Veronica Harris spent years imagining the wonderful things she could do with the land across the street from the home she has shared with her husband for more than 20 years in Cleveland’s Mt. Pleasant neighborhood – if only someone would tear down the abandoned house that sat on the property. Harris envisioned a community garden where the children from her in-home daycare and other neighborhood children could help plant, maintain and harvest fresh fruits and vegetables. She saw the garden as an opportunity for education and community involvement.
When the dilapidated house was demolished in 2016 by the Cuyahoga Land Bank, Harris jumped into action. She applied for and purchased the vacant land from the Cuyahoga Land Bank. She also applied for the Summer Sprout program, funded by the City of Cleveland Department of Community Development, which provides seeds, plants, hydrant access and other garden resources to qualifying community gardens. Then she rolled up her sleeves and got to work. As she hoped, her neighbors joined in.
“We’ve had a great response from the community,” says Harris. Neighborhood children have helped prep the land, plant the crops and water and maintain the garden. “People stop by to see what we are doing and ask how they can help.” Neighbors donated money, plants, repurposed wood, and even a fertilizer spreader to the garden.
Just months after work began on the garden, crops of red cabbage, corn, beans, tomatoes, peppers, collard greens, squash and more are starting to sprout. Strawberry plants and snap peas are also shooting up from the unique plant-rooting hay bale containers that line the garden.
When ready, neighborhood children will help harvest the crops and Harris plans to hold an on-site cooking demonstration for all who helped. “It is important that the children get to try all of the garden’s bounty,” says Harris. “We’re going to make pasta salad and the children will be able to take some home to their families.” Harris’ plans for the garden include a play area where neighborhood children can enjoy a movie or put on plays and skits.