Rows of pristine, grass-covered lawns disturb her.
Mari Keating, a Cleveland Heights native, grows tomatoes, sweet potatoes, collard greens and other food in her yard. She organized a meeting at Lee Road Library on Sunday for people to exchange seeds and talk about growing and sharing food.
About two dozen people attended, including Michael Jerman, president of Sustainable Landscaping LLC in Cleveland Heights, which developed and installed the vegetable garden at Lee Road Library, and Jody Lathwell from Beyond Pesticides Ohio, who spoke about her concerns about the ramifications of and alternatives to pesticides.
Seeds were spread out across the table, and Keating encouraged people to take as many as they wanted even if they didn’t have any to swap.
She said she hopes that eventually the group will exchange produce and gardening tools, and discuss issues surrounding growing food in the suburbs.
People threw out ideas to talk about at the next meeting, including donating some produce to local food banks, optimal dates for planting seeds indoors and outdoors and making food gardens aesthetically pleasing to neighbors.
Cleveland Heights native Laura Marks said she grows her own carrots, blueberries, strawberries, spinach, lettuce, onions and garlic, to name a few, and 95 percent of what she eats comes from her yard or nearby farmer’s markets. And she likes to share with "species other than humans."
“I can’t tell you how much pleasure it gave me to host the party,” she said of the nine birds that filled a bath under the berry tree in her front yard recently.
Keating said that her goal is to create a community in the suburbs through gardening and food-growing efforts, and she was inspired by the book Food Not Lawns: How to Turn Your Yard into a Garden and Your Neighborhood into a Community, by Heather Coburn Flores.
“What I’m hoping is that this will evolve into a Cleveland chapter of Food Not Lawns,” Keating said. “I can’t grow everything I eat. I’ll plant tomatoes, and my neighbor can plant potatoes, and we can all share.”
Meetings will be every last Sunday of the month. The next meeting will be Feb. 27, time and place to be determined.