The first surprise was the small stream running through the beds of dirt and edible plants; the second, a flock of chickens roving, pecking for worms, greens, and seed; the third, that we were standing in the middle of an asphalt parking lot.
While rolling through Cleveland we were invited to stay with Meagan Kresge, who helps coordinate Gather ’Round Farm, a permaculture-based farm built upon a vacant lot on the west side of Cleveland. The farm was started four years ago with a truckload of wood chips – serving as a base layer of earth – and now thrives as an urban agricultural, food-producing, educational space. Friends and neighbors of the garden can volunteer, attend workshops, and a lucky few will get one of a few CSA shares being produced this year.
To legally own the beautifully diverse group of chickens living on the farm, Meagan and other coordinators spent months working with the city of Cleveland to change the local laws – a coop can legally exist if it is set back somewhere in the range of 10 feet from other residencies and businesses. And now that the chickens are legal, Meagan sells the eggs to her neighbors on the honor system: she places the eggs on her front porch, and the buyer slips cash through a slot in the door.
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Follow a chicken around the farm and you’ll walk through vegetables, berry bushes, an herb garden, a patch of edible weeds, a bed of flowers, a rain water stream, and Tony’s salsa garden. The lot is designed following permaculture principles, that is, a system reflecting a natural interaction of ecosystems, from small insects and fungus, to birds and bees, to plants and trees, humans, and ultimately, the sun.
Gather ’Round is built on donated land is one of many signs that Meagan’s neighborhood sees this farm as a needed space in the community – it is a place where anyone can come to see nature at work “…combin(ing) plants, animals, people, structures…in ways that one helps the function and well-being of the others.”
I like the metaphor of thriving life growing atop a solid bed of asphalt, that we as individuals and communities have the ability to grow no matter how hard our past life has been.
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More about the farm from their website, gatherroundfarm.webs.com
The mutual vision continues to be to create a vibrant space that people (especially the neighborhood) enjoy; that includes a small living eco system, incorporates permaculture principles, grows food, demonstrates “back yard” sustainability, is educational, creative and aesthetically pleasing. The ideal is that this process remains grassroots, and shared by neighbors and friends. It could grow and continue to be operated as a “farm”…where produce is grown by the farmers/gardeners and sold/traded to the neighborhood – or perhaps it will someday be a “community garden.” Gather ‘round started in 2006, as an asphalt parking lot. It now includes raised beds for veggies, berry shrubs, an herb garden, edible “weeds”area, salsa garden, flowers, chickens and rain water management. We are moving towards growing more edible perennial crops (fruit trees & shrubs, and plants)
Part of our our approach to community interaction is to strive to engage in dialogues that are respectful, direct and honest in nature, perhaps with help of a trained mediator if ever necessary. We do not wish to respond to negativity with negativity. We ask supporters to do the same, and not to speak “for” Gather ‘round Farm, but own your comments when speaking publicly. We appreciate all the positive support and expression shared of your knowledge of Gather ‘round! We’ll continue to focus on accomplishing the mission and goals, and encouraging uplifting energy in the space, and around it. It’s a garden transforming. There’s veggies, flowers, children learning, people sharing, chickens entertaining, green things growing, nature and earth breathing life. We invite you to do the same, and enjoy the coming season’s surprises and colors!
Below are a few shots from Gather ’Round Farm