In 2015 we took over an under-utilized urban city park, in a “forgotten” part of the city that has an unwarranted reputation for being located within a less-than-desirable area.
In 2016, with the help of volunteers and 1000’s of hours of work we opened up our Training Farm which is located at 613 Rowland Ave NE in Canton, OH.
This park space has been transformed into a vibrant, community space where food is grown on a commercial production scale. The farm serves as a training facility to tech basic job skills, self-confidence and teaches people how to start plants from seed, grow those plants and then harvest the produce that is grown. Originally conceived as a site where we would simply be growing produce to provide for our Mobile Grocery Market needs, the farms full potential was realized with the introduction of a pilot program with one of our community partners, ICAN Housing.
ICAN Housing serves homeless persons with a history of mental illness and through their supported employment program, participants gain job readiness skills and receive financial education to prepare them to seek and ultimately, retain traditional employment. The pilot program allowed an opportunity to be exposed to real-world employment expectations and take advantage of the regenerative and therapeutic qualities that come with working by hand with soil.
We under-estimated how life-altering it was to allow people a way to discover their own self-worth and the impact of that pilot program changed our entire focus of how this farm is utilized.
The farm has now become a center of different employment opportunities, especially formatted to help those who are struggling with successful reentry into functioning society or dealing with the trauma of living with poverty.
Several of the Cooperative Farm tenants utilize this farm to start the seeds to grow the plants that they then transplant in their farm space at the Cooperative Farm.
This feeling of community and entrepreneurial employment opportunities continue to increase,
especially with customers such as Deli Ohio, whose local produce sourcing practices allow for the potential for a fair living wage to go back to the farmer.
The produce grown on this site by StarkFresh makes its way onto our Mobile Grocery Market. Where we continue to keep produce grown using organic methods at lower than retail prices, making nutrient-dense food more affordable.
Additional produce plants are grown for some of our community garden partners such as Walsh University and First Tee of Canton, where healthy eating and food insecurity issues are being addressed through educational and hands-on programming with small groups.
In addition to providing food access through onsite growing and by providing affordable food for retail sale, this site is very much about educating the general public.
We do this through scheduled work days, field trips, workshops and if someone happens to be walking by when we are onsite. We also host several events throughout the year including our Hungry Turtle Crawl 4k, an open house, and a Garlic Festival to name a few. We use these events to undertake additional educational roles with the general public to help them understand how poverty and hunger are so interconnected and why this site is so important to the community.