The Michigan Urban Farm Initiative, Detroit, Michigan

MUFI

Image 01 – Source – The Michigan Urban Farm Initiative, Detroit, Michigan

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Case Study Background

The Michigan Urban Farming Initiative (MUFI) is a nonprofit organization that seeks to engage members of the Michigan community in sustainable agriculture.

MUFI OBJECTIVES

1. Challenges unique to the Michigan community – vacant land, poor diet, nutritional illiteracy and food insecurity present a unique opportunity for community-supported agriculture.

2. Using agriculture as a platform to promote education, sustainability and community—while simultaneously reducing socioeconomic disparity to empower urban communities.

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Image 02 –  Location – 7432 Brush St. Detroit, MI 48202

MUFI_SITE DEVELOPMENT

STEP 01 – With the holistic aim of creating an educated sustainable discourse through community supported agriculture, MUFI has a variety of strategic goals which started with the redevelopment of a two -square -block area in Detroit, which they consider to be the epicenter of urban agriculture. (Year 2011)

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Image 02 – Site area highlighting Mufi’s Community Resource Building and Urban Farm

One of the organization’s first step was to build a community resource building.

” 7432 Brush street is a distressed property in Detroit that was purchased by MUFI in October 2011. It was built in 1915 and used continuously until circa 2009. The property is a three story, six unit apartment complex, which has since become uninhabitable. Their goal was to restore the structure to a community resource center that is designed for non-profits to collaborate, pool resources, engage in relevant dialogue, and ultimately have a physical space that is economically accessible.” – Source04

Image 03 – Source –MUFI’S Strategic Goals for the neighborhood. Out of the many the focus of this blog/case study is to highlight the Urban Farm system as a Food network within the community.

[MUFI’s ongoing projects, all in various stages of implementation, include a demonstration urban farm, a nursery aquaponic system in a nearby warehouse, a children’s sensory garden, a memorial orchard and vineyard, a hostel, a community center, and a kitchen incubator space.]

05Image 04 – Source –Highlighted in Red is the Community Resource Center and opposite to the building is the Urban Farm developed by MUFI and its volunteers.

06Image 05 – Diagram depicting Urban Farm dimensions, Plantations and relation to the context.

06Image 06 – Diagrammatic representation of the type of crops produced around the year.

Urban Farm Facts – The produce from the production farm since 2011 is 50,000 lbs (25 tons)  
( Calculated to be 6.25 tons/year) – Source

The following is an attempt to group the kind of crops grown throughout the year and plantation characteristics of each crop.

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Image 07 – Seasonal Categorization of the produce based on Source

“Vegetables may be classified by their resistance to frosts and cold. This helps in deducing what and when to plant for best production. The four general groups of vegetables are hardy, half hardy, tender, and very tender

Vegetables in the hardy group can withstand hard frosts and can be planted 2 to 3 weeks before the last killing frost in the spring or as soon as the soil can be prepared. The half-hardy group contains vegetables that can withstand light frosts. The seeds will germinate at low temperatures. These vegetables are planted about the time of the last killing frost. Most plants classified as tender do not thrive in cold temperatures.

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Image 08 – Diagram categorizing Plantation bed dimensions, Crop Growth Seasons and row plantation specifics. Based on information derived from Source

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Image 09 – Diagram depicting the system processes – energy inputs and outputs.

STAKEHOLDERS INVOLVED

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Image 10 – MUFI as an organization (Setting up the idea) – Source

WORKERS

The organization has over 5000 “highly engaged, obsessive” Facebook fans, according to Gersh, and has logged over 15,000 volunteer hours since May, mostly a mix of Detroiters and metro Detroiters who hooked into the project via social media.

As newcomers to the community, the pair has been proactive in reaching out to established community groups and churches. The community is involved, helping with equipment storage and organization. – Source

MUFI’s FACEBOOK Page – tracing the activities on farm and other educational initiatives taken by the organization.

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Image 11 – Source – The Team

FUNDING

The project began as an entirely self-funded venture, supplemented with winnings from various online contests geared at social entrepreneurs. According to Gersh, the organization has won over $20,000 in funds through contests via the optiMize Social Innovation Challenge, Do it for Detroit micro-grant fund, Ford, a local hair salon, and Detroit SoupWhole Foods Detroit has also become a big supporter, according to Gersh.

Long-term plans for fiscal sustainability are not yet fully formed, but ideas for generating revenue include forming a for-profit subsidiary to sell farm products at the aquaponics warehouse, the hostel, tenant farming, and soil testing and analysis services.

