Heart Behind the Oval Moves Michigan Urban Farming Initiative Forward

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  • The Michigan Urban Farming Initiative
  • Often, a bit of help at just the right time can make all the difference in the world later.

    When asked how the support from Ford has impacted his organization, Darin McLesky replied, "it's taken us to a whole new level".

    Darin and his associates at the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative, MUFI, were awarded $3,500 in scholarships and $3,500 in grants from Ford's 2012 Heart Behind the Oval Community Challenge.

    The funding received from Ford is MUFI’s largest donation to date. Until then, the organization had been financed solely by its founders and supplemented with small donations.

    "With these new funds we are able to do much more and do it sooner than when we were counting on individual donations," McLesky said.

    MUFI has developed the Brush Street Community Resource Center and Demonstration Urban Farm on approximately one-and-a-half city blocks in Detroit's North End. Their programs are designed to educate, feed and provide employment for people in the neighboring community.

    McLesky and his team utilized the funding from Ford to increase capacity and participate in community building events. The group was able to purchase much needed supplies ranging from safety equipment for volunteers to building materials to create raised beds. Their donated equipment received tune ups and they bought gasoline for mowers.

    The funds also allowed MUFI to participate in The North End Community Open House, hosted by Vanguard Community Development Corporation. At the event, MUFI engaged with a host of new partners and volunteers. MUFI also conducted quantitative research to address misperceptions about the group.

    Tyson Gersh, Co-Founder and President of MUFI, said, "Meeting one-on-one with community members helps us refine our programs to match their needs."

    The community and its needs are central to the mission of MUFI. In order to create food stability in the community, the harvest is utilized in several ways. It is shared with neighbors, distributed to community members who work in the garden, and sold at various farmers markets.

    MUFI founders are not letting grass grow under their feet. Future plans for the ambitious group include developing comprehensive onsite programming. They also are working to complete renovations and develop organizational infrastructure.

    MUFI is always looking for volunteers to work on the site as well as serve as board members and supporters. Additional information and a list of opportunities are available at www.miufi.org and on Facebook.

    • Vegetables grown at the MUFI site.
    • A view of the garden, located on Detroit's Brush Street.
    • MUFI members working in the garden.