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At this year’s Spring Conference, we at OGS decided to set up a handful of volunteers with pen, paper, and the directive to go home after the event and write a post on each class they attended for us to share on the OGS Blog in a series we’re calling the Conference Blog!

In this series, we bring together the diverse perspectives of our audience and hear experiences from dozens of different voices–commercial farmers, backyard growers, conscientious consumers, and everything in between! 

Joel Tippins, the Founding Director of Fair Share Urban Growers in Chattanooga Tennessee, works tirelessly to promote food justice and believes that everyone should have equal access to healthy, fresh, nutritious food. He works mostly in the city’s food deserts, often in low-income neighborhoods. At the Organic Growers Conference on Saturday morning, Joel emphasized the multiple ways that food can be grown and was adamant that there was no one solution to solving hunger but many different necessary approaches. Though food purists might reject some unconventional methods of growing food, Joel remains an advocate for the non-specialized, beginning gardener. As a site for plants such as okra and black-eyed peas that thrive in an extremely hot environment, Joel suggested that old car tires are fantastic resources.

But the main purpose of the seminar was a screening and discussion of the documentary film, “Truck Farm,” created by Brooklyn filmmakers Curt Ellis and Ian Cheney. The film showed that food can grow in the back of a pick-up truck, and this particular method has huge potential in urban areas where there is a lack of green space. What does one need to grow food in the back of a pick-up truck? Well, not that much. First a drainage mat needs to be put down on the bed of the truck. The next layer would be an erosion blanket to keep the soil from washing away. Finally, some good soil (sand, silt, clay), followed by a bunch of dirt.

Joel offered some sage words of wisdom at the end of the seminar. He said that every garden is successful in some way or another. The pests might be the most successful, or the disease, so it might not actually be your success. The most important thing to remember is that you’re a participant, not a controller. In fact, there are no garden experts, just knowledge about things that worked and didn’t work. The garden can always teach you something about itself. We must surrender the notion of control.


Jenn Cloke

Author: Jenn Cloke

Jenn Cloke, originally from Atlanta, has lived in Western North Carolina for since 2006 and wears her Appalachian mantle proudly. Jenn was the Communications Coordinator for Organic Growers School from 2012 to 2014. She and her family run a small farm at the foot of Cold Mountain.

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