Justin Husher graduated with an MBA from Cleveland State University in May of 2008 -- just in time for the collapse of the financial markets.
Instead of wringing his hands, Husher considered his bleak job prospects as a sign. "I never wanted to be a banker," he told the audience at last week's forum on vacant land reuse at Cleveland State University's Levin College
of Urban Affairs. His college major had been botany, and he'd always dreamed of tending the soil.
That's when Husher learned about Reimagining Cleveland
, a small grants program that was launched to support the creative reuse of vacant land in the city.
Husher applied to the program, which is managed by Neighborhood Progress
(NPI) and funded by the Surdna Foundation and the City of Cleveland. After he was awarded a $7,500 grant, Husher worked with Cleveland's land bank program and Bellaire Puritas Community Development Corp. to cobble together a half-acre of land on W. 130th. Pretty soon, Old Husher's Farm
Husher, who sells his produce at the Gordon Square farmers market and other venues, has a passion for local food. "I like to grow vegetables with storylines, such as heirloom tomatoes," he said. "It's important to learn where our food comes from."
At last week's forum, the young farmer also offered recommendations for improving the business climate for urban agriculture. Husher's wish list includes longer-term leases with property owners and an initiative to help farmers purchase land at affordable prices. He'd also like to see a cooperative stand for urban farmers to sell locally grown food at the West Side Market.
Since Reimagining Cleveland launched in 2008, the program has funded 56 projects to creatively reutilize vacant land in Cleveland. According to the Reimagining Cleveland website, there are an estimated 3,300 acres of vacant land in the city of Cleveland.
Source: Justin Husher, Reimagining Cleveland
Writer: Lee Chilcote