Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Michigan Community to Benefit from Sustainable Agriculture Grant

Improving community nutrition, providing food for the needy and opportunities for at-risk youth and community members are the goals of an $18,000 grant received by Brian Botkin, Doug and Lee Kirkpatrick, and Charles and Alice High.

Brian Botkin, a resident of Alpena, MI, will coordinate the grant the group received from the North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (NCR-SARE) to carry out a regional community food project.

The project will further develop Sunrise Food Coalition’s Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program and help make it self sustaining. CSAs work through a membership system. Typically families or individual members pay for shares upfront to help cover farm operating costs in return for fresh produce during the growing season.

What makes Centurion Farm’s CSA unique is that members include organizations that support the homeless and at-risk populations in Northeast Michigan. Clients of these organizations will receive much more than fruits and vegetables.

One CSA member, Huron House (a residential treatment facility for boys), has committed to bringing their boys out to the farm in 2008 to perform community service and learn work skills. Other members include Shelter Inc. (a human service organization) which has asked the CSA to provide their clients with entrepreneurial agriculture training and classes on nutrition and preparing fresh produce for meals and storage.

Botkin notes that Northeast Michigan has a high percentage of children in poverty and a high unemployment rate. But he also cites studies that reveal a lot of potential to improve the economy by developing new food and farming businesses that focus on fresh local food. Centurion Farms CSA along with advisors, cooperators and volunteers, plans to tap that potential by training at-risk youth to start new food and farming businesses and by working with other sustainable farms in the area to cooperatively market products.

Centurion Farms – photo by Yvette King.

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