Elia Woods
Mark Hancock

At the forefront of this realm of agriculture is Elia Woods, who enlisted the help of neighbors to form CommonWealth Urban Farms.

After years of teaching weaving at City Arts Center, Woods was ready to change gears. She took a market gardening course at Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City and the idea of an urban farm stemmed from there.

Woods wanted to create a resource that would both teach the community about gardening and provide people with locally grown produce.

“It’s always been my intent to work in a way that is of benefit to the community,” said Woods.

CommonWealth was taken under the wing of Sustainable OKC, a nonprofit that operates at the intersection of business, environment and social justice.

To get the group started, a friend of Woods’ provided CommonWealth with the backyard of a rental lot in northwest Oklahoma City. Last fall, CommonWealth volunteers planted carrots there.

Bordering the yard is a bed of colorful pansies that at first distracts the viewer’s eyes from the organized rows beyond. In the ground are carrots, spinach, kale, beets, strawberries, onions, lettuce and more.

“Everybody has food in common,” said Woods. “So it’s a good place for all people to converge.”

CommonWealth has sparked the interest of volunteers who help in ways that range from planting seeds to weeding the garden. Coop Ale Works donates spent beer grains, which CommonWealth uses to make its own compost.

New volunteers are welcome to join the group every Saturday morning from 9 a.m. until noon.

Woods said CommonWealth aspires to be a model for an economically viable urban farm. Eventually the group intends to sell its produce in the form of community-supported agriculture, which means people would subscribe to receive a bag of produce each week. In doing so, the crops would be sold at a reasonable price and the farmers would know how much to grow, so as to reduce waste.

As it evolves, Woods said, CommonWealth will teach newcomers all about the process, in the hopes that they will spread the concept across the state.

“I’d love to see a mini-farm on every block in the city someday,” said Woods.

For information on volunteering with or donating to CommonWealth Urban Farms, visit commonwealthurbanfarms.com.

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