Diversity - The Continuing Face of Sustainable Agriculture

2008 Annual Report for LNC08-307

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2008: $100,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2010
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Project Coordinator:
Barbara Norman
Michigan Food and Farming Systems

Diversity - The Continuing Face of Sustainable Agriculture


The Continuing Face of Sustainable Agriculture

The Continuing Face of Sustainable Agriculture project, in keeping with the project objective, is seeking to assist North Central Region SARE to reach out to, and work with smaller scale limited resource and minority farmers in under served communities.

To date this project has done outreach to minority farmers in seven of the twelve states in NCR-SARE.

This project has carried the SARE Sustainable Agriculture story to well over eleven hundred small scale, limited resource producers and families. This project has exposed them to SARE bulletins, pamphlets, books, grants and visits to Michigan Farmer/Rancher Grant awardees farming operations. This project has held a Farmers Forum at the Annual Michigan Family Farms Conference (2010 attendance 460).
There is a vast amount of diversity in the targeted geographic communities.

The Continuing Face of Sustainable Agriculture project has mentored farmers, in key areas such as sustainable production, marketing, financial and human risk factors. The mentoring process is custom designed and as needed. we at this project realize the importance of this form of mentoring, we truly understand that one size doesn’t fit all. this project targeted various different and diverse groups of producers,researchers.

Objectives/Performance Targets

There is a vast amount of diversity in the targeted geographic communities:

1) Vandalia Gardens: urban farmers are growing sustainable food in raised bed gardens on vacant lots in Detroit, Michigan (eleventh largest US city – population 951,270- 2000 census pop.).

2) IYABO Farms: hidden among the corn fields in Kankakee County, Hopkins Park, Illinois (population 711- 2000 census pop. village has a total area of 3.7 square miles, all of it land. There were 241 households).

3) Kansas Black Farmers Association: Nicodemus, Kansas (population 52 – 2000 census pop. town has a total area of 32.32 square miles, population per square mile 1.61)

Despite the diversities in the targeted communities, their barriers have several major similarities:
1. People – one too many and one too few.
2. Lack of resources and technical assistance.
3. Lack of knowledge of and participation in USDA/SARE and other United States Department of Agriculture programs in their entirety.
4. Not enough access to a healthy, fresh and sustainable food system.

These thriving communities have some contrasting barriers:
1. shortage of land per density
2. not easily accessed – communities hidden from mainstream America
3. lack of adequate natural water supply during growing season


Project outcomes have provided NCR-SARE with a live continuing outreach tool. Further outreach, networking and a greater understanding of how SARE products and tools can be used to address their needs. This project has assisted breaking the barriers that had previously existed between SARE and the limited resource and underserved communities due to lack of awareness. The SARE Diversity Grant has been very beneficial, introducing these underserved producers to SARE educational tools, workshops, networking and support.

Because the barriers that limited resource and underserved populations have so many similarities, this project by the way of outreach and personal mentoring is far reaching beyond its targeted geographic areas. We have clearly demonstrated a definite no boundaries relationship building project. The sustainable working partnerships and collaborations that have evolved leads to a continuing mentoring program with overall regional success, the rapidly changing face of agriculture is demanding the end of the food desert; and access to a sustainable food system for all.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

• Annual Michigan Family Farms Conference Jan. 2010, Lakeview High School, Battle Creek, MI. This year’s Youth Track hosted SARE Youth Grant awardee presentations for three recipients. Also the youth had a presentation from first ever non-rural African American National President of Future Farmers of America, Corey Flournoy, 1994-95. Johari Kweli-Cole and the Pembroke Farming Family led this hands-on youth track sessions, and was key presenter both years with Leslie
• NCR-SARE Farmer Rancher Grant recipients participated in a Farmer’s Forum sponsored by SARE at the Michigan Family Farms Conference
• Leaders’ Networking and Planning Session, Nicodemus, Kansas, April 2010. Project coordinator, team leaders and other farmers, met with farmers and organizers of Nicodemus Kansas to offer technical support, compost training, and networking possibilities over a 2-day working session and reporting forum.
• Fall Harvest-Putting Your Gardens to Bed, Detroit, MI Oct. 2008 (2-day event)
• Farmer-Rancher Grants Writing Workshop, Belleville, MI, Nov. 2008: Writing sessions presented by Barbara James Norman, Morse Brown, MIFFS Multi-Cultural Project Manger. Also 2008 Farm Bill update, Sandy Penn, MI State Outreach Coordinator, and other NRCS and USDA staff.
• Rural Nicodemus meets Urban Detroit/Rural Covert, August/September 2009: KBFA member Thomas Wellington visits Urban Detroit/Rural Covert Farmers
• Building a Sustainable Business Workshop, April 2009: With one-on-one follow-up and continuing: presented by Barbara James Norman. Building A Sustainable Business; spiral bound workbook published by SAN sponsored by National SARE Outreach.
• Outreach: Fall Festival 4-H, November 12, 2008, Community Center Detroit, MI: This event brought the participants, friends, family, and community together to celebrate the end of the harvest. Dinner, Food demonstrations, games for youth, and a soil workshop. 60 Youths attended, 30 Adults attended, and 7 Volunteers were in attendance.
• 2009 SARE Grant Call, November 5, 2008, Michigan State University (MSU) Extension, Bellville, MI: This workshop focused on Assisting participants in writing a SARE grant. 26 Adults attended.
• Farm Bill Up-Dates, MSU Extension, Bellville, MI, October, 2008: Informative meeting on recent up-dates on the Farm Bill and other department of the USDA presented what service they provide. 41 adults attended.
• “The changing climate of agriculture,” Grandville, Ohio, February 21-22, 2009.
• “Friends and Family Conference,” Battle Creek, MI, January 17, 2009.
• “Bringing Soil Back to Health,” Dr. Elaine Ingham, Three River, MI, January 14, 2009.
• “Great Lakes Fruit and Vegetables Conference,” Grand Rapids, MI, December 11-12, 2008.
• Planning meetings with staff, resource persons, February 24, 2009. Identified and created partnerships for Fall 08 SARE Outreach sessions.
• Sustainable agriculture organic hands-on field training for Vandalia Garden leaders’ staff in planting, harvesting, packaging and marketing. Training provided by Lee/Laurie Arboreal of Eater’s Guild Organic Farm, Bangor MI.
• Teff Grain Project Crop Diversity Meeting, Bogue/Nicodemus, KS, Dec. 2008: 2 day event plus 4 days of farm/fields site visits, one-on-one mentoring.
• Teff Grain Product Marking Meeting, Minnesota, MN, March 2009: met with Ethiopian spice company purchaser of the Nicodemus Teff product.
• Teff Grain Project Production/Marketing sessions, Nicodemus, KS, July 22-27, 2009.
• Nicodemus Kansas Black Farmers’ Association (KBFA) brings farming life and history to Covert, MI, September 1, 2010.
• Strategic Planning Session, Nicodemus, KS.


Elaine Brown

Executive Director
Michigan Food and Farming Systems
416 Agriculture Hall
East Lansing, MI 48824
Office Phone: 5174320712
Website: http://www.miffs.org
Morse Brown

Multi-Cultural Farmers Program
172 Natural Resources Building
East Lansing, MI 48824
Office Phone: 2692081443