Local foods programs promote healthy, sustainable and equitable food systems in urban cities

Urban agriculture offers city-dwellers the ability to grow their own produce and increase the community’s access to safe, local foods. (pictured: Carol Contrada, Lucas County commissioner)

Urban agriculture offers city-dwellers the ability to grow their own produce and increase the community’s
access to safe, local foods. (pictured: Carol Contrada, Lucas County commissioner)

More Ohio urban neighborhoods are seeing an increase in season-extending gardens. The gardens offer city-dwellers the ability to grow their own foods and to become food entrepreneurs right where they live.

Seasonal high tunnels are similar to but less expensive than greenhouses, require no artificial energy and help keep local produce reaching consumers even when weather turns nasty. These domed structures are now in inner-city neighborhoods in Cleveland, Columbus and Youngstown, where they help urban farmers and gardeners grow food almost year-round. Ohio State University Extension provides technical support and marketing education to help the residents utilize the tunnels to increase profits.

Such programming occurs in all Ohio counties, with efforts to increase access to local foods by helping to create community gardens to promote urban agriculture and opportunities for vocational agricultural training. Efforts also strive to increase students’ access to healthy foods in schools, and to create local food councils similar to the Northwest Ohio Food Council.

Essentials

  • According to Ken Meter’s “Finding Food in Northwest Ohio,” if each resident of Northwest Ohio bought $5 worth of food weekly from a local farm, $345 million of new farm income would be generated.
  • OSU Extension supports 239 community gardens in Cuyahoga County that yield nearly $3.1 million in fruits and vegetables each growing season. Annually, Extension donates more than 10,000 pounds of produce to nonprofit agencies and shelters.
  • Market gardens are for-profit agricultural enterprises — including urban farms — that provide jobs and fresh, local food. Through the Market Gardener Training Program in Cuyahoga County, OSU Extension has trained 215 residents, 51 of whom have created microbusinesses such as farm stands and restaurants.
  • Kinsman Farms is OSU Extension’s 6-acre incubator farm in Cleveland. It supports 13 beginning urban farmers and saw aggregated sales of $98,870 in 2013.

“Eliminating food deserts and including fresh fruits and vegetables at convenience stores are some strategies being developed by the Northwest Ohio Food Council in partnership with Ohio State University Extension and other organizations designed to increase access to local, healthier foods in urban areas,” said Carol Contrada, Lucas County commissioner.

For more information: localfoods.osu.edu.

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