CLEVELAND — Since its start nearly a decade ago, the Rid-All Green Partnership, an urban farm in Cleveland’s Kinsman neighborhood, has continued to flourish, feeding and teaching generations how to live and grow food holistically. To help further the non-profit’s mission, officials recently cut the ribbon to the new and improved learning center, which received much-needed upgrades as part of a community service project associated with the nearby Opportunity Corridor project.
Located in Kinsman’s Forgotten Triangle, which encompasses the area between East 79th and East 84th streets,Rid-Allhad humble beginnings but grand ideas. The idea behind its inception – and the current mission now – is to better the community through responsible, holistic agriculture in an urban setting. Produce is grown at the now sprawling complex, which provides local, healthy food to area institutions and people. The operation also provides citizens with the opportunity to learn how to grow the produce themselves.
Rid-All’s signature nutritious soil, known as “black gold,” is put together through discarded food from the Cleveland Food Bank and woodchips from the city’s forestry department. The compost also features coffee grounds from local coffee shops and leftover hops from local breweries.
This part of the Kinsman neighborhood was once tainted and blighted, fit with crime and disinvestment. Rid-All’s presence in the neighborhood has already brought about a transformation, coupled with investment from the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District and other public agencies.
“This has been such a change not just in the look of the area but in the values people have now,” said Dave “Dr. Greenhand” Hester. “They can have a space that they bring their families. They can have cookouts. They can walk down the street in this area and still feel safe. That’s what it feels like now. The community sees a person of color actually doing something and it actually working and making a difference. That inspires people to do things that can help.”
The Rid-All Green Partnership is the brainchild of childhood friends, Damien Forshe, Keymah Durden and Randy McShepard. Hester is the facility’s master gardener.
Creating a learning center on campus had been a goal for its creators from the beginning. However, late last month it finally became a reality.
As part of the Opportunity Corridor Project’s outreach plan, ODOT as the contractor, Kokosing Construction Company, to identify community partners to work with on a community service project. Rid-All was an easy and perfect choice, officials said. Rid-All wanted to have one of the greenhouses turned into a learning center in order to expand its educational programming, which teaches people ages 8 to 80 how to be good environmental stewards and urban farmers.
As part of the community service project, Kokosing upgraded the existing greenhouses and turned the woodchip floor into a fresh concrete slab. Staff and students from Cleveland Job Corps’ Carpentry program provided their time, expertise, labor and resources to build customized furniture for the facility. The learning center was named in honor of the late Damien Forshe, one of the original Rid-All founders, who died in November 2018. He was 50.
The expanded learning center will provide a more comfortable location for the educational programming and, hopefully, turn more lives around.
“I was in the streets and ended up getting into some legal troubles. I had to do community service at my father’s farm ironically,” said Aharon Benkeymah, the son of Keymah Durden. “I ended up getting a new eye and realizing that a lot of the problems happened to be with the food. We’re in the number one distressed city and this is the solution for that type of problem. It didn’t only save our lives it also implemented morals, principals and values that we need to hold to keep up this community and this vibrant oasis that’s here.”