They’re not like peaches or squash.
Plumpness isn’t for them. They like
being lean, as if for the narrow
path. The beans themselves sit qui-
etly inside their green pods. In-
stinctively one picks with care,
never tearing down the fine vine,
never not noticing their crisp bod-
ies, or feeling their willingness for
the pot, for the fire.

I have thought sometimes that
something—I can’t name it—
watches as I walk the rows, accept-
ing the gift of their lives to assist

I know what you think: this is fool-
ishness. They’re only vegetables.
Even the blossoms with which they
begin are small and pale, hardly sig-
nificant. Our hands, or minds, our
feet hold more intelligence. With
this I have no quarrel.

But, what about virtue?

—Mary Oliver
Garden School: Grill It!
Saturday, August 11
11 a.m. to noon
3310 N. Olie

Nothin’ beats fresh veggies from the garden that have been tossed on the grill. Learn tips & tricks from grillmaster Steph as she demonstrates how to grill a variety of vegetables—and take part in sampling the results!
Instructor: Stephanie Jordan
$10 per class; $15 per couple/pair; free to volunteers. See full schedule and season rates HERE.

Coming Up Next:
Saturday, August 25: Bouquets from the Garden

Get ready for some serious beauty and fun! Lauren Palmer of The Wild Mother will demonstrate how to create an alluring arrangement from flowers grown at CommonWealth’s farm. Lauren is the creative genius behind the gorgeous, naturalistic arrangements that define The Wild Mother style.
Fall flower seedlings will be available for sale.


Time to Apply for Fall Session

Our courageous—remember those 100-plus days!—summer apprentices did outstanding work on the farm. Emma and Nick, we thank you!!

Emma wanted to learn more about gardening, so she could raise healthy food for her children and create school gardens. Before heading off to Spain on a Fulbright scholarship to study sustainability, Nick wanted some hands-on, hands-in the dirt experience.

Apprentices come to CommonWealth for a variety of reasons: to become an urban farmer; ag or horticulture students looking for practical, hands-on learning; home gardeners ready to step up to the next level…

With Lia’s and Christopher’s wealth and depth of knowledge, a CommonWealth apprenticeship is a treasure. Deadline for applying for the fall class is August 25th. Apply here.

Team Spotlight: Allen Parleir


NE OKC Farmers Market Festival of Greens

It was while in seminary that Allen Parleir was drawn to the idea of seeing the world from the point of view of those who don’t have access. He made the decision to stand with the marginalized but little did he know at the time exactly how that would play out.

Allen had gardened in college. In fact, the summer after his junior year, he and a friend grew an acre of okra, an acre of tomatoes and raised 12 pigs in northeast Oklahoma City. Later, when he and Lia moved to 32ndstreet, they began to garden in their backyard. It was not the kind of neighborhood—not yet—in which that they hoped to share life.

He and Lia decided they wanted to live in a place where they could look outside and see different colors of kids playing together, where they knew their neighbors and could share life with everyone on the block. At that time, there was diversity on 32nd street but a lot of crime and there wasn’t much sharing, everyone keeping to themselves. Then one day two Laotian girls and a Vietnamese girl across the street asked Allen and Lia to help them start a garden. There were no sunny spots left in Lia’s place, but the neighbor next door offered his front yard, “so I don’t have to mow.”

That simple act of sharing would eventuate in CommonWealth Urban Farm. “We had no idea what happens when you garden in front yards,” says Allen. “We discovered that it is a great way to get to know neighbors. The children would plant and the crack house people would garden together.

Eventually, gardening together, everyone got to know everyone. “Everybody speaks food,” says Allen. The Vietnamese grandparents across the street suddenly felt free to garden every inch of their yard!. When one of the girls’ grandpas came from Laos and showed up in the garden, he was pointing, speaking only Laotian. “We finally figured out he was telling us to chop the banana plant so it could grow back.”

There were block parties, Halloween celebrations. “Our yards felt safe,” Allen says. Allen began to wonder if maybe gardening would work to build community in the whole neighborhood, “so we started a community garden at 31st and Shartel. It helped that block and the whole neighborhood and more front yard gardens developed. People started getting outside to meet their neighbors.”

Collecting food waste from the Health Food Center began and the sharing and gardening and being community continued to evolve over the next 10 years until the next phase emerged: Whole Foods opened a store nearby and there was a mountain of food waste to be composted. Too, in hopes of teaching about gardening and developing an urban farm, the first beds for CommonWealth Urban Farms were built on a couple of adjoining empty lots.

Allen had founded Closer To Earth, a youth gardening program, and the youth helped with the composting and maintenance of neighborhood greenspaces. In addition to co-managing the composting operation, Allen took on the work of advocating with the city to allow for front yard gardening and the development of neighborhood farming right in the heart of a city neighborhood—“Some call it an agri-hood!” says Allen.

Currently, his role has shifted a bit—toward weaving the complex pieces together that continue to sustain this neighborhood farming community.

All through our interview, he kept an eye on the day’s activity on 32nd street, sometimes going to the window to take a closer look. Returning to the sofa, his gaze still out the window, toward a stand of cover crops, arugula, basil, native pollinating plants and the bamboo forest across the street, he grows quietly reflective.

“Living on this block,” he says, “I feel so rich.”—Pat

Testimonial: Volunteers Shout Out!

We enjoy Jenna Moore’s sweet spirit and energetic enthusiasm for the work of CommonWealth Urban Farm. We appreciate greatly her contributions on the

marketing team, helping with creative ideas for marketing our flowers and vegetables; developing educational programs and fundraising projects.

“My name is Jenna Moore and I’ve been volunteering with CommonWealth for around 2 years now.  I continue to volunteer for a multitude of reasons, mainly because I feel that CommonWealth is a step in the right direction of where the world needs to be heading.  It is a place where community is created through the growing and sharing of nutritious food, in a way that promotes local economy and improves the environment.
It is rare for me to find a place that houses all of my passions under one “roof.”  It is also always encouraging to see how touched people are when they first experience CommonWealth, and how their interests continue to be piqued the more they learn about it.  There is such a wealth of knowledge at CommonWealth that is ripe for the sharing with the rest of the city.  It has been fun for me to help try to disseminate that knowledge in whatever way that I can!”

Of a Certain Nature…Sightings & Sounds at CommonWealth

Friends drop by the CommonWealth Urban Farm community off and on for a few moments of quiet and to breathe in nature. Volunteers tell us how lovely it is to enjoy nature as they work on the farm. They tell us we should celebrate the beauty and wonder of this place.  And so, we are!

A lone Monarch has been floating around the front yard gardens on 32nd street for the last week. Butterfly eggs and caterpillars have been spotted on Rue and Milkweed—and protected by our resident Butterfly Mama, Stephanie Jordan. We are eagerly keeping our eyes peeled for the butterflies’ release in the next few days.

A huge family of raccoons—five large adults—emerge from Doe Creek, via the drainage system, onto 32nd Street most nights around twilight.

The city is in nature too!—Pat