CLEVELAND -- Opportunities are blooming and chances are growing just off East 55th Street. Cleveland Crops, a non-profit affiliate of the Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities, is offering training and employment programs for adults with developmental disabilities. Julio Jones has worked at Cleveland Crops' Stanard Farm for a year.
"We plant them and we sell them," Jones said. "We sell the vegetables."
Jones is one of fifty employees learning the skills of farming with Cleveland Crops.
"Our mission is really to not only employ people but also train people and to get them out into the community working in regular jobs in the community," Cleveland Crops Economic Development Director Chris Yurick said.
Cleveland Crops is more than a vegetable garden. The facility is also a food innovation center where employees are making kale chips and dehydrating fruit for health snacks. Eventually, Cleveland Crops will make soups and sauces to sell at local farmers markets.
"I want to cook and I like mixing stuff, oatmeal, chocolate, stuff like that," Jones said.
Sites that were once eye sores and crumbling buildings are now producing possibilities.
"We basically re-purposed the whole land into something very productive and healthy," Yurick said.
Though Cleveland Crops is not certified organic, they do use organic methods and non-genetically modified seeds. Their fresh veggies with affordable prices can be found at farmers markets around town and they're spreading fast.
"We now have ten sites around Cuyahoga County, sixty acres of total land," Yurick said. "A lot of it is farmable and as time goes by we're going to be developing more and more of that farmland, growing more and more produce and putting more people to work."
Cleveland Crops provides fresh veggies for local restaurants including eight owned by local Chef Zack Bruell. They also provide food for the animals at the Cleveland Zoo as well as Community Supported Agriculture programs, or CSAs.
Supporters and partners include SAW Inc. (Solutions At Work), The Ohio State University Extension Service, municipal leaders, development corporations and dozens of volunteers.
To learn more about Cleveland Crops click HERE.