By Andi Whitaker, Urban Agriculture Committee
Desertification is not a problem typically associated with the Greater Cleveland area. Water? We have plenty of that. Vegetation? It’s just waiting to take over. Fresh food? Now there’s the problem. The city of Cleveland has several areas that can be classified as food deserts; places where people have little or no access to stores selling fresh produce. As a result, residents of these areas, dependent upon fast food and convenience store foods, have high rates of obesity and its associated health problems.
Cleveland’s Kinsman neighborhood is a prime example of a food desert. Approximately 50% of Kinsman residents don’t own cars and have no supermarket within a mile of their homes. In recent years, however, urban farms and gardens have sprung up throughout Cleveland to address the lack of fresh produce. One such enterprise is the Rid-All Green Partnership, which is part of Cleveland’s Urban Agriculture Innovation Zone, a 26-acre area of mostly vacant land and tax-delinquent properties off of Kinsman Avenue.
In March, the NEOSC Urban Ag Committee attended a volunteer orientation session at the Rid-All farm. We were introduced to the partnership’s agricultural practices (vermiculture, aquafarming, composting, etc.) as well as their mission. In a nutshell, Rid-All brings healthy, local food to area institutions and citizens while training others to do the same work. Two of the partnership’s founders, Damien Forshe and Keymah Durden, gave our committee a tour of the farm’s greenhouses, hoop houses, ponds, composting areas, developing nature trail, and teepee. Yes, a teepee!
The farm is truly an idyllic oasis. A happy and intended byproduct of Rid-All’s success can be seen in a small park adjacent to the farm. Damien told us that before Rid-All moved in, the park was unused. Families didn’t feel safe on the playground. On the day of our visit, there were over half a dozen children playing on the basketball court.
“Impressed” doesn’t begin to describe our reaction to the Rid-All Partnership. Their vision is idealistic and their bar is high. And they are pulling it off seamlessly.
For more information on Rid-All Green Partnership and how you can get involved, please visit greennghetto.org.