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Cooperation for food security in Detroit

2012 Golightly Community Garden Day COURTESY PHOTO

2012 Golightly Community Garden Day COURTESY PHOTO

By Roxanne Moore
Special to the Michigan Citizen

The urban agriculture initiative happening in Detroit is being embraced more and more by people who desire to take responsibility in improving their community.

There is an apparent need for quality foods in Detroit and many nutrient-rich fresh produce are locally grown and becoming more readily available. There are many cooperative efforts taking place in our communities that are directly linked to urban agriculture.

We want our collective buying power to bring the highest quality foods to Detroit consumers.

One way this is established is by utilizing Detroit Black Community Food Security Network’s Ujamaa Food Buying Club, which has an online ordering system to purchase wholesome bulk grocery items.

Everything from grains to toothpaste can be purchased. This collective pools resources to get the products we choose for ourselves. Orders are delivered monthly and currently membership is open for new participants with no enrollment fee. For more information call 313.345.3663.

The opportunity for the creation of our own food economy is pivotal. Millions of dollars in food purchases have gone outside the city of Detroit for decades. Whole Foods is now located in Detroit, and Meijer will be opening soon. These are two large food distributors that have changed the dynamic in the local food system.

Produce that is grown in our city is not stacking the shelves at any grocery retailers to date. These entities can be encouraged to stock in the customer’s interest. Supporting local growers as viable sources to large-scale outlets improves the economy and the health of the consumer.

Regina Harris of the Detroit Garlic Connection (DGC) and Jane Street Market Garden is among many leaders in cooperative marketing and sales. Her efforts to serve large volume contracts are an example to others to see urban farming as a realistic and sustainable investment.

This desire developed into the establishment of Detroit Growers Cooperative, made up of agricultural professionals, business people and community members. The number of growers under this umbrella continues to grow and further solidify consistent availability of marketable produce.

Well established producers such as Jerry Hebron of Oakland Avenue Community Garden, Dwight Thomas of Garden of Eden and Noah Link of Food Field have sold at Grown in Detroit tables at Eastern Market and are further collaborating to expand the range of access to the food they are producing.

Donald Jones of Occupy Yourself Agricultural Academy is an advocate of sourcing local produce to immediate communities via local independent eateries and direct delivery to these neighborhoods, which offer donations in exchange.

The DGC is poised to enter into markets that serve major business entities, but they have agreed that being surrounded by demand is only an advantage if they pool their efforts. As a result, restaurants like Colors in Harmonie Park receive a variety of fresh produce regularly and see the value and quality they then can pass on to customers.

If you are interested in growing with DGC, contact Harris at 313.354.6743.

As we begin by dialoguing between community consumers, growers and grocers, speaking to what we want, it is equally important to listen to the grower in learning what they can offer.

The Detroit Food Policy Council Community Food Justice workgroup is developing surveys to help with this discussion. We welcome every member of the food system to take part in this process.

Join this month’s discussion June 27 to create a responsive food system that respects our needs.

The workgroup meets the fourth Thursday of the month at 6 p.m. at the Eastern Market corporate office, 2934 Russell. For more information, call 313.833.0396.

The main goal is getting real food to the plates of every Detroiter. Wholesome food is a right and responsibility that must be met. Processed food is distributed widely and is not a true food source.

It is time to give the opportunity to those local growers that are using sustainable practices to be out front where you shop, be it a farmers market, grocery store, farm stand or your local cafe.

As urban agriculture grows, it can only survive with the support of the consumer. We have the power in our selection of food sources. We can yield a great bounty right where we are. This is a win-win relationship.

Roxanne Moore is a community-at-large member of the Detroit Food Policy Council. She also leads Love Earth Herbal, a local supplier of organic herbs and teas.

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