With his long gray hair and dirt-stained hands, Carl Skalak Jr. looks like a farmer. His farm, though, stands out. Skalak’s Blue Pike Farm sits on one acre on East 72nd Street, just south of Gordon Park, in the heart of the city. Skalak tends to this property daily, trying to pull a profit from his patch of Cleveland soil.
Skalak wasn’t always a farmer. He made the switch to farm life out of necessity seven years ago.
“I plowed the property in 2006,” Skalak said. “I got into urban farming because I needed something to generate some income because the job I had (was) eliminated due to some cutbacks.”
Before turning to the land and opening Blue Pike Farm, Skalak worked on the western campus of Cuyahoga Community College.
Skalak’s farm grows produce and other goods he makes available to residents of Cleveland.
“We have chickens and we have bee hives,” Skalak said. “We grow some fruit and seasonal vegetables. On Wednesdays during the summer, I go to First Baptist Church of Cleveland for a farmers market there. On Thursdays, we have a market at the farm. It just depends on the day of the week and what part of the season we’re in.”
Skalak’s farm isn’t just a one-man show, though. He gets help from time to time in tending the land.
According to Skalak, he has volunteers who come in and help him do everything from feeding the chickens to harvesting and transplanting crops. Sometimes volunteers just drop in. Children from schools come to the farm and help a bit, as well.
“I like to think they get an appreciation for how food is grown, how difficult it can be sometimes,” he said.
Though Skalak’s farm has been in operation for seven years, he is looking to improve his operation.
Currently, Skalak leases the land from an area business. In the future, he would like to own his property so he can make some improvements and control who has access to it.
No matter the season or who is helping, Skalak’s food provides a tasty experience for those who purchase his products.
“Sometimes people are just surprised how much good, quality food you can grow in the (city),” he said.
~ Written by Justin Rutledge, a graduate of Benedictine High School with a journalism degree from Bowling Green State University.