EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Lansing's first urban farm project, developed by two Michigan State University professors, will soon have farming apprentices and a mobile vegetable cart to assist its efforts to economically revive the city's east side, thanks to a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture.
The two-year, $90,000 grant will be administered by Allen Neighborhood Center, which serves as a hub for community development. Part of the USDA's Farmers Market Promotion Program, the grant will be used to develop marketing strategies; increase the number of growers by targeting youth from the area; and partner with organizations focused on food security, land use, job creation and community development.
Laura DeLind, senior academic specialist in the MSU's Department of Anthropology and visiting assistant professor in the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities, and Linda Anderson, professor emeritus of teacher education, founded the Lansing Urban Farm Project — and Urbandale Farm — last spring.
Established in the 1920s, Urbandale was the first suburb of Lansing to provide affordable housing for auto workers. It consists of large lots with mature trees, a mix of longtime and recent residents, and, increasingly, vacant lots and empty houses.
Development in the area is limited because of the area's flood-plain status and urban agriculture is one way to transform vacant lots into productive and welcoming spaces, DeLind said.
She added that Lansing's east side is an area where convenience stores and fast food franchises serve as the major food sources. In addition, about 30 percent of the population of Urbandale doesn't have easy access to whole, unprocessed food due to lack of transportation.
"Using land agriculturally makes a lot of sense instead of leaving it open or as an eyesore," DeLind said. "We want residents to have improved access to fresh vegetables and to consider incorporating them into their diets and daily lives as much as possible. We also hope the farm builds a sense of ownership while beautifying the neighborhood and granting a sense of purpose and place."
Since spring, area residents have been involved in every stage, from cleaning up the lot to final fall harvests. The farm is beginning to serve as a commons where neighbors meet each other and a neighborhood block party has been planned.
Other LUFP collaborators include The Garden Project (of the Greater Lansing Food Bank) and The City of Lansing's Office of Planning and Neighborhood Development.
For more information, visit Lansing Urban Farm Project or call (517) 999-3916.