NEO Excellence Roundtable: Urban Farming with Maurice Small

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Mon, 06/23/2008 - 07:35.
06/24/2008 - 18:00
06/24/2008 - 19:00

Maurice Small and friends in East Cleveland

Two weeks ago, City Fresh's Maurice Small met with friends in East Cleveland to discuss City Fresh, urban farming, and how we may convert a typical urban convenient store, Brown's Market, into a pilot City Fresh local foods market. During our discussions, Maurice mentioned that a dedicated urban farmer may earn more than $30,000 per year from sales of food grown on one typical urban lot (say 1/10th an acre). That being the case, and considering our ever-growing need and realigning demand for locally grown food, and the fact food may be grown locally as cost effectively as elsewhere in the world, it occurred to me that the highest and best use for most of the land now cleared, abandoned, blighted and wasted in our urban neighborhoods is for urban farming. So that is a use we are now planning to be core to redevelopment of the Star Neighborhood. Intrigued? Discuss and plan for this reality with Maurice and friends this Tuesday, from 6-7 PM, at that house on Roxbury, in East Cleveland. Please RSVP if you plan to attend.

The question I want to explore is how an East Cleveland full of farms and farmers would differ from today, in East Cleveland and anywhere else in the world. Through urban farming, the most destroyed, demolished, abandoned neighborhoods would become the most green, healthy and prosperous, and would generate significant property and income taxes for the city. Consider if 100 "lots" in East Cleveland that are currently in their landbank, and 100 other city, county and other government owned lots, and 100 lots to be cleared through foreclosures, and 200 home lots of current East Cleveland residents (like my lot), are optimized for farming and placed in the hands of trained urban farmers. If all farmers are required to live in East Cleveland, 500 lots=500 tax-paying local farmers, where there are now none... creating $15,000,000 per year in new taxable income for 500 households in East Cleveland... making prosperous 5% of the households of East Cleveland. And, East Cleveland will be filled with fresh local food and people who know how to produce and appreciate that for themselves and their community, which is as valuable a life skill as I may imagine.

In collaboration with City Fresh, ways may be found to train these 500 farmers and their families, plan preparation and planting of these 500 lots, insure high quality produce, and commercialize and distribute all the food grown. As a cooperative, accounting may be centralized and one management team may keep track of everything, pay taxes, market, train, distribute, and even operate sales outlets, as City Fresh has done successfully for years.

Think about it... is there a higher and better use for any blighted land in your urban neighborhood? I know if I can't have a nice house and nice neighbor next door to me, I'd like a City Fresh farm full of fresh fruit and vegetables there! Bring your thoughts on this and anything City-Fresh to 1894 Roxbury - RSVP to norm [at] realneo [dot] us - BYOB.


Star Neighborhood Development
1894 Roxbury Road
East Cleveland
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Note time change to 6 PM

Maurice just called and asked if we may meet up at 6 rather than 7 - hope to see you then

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1894 Roxbury


1894 Roxbury Rd

East Cleveland, OH 44112-4748

Norm--gotta work tonight, but I hope that some enterprising NEOs find you.  You forgot to include the zip in the post.  It's cool how the location fields generate Google maps etc., if you include the zip :)

The REALNEO-factor introduces SPIN-Farming to NEO

I just received a great email I'm pleased to share and welcome feedback...

Franchise-ready Urban Farming


I heard about your urban farming meeting and wanted to alert you to a commercial sub-acre farming system that is currently being used by first-generation urban farmers throughout the US. and Canada. It’s called SPIN-Farming, and it is as close to a franchise-ready farming system as you can get while still respecting the creative and pace-based nature of farming. SPIN can be deployed quickly and comprehensively. It makes it possible to earn $50,000+ from a half acre by utilizing relay cropping to increase yield and achieve good economic returns by growing only the most profitable food crops tailored to local markets. By offering a non-technical, easy-to-understand and inexpensive-to-implement farming system, it allows many more people to farm, wherever they live, as long as there are nearby markets to support them, and it removes the two big barriers to entry – sizeable acreage and significant start-up capital. This is not subsistence farming. This is recasting farming as a small business in cities and towns, "right sizing" agriculture for an urbanized century and making local food production a viable business proposition once again.

The first U.S. testbed for SPIN-Farming was here in Philadelphia, PA. Because of the success of that farm, the state funded a feasibility study on creating an urban farming industry here. This study puts an economic value on entrepreneurial farming activity and, among other things, makes projections of urban farming tax revenues and offers plans for how to stimulate an agricultural economy. This report was done to help Philadelphia's public policy officials who are taking a new look at relationships between economic development, land planning, environment, greening, community and food. While it was mainly intended to be used as a springboard for action in Philadelphia it can also be useful for cities elsewhere that are considering urban agriculture as part of their planning and economic development goals. If you would like a free copy of this study to use to help urban farming take root in Cleveland, let me know, and I’ll be glad to email it to you. You can also see SPIN-Farming in action at

Good luck with establishing a farming program in Cleveland, and if I can be of any help in that effort, please let me know.

--Roxanne Christensen

Co-author, SPIN-Farming

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Urban farming

I think it would be better in the long run to have farming outside the city limits and have those vacant lots used for people. Imagine if this type of high density farming took place in the countryside of NEO and the food was trucked in daily. Having the food grown in NEO isn't as close as in-city but it is a lot better than having it grown in Chile, California or Mexico.

Urban farming in shrinking cities

I'm looking at farming of lots that are already abandoned and costing taxpayers to maintain, and that will probably never have a higher or better use in the future - let's focus any housing dollars on improving the housing stock worth saving for a nice 500,000 person city of Cleveland, and 25,000 person East Cleveland, with 100,000s of farms between the 100,000s of well kept homes and small businesses thriving in a new eden. What will that do for property values of remaining non-farm property? 4x-10x increases. Farm property, produce and farmers will be taxed - no tax abatement bullshit here. Schools will have funding again, from the 99% of the property in Cleveland not scammed into tax abated traditional urban redevelopment, AKA demolish and rebuild worse, on the public dole, for the grand profit of few.

Not to say we shouldn't farm the suburbs, and xurbs, as well... at one time Americans had the sense to grow food on their land and they may regain that sense, if they may learn how. The closer from ground to mouth the better... food can't be too abundant or too close to home.

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