TransformSustainability agendaLocal food system › Local food

Feeding ourselves

We are what we eat, and, in many ways, the Earth also is shaped by what we eat. Northeast Ohio has beautiful farmland and a climate that permits cultivation of a diversity of crops. By eating more foods grown with care by local, organic farms and urban gardens, we can reduce agriculture's ecological impacts and support the local economy. We can also eat healthier! So we are developing a regional food system that links farms with consumers in the cities—creating markets that nourish the soul and the Earth.

New uses for vacant land<br />The Ohio City Farm has put six acres of vacant land to productive use near downtown Cleveland. Traditional work, new economy<br />Immigrants from Asia and Africa grow food at the Ohio City Farm on Cleveland's west side. A local food can employ people with a variety of skills in food production and processing.Urban farming<br />Blue Pike Farm turned vacant land back in to productive use in ClevelandWaste into food<br />Working in one of Cleveland's most impoverished neighborhoods, the Rid-All Green Partnership is working with Will Allen of Milwaukee to develop aquaculture systems to raise fish and vegetables and that use fish wastes to fertilize the plants. Farmer to consumer<br />Farmers markets, such as the North Union market at Shaker Square, have multiplied rapidly throughout Northeast Ohio.A share of the crop<br />Sarah Sampsell of the Central Roots farm in Cleveland, sorts onions into shares for a CSA distribution. A CSA, or community supported agriculture program, allows people to invest in a farm in exchange for a weekly share of the harvest.Adding value<br />Northeast Ohio companies process and package many food products, and this part of the food system can become an even greater part of the local economy.

A 25 percent goal for local food

We plan for economic development, land use, transportation, water systems, and other vital aspects of our communities. What about food?

What would it mean to have a regional plan for food in Northeast Ohio? Could we develop deliberate strategies to increase the amount of food we buy from local farms and grow in urban gardens? Could food production and processing become a key part of economic development? Could we increase the quality and security of our food supply? Could we consider prime farmland to be an irreplaceable resource to be protected by regional land use plans? Could we think strategically about vacant urban land and how to put into productive use growing food?

The answer to all these questions is a big yes! Efforts are already underway to promote all parts of complete food system—including regional land use planning, food storage, food processing to add value, distribution, marketing, financing for new businesses, nutrition education, vocational training, and composting of food waste. Indeed, local food has become one of the ways that Northeast Ohio is a sustainability leader.

As an overall goal, local food advocates recently proposed developing a local food system that would supply 25 percent of Northeast Ohio’s food. That would be a dramatic increase from the 1-5 percent supplied today. And it would mean that much more of the region’s $10 billion in annual food spending would circulate in the local economy to generate jobs.

For more on the steps to expand the local food economy, see the “25% Shift” study.

How to help

In the coming months, this section of the website will track the activities underway to develop the parts of our local food system—food production, distribution, processing, consumption, and waste recovery. And we’ll outline the ways everyone can help.

What do you think are the key things that need to change? Contribute your ideas here.

Updated 10/12/12

Ohio has the land, soils, climate, and people needed to produce fresh, affordable and healthy food. We have a growing community of consumers who know what can be produced in Ohio, and when, and prefer to buy fresh and healthy food from local sources, from people they know. Connecting the two keeps farms on the landscape, promotes energy efficiency, builds wealth in our communities, and builds health in our families.
— Casey Hoy, Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center

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