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Urban farming a focus at Grand Rapids meeting

Urban farming
Wikimedia | Linda/New Crops | CC BY 2.0

Grand Rapids officials take the first step toward a deeper exploration of urban agriculture.

That includes changing the way we think of otherwise undeveloped parcels in a city’s core.

Levi Gardner is the founder of Urban Roots, a collective which teaches people to grow their own gardens and produce locally. 

“So one of the fascinating things about empty parcels of land is that sometimes they’re even liabilities. They’re treated as just these tracts of land that are problems," Gardner says. "And the way I look at it is, I don’t see a problem. I see untapped potential that we just haven’t realized yet.” 

Gardner gave a report to Grand Rapids officials on how the city could better embrace urban agriculture at a special city commission session. He says one application could be strategic partnerships with developers and currently-unused land. 

“It’s essentially trying to say, ‘what are long-term solutions for these green spaces,’" Gardner says, "that might sit under a developer for a really long time [otherwise] with no strategy, or no plan.”

Gardner says when we think of urban agriculture, many may think of Detroit – where a wash of factors contribute to an expanse of undeveloped land. But he says many cities across the nation have been recently applying these concepts in a variety of ways, for a wide variety of reasons.

Gardner came with two recommendations, both of which seemed well-received by officials.

The first would create an urban agriculture task force, and the second would review possible zoning amendments to better embrace farming in urban spaces.

Hilary is a General Assignment and Enterprise reporter for WGVU Public Media. She joined WGVU in September 2014 after several years of experience as a local news reporter, anchor and photojournalist in Midland, Saginaw and Bay counties. She's also worked as a financial and business reporter and audio field producer.