The Countryside Conservancy has a new executive director. Tracy Emrick has been the acting director since last fall, when she took over from founder Darwin Kelsey. He passed away last December. WKSU’s Kabir Bhatia caught up with Emrick over coffee. He asked her about her friend and mentor and what challenges she sees for urban farming in Northeast Ohio.
Chief among those is bringing young people into the farming industry, something Emrick says is “an uphill battle.”
“Making sure that they have access to capital [and] access to land; I think those are big challenges. And then also helping them develop their business skills. We have farms and food entrepreneurs at our markets that could really benefit from continued opportunities to learn about business skills, to learn about their industry. And we want to make sure that we’re able to help them.”
Emrick hopes to do that by building on partnerships with the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute. And going forward, she is also exploring an idea to create a demonstration space for people to learn how to grow vegetables and crops at home, regardless of whether they live in an urban or rural setting.
“They could put out a pot of tomatoes, or they can learn to grow pole beans on their patio or terrace. Or they can have five acres of specialty crops. I think that’s a great idea.”
Emrick says that a big part of the Conservancy's mission continues to be getting people engaged in how their food is produced.