The urban farming movement in Flint
Urban gardeners and farmers are doing their part in helping residents of Flint and Genesee County to gain access to healthy foods, as well as put empty lots to use.
The city of Flint and Genesee County are communities in significant need of activity that can support economic opportunities for low-income individuals, access to healthy foods, and innovative models and ideas around land use. With the very high unemployment rate of 28.9 percent, the rating of 81 out of 82 Michigan counties in Health Factors and 12,000 available vacant lots in Flint, the growing local movement around food access and urban gardening and farming is one of this community’s solutions.
In 2009, the edible flint food growing network emerged as a grassroots collaborative of growers and institutional and community partners to support urban farming and increased access to healthy food in this post-industrial city. Its mission of supporting Flint residents in growing and accessing healthy food is realized in an informal cooperative of food producers in and around the city with the purpose of increasing the presence and success of urban gardeners and farmers by collectively producing and distributing locally grown produce. About 20 growers currently participate. The co-op sold produce at the Flint Farmer’s Market in 2010 and will be doing so again beginning in July 2011, and is exploring some initial relationships with local school districts.
The city’s largest urban farm, the Flint River Farm, has been planted this spring with 35 different types of fruits and vegetables and sits on 16 vacant lots (nearly two acres of land). This farm is part of the edible flint network and is one of two in the city that are leasing the land from the Genesee County Land Bank in a lease-to-own option. MSU Student Organic Farm graduate Joanna Lehrman and business partner Roxanne Adair received a one-year grant from the Ruth Mott Foundation to start up and operate their farm and will be selling their produce at the Flint Farmer’s Market this summer as part of the edible flint food growing network’s co-operative stall. Read the full story on Flint River Farm in the Flint Journal.
Another part of edible flint’s mission to support Flint residents in growing and accessing healthy food is the edible flint Garden Starters kits and services program, selling hundreds of kits in May (seeds and transplants) that were designed for a 1,400 sq. ft. garden. The Garden Starters program also coordinated services for up to 100 city growers with funding support from grant dollars and revenue from kit sales, which included lot tilling and compost delivery, as well as soil testing which includes lead screening. The Genesee County MSU Extension office is providing office space and supervision for the edible flint Garden Starters program. We expect to have well over 200 community food gardens, market gardens and backyard food gardens in the city this summer.