Could Urban Farming Save Cleveland?

Back in early January of this year, I wrote a post about urban farming and whether or not it could provide Detroit with all of its fresh produce needs. Today, I return to the subject, but for a location much more near and dear to my heart, Cleveland, Ohio.

The topic stems from a paper recently published by Sharanbir and Parwinder Grewal of the Ohio State University’s Center for Urban Envrionment and Economic Development. Are these authors siblings? Married? I have no idea, but feel free to make assumptions.

The authors make a great case for urban farming with a long list of all the positives it can provide. For example, reducing our carbon footprint, keeping money within the city, getting people to eat healthier, saving them money, getting some exercise and reducing stress. All of that sounds great, but how much land space are we actually talking about?

The paper looks at three scenarios and several different types of farming. After all, the yield you’d get differes greatly depending on if you use conventional gardening, intensive gardening or hydroponics. First, just by using 80% of the vacant lots in the city that currently are doing nothing but looking ugly, Cleveland could generate between 22% and 48% of its demand for fresh produce and 25% of its demand for chicken and eggs. In the second, 9% of residential lots are added, which bumps the numbers up to between 31% and 68% for produce and 94% for chickens and eggs. Finally, when 62% of all commercial rooftops are added, the numbers hit between 46% and 100% of produce and still 94% of chicken and eggs.

I guess chickens don’t like to live on the roof.

Overall, the paper claism that the city could attain up to a 7.3% self-reliance by expenditure in total food and beverage consumption, compared to the paltry 0.1% that it currently is at. That’s up to $115 million staying in Cleveland every year rather than being sent away to food providers elsewhere.

Not bad for the 3,414 acres of vacant land, 14,811 acres of residential yards and 2,902 acres of commercial rooftops.

Of course, it’d take a huge investment by the city and residents, as well as a major change in policy and people’s attitudes. I don’t think we’ll ever see anything close to this level of urban farming. But wouldn’t it be great if every city – especially the shitty post-industrial ones – could slowly make some progress in this area?

I see nothing but potential benefits.


About bigkingken

A science writer dedicated to proving that the Big Ten - or the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, if you will - is more than athletics.
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