Edible flint urban farmers co-op has community impact beyond food
This urban gardening effort in the City of Flint produces multiple benefits towards a healthier community.
The edible flint co-op is an informal cooperative of food producers in and around the City of Flint. Its purpose is to increase the presence and success of urban gardeners and farmers in Flint by collectively producing and distributing naturally-grown, local produce at the Flint Farmers’ Market as a grower’s co-op. In 2010, edible flint brought 1,713 pounds of food to the market with total sales over $1,608. This year, the number of growers has increased to about 20, and the co-op is exploring some initial relationships with local school districts to potentially supply produce to school cafeterias.
Management of the co-op involves records of sales and insuring that each participating gardener received their share of the proceeds. Over the winter months, the group worked together to create a membership structure that included requirements and benefits for those interesting in joining. For the 2011 season, the market has successfully partnered with two urban growers to maintain a stall at the Flint Farmers’ Market. The cost of that stall was underwritten by The Flint Journal and the members are contributing to purchase supplies collectively for the market stall.
City-grown produce and cottage foods are a niche market, with customers specifically supporting the urban gardens that serve multiple purposes in our community:
- Reclaiming vacant land
- Increasing access to fresh, healthy food
- Spurring economic development as the revenue generated goes directly back to the growers
- Building a healthy community
- Increasing neighborhood safety through crime reduction.
Co-op members grow produce and other plants on vacant lots, in backyard gardens, outside of churches, hospitals and schools. Members work with youth, the elderly and disabled. One unique event that the growers participate in are “crop mobs,” organized groups of people who devote a certain amount of time helping in each other’s gardens, supporting co-op members where they work.
Recent Saturdays at the co-op stall contained the following assortment of produce and cottage foods:
- Jalepeno, green, cayenne and Hungarian peppers
- Collards and kale
- Herbs including sweet, Thai, Italian and lemon basil; cilantro, thyme, mint, sage, horehound and parsley
- Radishes, turnips, mustard greens
- Rainbow chard and salad mix
- Summer squash and zuccini
- Green beans
- Cherry and green tomatoes
- Granola and sourdough bread
- Rose hips.