Through Cleveland’s, seemingly, never ending April showers I can see a glimmer of sunlight sent to remind me that warmth is really on its way. We have survived yet another deep freeze, and the sprouts in the bathroom mean it will soon be outside time again. Let’s recap what has been going on around This Urban Homestead lately.
You might have found yourself here because you saw Aaron’s presentation last night at the Local Food Cleveland meeting. Personally, I think he did a wonderful job; I might be a little biased, however. It was great to be invited to speak with such a great group of panelists, all having done such great work to get their local businesses off the ground. We met some amazing people and made some very promising contacts.
Where did The Lorain Avenue General Store idea come from?
In the Winter of 2010, Aaron and I purchased a building, 7952 Lorain Avenue. This building has two storefronts, connected inside to make one large retail space, as well as two apartments upstairs. The basement runs the entire area of the building as well. Originally we bought the building with the intention of opening a coffee shop and renting the apartments upstairs to tenants. It didn’t take very long for us both to say, “Who needs another coffee shop?” What we did need was somewhere for local vendors to sell their wares when the Farmers Market season was over. We knew there wasn’t a store like this around us now, so I hit Google to see what there was along these lines in other cities. This is how we found Local Roots in Wooster, Ohio. It was then The Lorain Avenue General Store was born.
What is The Lorain Avenue General Store?
The Lorain Avenue General Store, or the LAGS as we have begun calling it, is our plan for a year round market for locally produced/raised/grown food and goods. Why should a person only be able to get local food locally once a week and only in the Summer months? Right now the answer is lack of a space. The LAGS is to be located fewer than 2 blocks from our home. We live in an urban area that is home to multitudes of families on public assistance. The people in this neighborhood deserve, and have a right to, good local products they can stop by to grab on their way home to make dinner. Yes, I said make dinner. Right now we have more fast food available than produce and properly raised protein. That needs to change. Our plan is to accept public assistance so that the regular, everyday people of the Detroit Shoreway can afford to shop for local food that is good for them.
The Lorain Avenue General Store aims to be more than just a market, however. We aim to educate and get the community involved. One of the aspects that excites me the most is our desire to offer sustainable living classes. How can we become a more self sufficient community? How can you start your own garden from seed, raise the plants indoors, transplant them outdoors, keep them happy and healthy, harvest those plants and then put that food away for the non-growing season? We aim to teach just that. How can you raise chickens in your own backyard? We aim to teach that as well. How can you make cheese and bread and pasta at home, saving money and adding nutrition to your family’s meals? Yes, we aim to teach that too. Knitting, sewing, composting, coffee roasting, beer and wine making, and many other things are to be taught at the shop.
The roof is flat. We see a greenhouse up there. The basement is huge! We see a community kitchen down there, helping home based food producers gain access to a commercial kitchen that they otherwise would not have. This isn’t just a store, it is truly meant to be a community resource.
What stage is The Lorain Avenue General Store in right now?
The wiring is extremely old, and oddly connected in strange ways, and not able to withstand the fridges, freezers, and other machinery that will need to be run. Rewiring will be expensive; it all needs to be redone completely. Remember when I said we bought the building? I meant we bought it outright. We owe nothing. What does that mean? We need capital. The building had to be bought when it was, and there was no option of financing with the sellers. We believe in this project. The community believes in this project. We are working with the Detroit Shoreway Development Co. on things such as the program for storefront renovation and other grants we qualify for. If you have anything to offer, be it in skilled work, things like accounting, electric work, plumbing, you like to make and bring people pizza and beer, you just let me know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org .
So things with the shop are moving along. We should hear from the Cleveland Colectivo soon, and on Friday we have a meeting with some very important people. This really is all so exciting.
This Urban Homestead News:
The sprouts are doing great! So far, at This Urban Homestead, we have started:
a rainbow heirloom tomato mix (burpee)
mortgage lifter tomato (seed swap)
pink accordion tomato (seed swap)
brandywine tomato (not sure where this seed came from)
sweetie cherry tomato (not sure)
yellow roma (saved from a por bar tomato)
japanese black trifele (saved from ym own last year which came from seed saved from a blue pike farm tomato 2 years ago)
cherokee purple (sse)
cucumbers (not sure)
hot pepper mix (burpee from a few years ago but still good it seems)
rainbow bell pepper mix (old burpee as well)
brussels sprouts (seed swap)
lima beans (they really shouldn’t be started inside but I was messing around with germination and these three are still doing great. seed came from Baker Creek)
little gem lettuce (Baker Creek)
about 5 kinds of basil (spicy globe, genovese, thai, sweet, something I can’t remember. not sure where the seed came from either.)
cilantro (old burpee)
dill (seed swap)
I will have lots and lots of extra tomato plants if anyone wants any.
I really should get outside and plant some peas but the rain is making that difficult to do.
Beyond the farming, I finally ordered 5 Barred Plymouth Rock hens! I pick them up on May 2nd. I need to get the application filled out and sent in to the city. I am going to use Valentine’s old dog crate as the brooder. The chicks will only be a day old when I get them!
In food news, I have been making cheese, bread, and pasta. We also had the first Sunday Supper at This Urban Homestead. There were 8 people total and a huge meal of homemade all day gravy with pork and beef, homemade macaroni, homemade meatballs, homemade bread, and amazing brussels sprouts was served. J & S brought an outstanding coffee choco lava cake, using Origins Beanery coffee no less!
Now that Spring is showing its face, expect more frequent updates – I promise!
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