Reality TV Takes on Urban Farming

Reality TV meets urban farming in the documentary series The Urban Conversion.

by Abby Tripp Heverin

The Urban Conversion

Courtesy Brian Kraft

Until recently, Rodman Schley appeared to be your typical urban entrepreneur, leading business meetings with a Starbucks cup in hand and navigating the streets of Denver in his BMW convertible. These days, however, Schley is getting to know some anything-but-typical neighbors—folks who have made sustainability a way of life—as he tries to reduce the size of his own carbon footprint.

His reeducation is being caught on camera in The Urban Conversion, a documentary series Schley is producing with Timothy Nyman of Denver-based production studio Blue Fusion. Billed as “an urban homesteading guide for dummies,” the series follows the self-proclaimed conservative city-slicker as he engages in what he calls “extreme green” urban-farming experiences, often with hilarious results.

Schley’s wife, Gina, was the impetus for the show.

“She’s more sustainable, more green,” he explains.

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Wanting to move beyond composting and backyard gardening, Gina gave her husband two choices: Buy a farm in the country or bring the farm to the city. Rodman opted for the latter, and the series documents his learning process as he turns this urban-farming dream into reality.

In The Urban Conversion‘s pilot episode, Schley (ineptly) milks a goat and cleans out the chicken coop at Sundari Kraft’s Denver backyard farm. A video on the show’s YouTube channel documents Schley’s trip to Colorado Aquaponics, where he discovers the ins and outs of another form of urban farming.

Schley’s goal is to have the ultimate extreme-green lifestyle. Currently, he’s collaborating with Moss Owl Studio to build what he calls “the perfect urban homestead”—one that is “as extreme as possible.” The homestead is more than just a project, he says: “It’s a home that I’ll be building for myself and my family.”

Thanks to The Urban Conversion and the homestead project, Schley says his young daughters, Sophia and Cecilia, will know a completely different childhood from the one he experienced.

“We just didn’t know,” Schley says of his own generation’s understanding of agriculture and sustainability. “There are so many things we didn’t get to see when we were kids.”

Even though the Schleys will be taking green to the extreme, Rodman says even casual environmentalists can learn from The Urban Conversion.

“You don’t have to do all of these things to this degree, but maybe you can do something,” Schley says. “Going green doesn’t have to be inconvenient.”

The Urban Conversion will feature urban farmers from across the U.S. and is still looking for a network to call home. (Schley and Nyman began pitching the series to TV execs in late 2010.) In the meantime fans can follow Schley’s extreme-green adventures on FacebookYouTube and on the show’s website.

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