It was a cold fall morning in the unheated loading dock area of Cass Community Social Service’s World Building. A dedicated group of supporters—Ford Motor Company executives and communications team members, Cass Community board members, staff and volunteers—gathered with local media reporters and video crews to celebrate this one thing: there was lettuce growing on a farm in the midst of one of Detroit’s food deserts.
But this was no ordinary farm: funded by the generous support of the Ford Motor Company Fund and Bill Ford's Better World Challenge, a 40-foot shipping container had been repurposed to house the latest in indoor hydroponic farming equipment. Dubbed the Ford Freight Farm, this collaborative project has the goal of providing nutritious, locally grown food to the Cass food program, the surrounding area and downtown restaurants.
Speaking at the press conference, Jim Vella, President of the Ford Fund, cited statistics that “one in six people in southeast Michigan do not know where their next three meals are coming from.” He lauded the Ford Freight Farm as “an example of social entrepreneurship…(where) two entities can partner to solve age-old issues with new methods, thoughts and designs for solutions…moving people up the ladder of food self-sufficiency.”
Rev. Fowler introduced Cass staff members Kathy Peterson, an attorney and professor turned farmer, and Charlotte Gale, a certified Master Gardener. Fowler also pointed out that the farm is environmentally positive. It uses LED lights, 90% less water, no pesticides and very little packaging since the distance between farm to table is minimal.
She concluded her remarks by saying that “This is urban gardening at its best because we can grow in every season of the year. What's more, the Freight Farm will provide part-time employment opportunities for adults with developmental disabilities.”
After viewing a short video by Cass Board member Karl Rausch, the audience was invited to tour the space and ask questions. With the growing capacity of up to two acres of land, hundreds of vertical towers within the container house produce that is fed by water infused with nutrients. You can watch the video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k_zDyEoKqpw