Keep Growing Detroit (KGD) exists to promote a food sovereign city where the majority of fruits and vegetables Detroiters consume are grown by residents within the city’s limits. KGD’s talented and experienced staff operate a number of established and nationally recognized programs, including the Garden Resource Program (GRP) and Grown in Detroit (GID). Our organization’s strategic approach to achieving our mission facilitates beginner gardeners becoming engaged community leaders and food entrepreneurs, addressing the immediate needs of the community while promoting sustainable change in our food system.
WE FOSTER HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS TO FOOD. Detroit is a place where many residents have little choice but to buy food at gas stations or convenience stores. As an alternative, it is empowering to put your hands in soil and control where your food comes from. With the support of the Garden Resource Program nearly 20,000 residents are choosing to cultivate a garden or farm, transforming their personal relationship with food. Through the GRP, Keep Growing Detroit provides high quality seeds and sustainably, locally grown vegetable transplants to 1,400 family, community, school, and market gardens across the city. GRP members also have access to other garden necessities such as compost, row cover, and specialized tools.
WE GROW KNOWLEDGE OF FOOD & FARMING. Each season, Keep Growing Detroit provides dozens of educational opportunities that challenge growers of all skill levels to learn something new. The Detroit Urban Garden Education Series is hosted in gardens, churches, schools, and community centers across the city and taught by skilled community gardeners, local experts, and our knowledgeable staff. Education Series classes provide relevant and accessible content on topics such as basic gardening, water catchment and conservation, farm planning, cooking and preserving, and season extension. Understanding that Detroit is a big city and many residents face transportation barriers, KGD also offers “On Demand” classes, bringing education into gardens and community centers across the city. KGD also dedicates hundreds of hours of support in the form of technical assistance each year through site visits, soil tests, and guidance in areas from community organizing to new garden development yielding more sustainable and productive gardens.
WE CULTIVATE COMMUNITY CONNECTIONS. While every garden makes an impact in its own way, the subtle yet powerful interconnection between gardeners and community-based organizations engaged in the work of transforming our local food system is what makes change happen in the city. Keep Growing Detroit plays a key role in fostering opportunities to grow these connections, encouraging and incentivizing participants to cultivate relationships during community meetings, shared workdays, and various social events, such as potlucks and tours. At events gardeners and partners are also taking on active roles in shared planning, decision-making, and evaluation of programs. Further strengthening this network are four neighborhood-based and led regional resource centers, which provide local access to garden resources, including tool banks, compost, woodchips, and tomato stakes.
WE NURTURE LEADERSHIP SKILLS & CAPACITY. Sustaining a movement necessitates strong, capable, invested leaders. Keep Growing Detroit intentionally creates opportunities to cultivate leadership within the growing community through our advanced and comprehensive training programs, including Urban Roots, Sweet on Detroit, the Market Garden Training Program, and season extension series and workshops. Graduates are engaged as teachers, mentors, hosts, and leaders in the garden community and fuel KGD’s program expansion with their enthusiasm and innovative ideas. Youth leaders also play a vital role in the future of our local food system. Thousands of young people are engaged in KGD programs, particularly through Youth Growing Detroit (YGD). YGD provides opportunities for youth to build their skills as young leaders and entrepreneurs, while developing a network of peers, in order to influence and direct changes in their communities.
WE CHANGE THE VALUE OF FOOD. While Detroit is home to several exceptional, independent grocery stores, most Detroiters do not enjoy a wide range of high-quality, fresh, affordable produce where they shop. When that is the reality, the experience of growing a tomato in your backyard or buying one from a farmers’ market has the potential to cause a shift in how one views and values food. As Detroiters continue to demand access to fresh, affordable produce, growers seek diverse outlets for their produce to both meet the needs of the community as well as create economic opportunities for themselves and their neighbors. Grown in Detroit (GID) is made up of more than 70 growers who sell their Detroit-grown fruits and vegetables at farmers markets and retail outlets throughout the city. Produce sold through GID is grown using sustainable, chemical-free methods. All GID members must have a soil test on file before selling to ensure safe growing conditions. Now grossing more than $75,000 annually, GID demonstrates the earning potential of urban agriculture and delivers a mountain of fresh and healthy food to the city’s residents. Many from this program blazed the trail for new viable market gardens and small-scale food businesses in the city. Ultimately, GID sets an inspired precedent for the exchange of local dollars for nutritious local food all within city limits.
WE DEVELOP (FOOD) ASSETS. Meeting the food needs of 700,000 residents requires an aggressive strategy. While family, school, and community gardens play significant roles, a food sovereign Detroit will require more production-focused farms. Urban farmers need skills in intensive food production methods and to be trained in creating urban agriculture projects that integrate into and strengthen neighborhoods, not replace them. In order to demonstrate and train growers in appropriately scaled and sustainable farming practices, KGD operates Plum Street Market Garden. KGD’s staff also provides advanced training and technical assistance on topics ranging from land assessment and business development to farm planning and season extension. To help ensure the long-term success of farm businesses, KGD works with many partners to identify and fill gaps in our burgeoning local food system from educating policy makers about the needs of urban growers to developing infrastructure for year-round production and post-harvest handling and storage. We also help grow the demand for Grown in Detroit produce by cultivating relationships with restaurants, food entrepreneurs, institutions, and other wholesale buyers.
In the vision for a new Detroit food system, we acknowledge the colossal obstacles perpetuated by our current global food system. Detroit, perhaps like no place else, has innumerable social, economic, and political forces working daily in opposition to change. As the antidote, Detroit has a community with deep roots and resilient citizens who are committed to creating a better city. It is Keep Growing Detroit’s honor and privilege to be a part of and to serve this community each day.