Empty Molesta greenhouses grow food plants for Grand Rapids neighbors
June 13, 2011 Grand Rapids, MI–The women of Our Kitchen Table, a local grass roots environmental justice group, had a dream. They wanted to impact food security by providing resources to area residents who wanted to grow and share food. A grant from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation provided the seed money—but it was a local philanthropist “rolling up his sleeves and getting his hands dirty” that helped OKT’s Food Diversity Project sprout.
Dave Molesta, who operated Molesta Floral until it closed in 2010, invited Grand Valley State University’s Sustainable Agriculture Project to use Molesta’s empty greenhouses. The GVSU project extended the invitation to OKT.
Though flowers had been the wholesale grower’s focus for the past several decades, it originally provided Grand Rapids area residents with produce year ‘round. That all changed after World War II, when large-scale growers from across the country could ship larger varieties of produce at lower prices.
In a sense, Dave Molesta has gotten back to his roots. The greenhouses began growing 15,000 food plants in March. In addition to granting open access to the greenhouse space, Molesta provided planting containers, heat and water. He also allowed soil to be tested at the greenhouse site to support the effort to grow fresh and safe produce.
Community residents joined in events hosted at the Molesta greenhouse and another greenhouse site where they learned how to plant seeds, maintain seedlings and prepare for planting. In addition, two small urban farmers began growing produce to be sold at the Southeast Area Farmers Market.
“Dave Molesta really helped us get our project off the ground this spring,” says Lisa Oliver King of OKT. “All the food plants have been donated out to various community gardeners providing food to families in need, low-income backyard growers and GRPS schools with food gardens. Now that people have these heirloom, organic plants in their gardens, they will be able to save the seeds and propagate their own food plants for years to come.”
OKT also provided plants to others with limited resources, for example, Well House, housing alternative for the homeless, and Clancy Street Church community garden space, where 18-low-income families grow and share food.
“It was great to connect with Our Kitchen Table, with the work they do, to get healthy food to Well House community as well as the broader community,” said Judi Buchman, director of Well House. “The plants got us going when we were busy with lots of other tasks … It helped remind us: it’s time!”
0ur Kitchen Table is a non-profit, grassroots community activist organization working for environmental justice and food security in Grand Rapids area urban communities.
Established in 1930, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation supports children, families and communities as they strengthen and create conditions that propel vulnerable children to achieve success as individuals and as contributors to the larger community and society. Grants are concentrated in the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean, and southern Africa. For further information, please visit the Foundation’s website at http://www.wkkf.org.