Franklinton Farms: Chimney Swift Tower

Chimney Swift Overhead - Photo Jim Mcculloch

The Grant

Franklinton Farms was awarded a $600 Conservation Grant for Bird Conservation Through Avian Architecture at Franklinton Farms. The project involved building and erecting a Chimney Swift Tower on the farm grounds.

Grant Recipient

Franklinton Farms is a 501(c)(3) non-profit urban farm based in the historically impoverished neighborhood of Franklinton on the west side of Columbus, Ohio.  Our mission is to “Grow Food, Create Beauty, and Build Community” with our neighbors.

Background

High View of Franklinton Farm

Aerial view of part of Franklinton Farm

Franklinton Farms is a scattered-plot farm with 12 unique garden sites across the neighborhood, covering around 2.5 acres.  We use biointensive production practices and grow a wide variety of annual vegetables and perennial berries. The food is distributed in the neighborhood in three main ways. We have a 20-member Winter Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program and a 55-member Summer CSA program for people who live or work in the neighborhood. In order to address healthy food access and affordability challenges, we deliver the produce each week and offer different sizes and prices of produce bags. We accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly referred to as Food Stamps) payments and Produce Perks, which is a program that helps incentivize healthy food purchases by doubling up SNAP benefits for approved farms. Franklinton Farms also hosts a weekly Produce Stand at our Patrick Kaufman Memorial Franklinton Learning Garden each summer, where we also have a sliding pricing scale and accept Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program coupons. Additional produce is donated to local agencies that provide emergency food boxes and meals throughout the community. We also sell our produce at the Worthington Farmers’ Market during the summer and winter markets.

Franklinton Farms works with several agencies and programs to reach more people. We are working with the Local Matters Veggie Van to provide weekly cooking demonstrations at the Learning Garden, and working with neighbors to enroll in their Cooking Matters program. We have also provided produce and attended programming at the Mount Carmel Healthy Living Center and are working with Gladden Community House to begin developing education programming at the Learning Garden. In addition, Franklinton Farms has worked with the Refuge Ministries, a faith-based, residential rehabilitation program that works with people recovering from addictions, to provide opportunities for their participants at the farm.

Sustainability Initiatives

Franklinton Farms started as a community garden in 2007 and, since that time, we have worked hard to incorporate sustainability efforts into our building and farming practices. We have several native species in our garden sites that provide habitat and for food for pollinator insects and birds. Examples include purple coneflowers, Black-eyed Susans, Jerusalem artichokes, black raspberries, paw paws, and sunflowers. These efforts have helped enhance biodiversity to create a diverse habitat for a number of species. Franklinton Farms also considers ways to conserve water through irrigation practices and crop rotation, composting, and cover crop plantings for healthy soil. We do not use chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides, and we continue to work on restoring cisterns that were discovered on the farm. We have rehabbed an office building and two houses (for interns), being considerate of the land and, when possible, utilizing materials that had been saved from houses that were torn down in the area. Franklinton Farms installed a solar electric system in the rear of one of the houses that was rehabbed. The solar array produces ~8.4-MWh of energy each year — the equivalent of eliminating 5,532 pounds of coal burned each year. The solar array provides power to the house and the walk-in produce cooler.  It will dramatically reduce the farm’s carbon footprint and monthly utility bill.  We also continue to search for ways to host zero waste events in our garden spaces.

Audubon Project Summary and Impacts

Franklinton - Swift Tower Back View

The completed Chimney Swift tower at Franklinton Farm

Through the Audubon-funded chimney swift tower project, Franklinton Farms is expanding its efforts to demonstrate how urban agriculture can be a useful tool for biological conservation. This project was intended to increase bird biodiversity on the farm in order to contribute ecosystem services such as pest suppression that can provide benefits to farm operations. Specifically, our project is intended to conserve the Chimney Swift, a species of concern for the Audubon society and a beneficial bird because it is a predator of many pests. Chimney Swifts are abundant in our community because there are a number of older buildings with chimneys that serve as a habitat. However, as the neighborhood undergoes revitalization efforts, many chimneys are being destroyed. To help sustain the presence of chimney swifts, we built a Chimney Swift tower in the Patrick Kaufman Memorial Franklinton Learning Garden on the corner of Hawkes and Town Streets. The Learning Garden will serve as one of our premiere education and community-building sites. It has already served as a space to host hundreds of neighbors at our annual community fall and spring festivals, as well as the inaugural pre-Boom 4th of July bash. We will be hiring an Education Coordinator in the coming year, and currently work with a long-time gardener and advocate to host programming for children and families with children through coordinated efforts with Gladden Community House and the Ohio State Kellogg-funded Buckeye ISA (Institutional Supported Agriculture) program.

With the help of our Americorps members and volunteers, Franklinton Farms completed the Chimney Swift tower in late 2018. We used Paul and Georgean Kyle’s book, New Habitat for America’s Birds: A Construction Plan, to guide the construction of the tower. The Audubon grant was used to purchase angle iron, plywood, cement, and fasteners. (We had about $200 worth of siding donated, too.) The project took around 40 hours to complete, and it will be a long-lasting structure in our garden.

Our long-term plan is to monitor the swift tower by recording the number of swifts and the time and date of their tower usage. With more resources and time, we could expand our bird conservation efforts as part of our sustainability efforts to increase biodiversity through the installation of additional birdhouses. Since the swift tower is in the Learning Garden, this can also serve as an important educational tool for the pre-school and elementary kids at Gladden Community House and Avondale Elementary School, which are located across from the garden site.