The roundtable discussion on urban agriculture at the Youngstown State University Sustainable Energy Forum on June 5 was a productive one that generated a lot of enthusiasm in pursuing an urban farm in the Oak Hill neighborhood. I moderated a discussion with six speakers and there were was a collective discussion with all in attendance about how to connect the dots between producers, markets, and consumers, in order to make more happen, more quickly, in Youngstown. We heard about:
- A pastor who started a farm on land next to a church to engage the parish and community -- and now wants to expand
- Farmers and consumers interested in connecting growers to purchasers and a lot of interest in seeing how this fits into a bigger system
- The need to look beyond traditional funding and to consider a co-op network of ownership
- A community development in Cleveland started for housing that now has a farm on once-vacant land that serves as an incubator for training the next generation
- Practical concerns, such how to ensure that heavy metals like lead and other contaminants don't come into contact with people or food
- A possibility to connect active retirees with sustainably-minded young people interested in pursing urban farming, as way to combine expertise with enthusiasm
It was a great opportunity to share the findings of our report -- that urban farming can be commercially viable - and to see enthusiasm for expanding the local food options in the Youngstown area.