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Micah 6 Community: Building the Neighborhood that Pontiac Deserves

by Kathryn Buckner
Friday, June 3, 2022

Coleman Yoakum, founder and Executive Director of Micah 6 Community, came to Pontiac in 2012 hoping to serve a neighborhood that had high crime, high foreclosure, and high unemployment. He and a group of equally passionate and capable friends bought a house in Pontiac, formed Micah 6 Community, and became part of the neighborhood. The group’s initial activities included meeting neighbors, fixing bikes for kids, attending community meetings, and grilling out for the neighborhood.

By getting to know their neighbors, the Micah 6 team learned that one of the community’s most pressing needs was access to fresh food. The nearest grocery store is 1.5 miles away and one-third of the community lacks reliable transportation. Health issues like high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes were too common. In 2013, with a lot of help from neighbors, Micah 6 responded to this need by planting its first vegetable garden on a vacant lot. In the years since, the Webster Gardens (as they are now called) have grown from one vacant lot to over 1.25 acres of gardens and 4,000 sq ft of hoop house space. The gardens produce over 5,000 pounds of fresh food each year, most of which is shared with people in the neighborhood or sold at Micah 6’s year-round Sprout Fresh Food Store.

In 2020, Micah 6 received an Impact 100 Metro Detroit grant to purchase and erect a state-of-the-art greenhouse facility at Webster Gardens. Micah 6 purchased the greenhouse, but pandemic-induced supply shortages, tumultuous staffing, and price increases on even basic construction delayed delivery and raised the price of construction beyond what was estimated. For more than a year, the structural components of the greenhouse remained in storage while Micah 6 used Impact 100 grant dollars to complete improvements to other physical aspects of the growing operation. A May 2022 grant from Americana will enable Micah 6 to construct the greenhouse, establish the necessary utility connections, and bring the greenhouse on-line.

The plan for the greenhouse includes growing and producing food in the off-season, teaching food growing techniques, and encouraging entrepreneurship in Pontiac’s urban farming sector. With the planned completion of the Webster Community Center in 2023, a food hub that provides indoor food growing space and a commercial and teaching kitchen will complement Webster Gardens activities and further serve local growers, food entrepreneurs, and the public. The Webster Community Center will be housed in the 100-year-old former Webster Elementary School building, which includes 26 classrooms, a gymnasium/auditorium, and 5 acres of land. In addition to the food hub, the center will house a small business incubator, arts and athletics facilities, and spaces for other community activities.

Americana is proud to support Micah 6 Community as it works side-by-side with neighbors to grow healthy food and “build the neighborhood that Pontiac deserves.” More information about Micah 6 Community is available on the Micah 6 website.