Civil Rights & Social Action / Environmental / Poverty, Hunger & Shelters

City Farming

Ever long for Green Acres when you live in the urban jungle?

University of Michigan grads and Lansing natives Noah Link and Alex Bryan wanted to do something to give back to the community by combining nature and the City of Detroit.

The eureka moment: “Let’s start a farm,” Link said to his friend. Enter Food Field, part of the urban farming movement that’s cropping up in major US cities.

Link and Bryan found four-acres in Motor City where an abandoned school (once a convent) was a dilapidated, dangerous hovel that now stood empty. They decided to buy it and turn it into a small-scale farm complete with organic produce, chickens, ducks, a fruit orchard, honeybees, aquaponics and more.

“Our goal is a sustainable business that’s economically viable while building the health of the community,” Bryan said.

What they’re growing is optimism and a better future for a neighborhood that had fallen on hard times.

“There’s something about growing food that brings hope to people,” Link said.

Food Field features a greenhouse, a large veggie garden, fruit orchard, beehive, and a few friendly ducks who waddle up to the local kids who stop by to have some fun. This month they’re featuring arugula, mint, baby kale, green garlic and a spicy greens mix.  Before Link and Bryan repurposed the property, this utopia was once a bunch of tall weeds and garbage dumping zone.

“We both had some background in farming,” Link said, mentioning organic farms they had previously worked at in Michigan and Colorado. The guys borrowed money from family, cleared out their own savings to buy the land for $4,500 and then borrowed equipment and got a loan to get the farm going.

“You had to drive past tons of abandoned liquor stores, factories and total blight to get to the farm. We cleaned out tons of garbage from the land to get to the ground underneath. But right around the corner from the land are houses that are still pretty well kept,” Link said. “The community was longing for something hopeful.”

As the new dirt was poured, neighbors came out to see what was going on and even asked if they could help. “They were shocked to see that two guys were starting a farm in the middle of the city,” Bryan said. When a few tougher teens came by to hassle the guys, they were not only won over, but also helped do a little work on the farm. Local volunteers provide sweat and help plant and harvest while power tools, pallets, food waste and rakes are all welcome donations along with wood shavings, mason jars and shovels. Got some extra chicken wire? Bring it to the farm.

The farm also provides veggies for inner city children who might lack them because their supermarkets don’t have a wide variety of more nutritional foods. The farm offers spinach, fresh tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, sweet corn and other salad greens along with a young fruit orchard that provides apples, pears, cherries, plums, chestnuts and peaches. There’s also fresh honey from the farm’s bees and eggs from their chickens.

A farm stand sells the goods when they’re ready for market. Or just buy it from the farm where you can get a few Zen moments in by staring into a pond where catfish and blue gill swim.

There is no time to relax for the farmers. “We love spring planting,” said Link. “It’s a ton of work, but great to work for ourselves and help the community. It’s also really fulfilling to grow something and then wait to see the fruit of your labors.”

By the way, that’s farm humor.

MORE INFO: http://www.foodfielddetroit.com

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