Food accessibility, quality, and quantity in Detroit is often a topic of student interest in this studio. They are frequently concerned about alarming reports of obesity and poor public health in the city, as well as the preponderance of fringe food retailers (gas stations, liquor stores, convenience shops, dollar stores, and other small mart type shops) frequently acting as a primary source of food for the citizens of the city. The team of John Galwaa and Justine Pritchard also identified a lack of regulation on EBT purchases, which currently can be used within the city limits at fast food vendors, as onther primary cause of poor food access. They state: “These along with the high crime, poverty, and vacancy of the city create a broken infrastructure that does not cater for members of the community to eat healthy, understand nutrition, and increase physical activity.” Fortunately, there are many grass-roots efforts in the city to address this inequity, one of which is Feedom Freedom Growers, led by Wayne Curtis, Myrtle Thompson Curtis, and Kezia Curtis. The published mission of FFG is to “collectively foster food sovereignty by creating a new culture of work and cooperative economics. Through the art of education and growing food we are cultivating self-reliance that sustains the life of our developing communities.”
Working with Wayne, Myrtle, and Kezia, John and Justine developed a comprehensive master plan for the Manistique Community Garden. “We developed objectives for each problem area identified. These included an overall master plan, shed, hoop house, produce cart, and raised planters. We further finessed our scope of work to encompass an overall master plan, storage shed, and produce cart. The research done on hoop houses and raised planters helped inform planning decisions and placement of them on the master plan. The master plan addressed the previously stated issues of poor planning and underutilization. The first part of the master plan addresses the underutilized land by clearing all the trees along the alley way and creating a blank canvas. We relocated the compost area to the north eastern corner. This allowed for access from both sides of the alleyway for deliveries of organic material and the placement is furthest away from the growing area. An educational area is created with raised planter beds adjacent from the gather place. The gathering area incorporates picnic tables and reclaims stumps and rocks to create an outdoor fire pit area. With a shed by the alley in the back and a large community flower garden upfront, the gathering area becomes framed by the planters and home creating a place of refuge. The rest of the garden becomes the production focus, with mass planting rows and hoop houses to create mass production of produce for market and local residents.” While projected completion of the master plan is slated for 2015, Wayne, Myrtle, and FFG volunteers have already made significant process in the implementation of design recommendations.
“Looking more closely at the shed, we devised utilizing pallets to create a large pallet shed. The shed provides the adequate storage space that can house the tools which are currently located indoors and in the hoop house. A pallet design handbook is created to aid in construction of the shed, with identified members and components that can be found or purchased. The overall dimension of the pallet shed is 12×16 but may be reduced in size through prototyping studies. More info regarding the pallet is located within the pallet how-to manual.” Preliminary construction of the shed began in the summer of 2013, with completion projected in spring of 2014.
Another component of the project is the design of a bicycle-drawn cart to assist with neighborhood produce deliveries. “The cart became an important introduction to the project through Kezia’s passion of biking. The cart design focused on creating a detachable unit that can be easily customized per delivery requirements. Its dimensions conveniently fit within an SUV and are substantial in design construction to provide maximum load capacity of produce relocation. More in-depth information regarding cart size is found in the cart manual, which showcases step by step construction method.” Studio alumnus Ryan Grabow offered consultation on design of the cart.
John and Justine have developed a strong connection with FFG. “All in all”, they state, “working with Feedom Freedom Growers has become one of the most fruitful design relationships we have created. In doing so, we’ve learned a lot about community, becoming part of a community that once seemed so distant to us. Feedom Freedom Growers has greatly appreciated our design contributions in making their mission succeed. However, we are further appreciative of their willingness and eagerness to collaborate in order to foster design decisions that progress their goals. Their appreciation is evident in the obvious implementation of the design on the property. They have already constructed many raised planters and began the archway path that framed the community garden. Feedom Freedom Growers will definitely be an organization that we will continue to work because we have become part of their family.”
For more information about Feedom Freedom Growers, or to volunteer, go to: https://www.facebook.com/FeedomFreedom