While Ypsilanti nonprofit Growing Hope
waits for spring to reopen its weekly outdoor farmers market, its staff are pursuing a variety of strategies to make fresh local produce more accessible to older adults in the Ypsi area. Growing Hope is increasing its grocery delivery service to older adults with the aid of funding from Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation
"Working with seniors throughout our community has always been a pretty central part of the work we do," says Growing Hope Executive Director Julius Buzzard. "We recognize that our aging population is very vulnerable in this space because they don’t always have the space to garden or the mobility to do so."
Growing Hope works closely with the Ypsilanti Senior Center
, as well as senior living apartments Towne Centre Place
, Chidester Place
, and Cross Street Village
, to provide produce deliveries through Growing Hope's online farmers’ market
, while also offering technical assistance to those who may not own a computer or know how to use one. The delivery service piloted last year, and Buzzard says the service will continue to expand and change depending on shoppers' needs.
Produce delivery through the online market also follows Growing Hope's 2023 project of building more accessible garden beds at Towne Centre Place to allow residents more opportunities to grow their own produce as well.
"Over the season, I could see the use of that space and that the beds were overflowing with herbs and tomatoes," Buzzard says. "You could see how excited the residents were to have this rejuvenated space to grow food."
This year, Buzzard also wants to put an emphasis on Growing Hope’s home vegetable education programs for older adults, who may not have the space to grow their own food. He hopes to have applications available through Growing Hope’s website for those interested in participating in late February to early March.
"Much like most people in our city, many of our seniors rent their space or are in a retirement home," Buzzard says. "We want to give folks more flexibility with the space that they have and grow food in their own context."
Growing Hope workshops, like a container gardening program, will show participants ways to grow produce in smaller spaces even when they don’t have access to a more traditional garden. Buzzard and his team are also considering future sessions on how to prepare produce for immediate use to increase accessibility and reduce waste.
Although this work emphasizes Ypsi's older adults, Buzzard says people of all ages can get involved through Growing Hope's intergenerational cooking classes and garden work programs in collaboration with the Ypsilanti Senior Center. He says that though one of Growing Hope’s main goals is to feed the community with healthy food that folks can grow at home, the importance of gardening extends far beyond putting food on the table.
"Being able to grow food and have activities that are meaningful, accessible and nourishing physically, mentally, and emotionally can be really life changing," he says. "It can bring a level of levity and joy for life, especially for a community of folks who are often not thought of or considered when we’re doing this kind of community work."
For more information, visit growinghope.net
Rylee Barnsdale is a Michigan native and longtime Washtenaw County resident. She wants to use her journalistic experience from her time at Eastern Michigan University writing for the Eastern Echo to tell the stories of Washtenaw County residents that need to be heard.
Photo courtesy of Growing Hope.
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