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Cleveland’s Oldest Publicly Owned Market

As populations migrate to city centers and sustainability has hit the mainstream, the demand for fresh, affordable and readily available produce in urban areas continues to grow. In response to this dual shift in the American mind-set, innovative ways to produce and distribute food closer to consumers are cropping up in cities across the country and around the world. Urban gardens are greening empty lots, not only providing local residents with fresh fruits and vegetables, but also creating jobs and the opportunity to learn new skills. Rooftop greenhouses are emerging as an efficient way to maximize freshness, while minimizing the carbon footprint of produce transportation costs. Local farmer’s markets are also gaining popularity, offering city-dwellers better tasting produce with greater nutritional value. Buying local just makes good sense, both economically and ecologically.

Great idea. Why didn’t we think of it sooner, right?

Well, in Cleveland, this idea is hardly new. In fact, the West Side Market has been providing the city and its surrounding suburbs with affordable, locally grown food for over 100 years.

A couple of months ago, I wrote an article on “food deserts“, a term used to describe urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food. I received tremendous response and interest on the topic. In the meantime, my daughter Sarah, who is studying Integrated Marketing and Environmental Science at John Carroll University, created an excellent photo feature of Cleveland’s West Side Market. I feel her journalism project captures the true essence of what this landmark means to our city… both as a healthy resource of fresh food for some and also a refuge for many more. I would like to share her article with you here:

The West Side Market
by Sarah Milli

page-0The West Side Market, Cleveland’s oldest publicly owned market, has been a one-stop grocery shopping experience for Clevelander’s and tourists for over a hundred years. Located on the corner of West 25th and Lorain Road in what is known as Ohio City, this market contains everything from fresh meat to local seafood, fruits, vegetables, candy, bread and much more. It is a hub for Cleveland businesses and possesses an abundance of rich culture and heritage. Whether it is tourists from out of town or people who have lived in Cleveland their entire lives, the West Side Market is a bustling place to get groceries or grab lunch. The market has been recognized by the Travel Channel and Food Network for its unique market-shopping experiences and ethnic food selection. In the market’s centennial year, it was estimated to have had close to a million shoppers come through its doors.
The West Side Market is open on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday and offers the true feel of market shopping. Anthony Sudano, a local Cleveland resident states, “I come to the market a few Saturday’s out of the year to get fruits and vegetables. It’s a great opportunity to buy locally and spend the day with friends and family.” During the week, the usual shoppers who return to buy their weekly groceries take advantage of smaller crowds and better parking, whereas a Saturday shopping experience can be crowded with people wanting to grab lunch before an Indian’s game or spend their day in the city. The Market is essentially funded through each business and organized by the Market’s office. Each vendor pays for their spot, inside or outside the Market, and the cost varies on the size of their stand.
“A little help from the homeless”, are words that can be heard shouted outside the West Side Market by a homeless man named Raymond Jacobs and other homeless people living in the Cleveland area. Jacobs, a Cleveland “resident of the streets” can be seen and heard selling newspapers in order to raise money for himself and other homeless people living on the streets of Cleveland. But this newspaper, unlike The Plain Dealer or Sun Newspaper is completely composed of articles and columns written by homeless people. “We stand outside the market here because we know it’s a place that Clevelander’s come every week to buy their food”, says Jacobs. “We want shoppers to know we’re doing something to get donations from people instead of just begging.” This newspaper called “Cleveland Street Chronicle” has been around for more than 20 years. What started out as photo flyers and stories of the lives of each homeless person, turned into a small newspaper filled with stories of all local Clevelanders. Jacobs stated that to write for the paper, contributors must be drug and alcohol free, an incentive that the money earned from the paper would only be used for necessities such as food or clothes.
The West Side Market, being around for more than a hundred years, has become many Clevelander’s source of livelihood, fresh food, and civic pride. John Busch, 82 years old and born just down the street from the market on Franklin Avenue, has been buying his groceries from the market for 65 years. Busch said that his favorite stand in the market is Foster’s Meats, the stand pictured to the right. “Honestly, they are all my favorite”, said Busch. “The market has everything I need from meat to cheese, chicken, steak, and vegetables. The best part is that I know my food will be fresh.” Many West Side Market shoppers like Busch return to the market each week to buy food for their families because of the freshness of the produce and to support local Cleveland businesses.
Classic Seafood, one of the market’s more recent stands, opened up six years ago and is one of the few stalls at the West Side Market that offers a wide variety of fresh and local fish. They pride themselves in the selling fish from Cleveland’s own Lake Erie, as well as seafood they have flown in overnight from Pacific and Atlantic regions. While they have a wide range of ocean selections such as shrimp, scallops, cod, caviar and mussels, they also offer the local catch of catfish, perch, walleye, and white bass. Many of the workers at this stand have extensive culinary training and pride themselves in the freshness of their seafood. Anthony Cunningham, 19 year-old Cleveland resident and newly hired employee of Classic Seafood stated, “I have learned a lot working at the market and dealing with people who know their seafood.”

