Urban farming is growing. In cities around the country, residents are planting crops on rooftops, on abandoned elevated train tracks, in vacant lots and, of course, backyards.
On Columbus’s north side, a new store near the corner of High Street and Morse Road has become a resource for urban farmers.
Shawn Fiegelist owns and operates City Folk’s Farm Shop. It’s a small corner store that offers chicken feed, cheese making kits, and everything in between to help people live off a little bit of land.
Fiegelist say she’s always had a passion for homesteading and growing her own food. She opened the store last March after growing frustrated with having to drive up to two hours to find supplies.
“There are other people who are like me. I knew some of those people so I knew there were people who were looking for this sort of thing and not finding it. And there’s also a big push to buy locally, so that helps us, as well.”
She says business has been steady, even really good at times. Over the last ten months, City Folk’s has evolved into more than just a store.
“If somebody’s looking for something specific or some sort of specific information, there are a lot of people that come through the doors, so we keep track of those folks and pass on information that way,” Fiegelist says.
“We have classes and workshops, so people who are interested in doing, let’s see what we’ve got coming up. We’ve got ‘Making Bee’s Wax Candles’, ‘Edible Medicine’, there’s a bee-keeping class, there’s a classroom for the urban coop…”
It’s hard to tell just how many urban farmers there are. They range from people growing tomatoes on an apartment balcony to full-scale commercial farms inside abandoned factories. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says about 15 percent of the nation’s food supply is now grown in urban areas, and cities including Columbus have loosened zoning rules allowing people to grow crops and raise livestock.
That includes Joseph Swain, owner of Swainway Urban Farm in Clintonville. He started farming four years ago, and it’s grown from a hobby to a career. He’s transformed his third-of-an-acre property into a commercial farm producing raspberries, mushrooms, and dozens of herbs and vegetables he sells at local farmers’ markets.
“We do have to take some different strategies and techniques to kind of compete with people who have vast amounts of land, so we focus on high-value crops and growing crops really intensively.”
He buys supplies from the City Folk’s Farm Shop, and has started supplying the store with some of his seedlings.
“What Shawn is doing is really fantastic. She does an awesome job at connecting with local businesses and other organizations to provide education and outreach programs. And I think it’s really important to support businesses like that to ensure the success of our community.”
Shawn Fiegelist hopes her shop will teach even more people about the benefits of urban farming.
“It’s a wide, wide group of people. It’s all sorts of people, all income levels. Clintonville obviously is a place I think that a lot of people think it’s going on. But it’s not just Clintonville, it really is all over the city.”