Erin Richardson
OSU Extension Summer Sprout Program

   The Summer Sprout Program is an incredible partnership between the City of Cleveland and Ohio State Extension Cuyahoga County. This unique collaboration has been a foundational resource for hundreds of community gardens in Cleveland for 40 years and continues to be a model for other cities. Erin Richardson, the Summer Sprout Coordinator at OSU Extension, began gardening as a young girl. Each spring, her grandfather would help her plant a garden, then give her the responsibility to tend it all summer. “It often went wild,” she admits, but it was this early experience that gave her passion to pursue a degree in agriculture and a career in empowering others with the land under their feet. 

   Ohio State Extension is the outreach and engagement arm of The Ohio State University, a world-class institution for agricultural research and knowledge. Ms. Richardson says that handing a recent research paper to a community member wouldn’t necessarily empower them. This is where Extention comes in; charged with the mission to meet people where they are and disseminate great knowledge to the community in digestable, engaging ways. The Summer Sprout Program is just one of those engagement methods, but has proven to be wildly successful in propelling citizens to understand and engage the land around them. A good mix of education, planning, accountability, and material resources brings many returning gardens to apply year after year. Some spin off to become market and commercial ventures, and more applications for new gardens come each year. In 2015, 196 gardens scattered across each of Cleveland’s 17 wards were accepted into the program. Each receives access to seeds, plants, soil assessment, gardening materials, and research-based education ranging from horticulture techniques to volunteer recruitment.