Probasco Urban Farm Looking to Grow Cincinnati’s Local Food Scene Through Mushrooms

Probasco Urban Farm is bringing gourmet mushrooms to restaurants, grocery stores, and farmers markets across the city. The operation is running out of a facility on the edge of Camp Washington and Fairview at 2335 W. McMicken Avenue.

The business, owned by Alan Susarret, was first set up in spring 2013. Ater extended trials Susarret says that he has been able to keep a steady business since this past winter. Technically, though, his mushrooms have been out in the market since fall 2012.

To get things going, he said that he forged partnerships with locally owned businesses like The Littlefield, Quarter Bistro, La Poste, Fond Deli, and Madison’s Grocery.

“Currently I’m supplying Northside Farmer’s Market, Hyde Park Farmer’s Market, and Nectar Restaurant,” Susarret said, “I am also supplying two dozen of Probasco Urban Farm’s own Season Share Members.”

While urban farming has been consistently growing in popularity, it is still in its infancy in Cincinnati. In their case, they grow the mushrooms from long bags that are suspended from the ceiling under fluorescent lights. The floor is covered by wet rocks to keep the area moist and it all gets sprayed down with ordinary water once a day.

Susarret says that they put sawdust and mycelium in the bags to make the mushrooms pop out reaching for fresh air. He says that the mushrooms are even part of the mycelium used in order to spread its spores into new territories.

To keep things natural Probasco Urban Farm rotates materials through quickly and gets a few big crops over shorter periods of time. This allows them to avoid using pesticides; and it’s a way to keep bugs away and ensure lots of fresh air is moving around the mushrooms.

“My current focus is to produce mushroom species that grow quickly and need less initial investment,” Susarret explained. “Though future plans are to grow Shiitake, nearly exclusively, and supply more restaurants and local CSA’s.”

His vision does not end there. Susarret says that he also hopes his business helps to increase the offerings of locally grown food and food sharing systems, like Our Harvest and Urban Greens, starting to take root in the region. The thought is that if more people are getting their food from small businesses, it will have a longer-lasting impact and connection for those buying and supplying the food.

The thought that grocers carry a specific selection of produce that is readily available seven days a week, and has its price heavily influenced by all sorts of things outside of the consumer’s control – fuel costs, freight logistics, union contracts, weather in another city – is something that disturbs Susarret.

“Being a gardener, I know intuitively that there is something special about the basil that you grew on your windowsill and picked yourself,” he explained. “People do care about food; and if I can make a contribution to Cincinnati’s larger food scene, CSA’s, and all the new options out there, then I’m giving something to an interesting and unique culture that we’ve created here.”

Susarret will be teaching a free workshop on ways to grow mushrooms in home gardens at Sayler Park Sustains Festival on June 13. And for those interested, they are also the ones with goats roaming the hillside.

PHOTOS: The Vertical Expansion and Rebirth of Uptown

Last week we profiled a number of large-scale building projects uptown that illustrate the expanding reach of development occurring in the area. These projects, of course, are not at all exhaustive of the number of projects recently completed, underway or in pre-development right now.

In addition to those, there is the $86 million renovation and expansion of UC’s historic Nippert Stadium, 190-unit apartment midrise in Clifton Heights, the $35 million rebuild of Scioto Hall, and the $45 million rebuild of UC’s Teachers College; and while not technically a part of uptown, the nearby $9 million Trevarren Flats is moving along in Walnut Hills as well.

In addition to all that, the transformation of Short Vine continues with several historic building renovation projects underway.

EDITORIAL NOTE: All 16 photographs in this gallery were taken by Jake Mecklenborg for UrbanCincy in April 2015.

PHOTOS: Uptown’s Building Boom Spreading Outward to New Neighborhoods

While an incredible amount of construction is taking place in Over-the-Rhine and the central business district, uptown neighborhoods like Corryville and Clifton Heights have been experiencing a building boom of their own.

Nearing completion in Corryville is the $30 million VP3 residential development. Catty-corner from that project land has been cleared for yet another apartment project; and just a block away demolition is proceeding on University Plaza, which will be completely rebuilt.

