co-workers and their friends, and preserving the rest. [I notice they seem to be ignoring the tomatillos, too. Maybe it’s because those are planted closer to the house.] Last night, Mayda rigged up a large food dehydrator with some bread racks, window screen, a box fan, a few blocks of wood (to hold it up so air can blow underneath), and some craft paper to cover the sides. In the photo below, I’ve pulled down one of the paper “walls” so you can see inside. I’m drying tomatoes, peppers, and garlic (just for our own consumption, in case you’re reading, ODA/ODH/FCPH).

cheap food preservation, urban homesteading Columbus

Fortunately, the front garden has been safe from the deer, so the Glass Gem corn and pole beans are still growing. (I did see corn smut growing on one plant earlier this year, so if anyone’s interested in huitlacoche, give me your contact info and I’ll get in touch with you if any more appears.) I’ll pull what’s left of the beets and carrots out there and plant some cool weather greens to eat through the winter.

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Our First Ripe Indigo Rose

The green part turned red on this one. There are still a lot of green and purple ones out on the vine waiting to ripen.

Indigo Rose Columbus organic tomatoes

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