Charlie Carmella Urban Farm
Trinity Cathedral has been creating beautiful meals for the community for over 30 years. From the healthy grocery giveaway they host at Marion Sterling Elementary, to the Sunday lunch where a cooked meal is shared with the community, Scott Blanchard and the countless volunteers in their Episcopal family see food as a way to love their neighbors. Another food and beauty endeavor of the church is the Trinity Cathedral Charlie Comello Urban Farm. While there may be some debate over the actual size of the garden, there's no arguing the fruitfulness. "We've never gone and used the wheel to get the exact acreage, but the best we can guess is between 1.5 and 2 acres," says Scott. "In the course of ten growing seasons, from 2006 to 2015, we've grown over eleven tons of food." This twenty-two thousand pounds of produce has one primary purpose - to nourish their neighborhood. Much of the harvest goes to Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry's Central Kitchen facility at E.45th and Superior. The Central Kitchen, a response to urban unrest in the 1960's, has been answering the biblical call to "do justice by building right relationships," for forty-five years. Job training in soft and hard skills are offered to populations who encounter employment barriers. The delicious prepared food goes to shelters and community meals thoughout Cleveland, such as Trinity Cathedral's weekly event, A Place at the Table.
This connectedness, while carried today by new leaders, has its roots in decades of community cultivation. "The Trinity Cathedral part (of the garden's name) is where the bulk of our volunteers come from," says Scott. "The Charlie Comella part is from the Comella Family (who) owns a lot of property here in Cleveland, and Charlie was a great benefactor to the community garden movement. A lot of his land he would allow folks to use if they would keep it up with community gardening." Scott and his team (which includes a revolving cast of seniors from local high rises, college students from CSU, parishioners, corporate bankers, and members of local temples) are not the first group to farm this land. In 2006, a referral from Ohio State Extension sent Scott to the property at East 35th & Cedar, and to long-time Clevelander, Roman Catholic Priest, Father Jim O'Donnel. Father Jim has lived across from the garden in it's various renditions for decades, and continues his street ministry along the block and garden rows today. The Trinity Cathedral partnership materialised just in time, as the field had laid fallow for a few years and was becoming overgrown. A walk around the property with Father Jim was all that it took to convince Scott it was the proper setting for the venture. Today the farm is thriving and buzzing with community. It serves as a beautiful green space with half of the property covered in flowers and greenery, and the other half teeming with fruit and vegetables. "We want to make sure people don't go hungry," says Scott, "and that we take care of our own here from our own backyard."