Urban farmer Marcie Todd talks about Freshtown's hot crop

“A farm isn’t always pretty,” says Freshtown Farm owner Marcie Todd, whose produce selection belies that statement. She recalls explaining this to neighbors of the first plot she rented from the city land bank. She wanted to help them understand the farm’s aesthetics in the off-season—a collection of “tarps, straw and even dead plants.”

Since founding Freshtown in 2017, Todd has expanded her urban farm to three plots, including the original South Side location on Ann Street, a spot at the New Salem Baptist Church in Linden and the front and back yards of a supportive local resident near Cooke and Maize Roads. Todd has continued to expand her reach as well as the diversity of the farm’s offerings by adding a community supported agriculture (CSA) program in 2018 and bringing in business partner Tracey Slaughter this year.

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With a total of just two acres, Todd and Slaughter are able to grow more than 100 varieties of produce, some hard to find. “When you grocery store shop, there are only a few varieties of produce that you’re able to get,” says Todd. “As a culture, we’re losing many of the older varieties, because they don’t grow as consistently, like a perfectly round tomato or a perfectly straight carrot.”

Some of Freshtown’s offerings this season include an heirloom Italian frying pepper called a Jimmy Nardello, which needs only a quick blister over high heat and a sprinkling of salt and olive oil. Meanwhile, the Sugar Rush Peach Hot Pepper is ideal for making a sweet and spicy hot sauce. Also in season is the purple di Milpa Tomatillo; it shines when combined with watermelon and jalapeños in a gazpacho.

You can find this colorful array at the weekly Clintonville Farmers Market and through the Freshtown Farm CSA, offered June through November. “Growing in the city, all of the people that surround you are like partners,” Todd says about the appeal of urban farming. “It’s a testament to people’s commitment to eating local and a privilege for us, truly.”