Blog: Patrick Crouch

How does your garden grow? Rather than silver bells and cockle shells, perennially practical Detroiters are turning city wasteland into food for the masses. Patrick Crouch, program manager of the Capuchin Soup Kitchen's Earthworks Urban Farm, will plant his ideas about food justice and permaculture in our heads this season.

Post 1: Growing the City

There is an amazing amount of energy going on in the city right now around local food systems.  I thought I'd take the opportunity to share about my involvement in some of the  projects going on that I'm lucky enough to be a part  of.  I should point out there are plenty of other great projects I'm not involved with.

I live in North Corktown (old-school Briggs) or even NoCo (if you are hip). Somehow it seems to be a hotbed of urban agriculture.  Just across the street is Brother Nature produce and, quickly threatening to take over the neighborhood, Mr. Kings amazing poultry and collards, Dee Dee's petting zoo  on Cochrane, and of course the community garden I'm involved with, Hope Takes Root.  I've been gardening at Hope Takes Root for the last couple of years.  This last spring and summer have been spent installing an edible forest garden based on the principles of permaculture.  Full of all kinds of edible fruits and nuts and heavy on the native side, in time it will be a low maintenance place to relax and snack.  In addition to my community garden, I also have a garden at home, some beehives, and share joint custody of some chickens with the neighbors.

I volunteer to milk goats every Wednesday night at Catherine Ferguson Academy, not too far from my house.  It's a school with a large agriscience program for teen mothers. Complete with a horse, goats, chickens, ducks, geese, rabbits, bees, an orchard, tree nursery, and annual vegetable garden, it's like nothing else in Detroit.  I always take a lap to check out how everything is doing around what used to be the track and now contains the horse pasture.  Then it's milking Apple, Tabitha, and Royal Gem.  We use the milk to make yogurt, cheese, and of course coffee in the morning.

I spend the most time growing in the city with the Capuchin Soup Kitchen's Earthworks Urban Farm.  The two acres of certified organic gardens make for one of the largest urban farms in the city.  Our diverse gardens grow almost every vegetable commonly grown in Michigan and many of the fruits, herbs, and flowers too.  The sites get all the attention, but it's the programs we run out of these gardens that we are most proud of.  Two youth programs: Growing Healthy Kids and Youth Farm Stand give youth in our neighborhood skills in gardening, cooking, ecology, practical work experience in the fields and at the farmers market, and of course a solid dose of fun.   

Through our partnership with the Greening of Detroit, the Detroit Agriculture Network, and Michigan State University, we are part of the Garden Resource Program.  Our role is mostly to provide some of the hundreds of thousands of transplants and space for workshops, but through the collaborative tons of other resources are provided to community and family gardeners throughout the city. Included in these resources are the Urban Roots training program, the Grown In Detroit growers co-op, over 40 classes on a range of topics, and plenty of garden resources including compost, seeds, and access to tool banks.
In addition to all of this programming, Earthworks also works on issues of food access and economic development in the community though the F.O.O.D.  Mobile Market and pilots the Healthy Corner Stores program in partnership with SEED Wayne.  We also host monthly community potlucks focusing on creating a healthy community, a weekly market where folks can purchase food from the gardens, volunteer days where you can experience hands on gardening work, provide quality produce to the soup kitchen we are a part of, and much much more.

Oh and last but not least, I've recently been asked to serve on the Detroit Food Policy Council. While we still have plenty of legwork to do before we really get going, keep on the lookout for exciting new programs coming out of that.