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US: Brick Gardens turns empty buildings into urban farms

Growing enough produce to employ a handful of locals and feed, even more, Dominique Peebles said it’s been a productive start for one of his newest gardens. All it takes is a small greenhouse, a few dozen outdoor plots across the street, and little creativity.

When he founded Brick Gardens back in 2017, Peebles had the vision to turn vacant buildings across Cincinnati into indoor farms, using aquaponics. “It creates its own habitat which is a bunch of good stuff that the plants need,” he said showing off the aquaponic tank at the Lighthouse Green Learning Lab. “Under here we’ve got goldfish, so we feed the goldfish, they eat, do their business, the water shoots up through here and goes out to the plants.”

Peebles said the system recycles its water, provides its own natural fertilizer and the plants keep the water oxygenated for the fish. All he has to do is feed the fish. “That can produce stuff all year round,” he said.

The aquaponics system is great for small, leafy greens, but for bigger plants, Peebles had to look outside. In partnership with Lighthouse Youth Services and GreenWorks Ohio River Valley, opened his third brick garden in 2020 growing fresh fruits and vegetables for the Madisonville community in whatever way he could.

Lighthouse owns the land and GreenWorks hires the locals to harvest and assist with the gardens as well as run the biweekly farm stand, selling the offerings at an affordable price to neighbors. “That’s actually how we’re able to do as much as we do because our partnerships are so solid,” Peebles said. “We do a lot of digging to figure out what people in the community want and then we are really intentional about growing that stuff,” he said. 

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