Neighborhood residents joined Mayor Frank Jackson, Councilwoman Phyllis Cleveland, Cleveland Foundation CEO Ronn Richard, Green City Growers CEO Mary Donnell, and other dignitaries to celebrate the newest of the Evergreen Cooperatives on Monday, Oct. 17. The event, at Kinsman Road and Ensign Avenue in Cleveland's Central neighborhood, included a ceremonial groundbreaking.
Green City Growers is a year-round, commercial greenhouse and worker-owned business. The business will produce three million heads of lettuce and 300,000 pounds of fresh herbs each year. Workers earn a living wage and build equity in the company. Overt time, they become part owners of the business.
"We will be growing hydroponically," Green City Growers CEO Mary Donnell said. "We will have three acres of shallow ponds filled with nutrient-rich water and we will be floating lettuce and herb plants on top of those."
The business is part of the Evergreen Cooperatives network, joining the Evergreen Cooperative Laundry and the Ohio Solar Cooperative in the Glenville neighborhood. The latter cooperative business installs solar panels for government, institutional and commercial customers and provides weatherization services.
A portion of the companies' profits are used to develop other co-ops.
The city helped acquire the land needed for Green City Growers.
"Much of the neighborhood was abandoned, but about 20 to 25 homeowners remained, many of them elderly and some reluctant to move" Councilwoman Phyllis Cleveland said.
Evergreen is a partnership between the residents of six of our city's neighborhoods and some of Cleveland's most important "anchor institutions," according to the Evergreen website. Those institutions include The Cleveland Foundation, the City of Cleveland, Case Western Reserve University, the Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals and many others.
People around the country are watching this co-op movement that has been dubbed the "Cleveland model." Potential applications of the model are being considered in Atlanta, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Detroit and a number of other cities around Ohio.
Joyce Hairston, who lives near the Green City Growers' site, wrote this article. She also covers the arts for Neighborhood Voice. See Hairson's photos from the groundbreaking on our Facebook page.