The gardens for Good Grant – MUFI recently won a $40,000 grant in the GRO1000 Grassroots Grants award program from Scotts Miracle-Gro. “The Michigan Urban Farming Initiative (MUFI) project to create a create a new children’s sensory garden received more than 55% of the vote in the online competition, topping other finalists from Oakland, Orlando and New York.” – Source

ACTIVITIES SUPPORTED ON FARM FROM THE GRANT

“We funded the entire farm for the whole year – all our seeds, an industrial grade tiller, hand tools, power tools, trellises. We were able to expand the farm 30-40% because of the grant.Since that time, we have invested in 5 structures, from large apartment complexes to single story bungalows. We’re channeling our efforts into dealing with blight and refining our practices to urban agriculture.” – Source

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Image 13-14 – Source  – Activities @ MUFI

DIVERSE SOURCE OF REVENUE

MUFI believes in targeting everyone. “We want to create an organization that is relevant and accessible to all demographics,” The needs are diverse, including poor mothers with little education who are “victims of the food system” to resident kids with few community resources, to unemployed people who can benefit from tenant farming opportunities, to suburbanites looking for a way to connect with and serve the inner city.  – Source

FUTURE STAKEHOLDERS

MUFI is addressing the challenges of funding, forming an organizational character etc. by asking members of the community to serve on a community advisory council for MUFI composed of long-time residents and business owners who will vet decisions. – Source

PRODUCE DISTRIBUTION
The produce from the farm goes to 1 of 4 places (listed in order of priority):

1.Individual households : using a pay-what-you-can model to create a donation grocery store model.
(Over 200 households within 2 square miles supplied in the last 2 years)
2.Local Markets : Thousands of lbs of produce go to over 5 markets within 5 miles) [The farm sells produce at the Oakland Avenue Farmer’s Market, and gives produce away for free to neighborhood residents.]
3.Local Restaurants & Vendors 
4.Food Pantries
5.Local Churches
6.Coalition on Temporary Shelters (COTS) & Forgotten Harvest – Source

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Image 15 – Source – [Activity Update – For the past 3 months #MUFI has been piloting a Free-CSA-bike-delivery program for all households within 2 square blocks of the farm.Greg and Maina volunteered to load up their bike trailer and delivered a milk crate stuffed w produce picked mere minutes before they arrived and delivered them to our neighbors who had opted in to the pilot program] – An example of ways to circulate farm products, create interest and generate revenue.

SUPPORTING FACTS – Crop Rotation – In order to reduce the likelihood of plant diseases the crops are rotated by family and not by individual vegetable. For example, tomatoes are followed by peas/ beans, followed by cabbage in the second year, lettuce in the third year, and then back to tomatoes and so on.

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Image 16 – Supporting a wide variety of vegetable stock is the flexible climate of Detroit during summers.

General Plantation Strategies

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Image 17 – A very basic diagrammatic representation of plantation strategies. 

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Image 18 – Process highlighting plantations in seedbeds. (Seed box plantations become useful in situations when the natural conditions on site are not in favor of crop growth at a particular time. On return of better temperature the plants can be transferred to the farm bed. For instance Tomato seeds are sowed in seedbox or hotbed in February or March. They can be transplanted to plant boxes or cold frame when 2 to 3 inches high. After that set plants in open garden after danger of frost is past.) – Source

OTHER BENEFITS : 

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Image 19-20 – Additional Benefits to the community :

Promote Education

Volunteering Opportunities

Sale to local Whole Food Stores

Sustainability

Community Interaction – yoga , harvest festivals

POSSIBLE IMPLICATIONS

1. MUFI in addition to providing food security has a wider aim of turning vacant lands into productive spaces. Their ideas of community growth through sensory gardens, farms and activities attempt for an ideal holistic approach to revitalize a neighborhood.

2. As far as adopting the scale of MUFI Urban Farm (6.25 tons from 1.7 acres) for providing food security, it could be modeled as an intervention for a neighborhood of 60 – 80 lots. {It can be scaled up too}

3. The variety of crops that MUFI produces is a very efficient strategy both in terms of food supply and maintaining quality of land.

REFERENCES

1. MUFI Website – http://www.miufi.org/#!projects/c10d6

2. MUFI’s Facebook Page – https://www.facebook.com/MichiganUrbanFarmingInitiative/

3. Articles on – http://seedstock.com/2013/08/15/two-recent-college-grads-launch-michigan-urban-farming-initiative-to-educate-and-build-community/

http://us.naturespath.com/blog/2015/06/16/urban-farming-project-changing-face-detroit

Michigan Urban Farming Initiative Wins $40K Grant

4. Source of plantation strategies and crop specifications – http://www.i4at.org/lib2/howgardn.htm

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