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US (MI): How Muskegon is banding together to fight food insecurity

Tameka Smith is known as the okra whisperer at McLaughlin Grows Urban Farm, but spend any time with her and it’s clear she can charm pretty much any plant that comes her way.

Smith, 42, was born and raised in Muskegon; for a while, she lived not far from McLaughlin Grows Urban Farm, an expanse of green space the nonprofit Community enCompass opened in 2009 and which began operating at its current site at Mercy Health Muskegon’s Hackley Campus in 2012. Mercy Health rents the land to the farm for free.

“I lived right down the street from here. I’d ride my bike by the farm, and I was like, ‘What the hell are those people doing?’ Now, I’m addicted to farming. I love the peace; I love that I’m growing something that feeds people,” says Smith, who’s about to end a one-year sentence at the Muskegon Correctional Facility. As part of the prison’s “Pay It Back” program, Smith and other inmates can apply to work at various places throughout the city, including at the farm.

“This is what I do now—I’m a black farmer. I have a black thumb and a green thumb,” Smith says, smiling. 

Working at the farm, she explains, has changed her life, and, when her prison sentence is over, she’s planning to open her own community garden in Muskegon where people can access everything from fresh produce to nutritional information. Additionally, she’s hoping to open a facility that provides affordable healthcare or can connect individuals with healthcare.

Read more at Rapid Growth (Anna Gustafson)

Publication date: 10/12/2017



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