Starting an Urban Farm

Flannel Farms’ first month of Spring in Youngstown, Ohio

Here is a picture of my farm from two years ago.

This lot where my farm sits was originally single family housing and more recently, a gravel parking lot for the now closed hospital. The building seen has now been renovated into a business incubator and center of community revitalization.

Youngstown, Ohio is like a smaller version of Detroit. Current population is under 60,000 down from a peak of 170,000. In a city that once housed so many people, we have a lot of vacant land.

Flannel Farms is an urban farm trying to turn vacant land into food producing systems that create wealth and improve health in Youngstown.

Because the property was formerly a parking lot and the houses that once stood here are buried below, the soil is contaminated with lead.

So all of our food must be grown in soils brought onto the property from outside.

Importing soil is a large cost to us, as it is to all urban gardeners and farmers. So Flannel Farms is currently exploring using food waste, manure, leaves, and wood waste to create an organic compost in the city of Youngstown.

Having a plentiful, local supply of organic compost will accelerate the amount of food being grown on vacant land. This is a huge benefit to the community, because urban farms grow delicious food, can create an income for farmers, and these lots are currently being mowed by the city.

Flannel Farms is going to operate slightly differently than a regular farm. Because we do not have a lot of space, we are focusing on herbs and salad mixes. Because we’re so small, we can really focus on making great mixes of lettuces and herbs to make delicious salad mixes, that are fresher than anything else available on the market. This is because our lettuces are harvested the morning that they are sold.

Basil Seedlings

In the Oak Hill Collaborative, we are starting all of our seeds. Three varieties of lettuce, eight types of herbs, and two types of cherry tomatoes.

Our flagship urban farm, shown above, will experiment with different growing techniques, aquaponics, microgreens, a public picnic space, and on farm composting.

Our hugelkultur systems have potential to revolutionize how food is grown in urban environment. Since water access is often an issue in the city, hugelkultur aims to eliminate the need for irrigation.

By using a rotting log as a sponge, that provides water and nutrients

This hilled garden has a core of logs, a layer of mushroom compost, topped with topsoil, and mulched with straw.

Planted in this image is a polyculture of tomatoes, peppers, and pumpkins.

More updates will be posted as the spring progresses, thanks for reading! If you enjoyed reading this or have any questions, tweet at me @AlexLipinsky.