Tri-C Grad Creates Agricultural Oasis in Cleveland's Kinsman Neighborhood
July 21, 2015
In the middle of January, an orange tree was bearing fruit inside a Kinsman neighborhood greenhouse. It was the perfect metaphor for the agricultural oasis that Tri-C alum Keymah Durden has helped create at Rid-All Green Partnership.
Durden, with partners Damien Forshe and Randy McShepard, founded Rid-All about four years ago.
“We believe that we can transform a community by helping them improve their diets,” Durden, 49, said. “A healthy resident stock is a healthy community, and particularly in urban areas, health is a big issue because the access to food is very poor. Most people that buy food, they’re buying it from the local mini mart or gas station. You get your lottery tickets, your groceries and your beer all in one stop. We want to offer an alternative.”
The urban farm comprises five greenhouses, a treehouse office, a replica teepee and a big composting operation. Last year, Rid-All sold 1,000 cubic yards of compost.
The farm grows seasonal produce like tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers in summer and mustard greens, cabbage and kale in winter.
Rid-All also raises tilapia using an “aquaponics” set up. Fish waste fertilizes plants that grow above the tanks while plants take nitrates out of the water and return clean water to the fish. It’s a completely self-contained system.
Produce and fish are sold to individuals as well as local restaurants. Rid-All hosts a farmers market in summer, and also offers community garden plots. The non-profit also provides educational programming for students and senior citizens.
The farm accepts food waste from Tri-C’s Metropolitan Campus cafeteria as well as from local restaurants and the Greater Cleveland Food Bank. It uses this waste to produce compost, which it sells. Durden said he was working with Tri-C to start taking food waste from the Eastern Campus, which now runs a composting operation on site.
Durden, Forshe and McShepard “all grew up here together on the East Side of Cleveland from like 5 or 6 years old . . . After college and work, we decided to come back together and do something positive for our city,” Durden said.
“I didn’t want to just kind of wing it, so I decided I was going to go back to school, get certified, and know the language — know what sustainability really is.”