A few blocks over Mt. Auburn is starting to see the investment spread there. At the southwest corner of McMillan and Auburn a church has been demolished in order to make way for a $35 million medical office building.

The building boom has been so great that it recently led to the recommendation for an interim development control overlay district so that City Hall can study the changes sweeping through the neighborhoods surrounding the University of Cincinnati.

EDITORIAL NOTE: All 13 photographs in this gallery were taken by Jake Mecklenborg for UrbanCincy in April 2015.

Planning Commission Flexes Muscle With Use of Interim Development Control Districts

While two of the more lengthy discussion items were controversial planned commercial developments in Hyde Park and Roselawn, Cincinnati Planning Commission had a slew of other items on their Friday afternoon agenda.

In three related moves, the City Planning Commission recommended using Interim Development Control Overlay Districts. Two were extensions of existing IDCs, but one was newly recommended. Traditionally the City uses IDCs to put a temporary control on development while planning or feasibility studies are conducted. During such time, the establishment of uses, construction of new buildings, and the demolition or alteration of existing structures are all subject to review by the City Planning Commission.

The two recommended for extension include IDC Districts 73 and 74, Wasson Line District and Pleasant Ridge NBD, for an additional six months to allow for the completion of land use and zoning studies.

The newly recommended IDC is for the hot real estate market surrounding the University of Cincinnati. In particular, the neighborhoods to the south and southwest of the university where midrise developments continue to be proposed and built, much to the dismay of many long-time residents.

IDC District 77 was recommended to be put in place for a period of three months while a University Impact Area Study will look at growth and housing conditions, parking and traffic, quality of life concerns, and new development vs. existing character in the areas within a quarter-mile walk from the university’s main campus and the Clifton Heights business district.

Here is a quick rundown of the rest of the cases and the recommendations made by the seven-member board:

  • Approved the sale of 1623 Pleasant Street in Over-the-Rhine to Avila Magna Group, LLC for $20,000. The developer plans to renovate the 3,296-square-foot building into three one-bedroom for-sale units and one two-bedroom for-sale unit.
  • Approved the sale of approximately three acres of land left over from the Kennedy Connector road project to Vandercar Holdings and Al Neyer Inc. for $530,000. The developers plan to consolidate the land with adjacent parcels to construct two office buildings of up to 45,000 total square feet.
  • Approved a dedication plat of 3.48 acres along the south side of River Road in Sedamsville to allow for a western extension of the Ohio River Trail.
  • Approved a final development plan for Phase 1G of Oakley Station, which will consist of a 12,000-square-foot multi-tenant retail building at the northwest corner of Vandercar Way and Oakley Mill Lane.

The commission also approved the sale of a one-acre parcel at Eighth and Sycamore streets to the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation for $1. This move will ultimately pave the way for a new $45 million development that will continue the transformation of the northeast quadrant of the central business district where numerous other midrises are advancing.

Through the agreement, the non-profit development corporation will create a garage air lot, a commercial air lot, and an apartment air lot. Once construction is imminent, 3CDC will sell the garage air lot to the City for $1 to allow for a 500-space parking garage to be built. They will then sell the apartment air lot to North American Properties for $1 for the construction of a 130-unit tower, and will retain ownership of the commercial air lot for the construction of 10,000 square feet of commercial space.

VIDEO: Workers Looking To Make Up Lost Time On $86M Nippert Stadium Project

The exterior structure is now largely complete for the $86 million Nippert Stadium renovation and expansion project.

According to project manager Bob Marton, the construction team will now largely be focused on interior work, but that the exterior façade will really take shape over the next few weeks.

Similar to other construction projects around the city, the brutally cold and snowy weather lately has slowed down progress. Marton says, however, that they were able to shift some workers to interior projects, and that they will work some extra shifts to make up the lost time.

“We were able to put a lot of workers indoors, but the weather really slowed us down on the outside,” Marton explained in the latest project update. “We need to keep that work rolling as much as we can, because we want to get enclosed by the end of the month.”

He went on to say that the weather caused three to four days of delay. While work will continue to blaze ahead over the coming months in preparation of the University of Cincinnati’s home season football opener on Saturday, September 5 against Alabama A&M.