Amazing food work in Ann Arbor: Food Gatherers and Growing Hope

Yes. We Can Grow Turnips!I dropped off my first produce donation to Food Gatherers of the summer (19 lbs of turnips and greens) and got caught up in conversation with Dan, the head gardener for Food Gatherers. We chatted on the edge of a huge garden – or small field – of proto-produce: spinach, peas, 300 tomato plants, with room for hundreds of square feet of winter squash. If the plot was less than an acre, it wasn’t by much. In addition, there’s another plot out back with collards, cauliflower, and other brassicas. They call this the Gathering Farm.

The idea is twofold: They’ll distribute some of the goodies directly to clients and to the non-profits Food Gatherers serves. But they’ll also send large shipments of produce to the DeLonis Center, where Food Gatherers runs a kitchen skills training program. The participants there will process the tomatoes and such into tomato sauce and other heat-and-eat foods and freeze them. These products will then be distributed to shelters through the winter, when fresh produce is scarce

They’re also partnering this year with Growing Hope to establish community gardens in Ypsilanti, called the Faith and Food project. The basic idea is that Growing Hope helps churches and other neighborhood institutions with the logistics of turning city lots into vegetable gardens. The gardens are tended by the neighborhood and congregation, and food is shared out among them. But a bunch of that food is also earmarked for Food Gatherers, to be distributed to people who don’t have a garden in their neighborhood.

Man, I’m proud to live in this area. And inspired, too. I’ve been thinking that now that Preserving Traditions is up and running pretty well as far as monthly workshops go (I’m set for topics and presenters through 2009), I will focus more on the community-building side. Specifically, getting the community kitchen up and running. I want folks to come to view the kitchen as an extension of their own kitchen, where they can come and do larger food prep/preservation projects that they may not have the space or equipment for at home.

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