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Sowing Lofty Ideas: 6 Acres Being Turned Into Farm On West Side

Posted July 19, 2010

Excerpted from the July 19, 2010 Cleveland Plain Dealer:

Farm to grow crops, economic development in Cleveland's Ohio City neighborhood
Debbi Snook, The Plain Dealer

CLEVELAND, OHIO--Six vacant acres of Cleveland's West Side neighborhood, just blocks from cutting-edge restaurants and the venerated West Side Market, are turning to a fresh food project and a plow.

If all goes well, the harvest won't need to travel more than a few blocks.

Tillers broke ground June 30 on the newly created Ohio City Farm behind Riverview Tower, a public housing project one block from the market off West 25th Street.

"My understanding is that it's going to be one of the largest contiguous urban farms in the country," said Eric Wobser, executive director of Ohio City Near West Development Corp., creators of the project.

Great Lakes Brewing Co. will maintain a one-acre plot, said Wobser, but the immigrant group will farm it for the restaurant for the rest of the season.

Pat Conway, owner of Great Lakes, said he welcomes now having a second garden. A few years ago, the restaurant started Pint Size Farm at Hale Farm and Village in Bath, fertilizing less than an acre with spent barley from the brewery. That garden, Conway said, has helped supply the restaurant's menu, which he said is as much as 40 percent locally derived.

Hazards of urban farming in Cleveland reduce with simple solutions

Conway hopes to grow food and make compost on the property, mixing his barley with vegetable scraps from the West Side Market.

"We've been talking about this with the market for years," he said. "It's more enlightened. Why not use this waste in our own backyard for a city garden? Thousands of dollars can be saved by keeping it out of landfills."

The close proximity of the garden opens up the educational possibilities for a restaurant and brewery that frequently gives tours. A neighborhood schools program also is planned.

"Here we can walk two blocks instead of driving 30 minutes," Conway said.

"It's exciting. To top it off, it has one of the most stunning views of the city. If this was Chicago, it would be some of the most sought-after real estate.

"We think about holding an Oktoberfest there or flooding the fields for ice-skating in the winter. There's a romantic side to the project along with a practical side."

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