Summer Sprout Program - Cleveland, Ohio

The Summer Sprout Program in Cleveland, Ohio is a partnership between the City and Ohio State University that helps communities establish and maintain thriving neighborhood garden spaces and provides educational opportunities to develop community gardening experts.  The program was first initiated in 1976 and grew in 1977 to include a partnership with Ohio State University Extension, Cuyahoga County (OSUECC) to include educational components. The City of Cleveland Land Bank makes vacant city-owned lots available for community gardening uses and the program provides seeds, soil testing, tilling services, and other materials and services to help establish gardens and keep them running. The program provides an example of how adaptive reuse and partnerships to bring financial and educational resources to communities can help to revitalize neighborhoods by engaging residents to develop and maintain productive new greenspace.

Community members interested in establishing or enrolling a community garden in the Summer Sprout Program for the first time designate a Garden Leader, who must participate in OSUECC’s “Dig In!” training, provided each Spring. There must be at least 5 gardeners (from more than one family) willing to participate and maintain the garden, and they must demonstrate permission to use the land for gardening. Cleveland’s Land Bank provides licenses to use vacant lots for community gardening; if approved, community groups can renew as an annual lease agreement for just $1 per year. Approximately one-third of the community gardens enrolled in Summer Sprout are operated on city-owned vacant lots, with many others owned by the churches and neighborhood groups. In 2016, the program had 172 gardens re-enrolled from the previous year, and enrolled 22 new gardens. 

OSUECC plays an important part in this program, training community members to become experts in farming/gardening. The Extension offers a great variety of classes and activities to the communities, including kids camps, gardening seminars, composting classes, and nutrition counseling sessions. Besides these courses, the school also provides services such as soil testing, seeds, starter plants, soil amendments, tilling services, and materials for raised beds to help new community gardens to get started and keep enrolled gardens thriving. The school has also required the new gardeners to join the Opening Community Garden Training Program. 

The Summer Sprout Program is a model for adaptive reuse of vacant land as a strategy towards community cohesion, resilience, neighborhood revitalization, education, and healthy living. Reutilizing urban vacant lots can turn abandoned lands into community gardens that benefit cities in many different ways. It can help cities which were used to be food deserts to produce greens. Moreover, it can bring community members together and create a greater sense of community. Through partnerships with local education institutes can leverage their research and teaching resources to help community members get equipped with the capacity to care for their community gardens. 

Related Organizations:

  • City of Cleveland, Ohio

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  • Education/training materials
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