Vacant homes and abandoned lots could soon make way for urban farmland under a new pilot being considered by the Cincinnati City Council.
The proposal was originally made by City Councilman Kevin Flynn, WCPO reports. “The motion he wrote calls for the city to develop a plan to convert urban farms on city-owned land, identify potential properties and look into any costs the city might have to consider when launching the program,” according to the local news channel. It passed with the council’s full support earlier this month.
Cincinnati is home to more than 1,000 vacant and blighted properties. City crews are supposed to keep those properties up, but struggle with the workload.
“It got me thinking: Rather than it being a burden on the city to have to pay to maintain these spots … let’s give them to somebody that will maintain them and how about we plant some fruits and vegetables in these vacant spots?” Flynn told WCPO.
A similar redevelopment project was recently proposed in Detroit, and neighbors were not initially supportive. Wolverine Human Services proposed turning a vacant property into an 11-acre apple orchard, and neighbors were furious, Next City’s Serena Maria Daniels reported last month.
Urban agriculture as jobs creator in struggling cities isn’t a new concept — Detroit is already home to some 1,500 urban farms and gardens — nor is tension that can arise between residents and the organizations developing the spaces.
When the founders of the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative, two white University of Michigan graduates, started clearing out an empty lot in the city’s majority-black North End neighborhood in 2011 to start an urban garden, their efforts were met with skepticism from residents wary of their plans.
The nonprofit ended up listening to neighbors and scaling down, adding a space for picnics and path for biking and walking.
According to WCPO, supporters of the Cincinnati project see potential for alleviating “some of the city’s most stubborn problems,” including food deserts, unemployment and blight.
Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian.