art museum womens council to host panel on urban gardening, jobs potential

The Cleveland Museum of Art Womens Council will host a panel discussion on Wednesday, October 31 entitled Growing the City: Urban Garden and Neighborhood based Cooperatives. The talk will focus on the urban farming trend that is growing in Cleveland and the benefits gained from it.
As part of the discussion, the panel will talk about the more than 3,000 acres of vacant green space in the city -- about 11 percent of the city's total area -- and how planners hope to translate that space into 20,000 sustainable jobs in Northeast Ohio. “That’s just an estimate of what potentially could be done with the land,” says Jesus Sanchez, Green Corps youth manager for the Cleveland Botanical Garden and panel member. “A lot of groups, organizations and individuals that are taking urban gardening on are still looking for ways to contribute to the local economy. We’re still in the early stages, but it takes a collaborative effort.”
Jobs created from urban farming include everything from the actual tending of the crops and distribution to supply chain to the culinary industry, explains Natalie Ronayne, panelist executive director of the Cleveland Botanical Garden. She cites Green Corps as just one program that is preparing a workforce for urban farming.
“We’re trying to educate students for jobs for life,” she says of the program. “We’re trying to create a workforce ready for those jobs. That means understanding nature, biology, plants, community stewardship. And sustainability is woven throughout those things.”
There are more than 200 community gardens in the city and three dozen for-profit farms providing affordable produce. Other current projects include Green City Growers’ construction of a hydroponic greenhouse on E. 55th Street and Kinsman Avenue that will grow lettuce and herbs, and Rid-All Green Partnership’s farm on the Forgotten Triangle in the Kinsman neighborhood. “These are jobs you can live off of and feed a family,” says Ronayne.
In addition to Sanchez and Ronayne, other panelists include Cleveland city council member Joe Cimperman, and Joel Ratner, president and chief executive officer of Neighborhood Progress Inc. Plain Dealer columnist Mike McIntyre will moderate.
The event is presented by Circle Neighbors and will be held at 11 a.m. in the Cleveland Museum of Art recital hall. Go to the Womens Council website to RSVP.

Sources: Jesus Sanchez, Natalie Ronayne
Writer: Karin Connelly
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