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Published: Friday, 9/17/2010

Toledo site eyed for hydroponics

Hydroponic farming may become a reality in Toledo's central city if a plan by the city and the Lucas County Improvement Corp. reaches fruition.

The location would be a city-owned 9.4- acre former industrial site in the vicinity of Dorr Street and Smead Avenue.

The property, once the site of a Doehler-Jarvis aluminum die-casting plant, is in need of environmental cleanup, which could be done with federal grants if the city deeded the property to the LCIC, which is the county's economic development agency.

If the city were to be the developer, the federal money would be only a loan, Joel Mazur, senior environmental specialist with Toledo, told the LCIC executive committee Thursday.

The property has no value now, and using it for agriculture would be a way of holding it in reserve until the market comes back, LCIC President Ford Weber said.

Lucas County Administrator Peter Ujvagi noted that such a farming operation could be a good way to make locally produced agricultural products available. He noted that most produce travels 1,200 miles from the field to the grocery store.

"This is not a romantic idea. This is a business idea," Mr. Ujvagi said. "We need to think this through very hard before we pull the trigger."

Executive Committee Chairman Joseph H. Zerbey IV, who is president and general manager of The Blade, said he'd like to see the hydroponic operation grow organic food.

Executive committee member Baldemar Velasquez said such an operation could help put Toledo in the forefront of an emerging industry.

After the meeting Thursday, Mr. Weber said the hydroponic farm would probably be operated by a local nonprofit or business. He said he expected Toledo City Council to turn the property over to the LCIC within 30 days.

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