Benjamin Franklin and the Old Brooklyn CDC Gardening Program
For three decades the CDC has been involved in helping to develop and maintain this remarkable five acre site, the largest community garden in all of Cuyahoga County. This jewel in the crown of the South Hills neighborhood was established through an agreement between Old Brooklyn Community Development Corporation and the Cleveland Board of Education. It is one of the City’s earliest examples of the development and use of eco-friendly urban space.
With 207 plots and on average 180 gardeners per year, Ben Franklin is an incredible peaceful oasis. It is just a few miles south of downtown and just south east of the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.
The Garden is in the back portion of Benjamin Franklin Elementary School, one of the City’s finest elementary schools. The garden area includes a good size children’s garden, a perennial garden and a demonstration garden. Personnel from the Ohio State University Extension program are available to assist the school children and all gardeners with their crops each year. The OSU Extension and the City of Cleveland’s Summer Sprout program also provide seeds and plants for gardeners.
Each year a breathtaking variety of vegetables, flowers and fruits are grown. The garden has been awarded ribbons in the Best Community Garden category at the Cuyahoga Fair since 2008. Ben Franklin gardeners also take home many individual ribbons for their produce. The gardeners are very generous each year by providing thousands of pounds of vegetables to local food banks, churches and pantries.
The dedication of all of the gardeners is amazing; there is an overall sense of community pride and spirit at the garden each year. Gardeners donate over a thousand hours each year to help maintain the garden; including growing and delivering produce to hunger centers, removing trees and brush, keeping all tools in working order and assisting in garden social events.
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson visits Benjamin Franklin Garden has a part-time Garden Coordinator, who reports to the CDC. The Coordinator works in conjunction with the Operating Committee, a dedicated group of eleven gardeners. This group was formed in 2008 with the guidance and perseverance of a very experienced gardener, John Jenkins.
The Committee and Coordinator have been instrumental in obtaining grants from the Cleveland Foundation’s Neighborhood Connections grant program. Over the past few years they have used those funds to purchase quality gardening tools, lawn mowers, proper signage for the garden and a large shed to store supplies.
The garden also raises some funds each year through a Fundraiser, Ice Cream Social and Harvest Picnic. The Committee has provided gardening classes, and tours of the garden are available upon request. They have hosted many CDC events at the garden in order to show off what a splendid and special place the garden is within the community.
In 2005 the Garden was designated a Cleveland Landmark by the Cleveland Landmarks Commission. In 2013 the Ben Franklin Garden was designated as “Urban Garden District” zoning via City Ordinance No. 825-l0. The legislation was introduced by Council member Anthony Brancat elli on behalf of the Garden Committee’s request and is now zoned as such.