A look at various field visits by the SAFS students
Three farms that the SAFS students had a chance to visit were Bee Wise Farms, Urbandale Farms, and the Lansing Roots Farm. These farms offered a vast variety of knowledge for us to gain valuable experience from different classifications of farms. One commonality within all three of these farms is their focus on the three pillars of sustainability: environmental, social, and economic. These farms are also focused on maintaining a sense of community in the greater Lansing area, and working to meet the challenges of food security.
On Saturday, October 13th, students from the SAFS program had an opportunity to visit several different farms around Michigan in order to get a better, more realistic understand of how farms work in relation to the three pillar of sustainability- social, environmental, and economic. Three of the farms the SAFS students visited included Bee Wise, Urbandale, and the Greater Lansing Food Bank, or Lansing Roots Farms. All of these farms were vastly different and offered the students varying perspectives on what farming can look like.
The first stop of the day was at Bee Wise Farms. This family owned, two-acre plot of land is primarily focused on growing lavender, cut flowers, as well as raising bees for honey. The farms owners are exceedingly focused on dedicating time, materials, and money into keeping their soils and land healthy. When they first acquired their farm, the soil was not in great shape due to the fact that the land had previously been occupied by houses. In order to get the soil back to farmable ground, Adam and his wife dumped five hundred pounds of sulfur to balance out the pH of the soil, and continued to avoid herbicides and focused on organic matter to restore the soil. Bee Wise Farms is just as focused on social issues and keeping a strong community as they are with environmental concerns. The family hosts yoga sessions on the land, as well as a program they started for veterans who are interested in beekeeping.
Our second stop was at Urbandale Farms, which has five separate city lots around Lansing neighborhoods. The lot we stopped at is just around the corner from Bee Wise Farms. Urbandale’s land was also previously housing units, which has created some issues for the farmers. On the lot that we visited, there was a lot of shade provided by the neighboring trees. Although this is an ideal situation for housing in the summer, sunlight is needed for the growth of crops. Therefore, the farmers of Urbandale had to be extremely meticulous on what they planted and where in order to get the most viable crop yield from this land. The plot of land we saw at Urbandale Farms has a hoop-house, which helps the farmers grow food in an easier method in comparison to growing the crops outside in the shade and weather conditions. The crops that Urbandale Farms grow are sold at Allen Market Place’s farmers market as well as at a farm stand once a week. Urbandale Farms has a key focus on the social side of farming- primarily addressing the concern of food safety and security in the Lansing area.
Another stop we made was to Lansing Roots. When our class was there Donny Comer spoke about The Greater Lansing Food Bank (GLFB) and the amazing work they do to address food insecurity as well as food deserts in the area. The GLFB serves seven counties, and distributed approximately eight and a half million pounds of food (at 1.2 pounds per meal) last year alone. Although The GLFB takes food donations from many diverse vendors, a majority of their donations come from large organizations such as Meijer. However, they also make it a point to work with farmers who have excess crops in a field. Lansing Roots is an example of a farm that donates their excess crops to the GLFB.
All three of these farms were exceptional in showcasing the three pillars of sustainability, as well as demonstrating not only the favorable elements of farming, but many of the challenges as well. Reading about the day-to-day lives of farmers is an interesting concept, however, physically going to farms and personally talking to the farmers and individuals involved in the food system directly gives a more thorough insight to the field. The SAFS program gives students an incredible opportunity to be educated first hand by individuals who can talk about food systems and farming in a meaningful way.