Sometimes you have to dig a little deeper than the surface but a thriving food culture is often there if you look for it.
I was in Cleveland a couple of weeks of ago and despaired about the lack of fresh food in the downtown core. Nothing but gated convenience stores and closed retail shops as far as my feet could carry me. And then, on Friday morning from my hotel window I spied some tents set up in the public square across the street. I ran out with a cloth bag and a few dollars in my pocket and hit the jackpot. Greens, bread, jams, salsa, cheese and more. I bought one of everything that I could eat that didn’t require cooking and had a picnic back in my hotel room. I did a little research that afternoon and found a website for the Downtown Farmer’s Market. http://downtownclevelandmarket.blogspot.com/ They are only there once a week but this apparently is in addition to several other small markets that pop up daily in the city, not to mention the large and well established West Side Market, which has been in operation since 1912. http://www.westsidemarket.org/ I wish I had the time to visit this fabulous market but that didn’t happen on this trip. I did however find the Free Stamp vegetable garden on the grounds of City Hall. http://www.newsnet5.com/dpp/news/local_news/cleveland_metro/cleveland-city-hall-gets-a-new-garden
I wandered through and picked a few ripe cherry tomatoes off the ground and some Thai basil to throw in my farmer’s market lunch. There was a little of everything in this garden and separate beds full of herbs as well.
I came across another vegetable garden the following day when I visited the Cleveland Botanical Gardens; although I knew I would find lots of beautiful plants there I didn’t expect to find an ornamental edible garden created by students no less.
Apparently I sold Cleveland short. After more research I discovered that this city really does have a strong food culture. Just because it didn’t jump in my face didn’t mean it wasn’t there. If you think your city doesn’t support urban agriculture try looking a little harder. I think you’ll be surprised at what you find.