Urgent Evoke

A crash course in changing the world.

Food Security in the middle of the Michigan mitten- Organic Farming

Last spring I spent a couple of months working at the MSU Student Organic Farm (SOF). I met them first while I was volunteering for the Africa Sister Cities Conference in 2008- they are constantly working with cities around the world to develop sustainable solutions to the food crisis and global climate change.

The SOF has a program called CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). As a member of this community you purchase a share of SOF's harvest for one season. Every week you come by the farm to pick up your produce. Every week, tons of students would come by to hand pick produce from the greenhouses, collect eggs from the hen house, and clean it up and bunch it for sale. On average a CSA member could expect to pay about $30 for their share and get about $55 in high quality, organically and sustainably produced foods like Kale (of every color), bok choy, parsnips, Irish potatoes, heirloom tomatoes, garlic, chives, fresh eggs (of blue shells, yellow, white, brown, and everything in between), rutabagas, and a bunch of things you wouldn't find at your market (the list of items in the share per season). A large portion of the produce was taken to campus to sell once a week so that students could take advantage of the low priced veggies they offered.

As a volunteer, and a poor student at the time, I benefited from SOF and the CSA program in ways I never imagined that I would. Most volunteers expressed that they were reaping similar rewards:

  • I developed a relationship with my food: the roots of the plants that fed me, the animals that produced it, and the farmers that carefully tended it. This taught all of us how precious food is and how hard it is to make as much food as you consume.
  • I became deeply tied to life cycles which I had never experienced before: many volunteers would stroll around the farm carefully picking leaves off shrubs and (seemingly wild) plants and eating them. Some would sigh and something I saw as a deep appreciation for life would spread across their faces. I'll admit I was a concrete-attuned, city lady. I hadn't a clue about how many beneficial plants there are in the world that are packed with vitamins and minerals (take amaranth for example which is frequently eaten in villages in ...).
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables are usually out of reach of most poor Americans. The SOF manager saw the lack of these foods in my diet and heaped free veggies on me and other poor students. I learned quickly how these veggies improved my health and could improve the lives of others.
  • Most students who volunteered or work at SOF were dedicated in nearly every aspect of their lives to sustainable living techniques (several rode their bikes as far as 15 miles to get to the farm a couple times a week). They were a community which stressed environmental and food production sustainability. I was introduced through SOF to the Bower Student Cooperative (Community housing dedicated to sustainab..., the university's student food bank, organic farmers across Michigan, and local farmers markets.

I just can't thank SOF enough for their insight and community development efforts.

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