(C. Proxmire, Sept. 2, 2012)
What used to be an empty field of grass has blossomed into a community farm with a CSA (Community Supported Agricultural) approach where participants invest up front and a farmer grows a weekly supply of produce throughout the growing season. The Ferndale Farm sprouted in Garbutt park, at 8 Mile and Allen behind Ferndale’s School’s Digital Learning Center (formerly Taft) thanks to the work of local agricultural specialist and urban farming activist Trevor Johnson working with The City of Ferndale and Ferndale Recreation.
Johnson, who has lived in Ferndale since the age of nine, is the owner of New Dawn Garden Scapes Permaculture Design Consulting and the creator of the Ferndale Garden. He has is BS in horticulture from Michigan State University and a permaculture design certificate.
Over the past few years he’s been trying to find the right business model that will help teach the most people about urban farming while also giving him the wages he needs to get by. In 2009 he won a Ferndale Good Neighbor Award for starting The Good Neighbors Garden, which is a place where people from all over the Ferndale area can work together to grow good food and create a beautiful, functional space. What started as a one-man show grew to over 40 plots and a waiting list of people wanting to get involved. After sowing the seeds of that project, Johnson sought to spread permaculture further.
He started the Ferndale Farmstand, a place to sell extra produce and to talk to people about local farming. It started with a table near the Ferndale Arts Building in Downtown Ferndale, and moved to the Kulick Community Center where, for a while, they were able to have other vendors come to sell food and products as well. The produce was grown in the backyards of several Ferndale homes and eventually at the new location in Garbut Park, with enough produce to give to everyone involved plus the extra to sell.
This year’s CSA model was a great start, Johnson said. Individuals pay at the beginning to have a share of the crop. This removes the pressure of having to sell produce at the farmers market without knowing what the yield will be or the sales demands. The downfall is that it may create some issues over what is legally permissible use of public land. Johnson is now working with city officials to see how the program might be changed for next year so that it can grow and have more people involved.
The Ferndale Farm has transformed Garbutt Park into a garden of plenty, with giant sunflowers forming a beautiful wall along the 8 Mile side, and rows of beans, cabbage, broccoli, radish, carrots, squash, basil and other delicious plants filling in the rest.
Whatever business or nonprofit structure ultimately prevails, one thing that is certain is Johnson will continue his quest to spread urban farming, hopefully here in his hometown. “This could be huge for Ferndale and could be revolutionary from citizens standpoint through the municipalities. People need to know how to grow their own food, and in the future this will be a part of daily life for everyone. Ferndale is on the cutting edge of this,” he said.
There are a number of ways to get involved. There are CSA shares available. The shares are distributed weekly now through December. If you are interested in more information about the Ferndale Farm, getting a tour of the site, or helping direct the project into the 2013 season contact Trevor Johnson at 248-894-4059.
Watch the video below for more, and keep up to date with the Ferndale Farm Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ferndale-Farm/157325670992713.