Grounds for Change: Activating Vacant Land

Old Husher's Farm Market Garden


Tags: Cleveland, compost, diverse, earthworms, farm, food, foodsecurity, fungus, garden, grant, grow, lots, market, mushroom, Ohio, phasing, phytoremediation, planting, plants, ReImaginingCleveland, remediation, urbanagriculture, water

Community farm showcases a variety of urban agriculture techniques.

Located at the southwestern edge of Cleveland on two adjoining parcels, Old Husher's Farm is a 17,000 square foot for-profit urban farm owned and operated by Justin Husher. The adjoining parcels, owned by the Cleveland Land Bank and Bellaire-Puritas Development Corporation, are a full-time endeavor during the growing season for Justin, with 2011 marking the second anniversary of Old Husher's.

As a first time urban farmer, Husher plans to make the 2011 growing season a pro-active one, citing navigation through city bureaucracy and overcoming his own limited experience as obstacles. However, Husher acknowledges the City of Cleveland's progressive approach to vacant land reuse in making his farm possible. As project director he handles most farm duties himself, working full-time on the farm with support from friends and community according to their interests.

Old Husher's Farm experienced a highly successful first year; beets, melons, and mizuna were crops that particularly thrived last growing season. A newly implemented strategy with an emphasis on perennial beds will allow Husher to plant once and harvest over an infinite timeframe, allowing him to continue selling produce at the Gordon Square Arts District farmers market in the Detroit Shoreway Neighborhood.

Transforming a vacant lot into a thriving urban farm required many steps in site preparation. Following soil readings of the original site, Husher planned to implement phytoremediation techniques-plantings of sunflowers, Indian mustards, and Chinese brake ferns to take up pollutants and clean the soil-and soil building tools like leaf composting, earthworm harboring, green cover crops, and mycorrhizal fungi for the layering. Once clean soil had been assessed or created, Husher and his crew established four-foot planting rows running the length of the site, focusing on marketable crops. Other highlights and features of the farm include: an herb garden, a native pawpaw orchard, a blueberry patch, and a shaded mushroom site along the garden's rear corner. A community space occupies the center of the garden and includes a grass patio for community yoga classes and other activities. Finally a market area was designated at the front of the lot.


Justin Husher, Old Husher's Farm

Erika E. Meschkat, ReImagining Cleveland

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