I want to thank Sarah for allowing me to use her photo essay on Teach Green. I appreciate her power of the pen and keen eye for human interest stories. We hope to work together more often in the future.

In a speech on November 13, 1974 (40 years ago) at a meeting of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in Paris, Moses Henry Cass, the Australian Minister for the Environment and Conservation cautioned, “We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.” It is up to us to teach them how to take care of it. I believe that providing them with a place to test their ideas and find their voice is a step in the right direction.

Thanks for reading!



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Earth Day Resolutions to Boost Your Environmental Awareness

Have you ever wondered how your personal lifestyle may impact the environment? Earth Day is Monday, April 22nd …the perfect time to take stock of our ecological footprint and create a list of eco-friendly resolutions. Especially since our New Year’s list has most likely been lost in the shuffle by this time.

Five Easy Ways to Get Started

1. Experience Nature – No, I’m not talking about cutting the grass or firing up the grill in the backyard. Take the time to roll up your sleeves, put on your hiking boots and go exploring. Find areas near you to experience the natural world firsthand and learn. It’s human nature to care about things that you know and love. Connect with the parks, preserves and nature centers in your area and discover the cultural and natural history that has helped to shape the place where you live today.
2. Share Your Experiences (Past and Present) With Others – As we become more and more technologically advanced, we frequently rely on digital images and information to satisfy our curiosity about the world. However, remember…nothing can take the place of the actual experiences that stimulate our senses, spark our imagination and energize us. Take the time to experience nature wherever you may find it; and share your experiences with others, especially children. Our culture is enriched by the oral histories of people and places that are passed from one generation to the next.
3. Reduce, Reuse and Recycle – I know, I know. No eco-lecture is complete without the three R’s. Beyond the obvious benefits of reducing the amount of waste sent to landfills and conserving natural resources, the actual act of recycling is a daily reminder of our responsibility to the environment and the impact of our actions. If I throw even one metal can in with the regular garbage, I immediately feel remorse and imagine it sitting in a massive landfill that future generations will have to clean up one day. Feeling the guilt already, aren’t you?
4. Volunteer – Become a steward to your local environment and you’ll get as much as you give. Environmental volunteers participate in a wide range of activities from organized clean-up efforts to wildlife monitoring, habitat restoration and educating others about the natural world. Volunteering not only helps preserve the environment, but it also benefits the volunteers themselves by promoting civic pride, social interaction with like-minded people, personal development and an attachment to a particular place which fosters a general ethic of care for the environment overall.
5. Learn Something New Every Week – If all else fails and you’ve gone a week without a moment to spare, take fifteen minutes to go on the Internet and learn something new about the environment. The world is filled with amazing wonders that will lift your spirit, broaden your perspective, and hopefully, encourage you to reconsider making time for the first four resolutions. I know you’ll be glad that you did.

Sometimes it seems like the relationship between human activity and the Earth is too complicated for one person’s actions to make a significant difference. I have felt that way many times myself. But, in the words of Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Happy Earth Day!