A few years ago, people started becoming more concerned with where and how their food was being grown. With books and documentaries such as Food Inc., people became more informed and aware of the effects of GMOs, factory farms, pesticides, and some of the negative aspects of mainstream farming. As a result, the desire to reconnect with the land and change our farming practices has become enormously important.
We know how agriculture works now is not sustainable. It's a huge part of Michigan's economy, we have one of the most diverse agricultural industries in the nation (second only to California), so it's imperative that we find new, more renewable methods for growing food.
Community Sustained Agriculture (CSA) is one alternative method whose popularity has grown exponentially in the past few years. With this system, consumers pay for a share of a farm and receive a portion of the vegetables grown every week for the entire growing season. In some cases, shareholders can even work on the farm and pick their own vegetables. This takes some of the pressure off farmers since they are sharing the risk of crop production with the consumer, and the shareholders get to see where their food comes from and even take part in harvesting the crops. It builds community and creates positive relationships among growers and eaters.
Urban farming is also becoming more and more popular in recent years. Drive through some of the neighborhoods surrounding downtown Grand Rapids and you're sure to see a handful of community gardens. They're a great answer for city dwellers who enjoy gardening and sharing the responsibilities of growing with others in their area, but don't have much room for their own personal garden.
New City Urban Farm is one of the largest CSA farms in Grand Rapids, started by Lance Kraai only four years ago. It was created to provide fresh produce for city dwellers, but it also has a positive impact on local youth. With a job skills program aimed at high schoolers and middle schoolers, NCUF employs a handful of students and gives them hands-on training in organic vegetable farming. Lance also helped start Grand Rapids Urban Growers, a group that connects CSA farms, community gardens, non-profits and others interested in contributing the conversation about urban farming.
Learn more about New City Urban Farm and their programs on their website.