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Program Focus: Growing Hope promotes access to fresh, healthy food for the community and earns mission-aligned revenues

by Kathryn Buckner
Tuesday, July 9, 2019
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Growing Hope (Ypsilanti, MI) launched in 2003 with a mission of setting up and supporting school and community gardens. Today, its activities are much broader – producing organic vegetables and flowers at its one-acre urban education and demonstration farm, operating two farmers markets, one of which is a year-round market hosted at their Ypsilanti Farmers MarketPlace, developing farm and garden programs designed to increase healthy food access to low-income families and youth, organizing volunteers to work at the farm and conducting educational programs focused on nutrition and STEM concepts.  The mission of Growing Hope is to foster an equitable and sustainable local food system where all people are empowered to grow, sell, buy, prepare and eat nourishing food.

The Americana Foundation is proud to have supported Growing Hope as it positions itself to become a premier garden demonstration and educational site in Washtenaw County. Previous grants from Americana have helped Growing Hope create specialized gardens for demonstrating small-scale urban growing and an interactive, sensory garden for young people. A recent grant helped Growing Hope collaborate with the Ypsilanti Housing Commission and EMU’s Family Empowerment Program to design a farm shares program that increased access to local, fresh vegetables to low-income families. Households that participated in the program reported that the farm share produce increased their access to healthy food, enabled them to try new vegetables with more frequency, and increased their confidence about preparing new vegetables. The grant also enabled Growing Hope to expand its volunteer program, grow and sustain its educational programs, and host field trips at the farm for lower-income youth and partner youth groups. 

Growing Hope emphasizes the importance of earned revenue and diversified funding streams. In late 2018, Growing Hope hosted three fundraising events at the farm that featured local chefs cooking dinner for long-time supporters and newcomers. In addition, staff of Growing Hope convened community members to help design urban gardens for the Ypsilanti Housing Commission and other local organizations. Growing Hope also rents its marketplace hall for private events and the hall houses an incubator kitchen, which Growing Hope rents to local food entrepreneurs. These activities brought in additional financial resources to supplement grant funding.

Americana applauds the work of Growing Hope and its impact on enhancing the food system in Ypsilanti and the surrounding communities. Growing Hope is undergoing a strategic planning process to update and refresh its vision for using the farm for demonstration and community education. When Americana toured the urban farm in early June, the physical space was being updated and the staff was building new raised growing beds to facilitate new and existing programming. New programs may include how to extend the growing season, how to grow vertically and in limited spaces, and how to grow specifically for youth education. We are excited to see what’s next!

Growing Hope is a certified non-profit organization registered under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. More information about Growing Hope is available at http://www.growinghope.net.