Circular economy, worker-owned coop team in Cleveland, Ohio at Tilth Soil and RBR

Worker Owned Co-op Grows Good Things in Cleveland

Rust Belt Riders (RBR) and Tilth Soil in Cleveland, Ohio work together as a circular economy business that is now also a worker-owned cooperative.  The Rust Belt Riders business collects organic food waste from individuals and businesses throughout Cuyahoga County and Tilth Soil composts the organic material and turns it into extremely high-quality soil.

Fresh out of college with a food-studies minor and an enduring interest in community development and food as an expression of cultural values, Dan Brown collaboratively began a community garden in east Cleveland while working at a farm to table restaurant and at a local community development center.  An idea and opportunity to meld all three came to him.  In 2014, in collaboration with his friend and later business partner, Michael Robinson, they talked the farm to table restaurant into paying them to remove the food scrap, which they would compost and use in the community garden.  They welded a trailer to the back of a bicycle and the project was off. 

Fast forward to now, RBR and Tilth Soil employs 30 folks and converted to a worker-owned cooperative business this past year.  Dan says that the business has always embraced the cooperative principles which include democratic participation in decision making, so this conversion made sense for the growth and sustainability of the enterprise.  Cuyahoga County still does not have a government sponsored composting program (although it did finally resume recycling this past year).  Rust Belt Riders and Tilth Soil help address this food waste problem while also creating local jobs. As their website says, “When you buy Tilth products, you are combating food waste, fighting climate change, and support the radical effort of growing your own food.”  

As the quality of the soil directly impacts the quality of the plants and produce it grows, not surprisingly many of the finest local farms (as well as individuals) are increasingly using Tilth Soil to grow produce for the best farm to table restaurants in Northeast Ohio.