Ohio City Farm

Designers: FARMSTAND: Arcus Group Architects, 44Steel, Bauhaus Builders | City: Cleveland, OH | Project Type: retrofit, architecture, urban agriculture
Date Visited: 09.19.12

Location: Bridge Ave & W 24th St Cleveland, OH 44113
Size: 6 acres
Official Opening Date: June 2010

Ohio City Farm was once a sight that many urban dwellers are familiar with: a cordoned-off and vacant piece of land collecting debris and weeds. Thanks to the efforts of local organizations, however, six acres of once-unused land have been transformed into one of the country’s largest urban agricultural sites with tenants ranging from the Great Lakes Brewing Company to The Refugee Response.

And, as a business, Ohio City Farm proudly claims a triple bottom line: environmental, social, and economic prosperity.

In a community that was previously underserved and cutoff from access to healthy food sources, the Ohio City Farm is a welcome change that supplies the area with fresh produce and opportunities. The land had originally been zoned for development, however, was later deemed unfit for development due to erosion. Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority, who owns the property, later decided to repurpose the land and split it up into sections that would be leased to various groups. Now, many people, such as the resettled refugees of The Refugee Response program, benefit from the opportunities to learn skills for future employment and to foster a greater sense of community.

Although the fresh produce grown at the Ohio City Farm is also distributed to locally owned restaurants, produce can be purchased by residents and visitors of the community at affordable prices from the Ohio City Farm Stand. The stand is a testament to the unique and local collaborative efforts of the farm. Designed by Arcus Group architects and developed by local designers from 44steel and Bauhaus Builders, two shipping containers were converted into the retail farm stand and office space. The Farm Stand is open Fridays and Saturdays, 9AM to 3PM, from June to November.

Ohio City Farm is just a block or two around the corner from Westside Market. Although the day had started out rainy and cloudy, right as I locked my bicycle to the gate of Ohio City Farm the sun came out. Rows of colorful produce, sunflowers, and climbing vines with beans were doused in sunlight under blue skies. I was stunned by the beauty around me; it was one of those perfect, blissful moments that stood in time and made me realize how important and how much joy this trip has given me thus far.

But back to the farm. There were several people working the land, some from the organization Cleveland Crops, and the others from Refugee Response. Looking around the six-acre tract and all of the life growing out of the ground, it’s hard to believe that so much has sprouted and flourished in the span of just two years. The growth speaks to the hard work and love poured into the land by these urban farmers. I spoke to a few of the refugees about their experiences here; all of the people I met at the farm–and actually all of Cleveland–have been incredibly nice, quick to laugh, and welcoming. One man was from Bhutan, the two others from a region in eastern India. The Indian man who spoke the most English explained to me that he had been working at the farm for three years and that it’s offered him opportunities to improve his English. He enjoyed working at the farm.

In a city notorious for its numbers of vacant lots–I biked down Detroit Avenue from Lakewood and all of the vacant lots I passed by made for a very long and boring ride–Ohio City Farm sets a great uplifting example for the city of Cleveland.

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