Tag Archives: Urban Gardening

Richard Florida Questions Shinking Cities’ Strategy

I think this is the most important article I have seen on the Rust Belt urban condition since this blog began.

Kain Benfield of the Natural Resources Defense Council has raised questions about the wisdom of mass demolitions in “shrinking cities.” In this article, he points out that leading urban thinker Richard Florida has joined him in this perspective.

Detroit: a wonderful place for agriculture.

Detroit: a wonderful place for agriculture?

Benfield makes the point that Detroit, Cleveland and other shrinking cities are being hollowed out, not by regional population loss, but by sprawl. Returning urban areas to quasi-rural will simply lengthen commute times as investment and population continue to flow to the periphery.

Metro Detroit, the poster child for these supposedly shrinking places, actually grew in population from 1990 to 2003; the population did decline between 2000 and 2008, but only by six-tenths of one percent.  The real problem is that the footprint of its suburbs was allowed to grow during that period, at the expense of the central city.  With demolition and conversion of urban land to neo-rural tracts, that pattern will only be exacerbated, with serious consequences for transportation emissions and the surrounding landscape.

I think this is a very, very good point. From a regional perspective, it just doesn’t make sense to invest a bunch of resources to convert city land into agricultual use while in the meantime investing a bunch of money in the exurbs to convert agricultural land into housing.

How can we stop the destructive pattern of outmigration? The problem is in Cleveland is there is just no political will for this. Everyone seems content to live in a suburban bubble 6 miles from urban apocalypse.

Someone told me yesterday that there is a 24-year difference in the life expectancy of someone who lives in Cleveland’s inner-city Hough neighborhood and someone who lives in the nearby suburb of Lyndhurst. 24 years! Why is this kind of inequality tolerated in Cleveland? Fear? Racism? Complacency? Cosy ties between politicians and developers?

Our cities need to stand up for themselves. Their problem isn’t caused so much by de-industrialization as by their own suburbs. Urban agriculture, to me, is a conciliatory strategy because it doesn’t address the true cause of urban problems it only treats the symptoms.

Check out what the city of Cleveland has done to its now popular entertainment district. My friend Matt sent me these photos. And he asked, what was gained?

Cleveland's Warehouse District today

Cleveland's Warehouse District today

-AS

Cleveland's Warehouse District 1960

Cleveland's Warehouse District 1960s

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Filed under Art, Featured, sprawl, the environment, Urban Planning

Urban Agriculture, Quality Public Education, Sustainable Living: Detroit’s Boggs Educational Center

Jezebel.com is running an interview with Detroit teacherAmanda Rosman, one of five founders of the Bogg’s Educational Center, set to open on Detroit’s East Side in 2011-2012 year.

The school was inspired by the Boggs Center, a development center for leaders and grassroots organization named after two prominent Detroit activists James and Grace Lee Boggs.

Rosman and her group plan to use urban gardening and other nontraditional education approaches to encourage critical thinking as opposed to test-prep memorization.

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Here’s a quote from the interview:

“We want to work on teaching kids about sustainable living. How can we produce for ourselves, put our resources back into our community, not be in isolation from the community but work within it. So urban gardens would be one way to do that.

“We’re just starting with the kindergarten and adding a grade every year. So with the kids, what we hope to be able to do is identify problems or at least needs within the community, and use those as lessons for problem-solving but building in academic skills or meet needs of the community.”

This sounds like a wonderful project conceived by a bunch of very talented people.

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Filed under Good Ideas, Headline, Public Education

A History of Urban Gardening in Cleveland

Urban gardening has become pretty trendy in Rust Belt cities and elsewhere as of late and like many trends, it turns out we’re only coming full circle.

As The Cleveland Memory Project demonstrates, there’s a long tradition of urban agriculture in the city.

Some of earliest traditions can be traced back to The Depression.

Men work in a relief garden in 1932.

Men work in a relief garden in 1932.

Relief gardens were begun to help feel hungry families during the nation’s darkest economic times. Urban gardens were supported by all levels of government and society as a way for the unemployed to provide for their families.

In 1933, Cleveland’s mayor inspected gardens kept by the unemployed and police stood watch over them at night.

That civic spirit carried over to World War II.

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Here, schoolchildren tend a victory garden in downtown in 1943.

Growers sell surplus produce at the Cedar Housing Project in 1943.

Growers sell surplus produce at the Cedar Housing Project in 1943.

Kindergartners tend a victory garden at Ben Franklin school in 1942.

Kindergartners tend a victory garden at Ben Franklin school in 1942.

During this time, raising chickens in the city was considered a patriotic thing to do. Ironically, Cleveland City Council recently passed legislation once again permitting residents to raise chickens in their back yards.

Beginning in the 1990s, city residents once again picked up spades and shovels in the name of urban renewal.

Community Gardening leader and OSU Master Gardener Lloyd Evans, leads a garden tour at Rockefeller Community Garden.  The garden grew food for the Cleveland Food Bank.

Community Gardening leader and OSU Master Gardener Lloyd Evans, leads a garden tour at Rockefeller Community Garden. The garden grew food for the Cleveland Food Bank.

Among the more modern community gardens sites is Ben Frankin School, as shown above.

Chatham Avenue Community Garden, Summer Sprout Gardening Program, located at Chatham Avenue and West 30th Street.

Chatham Avenue Community Garden, Summer Sprout Gardening Program, located at Chatham Avenue and West 30th Street.

Union- East 128th Street Community Gardeners, Monroe Cuff, James Jordan and Anthony Mitchell admire a blue hubbard squash.

Union- East 128th Street Community Gardeners, Monroe Cuff, James Jordan and Anthony Mitchell admire a blue hubbard squash.

This week, Neighborhood Progress Inc announced it would be issuing grants to city residents who had creative ideas to return city land to productive use.

Meanwhile, Cleveland State University and Greenhouse Tavern are bringing rooftop gardens to downtown.

Let’s hope this trend is here to stay.

All photos are property of the Cleveland Memory Project, used with the generous permission of Bill Barrow, special collections librarian at Cleveland State University.

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Filed under Headline, Urban Farming

Agriculture and Detroit

Volunteers went to work this weekend maintaining an urban farm on vacant lands in Detroit, The Detroit News reports.

Earthworks, part of the Capuchin Soup Kitchen, comprises three parcels totaling 1 1/2 acres that yield lettuce, carrots, peas, beets, cabbage and other small-scale crops.

Children digging for potatoes at Earthworks

Children digging for potatoes at Earthworks

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Filed under Urban Farming