CLEVELAND — Some outdoor dining hasn't depended on the weather since the pandemic began. Restaurants across Ohio started using greenhouses to keep customers warm and safe through the winter.
On a cold day in Geauga County, Kara Goergen examines the garden she’s taking care of.
“I don’t even think this was here yet. Actually, I had started everything with planting seeds individually, hauling it in and out of the garage because we didn’t have anywhere to keep the seeds warm,” said Goergen, a Red Tulip alumni.
In a Cleveland neighborhood, Tim Lewis nets a fish and waters the plants inside the Rid-All Green Partnership urban farm.
“This last year has pretty much been consistent for us because we were deemed essential before essential was really a thing so we were able to maintain some type of sanity through consistency of urban farming and being able to keep our mind right,” said Lewis.
Goergen began growing produce here when she started staying at a home provided by Red Tulip Project. She donates most of the produce to local shelters and others in need. The garden has helped her overcome addiction, and continue her recovery.
“It was a vision that came to life that really meant everything to me because even though I was starting over and I didn’t have much, I had more than a lot of other people do. So to be able to give back to basically a demographic of people where I’ve also been in that situation, and know how important it is to have help for other people, it really meant everything to me," said Goergen.
Tending to the plants is a mission Lewis fell into after 17 years in retail. Now, he educates and shares his love for agriculture and sustainability.
“This is definitely one of those things where it chooses you, you don’t choose it. It becomes a purpose driven mission once you understand your not just growing food but growing relationships,” said Lewis.
Both Rid-All Green Partnership and Red Tulip Project are getting a helping hand.
Betts restaurant in Downtown Cleveland decided to donate the greenhouses they used for outdoor dining. Now they're going to a better cause.
“We loved having them here, we know they’re great, we knew somebody would be able to do so much more with them, and it was great to know that they’re going to local organizations that could use them and repurpose them and keep them going,” said Nicole Bakker with Betts.
Lewis is looking forward to taking his smaller greenhouse to different neighborhoods so he can share his passion and educate others.
“It definitely gives me hope and it’s really a starting point to open others up other peoples eyes to say ‘we can still use these type of donations as training or education purposes or just to show the youth different sizes and different spectrums of what sustainability looks like,” said Lewis.
Those at Red Tulip see the greenhouse as a game changer for continuing to grow produce and helping those in recovery.
“I think it will provide a better space, a little bit healthier plants and just make the work a little easier so we’re very grateful,” said Laura Christian with Red Tulip Project. “If you can find someone to donate to, it can truly make a difference in people’s lives.”
“I’m so grateful for anybody that can offer up something to help somebody else and the way that this can continue and continue and continue is just beyond what most people can imagine at this point,” said Goergen.