Activists Bring Urban Farming To One Of The Most Deprived Cities In The United States

Where an illegal dumping ground once stood, there is now an eight-acre agricultural site filled with greenhouses, fish ponds, and a composting facility.

Looking around, you might be surprised to learn that you’re in downtown Cleveland, one of the most economically deprived cities in the United States. But thanks to the constant efforts of community activists, the city is becoming a showcase for the miracles of urban farming, according to The Guardian:

“In a heavily segregated city where race and inequality can define one’s life outcome, not to mention the obstacles of food deserts and urban decay, now there is an arable green oasis.

“The farm, created by the not-for-profit Rid-All partnership, is striving to change eating habits in a city where health inequalities disproportionately affect African-American communities.”

Amanda King, founder of Shooting Without Bullets, an arts and social justice organization in Cleveland, notes that the African-Americans have historically been subjected to all sorts of violence and discrimination:

“People of color are constantly under attack, and not just by guns and the police, by all sorts of structural violence like corruption, food deserts, educational and health inequalities.”

Seeing a need, Rid-All formed and has helped transform the lives of many in Cleveland by training hundreds in the city — the majority of them black men — in urban farming. Their outreach has even included a group of veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). And that, co-founder Randy McShepard remarks, was one of the main goals for Rid-All:

“The idea was to show people how to turn vacant urban plots into green spaces that generate community pride and economic opportunities.

“Diabetes, heart disease and obesity are killing us, yet these diseases can all be mitigated by healthy diets, which is what we’re trying to teach our communities.”

The numbers prove the need in Cleveland, and they’re a major reason Rid-All has been such a blessing to African-Americans in the city:

    • African Americans make up 30% of Cuyahoga County’s population, but they’re 79% more likely to die from diabetes than white residents.
    • Nearly 54% of children in Cleveland live in poverty. That’s the second-highest rate in the country. African Americans and Latinos, however, are three times more affected than whites.
    • Countywide, 400,000 people live in a “food desert” – a neighborhood with a high rate of poverty and no supermarket within half a mile.
    • Not a single supermarket in Cuyahoga County is owned by an African-American.

All of those factors played a role in the founding of Rid-All in 2009 by three friends who grew up on the same street:

“Rid-All began as the global financial crisis was taking hold of the city, fueling a rise in unemployment and foreclosures. They acquired 1.3 acres of abandoned land, obtained council permits, cleaned it up and opened the first greenhouse in early 2010.

“’Food is the longest relationship you will ever have, and we’re trying to help people make it a good one,’ said (co-founder) Keymah Durden III.”

Healthy eating isn’t the only benefit from Rid-All’s efforts Cleveland. It has also helped spawn an entrepreneurial spirit in the African-American community:

“Rid-All is expanding and has spawned numerous not-for-profit and business spinoffs, including a commercial fish farm, vegan catering, puppet and theatre shows, comics and beekeeping, with a vegetarian restaurant and juice business in the works.”

Urban farming is the future of Cleveland, according to Marc White, Rid-All’s chief farmer:

“We waste so much in the United States, we have to change our way of life and the climate and global food crisis means our regenerative agriculture model is the way of the future. Our soil is the secret sauce for nutrition … it is black gold.”

Featured Image Via Shoppe Black

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Andrew Bradford
 

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