For years, Avon Standard has tilled the soil, planted the seeds and harvested the produce from his community garden with one purpose in mind—to feed people.
“My passion is to give and grow,” says Standard of the fruits and vegetables that he provides free to family, friends and the surrounding community. He recently took his efforts a step further.
Standard is the first urban farmer in Cleveland, which lies in Cuyahoga County, to build a high tunnel as part of the Cleveland Seasonal High Tunnel Pilot Project administered by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
High tunnels are designed to extend the growing season into the cold months, helping to increase productivity, keep plants at a steady temperature and even conserve water and energy.
The Cleveland Seasonal High Tunnel Pilot Project is part of the USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food national initiative. This initiative works to strengthen local and regional food systems and promote locally grown foods, while expanding access to affordable, fresh foods.
Through the pilot project, urban farmers receive financial assistance to install high tunnels. They also work with NRCS staff to incorporate conservation planning and practices into farming operations.
To Standard, participating in the project offered a way for him to feed more people, as the typically harsh Cleveland winter approaches. The community garden where he grows his fruits and vegetables is located alongside Regency Park in an older, inner-city neighborhood.
Cleveland officials have rezoned parts of the city, so that places, such as vacant lots, can be used for agriculture. They’re also partnering with NRCS and others to increase the availability of affordable, healthy foods sourced locally.
The garden is where Standard, who is retired, spends the majority of his time, tending his vegetables. He said he’s already planning how he’ll use the high tunnel this fall: growing collard and turnip greens. He’s looking forward to an extended growing season and seeing vegetables in even after the first frost.
And the neighboring community will once again benefit from the fruits of his labors, as the days shorten and grow colder, and Standard still has vegetables to give away.
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Check out other conservation-related stories on the USDA blog.