Urban farming is producing food and future leaders in Flint
Tour urban farming in Flint and discover that it’s is not only growing food – it’s growing the community!
Flint has a rich history of urban food gardening that goes back many generations. With a vibrant farmer’s market, numerous entrepreneurial growers and several youth development programs focused on community gardening that teach participating youth civic responsibility and employable skills, there are exciting things happening! The following descriptions give a firsthand glimpse of what is going on in community food systems in this automobile town.
The Flint Farmer’s Market is something to see, and one can do that on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays throughout the year. Its vision is to help rebuild the community by becoming the hub for a thriving fresh, local food system. The original building dates back to 1940 and houses vendors that make everything from specialty cheese and meat, delicious deli sandwiches, wine, a small restaurant and pottery to traditional fruits and vegetables. There are several outdoor sheds that host vendors as well. The market is quite progressive, with wireless Internet throughout, and credit cards and bridge cards are accepted at a competitive service fee rate for the vendors. New this year with the support of the community are two satellite neighborhood markets, one on the north end and one on the south end of the city.
There are exciting urban farming operations in Flint. Harvesting Earth Educational Farm has two hoop houses, outdoor beds and chickens. Their new venture, an Urban Orchard, was planted recently and is the largest known urban orchard; about one-and-a-half acres with room to expand on a 30 acre parcel, in the nation.Michigan State University (MSU) Extension Fruit Educator Bob Tritten worked closely with the group to design the layout and choose varieties for the orchard consisting mostly of apples with a few cherry and pear trees. Tritten will continue to educate the staff on caring for the trees and pruning. The planting of the fruit trees became a community event with more than 200 people helping to plant in May of this year. Youth are employed on this urban farm and learn not only how to produce food, but how to obtain and keep a job.
Photo: New urban orchard - Employee checking newly planted apple trees in the orchard.
Flint River Farm, Flint’s largest urban farm, is owned by two enterprising young women, one a graduate of the MSU Student Organic Farm Program. They have pieced adjacent parcels of land together and have two hoop houses in addition to several beds. They are leasing the land from the Genesee County Land Bank in a lease-to-own option and have 16 vacant lots (nearly two acres of land). Flint River Farm has a community supported agriculture (CSA) program, currently sells at the Flint Farmer’s Market and hopefully will be selling at the neighborhood markets in the future.
Mr. Roger’s Just Say No Program is run by a local church that hires youth to tend to the vegetables while teaching them additional life skills of sales, marketing and etiquette. Some of the groups’ vegetables are sold at the Flint Farmer’s Market but many are donated to local food shelters. They have two garden locations – one complete with a hoop house and produce truck in Burton and one in the city of Flint.