Cleveland's Rid-All Urban Farm. (Photo by Brad Masi.)

This past weekend, I traveled to Cleveland to attend the eighth International Public Markets Conference, presented by the Project for Public Spaces. The three-day conference is geared primarily toward practitioners -- farmers market managers, food hub facilitators, public policy figures, community advocates -- designed as a group-think on how to catalyze urban growth and cohesion through vibrant marketplaces.

Cleveland was a natural choice for this gathering, as some of its most notable economic and cultural nodes revolve around food and agriculture. The city's publicly owned West Side Market is probably the best known and most established node in the network, consuming several blocks in the up-and-coming Ohio City neighborhood. After 100 years of operation, people still pack into the massive hall each day to grab lunch from one of the prepared-food stalls, ingredients for dinner, baked goods, or fresh produce. It’s a great example of market-as-tourist attraction. Visitors come just to stand in the mezzanine and watch the buzz.