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Local News / Food

Sunday, 2 May, 2010 0:27 AM

Urban Farming works to create a new industry for the Motor City

PHOTO BY MIKE ISMAIR / ©AMERICAJR.com

Urban Farming manages this two-acre community farm on a vacant lot at the corner of Linwood and Gladstone in Detroit.

by Jason Rzucidlo
americajr@americajr.com

 

DETROIT -- When people think of Detroit, most times they know the city as the Motown or the Motor City. A local non-profit organization is working to change that. Their name is Urban Farming and they are planting gardens in unused land in urban cities, rooftops, walls, in planters, malls and sidewalk cafes. Urban Farming looks to end hunger for people in our generation. Their work is not just benefiting Detroit, the organization is working all across America and even in other countries as well.

Urban Farming began in 2005 with three gardens and $5,000. The non-profit organization gave away one ton of food to food banks and community members. In the first fiscal year, it raised $20,000. Urban Farming is partnered with many of America's biggest corporations including Home Depot, Lowe's, Whole Foods, Warner Bros. Pictures, Trader Joe's and Starbucks, just to name a few. In addition, Prince held a benefit concert fundraiser for Urban Farming in 2008. The organization has received press coverage on ABC, NBC, FOX, CNN, BBC and in The Los Angeles Times, among many others.

"I was recording a CD here in Detroit, Michigan and I started to see the vast amounts of unused land in the city and really learning about the job loss and things like that, " said Taja Sevelle, executive director and founder of Urban Farming. "I kind of put two and two together and said, why don't we plant on this land? It could be the first city to get rid of hunger. The vision has always been global. This year, we'll be planting the equivalent of over 1,000 gardens across the country and abroad."

Approximately 12 percent of households or 35 million people experience hunger in America, according to research presented by Urban Farming. The non-profit organization planted about 600 gardens across the country with 500 located within the state of Michigan. Of those, eight gardens are in Chicago, three in England and one in Haiti. Urban Farming encourages individuals to plant gardens in their yards and donate a portion to food banks in their area to end hunger. Community gardens are tended by faith-based organizations, youth groups, senior groups, employee groups, family and friend groups and citizens.

"People that are starving or suffering from food insecurity are able to come to the gardens, they don't have fences around them, and just pick the food if they need it," Sevelle added. "That's on the community gardens, I always stress that; not necessarily on the urban farming green science gardens, which are located on school campuses and things like that. We've galvanized people together, beautify the area, we do a lot of educational things. We also teach about entrepreneurship and money management. We say that it starts with a garden."

Urban Farming has a unique partnership with Triscuit snack crackers and The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Specially-marked boxes of Triscuit will come with a packet of seeds and information on how to register your farm on the urban farming website. Sevelle made an appearance on the March 17 episode of The Ellen Show. DeGeneres started a home garden during the show with seeds from the Triscuit box.

"We're planting 50 gardens in 20 cities across the country," the executive director said. "We are really excited about it because the messaging of the home farming movement is really all about getting back to basics, touching base with the simple joys of planting your own food. The Triscuit cracker only has three ingredients: wheat, oil and salt so that's a good example. She [Ellen] has a garden on her seat and is pretty enthusiastic about getting started with gardening. I think she's going to be doing little pieces from that garden all summer and also talking what we're doing with the Home Farming movement so that's pretty exciting."

The non-profit organization also has eight school gardens and four edible walls in Los Angeles, a rooftop garden in the Bronx, one in Harlem, and one in the Chinatown district of New York, among many others across the country. Urban Farming started over 28 gardens in St. Louis, five gardens in Minneapolis/St. Paul, three gardens in Newark, one in Norton on Trees, England and one garden in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Many other gardens are in the planning stages across the world.

Urban Farming is hosting its garden planting season kickoff on Saturday, May 8 at 10:30 a.m. Everyone is invited to help clean-up and plant the community garden at Gladstone and Linwood streets in Detroit. Free refreshments are being offered while they last. One week later, the organization will host another garden planting event at its second largest garden at Knodell and Erwin streets in Detroit. That event is scheduled for Saturday, May 15 at 10:00 a.m.

Click here for more information on the Urban Farming movement. For more info on the partnership with Triscuit, click here.

 

 

 

PHOTO BY MIKE ISMAIR / ©AMERICAJR.com

AmericaJR.com's Jason Rzucidlo speaks with Urban Farming Executive Director Taja Sevelle.

 

PHOTO BY MIKE ISMAIR / ©AMERICAJR.com

Another look at the urban farm at Linwood and Gladstone.

 

Photo credit: ellen.warnerbros.com

Sevelle promotes Urban Farming on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

 

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Urban Farming has farms like this one all over the United States and in other countries across the world.

 

Photo credit: www.cityfarmer.info

Urban Farming has partnered with Triscuit to promote the Home Farming movement.

 

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