A very good idea

Findlay Market in Cincinnati, Ohio is the oldest continuously operating market in the state, and it's also one of the most forward-thinking. Last year, facing a shrinking Ohio farming population and a growing demand for local produce in urban farm markets, Findlay Market manager Cynthia Brown and colleagues came up with a solution. They applied for a USDA grant and created the "Cultivating Healthy Entrepreneurs and Farmers" (CHEF) program; with the goal of turning vacant community lots into working urban farms, and in turn providing business opportunities for members of the local Latino immigrant population.

In July 2009, Philadelphia journalist Daniel Denvir produced a story on the CHEF program for NPR's Latino USA. It's a compelling story, and I recommend a quick listen below.

The CHEF approach is both innovative, inclusive and, to my mind, an excellent example of a creative solution that addresses a range of issues facing our communities and food systems. And there is better news. Though Denvir's story ran just last week, in the time since he produced it CHEF has received a $219,000 USDA grant to expand the program, and in August four more Cincinnati lots were donated for use as urban farms. So while in 2009 CHEF employed four farmers on two plots of land, the new grant will allow them to double their impact in 2010; training and equipping up to ten growers on six plots of land.

As I've mentioned here before, it can be overwhelming to consider all of the challenges facing our food system and the people whose lives are intimately connected to producing the food we all eat. Programs like CHEF are a reminder that solutions do exist, and that it's up to us to put them in place.

* A thank you to Emma Kirwan of Millstone Farm in Connecticut, for sending this story our way!

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