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Betting on the Farm: Keep Growing Detroit Looks to Purchase Its Eastern Market Plot

The nonprofit organization has been supporting urban agriculture for more than a decade. Here’s how you can help it acquire land of its own

A pile of fresh vegetables and leafy greens. Triff/Shutterstock

Keep Growing Detroit — a food sovereignty organization working with gardeners and farmers in Detroit, Highland Park, and Hamtramck —is fundraising to purchase the 1.3-acre lot in Eastern Market on which it grows its crops and runs its urban agriculture program.

The campaign, which launched in early April, aims to meet its fundraising goal this week with help from an anonymous donor’s dollar-for-dollar matching gift to the nonprofit’s For the Love of the Land fund, up to $20,000. Donations will be matched now through Friday, April 30.

Through various programs, Keep Growing Detroit has worked for more than a decade toward a vision of a city where the majority of produce consumed by Detroiters is grown by its residents. The organization operates the nationally acclaimed Garden Resource Program and Grown in Detroit, which helps Detroiters become gardeners, community leaders, and food entrepreneurs. All of its work comes together on the KGD Farm, near Wilkins and Orleans, in the Eastern Market district.

COVID-19 increased the demand for Keep Growing Detroit’s produce, programs, and educational services, as Detroiters faced food shortages at grocers, unanticipated school closures, and longer lines at food banks. In 2020, KGD provided resources to nearly 2,000 urban farm and family gardens, a marked increase over the previous year. Keep Growing Detroit’s leadership was also influential in establishing the Detroit Black Farmer Land Fund last year — a herculean fundraising effort that brought in $60,000 to provide grants to local growers. Now, the organization is seeking similar assistance to secure its future within Eastern Market’s fast developing food district.

“Without the security of land ownership we’re perpetually vulnerable,” says Ashley Atkinson, co-director of Keep Growing Detroit. “We want to sustain what we’ve been able to grow and deepen our roots in the community. The land purchase allows us to continue our work for Detroit and increase our offerings and who we are able to serve.”

The purchase of the farm from Eastern Market Development Corp. would allow KGD to build permanent structures; invest in more greenhouse space; and increase the number of high tunnels in the fields, creating more space for food distribution, plants, and crops.

In addition to growing most of its crops on the Eastern Market lot, the organization also hosts online ordering for produce with curbside pickup, transplant distributions, and, during the pandemic, virtual cooking classes and education demonstrations.

A 2017 report by the Detroit Food Policy Council estimated that about 48 percent of city households don’t have access to enough affordable or nutritious food. It’s an issue that has been heightened during the pandemic, according to a report by the Food Security Council, created by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in 2020.

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