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Urban gardens could sustain cities in Cleveland

Michael Storck and his daughters, Isabel, 10, and Zita, 4, pick produce from their plot at the Bexley Community Garden. Researchers say such urban gardens can help sustain cities. Photo by Courtney Hergesheimer | Dispatch.

Vacant lots equal lots of acreage to plant

By Mark Ferenchik
The Columbus Dispatch
August 22, 2011


The researchers found that the land could generate as much as $115 million in produce each year, enough to satisfy at least 22 percent of Cleveland’s demand for fresh produce. In some scenarios, perhaps 100 percent.

“We were definitely shocked it was really possible to be self-reliant,” said Parwinder S. Grewal, who is co-author of the study and director of Ohio State’s Center for Urban Environment and Economic Development, in Wooster.

Many older industrial cities have become magnets for urban farming. Many Columbus neighborhoods have added community gardens.

Grewal said he worked with Cleveland’s planning commission to compile all the land that would be available for growing.

The researchers created three scenarios based on using 80 percent of the vacant lots as well as varying percentages of rooftops and occupied residential lots. Then they looked at how much produce could be grown per acre, based on the crop, and at consumption levels in the city.

Cleveland has 20,000 vacant lots that add up to at least 3,400 acres, or about 5.3 square miles, an area slightly smaller than Worthington. According to OSU Extension, the 50 acres currently devoted to community gardens in Cleveland generate $1.2 million to $1.8?million of fresh produce each year.

Read the complete article here.

Also see:

Green city – Columbus is a leader in effort to turn empty city spaces into gardens

Columbus Dispatch
Aug 27, 2011

Excerpt from Editorial:

Turning vacant lots into gardens doesn’t just clean up eyesores; it makes fresh produce more accessible to people in the inner city, where supermarkets often are rare, and enables more people to eat locally grown food. While the “eat local” movement may be largely the province of affluent foodies now, many believe it will become more important if gasoline prices rise enough to make food transportation more expensive.

Read here.

Also see this critique:

Cleveland and Agriculture: Are We Asking the Wrong Questions?

Aug 29, 2011

In my mind though, OSU is looking at the issue too narrowly. I wish OSU would explore how much produce could be produced if greater Cleveland quit building Walmarts on all of its prime farmland and instead preserved it for agriculture, then focused redevelopment efforts on vacant parcels in the city.

The state of Ohio lost 6.9 million acres of farmland to development between 1950 and 2000 and almost all of that was to low-density, suburban-style, detached housing.

I’m not an agricultural researcher, but my guess is it would pale in comparison to $115 million that could be wrung out of the city, perhaps only after expensive remediation.

Read here.

1 comment

1 Lizz Stewart { 10.20.12 at 10:37 pm }

Pretty sure I heard this story on NPR about walking through a city and plucking a piece of fruit…