It’s a small patch of land that’s about to make a big difference in Jackson. “We hope this garden will get folks excited about some fresh produce,” said Payge Lindow, Farm Manager for Grow Jackson. Over the summer, this 1/4 acre at the Martin Luther King Jr. Recreation Center will be transformed into a community garden to feed local families.
It’s an effort from Grow Jackson, a new non-profit created by Jacob Inosencio. “Our mission is to end food insecurity and hunger in Jackson though increased access to fresh food,” Inosencio said. Earlier this spring, the group started work on shaping community gardens at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Downtown Jackson and the MLK Center on Jackson’s south side. Grow Jackson’s founder and board president says when he approached the City about a garden project, they offered land at the recreation center. “The City is helping us with irrigation for the garden and future programming through the MLK Center,” Inosencio said.
A wide variety of produce is set to grow in the MLK garden over the summer. “We want this to be a one-stop shop for people to get produce, such as kale, broccoli, tomatoes, peppers, onions, berries, and lettuce greens, along with corn, beans, squash, and herbs,” Lindow said. The garden is also supported by Consumers Energy and Henry Ford Allegiance Health. Once fruits and vegetables are ready for harvesting, Grow Jackson is planning on opening a farm stand at the MLK Center, where produce will be offered at low costs and to families using food assistance programs. “We have a commitment to helping Jackson’s neighborhoods, so what we grow here is for the community,” Inosencio said.
They estimate the garden has the potential to feed around 60 families a week. With only two grocery stores in the City Limits, Grow Jackson is mindful of the challenges some residents face getting healthy food. “A lack of fresh food in low-income areas is not because of a lack of desire, it comes from systemic issues. We are trying to be intentional in fighting that problem,” Inosencio said.
MLK Center Director Antonio Parker says he is enjoying watching the garden sprout up. “This is an awesome thing for Jackson. I am looking forward to seeing our neighbors come here to get fresh produce when they need it,” Parker said.
Those interested in donating or volunteering with Grow Jackson can visit their website, growjackson.org. They are also active on Facebook and Instagram. Once Grow Jackson sees the fruits of their labor in the gardens, they hope to help Jackson residents start their own urban farms. “When you have that control over what you’re putting in your body or feeding your kids, that’s a huge thing for mental health and to empower the community,” Lindow said.