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by intern Catherine King, first published on her blog

shrinking Ohio farming population and a growing demand for local produce in urban farm markets, Findlay Market manager Cynthia Brown and colleagues came up with a solution. They applied for a USDA grant and created the “Cultivating Healthy Entrepreneurs and Farmers” (CHEF) program; with the goal of turning vacant community lots into working urban farms, and in turn providing business opportunities for members of the local Latino immigrant population.

In July 2009, Philadelphia journalist Daniel Denvir produced a story on the CHEF program for NPR’s Latino USA. It’s a compelling story, and I recommend a quick listen below.

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Cincinnati’s Community Gardens from NPR's Latino USA on Vimeo.

The CHEF approach is both innovative, inclusive and, to my mind, an excellent example of a creative solution that addresses a range of issues facing our communities and food systems. And there is better news. Though Denvir’s story ran just a few weeks ago, in the time since he produced it CHEF has received a $219,000 USDA grant to expand the program, and in August four more Cincinnati lots were donated for use as urban farms. So while in 2009 CHEF employed four farmers on two plots of land, the new grant will allow them to double their impact in 2010; training and equipping up to ten growers on six plots of land.

Though it can be overwhelming to consider all of the challenges facing our food system and the people whose lives are intimately connected to producing the food we all eat, programs like CHEF are a reminder that solutions do exists, and that it’s up to us to put them in place.