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Latest mentions of the Food Policy Coalition in the media.

There is an agrarian revolution coming to roost in Cleveland that is part of a comprehensive effort to increase access to fresh, healthy, affordable food in Cuyahoga County and to leverage local dollars to support a growing regional food economy. One aspect of this movement focuses on revising city zoning regulations on keeping farm animals and bees on private property.

On a frigid morning, the soil on the half-acre lot beside Bodnar-Mahoney Funeral Home on Lorain Avenue crunches under your feet like a hard-candy shell. Jocelyn Kirkwood, co-founder of the fledgling Gather 'round Farm, is tossing feed to 16 hens and their fat rooster prince. Shifting from foot to foot, Meagen Kresge, the operation's other half, is surveying the lot's tidy bald mounds and their promise of spring. "A farmer's supposed to be taking vacation this time of year," says Meagen, 38, with a weary roll of the head. "Ha."

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The intent of the urban-farming legislation, explains Cimperman, is to broaden the appeal of becoming more self-sufficient, healthy and productive.

On Monday, October 13, 2008, Councilman Joe Cimperman, Ward 13, in partnership with the Food Policy Coalition, will introduce a resolution containing the 2008 Food Charter for Local Food Purchasing Policy, an ordinance to refine Urban Livestock and an ordinance for Beekeeping Zoning that will continue the City of Cleveland’s leadership in the nourishment of a local foods economy. 

“The city of Cleveland is the only major city in the country that actually changed its zoning code in the last couple of years to now allow vacant lots to be zoned for gardens.” Cimperman also speaks glowingly of other exciting developments. “We’re working with a group called the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Food Policy Coalition, which is doing everything from figuring out how to change the code now, so that we can actually have people cultivating bees and chickens in the city … [to] looking at things like at the West Side Market, where we found that in one week … we were able to harvest two tons of compost [from discarded food] just from Monday, Wednesday and Friday.”

As one of the first big cities in the nation to adopt urban garden zoning, Cleveland officials are already looking at refining it and expanding it.

The motivation has come from increased interest by residents in growing their own produce and raising their own livestock to save money on food and energy costs.

Leading the charge is the Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Food Policy Coalition, comprised of 60 different organizations.

Food is sometimes considered the most common denominator in the human experience. We need to eat, and so over time, we have developed systems—economic, agricultural and cultural—to support that need. As human beings, we know food. But do we know the policies, practices, laws and ultimately, dollars, that influence all things related to food and determines what ends up on our dinner plates?

Last year, developers removed a thriving community garden on West 117th Street to make room for a new Target store. Since gardeners there did not actually own the land, they had no recourse to protect their garden. Five other community gardens just like the one on West 117th Street have been lost within the last five years alone.

Earlier this year, Ward 13 Councilman Joe Cimperman introduced legislation to give these gardens a layer of protection. On March 5, Cleveland City Council created the nation’s first ever zoning designation for community gardens.