TOLEDO, Ohio — Six-year-olds Darren Eaton and Rudi Petruziello climbed to the top of a dirt pile, took a seat, and started digging, but Glass City Goat Gals owner Liz Harris didn’t mind.
“I’m so glad they’re playing in the dirt,” she said. “That’s what it’s there for.”
It’s hard to imagine a cul-de-sac in central Toledo now occupied by goats, gardens, and a butterfly sanctuary was once known for nothing but blight.
Ms. Harris has spent seven years transforming an area that once consisted of 15 abandoned homes — before the Lucas County Land Bank tore them down — into an urban farm on Mentor Drive promoting wellness, healthy eating, and environmental sustainability.
Ms. Harris bought several plats of land for $100 each.
“What I saw when I came out was property that was abandoned, and it was depressing,” Ms. Harris said. “They tore down one home, and from that one home, the vision was birthed to do something with this property.”
Ms. Harris has nine goats on the land, and rents them out for grazing. The vegetable garden is lush with tomatoes, squash, onions, beans, among others, and people in the community are welcome to take what they need.
The Green Team, comprised of Toledo teens, helped plant the gardens and build the habitat for the butterflies. They also feed and care for the goats.
About 15 people showed up Saturday for a tour of the property. Ms. Harris also took the group around the neighborhood, pointing out other residents who have started to grow their own fruits and vegetables.
Beth Mattimoe, of Toledo, noted it’s impressive to see neighbors catch on to the idea.
“It was all so interesting because you see someone in the community trying to make this whole area better,” she said.
Ohio State University and Central State University included Ms. Harris’ farm in their Ohio Sustainable Farm Tour from June through September.
Kay-Lynne Schaller teaches courses in family and consumer sciences for PENTA at Anthony Wayne Junior High School. She said her students could learn a thing or two from Ms. Harris’ creation.
“You can grow something anywhere as evidence by this right here,” she said. “I just got a raised bed garden last year outside my classroom, so I want to see what other people are doing with gardens and teaching. There’s not enough of us in family and consumer sciences doing gardening in schools.”
Ms. Harris has received funding from Mercy St. Vincent Hospital and the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association. She’s still looking for more sustainable funding, but is set for Sept. 24 with a parade, music, and petting zoo.
“We build together; it’s not just me,” Ms. Harris said. “We can teach the community they are deserving of being successful. Everyone kept saying I was crazy to do a goat farm, but I think it was a perfect fit for this community.”