The Ohio City of Cincinnati is home to upward of 1,000 abandoned properties, all of which are plagued with infestation and plant disease. Rather than let the properties continue to decline, the City Council has finally decided to take action to revive the properties and the surrounding neighborhoods. The Council is currently in the process of preparing a pilot program that will transform 10 vacant and infested plots into urban gardens, growing everything from herbs to cucumbers.
According to local news channels, the city approved of a proposal to identify potential properties for refurbishment, launch urban gardens on city-owned land, and assess the program’s costs. Crews that work in the city have struggled to keep up with the overgrowing of sick plants at more than 1,000 properties. This causes visual pollution for city dwellers who can’t escape the blight surrounding their houses.
The proposal originated when Cincinnati City Councilman Kevin Flyin had an idea: “Rather than it being a burden on the city to have to pay to maintain these spots, let’s give them to somebody that will maintain them and how about we plant some fruits and vegetables in these vacant spots? It will assist in taking that blight, that was a negative, and not only improving the look, but providing sustenance to the area as well,” Flynn said.
According to a University of Illinois study, crime decreases in neighborhoods when the amount of green space increases, and vegetation helps alleviate mental fatigue, which can trigger violent behavior.
Not only do urban gardens help decrease crime and beautify eyesores, they also help raise awareness among the community regarding healthy food and bonding with the environment. In Georgia, Atlanta’s Truly Living Well organization has been influencing students’ understanding of the importance of food sustainability, urban agriculture, and healthy eating through its educational activities.
However, not all urban farming initiatives are welcomed with open arms; sometimes – especially when the initiative isn’t locally born – locals become defensive of their own habitat. Even though the city is already home to around 1,500 urban gardens and farms, people in Detroit were furious last month when Wolverine Human Services proposed turning a vacant property into an 11-acre apple orchard, which would result in the demolition of several houses. The Director of Community Relations at Wolverine Human Services Greg Hoffman has since clarified that: “The perception was that we had a completely realized vision for the land, and the community wouldn’t have any say.” To reach a compromise, the organizers held a series of meetings to engage the local community and better understand their needs.