For This Veteran-Turned-Urban Farmer, It All Started With A Lemon Tree

A discovery of fresh, backyard-grown fruits led Kelly Carlisle to take her newfound garden knowledge to the streets of Oakland.

When Kelly Carlisle was stationed on the USS Essex as an operations specialist with the United States Navy, the food she ate in the mess halls came from cans and boxes, not farms.

Carlisle was on active duty from 2001 to 2005. During that time, her focus was on ensuring safe navigation of the ship through the waters off the coast of Japan; the California native didn’t give a second thought to where her food came from.

“Growing up, my parents had a garden and I thought they were weirdoes,” she recalls. “I had never thought of growing my own food.”

In 2008, Carlisle changed her mind when she saw a lemon tree in a garden center and discovered the fruit clinging to the branch was real. Until that moment, the California native had no idea lemons grew on trees.

“I had never noticed them before,” she explains. “The idea that you could grow your own lemons in your own space was mind-boggling. I bought the tree, planted it [in a stainless steel garbage pail on the patio] and dared it to grow another lemon. It did and I was in love.”

Read more here.