Cleveland’s Local Gem: Urban Farming

It has been said that history repeats itself. That seems to be true for urban farming, which is the practice of “cultivating, processing and distributing food in or around a village, town or city.” It has created quite a buzz in the last decade, but it’s not a new concept, especially for Cleveland.

An article from The Cleveland Memory Project highlights Cleveland’s history of urban agriculture in the 20th century. Over the years, local gardens and markets have sprouted up in difficult economic times. The current wave of urban farming is part of this recurring theme.

Cleveland’s expansion of urban farming has placed second in the nation for local food and agriculture. That includes 225 community gardens and 25 for-profit farms. Those numbers were established in 2008 and the industry has continued to grow since then. published an article last month about the urban farming boom, noting that it is one of Cleveland’s “best-kept secrets.”

A list of local food markets includes Central Roots, Tremont Farmers’ Market and many more. We have a great number of them, but because of the cold winter season, most only operate during warmer months. Tunnel Vision Hoops, one of LaunchHouse’s portfolio companies, has developed an unheated structure that extends the growing season and allows cold-weather crops to be grown in winter months. This system is paving the way for growing local food year-round.

Cleveland’s oldest and most well known market, which operates year-round, is The Westside Market located in Ohio City. WSM is currently home to over 100 local vendors. This year marks its 100th year of operation! To celebrate, Cleveland is hosting The 8th International Public Markets Conference in September. The conference will include speakers, workshops and breakout sessions. Some of the topics include:

  • How economically sustainable markets can enhance access to fresh, healthy food in low-income communities
  • Bringing people together: Markets as cultural melting pots
  • Markets as focal points of local food economies

Cleveland has cultivated an abundance of resources to keep our food local. Here are a few more organizations that are doing great things for our city:
  • Earth Day Coalition – Developers of Earth Day at The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo (April 22.) If there’s any day to visit the zoo, it’s this one! Vendors set up shop to educate the public about local food, clean energy, and other aspects of sustainability. Expect to take away handfuls of free information and samples  (including delicious organic chocolate!)
  • Freshbag – Another LH portfolio company, delivers locally grown food to pick-up points throughout the city. Local food is made that much more convenient.
  • Our Homegrown Collective – A start-up local to Shaker Heights that seeks to “bring people closer to the food on their table.” They help people plant and maintain their own vegetable gardens.

As the last months of winter come to pass, Cleveland has a lot to look forward to this spring. Enjoy discovering new markets and gardens as well as planting your own!