How urban agriculture swept through Greater Cleveland (photos and video)

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Kinsman Farm, marked by crop-filled fields and surrounded by tall trees and grass filled lots, would seem at home in a rural Ohio county.

But the pasture of leafy greens sits in the heart of Cleveland, Ohio’s second most populous city.

And Kinsman Farm isn’t the only field of fruits and vegetables within Cleveland’s city limits. It’s part of a trend that picked up steam in recent years: urban farming. That practice began 25 to 30 years ago, said Kareem Usher, an assistant professor of city and regional planning at the Ohio State University. But a push by restaurateurs for local ingredients and the desire of city officials to fill empty and unused lots helped fuel the rise of urban agriculture in recent years.

The city leases land to Kinsman Farm, which in turn leases quarter acre plots to local farmers looking to advance from gardening or backyard farming to full-scale urban farming.

“I’ve been farming on a plot in North Royalton for the past two and a half years and I just moved (to Kinsman Farm) this season,” said farmer Halle Kirsch. She plans to grow lettuce, microgreens and kale and manages a beehive that produces honey.

Kirsch said her time in North Royalton was her first foray into urban agriculture. Fellow farmer David Horvath, who also has a plot at Kinsman Farm, said he had an urban garden before he decided to grow crops for sale.

“I’m using Kinsman as an opportunity to scale up and learn as I go,” Horvath said.

He grows tomatoes, peppers, herbs and mouse melons (a small cucumber) on his plot in Kinsman.

Both Kirsch and Horvath said they hope to sell their crops to Cleveland area restaurants.

“This past fall I went to a variety of restaurants (from small-scale family owned restaurants to trendy, upscale restaurants) and gave them samples and they were receptive,” Kirsch said. “They were so happy to have local, fresh produce. The demand is way bigger than the push that’s happening right now.”

Urban farms are taking…

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