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Urbandale Farm Project

MSU professors help create Lansing's first urban farm


DeLind and Anderson talk with Kirk Heinze on WJR

Written by Emily Fox

Laura DeLind from Michigan State University’s Department of Anthropology and retired MSU teacher-education professor Linda Anderson, are reaching out to a community on the east side of Lansing through urban farming.

DeLind and Anderson recently started the Urbandale Farm Project. One of the hopes for the project is to create access to healthy food in the community. The neighborhood where the farm is located is called a “food desert.”

“A food desert is . . . primarily in a neighborhood where people have limited incomes, there’s no easy access to places to buy healthy food like fresh fruits and vegetables, unless you have transportation and many low income families don’t have easy transportation. Therefore their sources of food are often fast food restaurants, liquor stores, corner grocery stores—not a lot of fresh produce,” Anderson says.

The farm is located in a floodplain surrounded by vacant lots and homes. In the mid-70s the Red Cedar River flooded and what is now Urbandale’s urban farm, was underneath eight to nine feet of water. Since the area is prone to floods, FEMA gave the City of Lansing money to purchase the property in the deepest part of the floodplain. That gives incentive for more people to give up their property, which leads to even more vacant lots in the area.

Anderson wanted to make use of the vacant lots in the Urbandale neighborhood by providing affordable produce to the community.

“What better to do with some of those vacant lots than to grow food, to grow fresh produce, healthy food, for people in the neighborhood to buy?” Anderson says, “Our plan is to do exactly that and sell that food at low enough prices that families in the neighborhood can afford it, but enough so that we can also sustain the farming operation. “

DeLind’s anthropological background draws her to another goal of the project—to develop community.

“Food is critical nutritionally. . . but it’s also a tool,” DeLind says. “It’s a channel through which you begin to touch people’s lives.”

DeLind hopes the farm will bring people together and allow them to take ownership of their community by contributing to the farm, by learning new skills and by communicating about their surroundings and form community organizations to tackle the issues the Urbandale community faces.

“This is just one start. But food is a wonderful, universal sort of language through which people can begin to communicate with one another and start developing relationships—not just that relate to food, but that move beyond food, into other aspects of their daily lives,”  DeLind says.

The Urbandale urban farm is composed of a half an acre of land. Anderson and DeLind hope the farm will expand to up to five acres. One thing they want to make sure if the project does expand, is that the community has a voice in what happens to Urbandale’s vacant lots.

Click on the arrow above to hear this June 11 Greening of the Great Lakes conversation with Kirk HeinzeGreening of the Great Lakes airs Friday evenings at 7 on News/Talk 760 WJR.

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