Earlier this week, I joined a bus tour organized to bring community leaders from Grand Rapids to visit Detroit. One of the many cool places we visited that hasn’t made it into my writing so far is Earthworks Urban Farm. I didn’t want to overlook it – so here’s the second installation of what Detroit can teach other cities in Michigan about urban farming.
Earthworks is sort of a spinoff of Capuchin Soup Kitchen. There’s a ton of these urban farms popping up in Detroit, but Eathworks is one of the oldest and biggest. Their first garden started in 1997. Now they have more than 20 plots scattered in the city. (The urban farms are also popping up in a number of other cities.)
Patrick Crouch is the program manager at the farm. He tours us through Gleaner’s Community food bank, the largest food bank in Southeast Michigan.
Just outside of Gleaners is one of their more than 20 plots for community gardens. There’s a huge pile compost steaming under the drizzle. Crouch says they work with some area businesses to take in their organic scraps. Crouch notes the left-over brewery grain workers shovel on top of the pile is from nearby Atwater Block Brewery. He says they’ve diverted more than 300,000 pounds of grain from landfills to the compost pile (and then to fertilize their gardens). Crouch says they have surplus compost that they give to people in the community growing their own gardens.
Crouch’s list of benefits to urban farming
- Preventative health care
- Access to quality food
- Transform urban landscape
- Create a common space for neighbors to get to know one another
- Bond the urban community better with the natural world
- Raise awareness of food supply chain
- Give elders with agrarian roots a chance to share their skills with young people
The group from Grand Rapids stuffs Crouch’s beanie hat full of cash donations before loading back on the bus.
"Earthworks" has two meanings: First, "Earthwork" from a military perspective is an earthen barricade to protect from an advancing attack. The concept of our Earthworks is that it protects the environment and us by showing people how to live in harmony with nature assisting in building relationships of mutual benefit. Second, "Earthworks" reflects the work that the Earth does. In this sense, we value the Earth's work and recognize ourselves as shareholders in the natural economy of energy exchange (goods and services) in this living system.”