Lisa, Earthwork’s Outreach Coordinator, tells us that it’s a big deal to be featured in America Magazine – or at least it is in her household where her mother read it without fail every week.  I hope this is not her week to take off from reading as it features a lovely article on Earthworks which can be viewed here.  It includes quotes from E.A.T.’s own Willie Spivey, from before he enrolled in the E.A.T. program and and was just volunteering.  Enjoy.

Yesterday we had the great fortune of hosting a bunch of folks that are in Michigan State Student Organic Farm’s Organic Farmer Training Program.  We also had the apprentices from the Greening of Detroit come over and join us for lunch.  First we went on a tour of the gardens at Earthworks, and then came back and had lunch and talked.  Lunch included collard and black-eyed pea soup with collards out of the garden and salad made with Grow In Detroit salad greens.  During lunch we learned about each others programs and how they functioned, and then each person shared what their goals coming out of the experience of apprenticing would be. Folks found a chance to network and learn about new ideas and even figure out ways to collaborate.  I think for the most part everyone had a really nice time – and of course it wouldn’t be complete with out a group photo.

group photo

market day


We are going to try to be better about posting, but we are not promising anything.

The first crops were harvested this last week for market and sold at the first market – mostly greens – collards and red russian kale, and honey and jam.

howard working the farm stand

We sold out of all our fresh produce and lots of honey and jam.  Over 200 dollars in sales, not too bad for the first market of the season with very little to sell.  The market takes place every thursday from 11 to 1pm at the Capuchin Soup Kitchen.  We should have plenty of jam, honey, greens, herbs, and garlic scapes this coming week.  Come visit.

some photos of the gardens where training takes place

working the beehives

view of the southern half of the largest garden site behind gleaners food bank

view of the northern half of the main garden site

northern half of the main garden

young pepper transplant in the garden

garlic plants in the garden

the greenhouse full of transplants ready to go out to garden though out the city

young transplants in the greenhouse

With  over twelve years of experience, Earthworks Urban Farm has sought to be a model of what a sustainable local food grower can be.  In those years we have greatly expanded our mission beyond this, to address barriers to a safe local food system in multiple ways: participating in markets at health clinics, developing healthy corner stores and mobile produce trucks, youth and adult education, involvement with the Garden Resource Program, and most recently our work to address issues of race and class as barriers for a just food system.

We have largely focused on issues of access and education, but after much discussion and input from community members, we feel it is time take the next step: developing economic opportunities in the food system. There are many great programs that train people to be good farmers, but very few of them address the nuances of urban agriculture, or are directed at those in urban communities without access to traditional agricultural training.  With a stronger partnership between Earthworks’ parent operation, the Capuchin Soup Kitchen, and long time partner Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeast Michigan, we think the time is right to roll out a new program: the Earthworks Agriculture Training (E.A.T.) program at Earthworks Urban Farm.

E.A.T.’s mission is to work with community members to develop the skills they need to create their own community based food enterprises, or enter the quickly developing urban food system.  We strive to create a safe environment based on experiential learning, where teachers act as facilitators of learning, not only as givers of knowledge, and student have as much to contribute as the teachers, a safe space where all voices are valued and respected.  We recognize that no two people are alike and students’ learning process will largely be based on individual goals.

Those that finish the E.A.T. program come out with basic knowledge of work skills making them ready to take on jobs in any field.  Participants will develop skills and knowledge in all areas of the food system, from production, processing, marketing, to distribution.  Those going though the E.A.T. program have plenty of opportunities to develop leadership and self confidence. Participants will have the opportunity to develop a business plan for a community based business and, if desired, incubate the business within the E.A.T. program.

E.A.T. participants learn by doing.  Each week for 9 months, students spend at least 16 hours working out in the field developing skills and taking advantage of teachable moments. In addition, each week features hands-on workshops to develop skills in a particular area.  Facilitators of these workshops come from a broad range of backgrounds giving many voices to E.A.T. participants.  Students will also visit several other project sites, giving exposure to various methods being employed in southeast Michigan, and the greater Michigan sustainable agriculture community.

There will be plenty of time for leadership development and team building. Participants will have weekly individual based assessments. This is time for reflection on progress and to reevaluate set goals. While making for a more complex process, we feel it important to recognize the goals and needs of individuals as they fit into the bigger program.

E.A.T. participants will receive a more comprehensive understanding of the food system, participants will have time for discussion and conversation around environmental and social impacts of our current food system and what can be done to create a more just, egalitarian system.  We hope to grow more than just food producers and processors, but also leaders in the local food movement.

It is our hope that E.A.T. will not just be a jobs training program, but a community building space, a safe space in which people can share and offer their knowledge not just obtain skills.  E.A.T. graduates will serve as mentors and teachers to those going though the program and in their community. It is our hope that graduates will be able to create community based food enterprises or that organizations like Earthworks and our community partners will be able to hire E.A.T. graduates with full confidence that they have the necessary skills needed.

E.A.T. program will run 4 days a week for approximately 6 hours per day.  Tuesday will be overview of the weeks work and creation of work list, workshops, identify goals for the week and field work.  Wednesday and Thursday are field trip and/or workshops days.  When students take field trips, they will work at the site, giving them a chance to observe different working styles and environments.  Workshops will be brief and hands-on: once skills are shared, participants will be able to practice these skills hands on throughout the rest of the workday.  Fridays will be time for evaluation and reflection, straight talk, discussion and team building.

We look forward to your participation in the E.A.T. program, and value you help, criticism, input and vision.