Tour of Green City Growers in Cleveland Opens Eyes

Field trips are unparalleled opportunities for stakeholders to understand a complex operation firsthand. Often they can spur new ideas for ways to improve a partnership.

CWRU Assistant Director of Sustainability Erin Kollar and Oberlin Director of Entrepreneurship Bara Watts greet a worker at Green City Growers

Recently Regional Marketing Director Jennifer McGann, Community Programs & Sustainability Support Manager Piper Fernwey, and Bon Appétiters and guests from Oberlin College, Case Western Reserve University, and the Cleveland Botanical Garden were inspired by touring Green City Growers (GCG), the largest urban greenhouse in the nation.

GCG hires only from its own economically stressed Cleveland neighborhood. Its 35 employees have access to amazing programs like credit matching and car- and house-buying assistance. (With the house-buying program, employees can own a home in five years.) Employees include refugees from Haiti, Bhutan, and Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as nonviolent ex-offenders re-entering the workforce after successfully completing employment training.

GCG is a member of Evergreen Cooperatives, where profit-sharing possibilities kick in when the organization reaches profitability. It’s closer than it’s ever been to achieving this status, so the site visit served as a chance to see whether increased purchasing from the Bon Appétit partners might help GCG meet that goal.

Inside Green City Growers’ vast expanses

Bon Appétit currently buys GCG’s salad mix, head lettuce, and soft-stemmed basil (even the bunches that are Imperfectly Delicious). The site visit included a weight and pricing comparison of GCG products versus lettuces from other suppliers. Another Farm to Fork vendor, Brian Gura, president of International Specialty Produce and Cleveland Tofu, also came, and gave the Bon Appétiters a presentation about the advantages of their bulk tofu. This was followed by a cooking demonstration led by Oberlin Executive Chef Matt Krasnevich, who whipped up three different tofu dishes featuring GCG lettuce and Farm to Fork pork from New Creation Farms.

The chance to see GCG’s operations and discuss these products and relationships in person was invaluable.

Submitted by Piper Fernwey, Community Programs & Sustainability Support Manager