Urban agriculture for Rust Belt resilience : a case study of food policy in Cleveland, Ohio




Johansen, Kathryn Rita

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In 2010, Cleveland, Ohio established a series of food policies and programs in response to the foreclosure crisis in 2008 that resulted in swaths of vacant parcels being placed under the control of the city and county land banks. The weight of the recession and increased building abandonment exacerbated blight and disinvestment within the region. This report explores the benefits of urban agriculture in historically marginalized communities and the efficacy of those food policy programs in the revitalization of these neighborhoods. Urban agriculture is by no means a panacea for economic stability or reawakening, but rather a tool to build resilience and community cohesion that will improve the quality of life for existing residents. Through a series of interviews with urban farmers, planning academics, and land bank experts, along with a community survey ad GIS analysis of food deserts and land suitability, we can glean that Cleveland has the potential to be an attractive site for urban agricultural and food systems development. With tens of thousands of vacant parcels available to the public, the process of obtaining land to produce and distribute healthy food and provide livelihoods for Cleveland residents is quite promising. However, restrictions in the application process make this land unattainable for many residents, with more than 9,000 Cuyahoga County individuals and families with tax delinquencies on their properties in 2019 alone (Cuyahoga County Fiscal Officer, 2020). The city of Cleveland should push for policies that allow residents of Cleveland to avoid tax-delinquencies and foreclosures and remain in their homes that were secured through sub-prime loans. The city of Cleveland can create promise and opportunity for under-served neighborhoods by granting residents access to secure and permanent agricultural land. This will not only encourage generational wealth and food sovereignty, but an increase in urban farms, markets, and community gardens will benefit the health and well-being of the city at large, though improved access to healthy food and produce.


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