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OCTOBER 11, 2010

Urban farm

Riverview Towers and Ohio City FarmIt was hard to not feel small pangs of guilt as we walked through Ohio City Farm, a thriving 6-acre garden behind Riverview Towers on West 25th St.

You see, families used to grow here, living in two-story townhouses. Public housing, provided for poor people by CMHA (Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Agency).

But it's 2010. The townhouses are long gone, demolished more than ten years ago. In their place are long green rows of peas, tomatoes and lettuce.

Don't get me wrong, I love this urban farm, but still I wonder what's become of the families that lived in the more than one hundred apartments on this land. Are they thriving?

New use

Part of the new reality is that after demolishing the forty-year-old townhouses, CMHA discovered that the land was unstable, gradually slipping downhill towards the Cuyahoga River. Optimistic plans for new construction were scrapped. Enter Ohio City Farm, a collaborative effort between the city and a number of neighborhood groups.

Rows of vegetables overlooking the FlatsFood grown here is purchased by neighborhood restaurants, making "locally sourced" a reality. Neighborhood residents farm one section, refugees from Africa and Asia another.

Even after a late start in July of this year the farm seems to be doing what organizers hoped for: help grow Cleveland's local food economy and bring healthy food to neighborhood residents.

Since there's no possibility that housing could be built on the site, an urban farm seems to be a wonderful, family-friendly alternative. A great addition to the neighborhood.

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