Sprout Urban Farms
Summary: Sprout Urban Farms is a community organizing non-profit focused on food accessibility in Battle Creek, Michigan. Sprout Urban Farms operates a 2-acre urban farm that works with local youth, fosters a network of 35 community gardens, and runs a mobile market to underserved neighborhoods. Their work promotes greater food accessibility and food justice in their region based on and driven by the participation and passions of their community members. Most recently, Sprout has been working to establish a food hub in their region aggregating the produce supply from small farmers to local restaurants and food service providers. The food hub has developed based on the demand for locally produced, chemical free food, striving to bridge the disconnect between small producers and local markets. Sprout additionally hosts educational workshops and events aiming to educate their community about locality and seasonality.
The organization has secured a 3-year lease with the Calhoun County Land Bank for 2 acres of farmland for $1/year. With this generous agreement, the non-profit is not required to pay property taxes while they revamp otherwise abandoned land in a disenfranchised neighborhood. Sprout is confident in their ability to secure a long-term leasing agreement with the county. Sprout Urban Farms is a 501c3 non-profit organization primarily funded through short-term grants. They have an annual budget of around $140,000 which funds three full time staff members, twenty 30-hour/week seasonal staff members, and all the supplies and operating equipment for their farm and other projects. They must continuously seek grant funding to finance their operations. They have been extremely successful in establishing a thriving non-profit and leading the food revolution in Battle Creek, but their projects and growing plans are continuously limited by the constant need to seek grant funding. The food hub and other ongoing profit generating projects present an opportunity for Sprout Urban Farms to establish new revenue models to subsidize their food access programming.
History: Founding organizer and current Executive Director, Jeremy Andrews is a native of Battle Creek. Jeremy came to community organizing, farming, and food activism through backyard gardening and his work at the East Lansing Food Co-operative. Upon returning to Battle Creek, Andrews began to organize community open space forums based on various food and farming themes. From that initiative, the projects and passion for Sprout Urban Farms was established. In 2011, the non-profit was established, hiring a corps of diverse local youths to help establish a network of thriving community gardens. After acquiring acreage from the county land bank, Sprout began farming the land producing for local farmers’ markets, mobile food markets, and local restaurants. They have been working to revitalize the city through local economic development surrounding the local food system. Still in its fledgling status, Sprout Urban Farms has benefited over 3000 people including community gardeners, market shoppers, farmers, restaurants operators and clientele, volunteers, employees, and neighbors. They are founded on principles of community organizing deriving their success, direction, and goals from the voices and participation of their community.