Artistry manifests itself in a variety of elements in David Ritchey’s life.
Ritchey, also known as Kip, is a self-employed tattoo artist and co-founder of Smarter by Nature LLC. As his own boss the 30-year-old Ritchey uses his creative skills and passion for sustainability to make a difference in the Tallahassee community.
Ritchey moved to Tallahassee from Miami in 2009 and graduated from Florida State University with a degree in sociology. During his time in school Ritchey was tattooing, played the tuba in the Marching 100 and found his calling in urban gardening. Ritchey described tattooing as his day job that pays the bills. While he tries to balance gardening, his heart lies more with his crops.
“This goes further than the bills,” Ritchey said. “This is kids, the Earth, this is the future.”
One of Ritchey’s closest friends, Kyle Chattam, has known and witnessed the extent of Ritchey’s passion for gardening. Initially bonding through a mutual interest in videography. Chattam, 30, met Ritchey as he directed, produced and recorded a music video for a client in 2011.
“I’ve always been a fan of the kind of work he did as a multidisciplinary artist,” said Chattam.
From there, the two collaborated on an event called “The Flourish” in 2017 located at the Frenchtown urban garden iGrow. The day party had live performances, vendors and workshops and offered tours through the farm.
“Kip has always had a green thumb and has been interested in gardening,” said Chattam.
It didn’t take long for Ritchey and his co-founder, Angelique Taylor, to realize that a green thumb can be turned into green money. Smarter by Nature was founded in 2017 and includes the duo cultivating and starting multiple urban gardens around Tallahassee to run their stand at the Frenchtown Farmers Market. Just last week the two started a new garden off of All Saints Street that should be ready to harvest this summer.
“We learned that people across the world are actually making money from growing food. So we decided to take it a step further and create Smarter by Nature. That is our foundation of sustainability," said Taylor.
The Smarter by Nature stand is one of the few vendors at the Frenchtown Farmers Market that harvests their produce in the early morning hours before opening at 10 a.m. The pair farms on an year-round, which means they cultivate and sell produce based on season and customer demand. Collard greens, mustard greens and cabbage are some of their most popular products. At the market, some competing vendors buy foods at wholesale prices and then sell for less.
“Just because it’s at the farmers market doesn’t mean they grow their food. What’s best is growing your own food," said Ritchey.
At one of their larger urban gardens located at 510 E. Orange Ave. called The Promise Land Urban Youth Farm, the pair not only harvests for their stand but allows the community to garden their own crops. Owned by the Greater Love Church, the garden has an area dedicated to community crops for volunteers, mulberry trees with fruit ready to pick and eat and a bee farm. The two also encourage children to come out and learn about sustainability through farming.
“Everybody’s welcome. The hardest part is consistency and being committed to what you do. The reward is pretty cool to eat your own food," said Ritchey.