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Wednesday, March 13,2013

Lansing Roots

Greater Lansing Food Bank “incubator farm” to offer shared growing space

by Sam Inglot
Courtesy photo

Monday, Dec. 3 — Building on a roughly 30-year history of offering greater Lansing access to gardening opportunities through its Garden Project, the Greater Lansing Food Bank has launched a new effort to share gardening space among the community.


The program is called Lansing Roots and will feature an “incubator farm” where farmers will have access to shared space to grow food that can be sold at local markets.


Garden Project Manager Anne Rauscher said there has been a desire in the Lansing area from community gardeners to have larger areas to grow and a calling from local farmers markets for more food vendors.


She said Lansing Roots would help bridge that gap and improve the overall food security of the region.


“You’ve probably heard about business incubators that have been popping up. It’s pretty much the same idea around farming,” Rauscher said. “It will be a two-and-a-half- to three-acre site where we’re anticipating 12 participants will have access to their own space to grow.”


Rauscher said each gardener would have their own quarter-acre plot, which is about 100 by 100 feet, equaling roughly 16 community garden plots.


“On that farm space we’ll have the opportunity to share resources like tools and equipment,” she said. “We’ll have a hoop house to be able to share techniques and experiment with growing. There will also be a demonstration area where we’ll be growing food for the food bank.”


Rauscher said the farm plots would be available to “limited resource individuals” like refugees and “new Americans” who have agriculture backgrounds but have financial barriers to equipment and land.


The program is funded with the help of a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Michigan State University Student Organic Farm and the Lansing Urban Farm Project partnered with the food bank on the grant. The three-year, $365,000 grant will be used to set up the incubator farm; pay for staffing, training and equipment; and help fund the Lansing Urban Farm Project’s Urbandale farm apprenticeship program.


As for where the incubator farm will be located is still an unknown.


“At this point it’s not set in stone yet,” Rauscher said. “If folks have parcels of around three acres close to town and would like to talk to us about the options, we’d be open to that.”

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