Resident Group Transforms Vacant Lots into Urban Agricultural Enterprise

On a recent Saturday in May, neighbors, friends and congregations of the Brookdale Orchard Community gathered to dedicate its Gardens of Fruit, Myrtle & Forget-Me-Nots. Created by the group on land donated by the Cuyahoga Land Bank, the space is composed of 58 gardens on 14,650 square feet of land in Cleveland’s Hough neighborhood.

Beyond providing agricultural education, training and employee ownership opportunities for neighboring residents, the Orchard’s primary goals are to foster self-esteem and respect for others, bridge inter-generational relationships, promote appreciation for the cultural and artistic heritage of African American people, promote fresh food sources, preserve the natural environment as a place for peaceful community growth and gatherings, and to do well while doing good feeding the mind, body and soul. The orchard was conceived by resident Mittie Jordan who had a vision to create a special place in the neighborhood in which she grew up. The Cuyahoga Land Bank specifically sponsored the Brookdale Orchard pear garden.

During a surprise presentation, Christie Frangos, wife of Cuyahoga Land Bank President Gus Frangos, presented a quilt made by the Lake Friends Church Guild. A labor of love spanning over a year, the quilt was themed around the markings of the Underground Railroad. Jordan plans to prominently display the quilt in the building she hopes to renovate on the site.

Thirty-two families and three congregations individually sponsor the gardens. In addition, the development of Brookdale Orchard is made possible through funding and support by the East Ohio Conference United Methodist Church Mission & Ministry, Nehemiah Ministries and North Coast District UMC congregations in mission, the Cuyahoga Land Bank, the City of Cleveland Land Bank, and the George Gund Foundation.

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