Village Family Farms
Jamel Rahkeera, a native Clevelander, grew up knowing that he wanted to run his own business. Little did he know that he would be in the business of farming and agriculture. “I was shopping at Whole Foods and spending my whole paycheck,” he says, which spurred him to backyard gardening behind his apartment. This small project sparked a real love of growing food and being outdoors. Looking for a way to further enjoy this passion, he decided to resign from his job as a professional welder and pursue farming full-time. “This will be our 6th season,” Jamel says from his property at 1662 Crawford Road in the Hough neighborhood. He and some friends began by pulling bricks and building debris out of the ground in three lots along Harkness Avenue. It was an extensive process to get the land back to growing potential. Now, Village Family Farms is an urban farming compound along Harkness and Crawford, wrapping behind a few houses and bordering the baseball diamonds of the Cleveland’s Thurgood Marshall Recreation Center and park.
A portion of the property is reserved for high tunnel production and market growing. Another portion is for the community to grow their own food and enjoy nature. Community members come to hang out, sit under the trees and listen to the running waters of Jamel’s solar pond. “People come out now… this place used to be an eyesore.” The farms proximity to the park gives Jamel to invite young men from the neighborhood to get involved on a daily basis. He calls them as they walk down the street to come check out what he’s up to. “We try to steer them away from negativity,” he says and to give them a positive male role model in the community. Jamel and his friends also engage with the elders of the community who have taught him a lot about growing and Hough history. “We’re just following in the footsteps of the people who did this before us. We stay thankful for people like Fannie Lewis and Carl Stokes,” he says. Each year, the Village Family Farm invites the whole community to celebrate a harvest festival with spoken word, live DJ, and neighborhood elders who tell their stories.