Cleveland – A Community Effort

Blog / Cleveland – A Community Effort


City Rising Farm 1When the city of Cleveland comes to mind, you might not get overly excited, as thoughts such as the one’s conveyed in this video are conjured up. Prior to our arrival we felt similarly, mostly considering Cleveland to be a pass-through city in the grand scheme of places to visit in the US. After our visit this past weekend our views were dramatically shifted. While Cleveland is definitely one of the cities hit hardest by the recession, it is also one of the most persevering and innovative cities to continue to fight its way out of the economic hole. Returning to its Midwest roots, farming is one way in which Cleveland is strengthening its community and making serious strides towards its recovery.

Our first stop on Saturday was conveniently a couple of blocks away from our hostel, at the Ohio City Farm. The farm is 6 acres and is located right in the Ohio City neighborhood nestled between housing complexes and local businesses. The farm is a really great example of the community effort that is taking place in Cleveland, as various partners play a role in its continued success. When the local housing authority was made aware that this plot of land could not sustain a housing complex, it was decided that a farm would be created in the space. Joining other local organizations, government officials and businesses, the farm broke ground in 2010. Since then, the farm has grown bigger and bigger, inviting more partners into the plot to farm on its land. One of the biggest supporters being Great Lakes Brewing Co. with offices, a brewery and a restaurant all located within the neighborhood, it made perfect sense to grow their hops and produce for their restaurant in the neighborhood too. Another way in which the farm furthers its reach into the community is through the employment of members of The Refugee Response organization, a program designed to help refugees adjust to life in Northeast Ohio. Additionally, the farm accepts food stamps and other food assistance benefits, participating in the “Double Value Produce Perks” program in which every dollar is matched for purchases up to $10. As you can see in the pictures, the Ohio City Farm produces a great variety of fresh fruits, vegetables and flowers, but in addition to that, it serves an amazing medium for community involvement from many different facets of life in Cleveland.Ohio City Farm - skyline

Next we headed over to City Rising Farm for an afternoon of volunteering. On the ride over, we noticed an obvious lack of grocery stores in the area, with only a couple of corner convenience stores. After speaking with Elle, a founder of City Rising Farm, we learned that some residents in the area have to take two buses, costing upwards of $5, to even get to a grocery store. This issue of inaccessibility is what the City Rising Farm initiative is working to resolve. The organization is built around the idea of

helping people in under-served communities learn to grow fresh local food and build healthy long lasting relationships with each other so they can use those skills and relationships to create opportunities in their own neighborhoods. At the garden we were able to work with local students who are part of a summer work program, providing neighborhood students with summer jobs in their communities. The students showed us around the garden with a great sense of pride, pointing out all of the fruits and veggies which they had planted in the previous week and even let us plant some of our own! These produce, once harvested, will be donated to residents of the community. Besides yielding fresh produce, these community farms really work to grow the community and build relationships within the area by bringing together people of various backgrounds and skills. This emphasis on networking is a key to the sustainability of City Rising Farm and the city of Cleveland.

City Rising Farm 2Our final stop in our Cleveland tour de urban farming brought us to the Bridgeport Mobile Market. This mobile farm stand is the most recent addition by the Ward 5 community developer, Burten, Bell, Carr Development, Inc. (BBC) to improve the community’s access to healthy foods. The market provides residents with access to locally sourced, fresh produce (grains are on their way soon too), in areas which grocery stores are not readily available. We caught up with the truck at the Ward 5 community parade. The response was extremely positive with people coming in and out, leaving with bags of produce and smiling faces. In addition to the mobile market, BBC also offers residents healthy versions of their favorite foods including sandwiches, salads and baked goods through its café-style restaurant. Furthering their comprehensive approach to improving the diets of residents, the BBC also includes CornUcopia Place, which is a community kitchen, hosting at least fifty cooking classes and demonstrations each year for residents to learn how to cook healthy meals. The community kitchen also allows space for urban agriculture entrepreneurs to clean, prepare, and package their produce for sales and distribution. It was truly special to see the BBC’s efforts in action, providing residents with the resources and knowledge to live a healthier lifestyle.

Bridgeport Mobile Market

At the end of the day we couldn’t help but feel great, for one thing – we were constantly being fed throughout the day, but more importantly we were able to see the strength of the communities within Cleveland, working together to better themselves. This was truly something special to be a part of and we can honestly say that we look forward to our next visit to Cleveland!

Also, before we end this post we want to send a special thanks to Dan of Neighborhood Progress. Through a google search and a string of redirected e-mails, Dan was able to put us in contact with all of these great organizations and we truly appreciate his help!

Take care,
Dol & Dar

Blog / Cleveland – A Community Effort

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