Most Interesting People 2014: Damien Forshe

Damien Forshe


Why he's interesting: Forshe's early days of exterminating roaches and rodents throughout Cleveland's inner-city public housing as owner of Rid-All Exterminating Corp. planted the seeds for creating one the largest urban agricultural districts in the U.S. Now, he and two childhood friends, Keymah Durden and Randy McShepard, from Cleveland's Lee-Miles neighborhood have transformed a neglected part of Kinsman known as the "Forgotten Triangle" into an agricultural oasis.

What bugged him: Forshe met a lot of clients with perpetual pest problems through his extermination contract with the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority. So he began showing customers natural means of staving off bugs. "I told them to use hot sauce and red peppers to keep the roaches away." He now predicates his business, which he founded 16 years ago, on an eco-friendly approach of extermination that uses natural methods not chemicals.

In the zone: The Urban Agriculture Innovation Zone in Kinsman is a 26-acre vegetable geyser. Since its inception three years ago, Forshe and his partners have built two greenhouses and four hoop houses, which have produced and sold 14,000 pounds of vegetables. An aquaponic system cleans and recirculates water between tanks of vegetables and tilapia, which local restaurants and community members are eating up. "The Forgotten Triangle is becoming the Disney World of agriculture."

The green light: His sustainability efforts evolved when he and his partners traveled to an agriculture training center in Milwaukee, where they enrolled in a training program at Growing Power. Farmer-in-chief Will Allen, who Time magazine named in 2010 as one of the most influential people in the world, recognized their progress. "He designated our farm as a regional training center. I was blown away that this national icon thought we were that good. Here we are today."

COMIC RELIEF: Education is part of the partnership's initiative. Forshe and his partners have reached out to hundreds of area students through their comic book series, which teach kids about water conservation and sustainability. "They're the future. They need to understand this better than we do."

What's in store: Forshe's passion for fashion inspired the launch of Rid-All Reconstructed Gear, a line designed by Marc White, using cotton, hemp, bamboo and linen. The farm's Natural Effect shop at the 5th Street Arcades sells the apparel and a black gold soil made from wood chips, food scraps, coffee grounds and leftover hops.

Growing power: Forshe hopes a smaller 10-acre urban farm and soil-composting site will soon open in Collinwood. "I love it. I'm excited every day I wake up."

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