What does Earthworks do?

Earthworks’ primary activities include running a 2.5 acre farm, greenhouse, hoophouse.  We host classes for Detroit gardeners, provide youth after school programing, and provide a nine month intensive grower training program for adults.  We distribute our harvest at volunteer days, in meals cooked at the Capuchin Soup Kitchen and through our seasonal farm stand.  

Where is Earthworks headed?

We are constantly asked if Earthworks has plans to expand.  If the right opportunity were to present itself, we might consider expanding, but at this point we are focused on working to insure that we are improving the quality of the work we are already doing. We strive to support those we work with as much as possible and develop long term relationships with them.  Our goal is not to be bigger just for the sake of size.  In the wise words of Edward Abbey, “Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.”

Is Earthworks certified organic?

Yes, we are the only certified organic farm in the city.  Most of our friends also grow organically, they just haven’t chosen to certify.  They prefer their certification be though the personal relationships they have with their customers.  We chose to certify to prove that it could be done in an urban area and to help other growers who wanted to go through the process.  As organic growers, we uses no synthetic fertilizers or pesticides.  We manage our soils though using composts and cover crops to increase fertility and soil biology.  We utilize cultural practices such as proper spacing, rotations, managing water and use of row cover to mitigate pest and disease problems.   

How does Earthworks fit into the greater urban agriculture work in Detroit?

Earthworks is one of the many examples of urban agriculture and food justice organizations in Detroit. We are independent of other agriculture organizations in the city, but mutually supportive and connected to many of them through professional and personal partnerships and friendships. We have worked and work with a number of organizations doing similar work, including but not limited to; Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, Feedom Freedom, Uprooting Racism Planting Justice, The Greening of Detroit, Gleaners Community Food Bank,Seed Wayne, Michigan State University, MSU extension, Keep Growing Detroit, The Food Justice Task Force and many more.

What about the lack of racial diversity in Earthworks?

While we would like to think that our staff is relatively representational of our city, our Program Manager is a white male who didn’t grow up in the community, and our leadership within the larger organization of the Capuchin Soup Kitchen is also largely white men. Our volunteer base is also largely made up of white volunteers from outside of Detroit. While all of this could be considered to be problematic, we also see opportunity in this. We see opportunities to discuss issues of race and class with a broader community. We still work hard to try to address the underlying issues of racism. We work closely with the organization Uprooting Racism Growing Justice. We encourage you to attend their monthly gatherings and to take part in their “Undoing Racism” trainings .

How does Earthworks fit into Capuchin Soup Kitchen?

Earthworks is a full program of the Capuchin Soup Kitchen, established in 1998 by a Capuchin friar employed by the kitchen. Our offices are located on site of the Meldrum Street Kitchen and the majority of our produce goes into meals at the kitchen. We see the Soup Kitchen as being one of our primary communities and we are continually striving to meet the needs of and engage Soup Kitchen guests in our work for a just food system. The Soup Kitchen hosts a variety of other programs, including a drug treatment center, Youth Tours & field trip opportunities and much more. Please ask us or visit the Capuchin Soup Kitchen’s homepage at www.cskdetroit.org for more information on the activities of the Soup Kitchen.

Do you ever pray in the gardens?

One of the wonderful things about being in the garden is its hard not to feel a connection to something, be that a higher power, the natural world, or just yourself.  Many people find that slowing down and working together is deeply rewarding and rejuvenating.  While this might nor be formal prayer, one volunteer once pointed out “everything we do here is prayer.” We do host our garden blessings twice a year which incorporates a prayer service lead by our Chaplin.  For exact dates please contact us.

Where can I buy produce from Earthworks?

If you want, you don’t even have to buy Earthworks Produce! Most volunteer days we make sure folks go home with a part of the harvest. Earthworks' produce is available for purchase at Meldrum Fresh Market, every Thursday 11am-2pm during the growing season. Check our calendar for market starting dates. Most of our produce is used in meals at the Soup Kitchen - feel free to join us for lunch anytime! Lunch is served Monday through Friday, 11-1pm. All are welcome. Feel free to leave a donation (if you wish) in the jar. Other Earthworks products are available for purchase throughout the year from our garage office.

How can I get involved?

We welcome your involvement on our farm in many different ways. We host volunteers at our weekly volunteer days. If you are interested in those opportunities, please sign up for our newsletter on the homepage. If you have ideas of other ways you are able to contribute to our work, please feel free to contact us. You can also get involved though donating to support our work.

What sort of crops are grown in the gardens?

We grow most every kind of commonly grown vegetable found in Southeast Michigan, as well as plenty 'not commonly' found. Because we strive for a year-round harvest, we find ourselves needing to expand our types of crops to suit colder seasons. We also grow a number of small fruits, tree fruits, culinary and medical herbs, and cut flowers. We are a small, but very diverse growing operation.

Where does the produce go?

We try to provide produce to all our volunteers when we have enough to share. We also have a weekly market stand during the growing season. The bulk of what we grow does into the meals that are served at the Capuchin Soup Kitchen.

How can you possibly grow in the winter?

We are fortunate to have a large unheated greenhouse that we are able to grow cold tolerant crops like spinach! We also make small tunnels out of plastic that protect crops out in the field. Growing throughout the winter is really pretty simple; it just takes plenty of planning.

What do you do in the winter?

There is plenty to do, from crop plans, to seed orders, to servicing tillers and fixing tools. Things slow down, but they certainly do not stop. The greenhouse gets cranked up by the end of February, making us plenty busy and we don’t slow down again till after Thanksgiving.

Isn’t the soil in Detroit contaminated?

Yes and no. Issues of contamination are very real in Detroit, but we test all the soil that we grow on, and only grow on those which have low lead levels. We strongly encourage those that want to start a garden to test their soils as well. We have found the most affordable source for quality lead testing is at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. You can find more info about their soil lab at this website.

Do you ever take apprentices, interns, volunteers?

We have regular volunteer hours every Wednesday from 9am-12pm February through the end of December with lunch following in the Soup Kitchen. We also have volunteer hours on Saturdays, April through the end of November, 9am-12pm. During the height for the growing season we host volunteer days Wednesday through Saturday. For those seeking a more in-depth experience, we do offer a 9 month training program (Earthworks Training Program or EAT), geared to work with those from the City of Detroit to get the skills needed to create their own urban agriculture business and to obtain jobs in the burgeoning urban field.

Those that are just interested in spending more time doing in-depth unpaid work should feel free to send us a letter of interest, and specify what skills they have that they can contribute.

How many gardens do you maintain in the city of Detroit?

Earthworks' gardens consist of approximately 7 gardens spread over 20 city lots spread within a 2 block radius of the Capuchin Soup Kitchen. We don't garden outside of that space. We do, however, provide technical support for gardens all throughout the city. Through our involvement with the Garden Resource Programs we are able to provide support for gardens all throughout the City of Detroit.