Cincinnati might not be the first city that comes to mind when someone thinks of urban sustainability, but there are many in this city who fight for conservation issues. Permaganic Co., a nonprofit based in Over-the-Rhine that has operated the city’s Eco Garden since 2010, is an organization committed to not only urban sustainability, but also community involvement and the city’s youth.
The Eco Garden sits at 1718 Main St. in Over-the-Rhine. While the urban garden is used by Permaganic, they don’t own the garden’s property. The city of Cincinnati does. In a clash between continued development in the inner city of Cincinnati, and preservation of the community, the Eco Garden’s land was targeted for CitiRama, a program launched last year to encourage urban development.
The city contacted Angela Stanbery-Ebner, who, along with her husband, Luke, runs Permaganic, in February telling her not to plant at the Main Street garden this year.
After being in operation since 1998, the garden has provided produce for Findlay Market as well as giving the urban neighborhood’s youth a chance to learn how to grow their own fruit and vegetables. In a neighborhood that is often mentioned for the amount of crime, the Eco Garden fosters a sense of community. The land is a miniature farm, an ecosystem in its own right.
The city proposed to move the garden to a different plot of land, but it’s not so simple to transport that many plants who have been rooted on Main Street for so long.
After reaching out for help through petitions and contacting city council, Permaganic received support from city council member, Laure Quinlivan who has long been a supporter of both urban development and making Cincinnati greener. Quinlivan filed a motion and argued that the longest-running urban agriculture program in Cincinnati added to the quality of life in Over the Rhine, gave the community access to local produce and gave teenagers the opportunity to get involved.
After a Livable Communities committee meeting on March 12, the Eco Garden was saved from demolition. CitiRama was forced to find another site to build on and Stanbery-Ebner received the go-ahead from the city to start planting again.
And they all lived happily ever after….for the most part. In a Facebook update Permaganic said, “We are still hoping for long-term permanency…Laure Quinlivan tweeted “We saved this”…I don’t want to read too much into her comment, but we are REALLY hoping City Council will back us again if another development, or anything involving our lease, come up in future…”
Moral of the story? Urban development is not a bad thing; it’s actually a really, really good thing. But when it threatens such a great agricultural project that provides fresh, local produce to an under-served community and offers a place where the community can grow (pun intended), it becomes a hindrance rather than a help. We need to remember that organizations like Permaganic are progressing Cincinnati in the right direction in terms of not only sustainability, but also in community solidarity.