Urban Roots Community Farm, Market, and Education Center
1316 Madison Ave SE Grand Rapids, MI 49507
Thursday July 13th 6:30pm – 8:00pm
Come be a kid with us! Have fun with Urban Roots exploring the farm with magnifying glasses and learning all about the heroes and villains of the garden. Even if you don’t have a garden, you will love this class! Urban Roots’ workshops are fun, down to earth, and a great way to check out it sotherprograms. This class is VERY kid and family friendly.
The workshop is free, though Urban Roots does appreciate donations to help defray costs.
On Monday Sept. 14, Urban Roots hosted a panel discussion at the Wealthy Theatre titled “Support Local Food: A conversation on access, growing, and the local food economy.” An organizer of the event contacted Our Kitchen Table to ask if we would like to represented on the panel for the event, which was to continue the conversation started by Urban Roots‘ Levi Gardner in his recent opinion piece, a critique of the Downtown Market’s failure to address food insecurity in the neighborhood where it is located. We were excited to at long last be part of such a public conversation.
Since the Market was in its planning stages, OKT has raised concerns about it to planners, city commissioners and our own constituents via our website and food justice classes. Initially, OKT raised concerns that such a market project, using substantial public monies, should only proceed with input from food insecure neighbors and have a goal of improving food security in the neighborhood, which offers income challenged residents here nearly no access to affordable, healthy foods (other than through charities). After the Downtown Market Farmers’ Market opened, OKT again raised concerns that it did not provide a welcoming atmosphere for income challenged people and most of its product was far too expensive.
During last Monday’s event, the panelists did deliver an animated discussion about the challenges of building an equitable food system; the high costs and small returns experienced by small local farmers; and the need for an alternative to the failing industrial food system as well as a heart touching testimony shared by a long-term Heartside resident. However, OKT had hoped to challenge the Downtown Market with these questions:
- Millions of public dollars were used to build the Downtown Market. Hundreds of thousands more are maintaining it. Because the market is publicly funded, should it not serve the public, specifically the people living closest to it, seeing as income-challenged neighbors living nearby have very little access to affordable, healthy foods?
- Many people living near the market have limited or no access to a good working kitchen. Since the market’s kitchen facilities were built using public funds, is there not a moral imperative to give people with income challenges — living in its neighborhood –access through community kitchen programs where they could prepare healthy foods?
- The Downtown Market farmers’ market participates in government food assistance programs. Why is not more effort made to create an environment more welcoming to people with income challenges and people of color? For examples, the sign advertising the Double Up Food Bucks program also warns against loitering and soliciting. What kind of message does this send? Most of the foods are high end gourmet items. What does this product selection tell people with income challenges?
- Vendors have shared that fees at the Downtown Farmers Market are prohibitive and force them to charge higher prices. Why can’t this publicly funded market subsidize or waive fees for small-farm vendors selling local fruits and vegetables as this would increase food access for neighborhood people with income challenges?
Let’s get back together and get some answers to these questions. Together, we can make the Downtown Market a place Grand Rapids can really be proud of. Not only because foodies from across the country make it their destination, but also because it is helping to bring food security to its income challenged neighbors whose health is currently being ravaged by nutrient-poor diets.
Urban Roots:When Everything Collapses Plant Your Field of Dreams
- 6:30 p.m. Tuesday Feb. 5
- Grand Rapids Public Museum.
- Tickets cost $5.
The Southeast Area Farmers’ Market is one facet of Our Kitchen Table’s Food Diversity Project. Another is supporting urban neighbors as they grow food in containers, raised bed gardens and community gardens. OKT often confers with Detroit’s urban gardeners as they are so good at what they do. According to our sources there, Detroit’s urban neighborhoods are food self-sufficient. The neighbors living there are growing enough food to feed themselves. This is OKT’s goal for Grand Rapids.
Would you like to learn how Detroiters are making this happen? Come see the West Michigan Environmental Council’s screening of Urban Roots, 6:30 p.m. Tuesday Feb. 5 at the Grand Rapids Public Museum. Tickets cost $5. The film takes a look at Detroit’s urban farms—and features farmer Cornelius Williams, a former OKT collaborative partner. A panel discussion following the film includes OKT’s Lisa Oliver King and LINC’s Darrel Ross.
OKT takes a different stance than those who approach urban farming as an agricultural business. True food self-sufficiency entails neighbors growing food, sharing food and foraging native fruits, nuts and greens as well as managing their own farmers’ market alternatives—alternatives without profits as the overarching goal.
Detroit’s gardens have flourished because they are grown by community for community. Recent developments, such as the Hantz Farm are a direct threat to these gardeners. The Detroit Food Justice Task Force sees the Hantz Farms as a land grab that will negatively impact food security there. Hopefully the voice of the people will prevail and their gardens will continue to provide nutritious food for their families.