Linking Urban Food and Markets in Cncy

New urban garden taking root in OTR to supply historic Findlay Market

Soapbox (Cincinnati)

Cincinnati’s historic Over-the-Rhine neighborhood has embraced an increasing trend nationwide to turn under-performing urban lots into urban gardens.  The new gardens help to rid neighborhoods of previously blighted properties, introduce new plant life into the area, put neighborhood residents to work in their own community and even help supply local markets and restaurants with locally sourced produce.

The most recent addition in Over-the-Rhine is a two-thirds of an acre plot of land that sits along Elm Street near Findlay Market.  Over the past two weeks, neighborhood residents and volunteers have been prepping the site that was once occupied by a collection of deteriorating structures and grassy lots.

The transformation of the site will produce over 30 produce offerings that will eventually be sold at Findlay Market as part of its Cultivating Healthy Environments for Farmers (CHEF) project.  The goal is to get vegetables growing as soon as possible, and ideally have them available at Findlay Market’s Tuesday and Sunday farmers markets by the beginning of July.

“We have four existing urban garden sites across the city where apprentice farmers work with experienced farmers and receive on-site training from the volunteers,” explained Ken Stern, Urban Farm Manager for Findlay Market.  “Once the produce is ready the apprentices will operate stands at Findlay Market and sell their goods just like a business.”

Stern explained that the CHEF project focuses on low-income individuals and attempts to not only provide training for them, but also provide access to fresh, local produce.  The apprentices will earn money from their produce sales and have to decide how they will reinvest that money into their garden plots to make themselves successful.

So far, the project has 35 apprentices involved from Over-the-Rhine, the West End, College Hill and St. Leo’s Catholic Parish where Guatemalan immigrant and Burundian refugees have been integrated into the CHEF project that has been funded through August 2011 by the USDA’s Community Funds Program.

“When we finish with the grant money, we intend to continue the program” said Stern.  “We are helping low-income residents become urban gardeners while also producing more fresh vegetables in Cincinnati’s center city.”

In the mean time, the individuals working at these urban gardens are in need of critical supplies like shovels, spading forks, nursery hoes, action hoes, weeding/cultivators, wheel barrows, watering cans, pruners and soil knives.  Those that are interested can donate any gently used gardening tools to this effort at Findlay Market (map) outside the Internet Cafe on Saturday, May 15 from 9am to 4pm and on Sunday, May 16 from 10am to 3pm.

Writer: Randy A. Simes

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