Large urban farm and orchard planned in north Flint

FLINT, Michigan—Another urban farm is headed to Flint and it will be one of the city’s largest. 

Convoy of Hope in partnership with the Urban Renaissance Center’s Ubuntu Village is planning to convert about 4 acres of property in the Civic Park neighborhood into a community resource and garden. 

Already launched in nine other countries, the Civic Park agriculture project is the first time Convoy of Hope has made such an investment in the United States. 

"I think this is a premiere location for us to do what we do internationally right here in Flint, Michigan,” said Michael Redmon, vice president of Convoy of Hope’s global initiatives.

The agriculture project will expand the already-established Ubuntu Village Agriculture House, an ongoing project with a small garden at West Rankin and Proctor streets. 

The expanded project will stretch along Lawndale and Forest Hill avenues near the old Civic Park Elementary School — and include both a vegetable garden and a fruit orchard, said Jamal Merritt, chief administrator of the Urban Renaissance Center. Partners in the project also include the Ruth Mott Foundation, Applewood, University of Michigan-Flint, Michigan State University and Asbury Farms. 

“One of the greatest things with the Ubuntu Village is when you make the community the major stakeholder, they take care of the city,” said Pastor Robert McCathern, founder and executive director of Urban Renaissance Center. “Here what we’re doing is grassroots up. This has emerged from their crisis, their response to their crisis.”

The Ubuntu Village farm will join a growing number of urban farms in Flint. Asbury Farms, located on Flint’s eastside, is one of the largest urban farming operations in the nation at more than 5 acres. 

Related story: See inside Pastor Tommy's vision for a better Flint

Increasing access to healthy foods has been a cornerstone of the response to the Flint Water Crisis and residents’ exposure to lead. 

The farm is an important piece to Ubuntu Village — a community building initiative built around the African proverb that translates into “I am, because we are” — because it will allow the neighborhood the opportunity to create its own food supply system and allow it to become even more self-sufficient, McCathern said. 

“We’re really excited about the agriculture pieces because … we’ll be able to provide food from the inside,” said McCathern. 

Aside from providing fresh fruits and vegetables, the project will aid in the rehabbing of local soil. It’s a way of working with the local farmers and growers to ensure that they get the yield better and better crops, from the ground to the table, said Redmon. Along with the farm and food production, the Ubuntu Village Agriculture House will offer classes on nutrition, community gardening, and food preparation.

Convoy of Hope’s relationship with the Urban Renaissance Center started at the onset of the Flint Water Crisis. For three years, the nonprofit has returned to Flint with a major resource fair. During the Sept. 21 “Hope Fair” at Bassett Park, they assisted 3,300 guests with a variety of services — including distribution of more than 15,000 pounds of produce, 2,300 pairs of children’s shoes, and praying with more than 1,600 people.  


Read more articles by Alexandria Brown.

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