Earthworks Urban Farm Grows Sustainability in Detroit

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Earthworks Urban Farm Grows Sustainability in Detroit
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Earthworks Urban Farm, Detroit. (Photo courtesy of flickr.com/photos/sbeebe.)

"Urban gardens" has become a buzzword in Detroit. The city has seen an exodus of many large industries and a large portion of the population away from inner-city areas. This has left many areas vacant and buildings abandoned. Urban farming initiatives repurpose these dormant spaces. They provide food, employment, community, and sustainable livelihoods,

Getting viable farms up and running puts people in these vacant areas, which improves safety. It keeps empty lots and buildings from becoming "attractive nuisances" for area kids.

A report by Mari Gallagher Research & Consulting Group called Detroit a "food desert." Downtown, there are remarkably few grocery stores to serve the huge city. Poverty is a factor, too. Too few food sources and too many vacant, dangerous buildings make life downtown challenging. Urban farms provide not only renewable food sources, but a better life overall.

One such urban farm is Earthworks, a cooperative garden mission of the Capuchin friars. The Capuchins run a soup kitchen, and the farm was a logical extension of that project. The soup kitchen is located at 1264 Meldrum in Detroit, but Earthworks gardens have expanded to several lots. Earthworks has been ministering to Detroit residents for over a decade.

Earthworks is all about self-reliance. It's a hand up, not a hand-out. The mission is volunteer-based and worker-supported. The focus of Earthworks is to promote "sustainable agricultural practices, nutrition and care for the Earth. We strive for peace, respect and harmony between Neighbor and Nature." The community is founded on principles of food justice, which means that all residents should have fair access to safe, nutritional food sources that are appropriate to their cultural requirements.

Earthworks partners with Wayne County Women Infants Children, which maintains Project FRESH. Project FRESH provides produce coupons to low-income families. Earthworks sells produce at local farmers markets, and they accept Project FRESH coupons.

Earthworks supports Grown in Detroit, a youth farm market program under the Garden Resource Program (GRP) collaborative. According to The Greening of Detroit, the GRP parent program, area residents created and maintained 1,351 vegetable gardens within the city and distributed 49,858 seed packs and 230,296 transplants. Participants grew 73-plus varieties of fruits and vegetables in 382 community gardens, 48 market gardens, 64 school gardens, and 857 family gardens. Local produce grown in Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park, Michigan, gets special distinction at area farm markets.

Earthworks joins hands with Second Harvest Gleaners. Together, Earthworks and Second Harvest Gleaners developed a program called E.A.T. (Earthworks Agricultural Training) to market produce in local venues. Earthworks also provides low-cost classes in farming to area residents.

A lifelong native of Michigan, Marilisa Sachteleben writes about issues that impact her state, especially in its most pivotal city of Detroit.

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