A highlight on a great food system resources in the greater Lansing area.
Lansing Food Bank, Lansing Roots gives lower income and refugee community members of the Greater Lansing Area (GLA) a place to farm produce and crops that they can sell to local communities, especially produce that is not sold around the area in larger markets. They created this farm to encourage young people to grow fresh produce on affordable land and sell it in a multi-farmer Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) operation. In addition to marketing and business advice, Lansing Roots also holds educational best practice workshops to further benefit their farmers.
We met with Donny Comer and Farmer Cruz on our visit to the farm. While there are still many community members that use the farm, the absence of grant money has meant that there is less and less access to proper equipment on the land. With a lack of financial capital, it is hard for farmers to pay for the use of machinery like tractors, but as we learned, a lot of farmers have families that will come and help them harvest when it is time. Farmer Cruz told a story about a farmer that has lots of her family and friends come out and harvest which invoked a strong sense of community to the portrayal of the farm itself. Donny was very knowledgeable in the history of the farm as well as the Garden Project which worked very closely with Lansing Roots. Like most of the farmers we met over the course of our SAFS class, Cruz truly cared about the well being of his community and wanted to foster involvement through the farm.
Through the Greater Lansing Food Bank, Lansing Roots is plugged into a large network of local under served communities. Overall, the Greater Lansing Food Bank helps support around 125 local gardens and with Lansing Roots incubator farm, they are able to supply land to help people produce food as a source of income. Local production and markets are not only economically beneficial for individual farmers, but for the overall community as well. Keeping money in local circulation improves the overall resilience of local economies.
With a staggering one in every seven people living in food insecurity in our own backyard, the need for fresh, local and seasonal produce is pressing. Lansing Roots has a huge impact on the social well being of their community by providing many under served, immigrant, and refugee communities with fresh, healthy produce. This sense of community sustainability is what is important in building up a community. Food access is a growing issue in the GLA and Lansing Roots is just one piece to the puzzle. With farms like this, we are seeing a growing population of urban gardens popping up in the Lansing area, particularly areas of low income. This is a big help of the Greater Lansing Food Bank and organizations like the Allen Neighborhood Center. These organizations are building social, economic and environmental sustainability in their communities through education and farming.
Something that came with no surprise was the respect that the farmers held for the health of their soils. One of the most important aspects of sustainable agriculture is the ability to maintain a high level of biodiversity of microorganisms in your soil. Bacteria in soil is responsible for the breakdown of organic matter into plant available carbon and nitrogen, both necessary to effectively produce above ground biomass. To achieve these environmental services without the use of synthetic fertilizers Lansing Roots farmers typically employ the use of cover and alley cropping different varieties of nitrogen-fixing leguminous plants.Our visit and subsequent tour of the Lansing Roots incubator farm was an informational and great experience. We were able to have a more in-depth look at the intricacies of the operation at Lansing Roots and gain valuable inside perspective on production from Farmer Cruz along the way. Seeing the community members farming there gave a true sense of what it means to be a community which is one of the most important aspects of environmentally, economically and socially sustainable agriculture.