Editor's note: This story is part of Southwest Michigan Second Wave's On the Ground Northside series.
Rise Kalamazoo, a local nonprofit launching with the support of People’s Food Co-op and assistance from the Kalamazoo Valley Community College Food Hub, hopes to start a test garden on the Northside this spring.
Organized by Lisa Bloomberg, the group has been meeting monthly to strategize, which includes choosing a suitable location and seeking grants. One Northside location is currently on the table that includes a greenhouse, but it hasn’t yet been finalized.
Bloomberg, who has lived in the Northside since 1996, says she is currently homeless. She initiated the urban farm as a result of her experiences, which helped her to understand the needs of the poor and homeless, she says.
“The whole idea came about when I was working at the food co-op. I struggled to be able to afford food and I struggled to get by,” says Bloomberg. “The Northside, even though there is one grocery store, is still kind of a food desert. We have four subsidized housing complexes so I figured it was a good starting point. Also, it seems the place with the most land openings that is central to downtown where a lot of the homeless people are.”
In addition to garden and greenhouse produce, Rise Kalamazoo hopes to employ aspects of permaculture, hydroponics, and aquaculture. Bloomberg says the goal is to provide affordable, locally-grown produce for Northside residents and the homeless through a mobile food cart so that produce can be delivered throughout the neighborhood by bicycle.
“People can flag us down anywhere, pretty much like an ice cream truck,” says Bloomberg.
Eventually, Bloomberg says, Rise Kalamazoo would like to add temporary food storage, as well “so the homeless community can have a way to store and prepare food. With $15 a month for food stamps, they don’t accumulate food.”
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