Engaging Detroit

Busting the Myth of Cities as Concrete Jungles: SEED Wayne Feeds an Urban Community

Every Wednesday from June to October, Wayne State University students, faculty and nearby residents look out over a sea of fresh produce — ripe tomatoes, fresh berries, greens, carrots, potatoes and melons — grown on campus and by local farmers. SEED Wayne, founded in 2008, runs this weekly farmers market on Wayne State’s Midtown Detroit campus. It is one of several programs SEED offers to improve access for local Detroiters to healthy, fresh food.

“The farmers market environment facilitates bonds within the community that create a sense of ownership. I volunteer with SEED Wayne because I believe it will encourage the development and well-being of our community.”
—Freya Kniaz, Wayne State student

St. Andrews Allotment GardenIn addition to the farmers market, SEED Wayne leads several other on- and off-campus local food systems efforts. On campus, SEED has three gardens, which produce fruit, vegetables and herbs that are given to food assistance programs or sold at the farmers market. SEED Wayne also runs a food composting program for Wayne State’s cafeterias and dormitories. Director Kami Pothukuchi is committed to connecting university research and education in order to improve people’s knowledge of local food systems and healthy eating. The program hosts workshops and lectures on sustainable food practices, and students participate in peer-to-peer training events.The farmers market has been in operation since 2008. Each year, the program solicits Detroit area vendors to participate, including prepared food vendors like Avalon Bakery, Russell Street Deli, Brooklyn Street Local and Sweet Potato Sensations. Vendors accept cash, WIC Project FRESH and Senior Market FRESH benefits, and Bridge Card (the market matches Bridge Card benefits with Double Up Food Bucks). SEED Wayne partners with Gleaners Community Food Bank to sponsor a van that brings residents from several senior housing sites in the city to the market to shop for fresh produce.

Off campus, SEED Wayne partners with related organizations to help develop local food systems in neighborhoods. For example, SEED partners with the Capuchin Soup Kitchen on its Earthworks Urban Farm, a 2.5-acre organic farm in northeast Detroit. The farm has grown over the years to include a 4,000-square-foot passive solar greenhouse that allows food production over an extended season, an apiary, a community orchard and several community garden plots.

Detroit Fresh is an important SEED project. Together with other organizations, it helps get fresh produce stocked in local corner stores. Many of these convenience stores are the only places that sell food within a neighborhood, but have historically sold only processed and “junk” foods. Because they are convenient and accessible for residents and accept food assistance programs, these local corner stores often serve as a regular place for people to buy food. SEED and its partners work with the stores by providing shelves and baskets for fresh foods and connecting the stores with local farmers and produce distributors.