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Old 08-02-2013, 09:10 AM   #40
alkemical
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Join Date: Apr 2001
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Heads of lettuce may not seem life changing, but when you grow 3 million of them each year, the result can reinvigorate an entire area.

Such is the idea behind Green City Growers Cooperative’s greenhouse in Cleveland. At three-and-a-quarter acres, the greenhouse spans the equivalent of three football fields.

“It’s one of the largest local food initiatives in the United States,” said Mary Donnell, Green City Growers’ chief executive officer. It also ranks as the nation’s largest food production greenhouse in a core urban area.

Green City Growers Cooperative is a for-profit, worker-owned company that operates under the umbrella of parent company Evergreen Cooperatives. Although working at a grass-roots level, the organization has a highly structured, corporate management system with boards of directors and layers of chief executive officers.

Evergreen, launched in 2008, operates two other green businesses besides Green City Growers — a laundry company and solar-energy company. It aims for “building businesses, hiring from the neighborhoods where they’re located and then distributing profits back to employee members over time, which would help build financial assets and help transform lives and transform neighborhoods,” said Donnell.

Each business operates independently, with its own financing and management.

The idea for the economic revitalization project began when local institutions, including the Cleveland Foundation, University Hospitals, the Cleveland Clinic and Case Western Reserve University, began meeting to discuss area poverty, said Donnell.

After realizing that the surrounding neighborhoods housed 43,000 residents with a median income under $18,500, the institutions came together to figure out how to use their buying power to create jobs. Cleveland is historically supportive of the local food movement, said Donnell, and founders saw opportunity in the ability to provide local food year round.
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