Gardener Story: Mark and Fran Di Donato

Mark DiDonato with chicken
Detroit Shoreway

Mark was born in Akron and came to Cleveland in 1994 to attend John Carroll University. He left after college and returned in 2004, living initially in Ohio City, before buying his present home in 2005. Mark’s back yard looks like a little farm with raspberry and blackberry bushes growing next to a concrete driveway and numerous containers seeded with vegetables. Mark has six hens, an arauchana who lays blue eggs and two handsome black and white rock hens. Mark and his grandfather built the multi-level henhouse which provides an area to lay eggs and a lower level where they scratch for worms in last year’s composting leaves. Mark is planning to build a spiral herb garden where the micro climes within the spiral accommodate different types of herbs. Fran, Mark’s wife says children from the neighborhood love to visit the hens and leave gifts of greens and weeds in the driveway for the hens to eat.

Mark likes living in Cleveland because of the quality of life it offers and that he can have a country lifestyle in the city. He thinks Cleveland’s motto should be “Cleveland Cares” because of all the medical institutions and the high rate of philanthropic giving. He values the diversity of the people, the many engaged ethnic communities, the architecture, ingenuity and hard work and that so many people are involved in their communities. He says, “Spending time elsewhere makes you realize what you have.”