Interview with The Urban Farm Church

On July 15th, Simply Living is hosting a Garden Tour that will be focused on various community-oriented farms and gardens in the Linden area. The Garden Tour will start and end at the Urban Farm Church, located in North Linden, so I went there to learn about the Church and their mission.

What is the Urban Farm Church and how did it start?

The Urban Farm Church in North Linden was created over a year ago by Rev. Ryan Grace and his wife, Mariellyn Grace. Rev. Grace grew up in Southeast Ohio- “farm country” – and spent a lot of his life outdoors, where he developed a deep connection with the earth. He always thought of himself as someone who cares about the environment, but like many of us, he realized he could be doing more to care for the earth in tangible ways.

During the height of the pandemic, Rev. Grace took his family to visit small farms throughout Southeast Ohio who were creating local solutions to the global problem of climate change. They visited places such as Integration Acres who started the Ohio PawPaw festival, Clover Patch Dairy Farm, who raises cattle sustainably, and local businesses such as Snowville Creamery and Casa Nuevo who source their ingredients locally. During their visits, the Graces were inspired by the sense of community and spirituality within the local farmers, and they realized that they could also create a strong community space that serves both the planet and the neighborhood. Years later, the Urban Farm Church was established – it is a sustainable farm where both crops and community are grown, right here in North Linden, Columbus. 

Ryan and Mariellyn Grace

What is your mission?

The mission of the Urban Farm Church is simple – to serve both the earth and the community. The Farm provides a place where people can center their heart, body, mind, and spirit, while simultaneously serving their neighbors. They are creating community, fighting food insecurity, and giving back to the earth through their sustainable farming practices.

What sustainable practices do you utilize in your farming?

When the Graces were visiting local farms, they realized that they could create a farm themselves, but that they needed some help. Modeling best practices for sustainable farming was a priority, so they hired a part time expert to help them understand what those practices are and how they can be achieved. The Farm utilizes drip irrigation, which comes from a well that was dug on site. Drip irrigation can save up to 80% of the water used compared to other types of irrigation, and also requires less energy than other irrigation systems. As for the soil, the Urban Farm Church uses no-dig methods, which are essentially like a raised garden bed. The no-dig method doesn’t disturb the soil ecosystems, and over years can create a productive and fertile soil ecosystem itself. Third, the Farm is fully organic – no chemicals or pesticides are used on site. The Farm also composts and plants native pollinators to support a healthy ecosystem.

How does your religious practice coincide with sustainability?

The Urban Farm Church was created out of the United Methodist Church which has a long standing support for action against climate change, through the concept of Creation Care. The belief is that God created the world, it is good, and it is our job to take care of it. Rev. Grace explained how “good” in the Bible meant that it is good in its own right, or that the earth has intrinsic value, and it is good because it is useful for us. 

Rev. Grace’s philosophy is to allow people to connect with the Spirit in non-traditional ways – through getting your hands dirty and working side by side with your neighbors to grow crops. He believes that in today’s society, connecting with one’s spirituality through nature might be more beneficial for a lot of people than sitting in church pews with stained glass and singing songs from the 1700s. The Farm community is different from the actual church itself – people from all religious backgrounds come to work the farm and connect with spirituality in their own ways.

What are your plans for the future?

Rev. Grace has a lot of plans for the future. Firstly, he wants to create a nature trail as an alternative way to provide greenspace for the community. Additionally, they are hoping to create a native wildflower prairie in the Fall to bring more pollinators and more beauty, and a fruit tree orchard in the next couple of years. They also want to expand in their renewable energy sources, and hopefully get solar panels in the near future. In Linden, and in the Greater Columbus area, there is a lot of diversity, so Rev. Grace wants to host events in the future that celebrate that diversity and different cultures such as a Juneteenth event and an event that celebrates Appalachian culture. If you want to stay updated, give the Urban Farm Church a follow on Facebook or Instagram!

What do you think needs to change in order for more people to care about local solutions?

Rev. Grace believes that there is already a fast-growing movement towards supporting local food and sustainability in Central Ohio. Through starting the farm, they have found networks of organizations that are willing to support their cause, and are supporting local solutions to the global crisis of climate change themselves. Rev. Grace argues that a lot of the growth is going to happen on the local community level – people will tell their friends and neighbors, and more people will get involved in the Urban Farm Church and other similar organizations. If you want to get involved, stop by during community farming hours on Wednesdays and Sundays, or see the Farm during Simply Living’s Garden tour on July 15th!

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