Let’s Grow Cleveland

Last weekend I made a pasta dinner in my well-worn and sunny Ohio City kitchen. I popped open a jar of tomatoes canned from Erie’s Edge Farm, boiled some Ohio City Pasta made with local herbs from the farm around the corner, and added Buttercup squash and garlic from my December City Fresh share. What I found noteworthy about cooking that pasta dinner is that I completely forgot to marvel at my ability to cook with locally sourced food in February in Cleveland.

Back in 2005 when I first joined a CSA, there were only a few local food options and even fewer winter farmers markets in town. In just a few years, the abundance of local food options has grown tremendously. Now, Cleveland has more than 200 community gardens, about 60 urban acres under cultivation, dozens of farms and market gardens, and double-digit farmers markets and CSAs—many of which offer local food and value-added products year-round.

As part of Mayor Frank G. Jackson’s Sustainable Cleveland 2019 initiative, this is “The Year of Local Foods.” Our community has a lot to celebrate and much to accomplish. Cleveland has pretty much “plucked” the low-hanging fruit of re-localizing the food economy through legislation, policy, grantmaking, education, committed consumers, entrepreneurial grit and a lot of hard work by a lot of people.

How do we continue to grow the local food system? By taking part in creating a culture that no longer sees local food as something exceptional, but as simply the normal way we shop, cook and eat.

Growing and raising local food is a great way to get involved, but you don’t have to have a chicken in your backyard or dirt under your fingernails to help grow the local food economy. Here are some ways to dig in and lift up our local food system:

  • Buy local by supporting farmers markets and restaurants that serve local food.
  • Join a community garden in your neighborhood.
  • Learn about the benefits of buying local.
  • Make it social by sharing local food with neighbors through recipes, potlucks, garden tips, food preservation and canning parties.
  • Commit to buying 25% of your foods locally this summer.
  • Visit a farmers market twice a month all season.
  • Start a compost pile.
  • Shop at grocers that source local foods.
  • Volunteer at a local food business or organization.

For more information about Sustainable Cleveland 2019, visit cleveland2019.org.