County: Urban farm takes official land ownership, helps local economy

Posted at 4:45 PM, Jul 26, 2016

CALHOUN COUNTY, Mich. -- Land at 245 Kendall St. in Battle Creek once sat idle, but the land is now a vibrant urban farm.

"Had this farm not been established here, this farm would be publicly owned, publicly maintained and cost the taxpayers a lot of money," Christine Schauer, county treasurer and land bank chair, said.

The Calhoun County Land Bank took it over in 2011 when a temple had been foreclosed.   Schauer said it's costly to cut the grass and pick up trash on sites that sit vacant. Thankfully, Jeremy Andrews of Sprout Urban Farms started leasing the land from the county land bank in 2012.

Andrews officially took ownership of the land today, and a ribbon cutting ceremony took place. Afterward, about 90 interns from Kellogg Corporation helped clear and till the two and a half acre property.

"The land bank has been a great partner for four years, allowing us to lease this property for a dollar a year," Andrews said. "We took a very vacant, disheveled, brush-filled, nasty property and turned it into a productive property that hired youth, created a garden, created beauty, got neighbors involved."

Andrews said the farm also buys produce from farmers within a hundred mile radius. Youth are also given opportunities to work on the farm. He said produce is sold to local restaurants, schools, the hospital, farmers markets, and in neighborhoods where grocery stores don't exist.

"It's a little bit about taking care of ourselves. It's about providing jobs locally. It's about keeping our dollars local. I think there's a push for us to improve our local economy," he said.

"So projects like this stabilize a neighborhood. They're considered anchors in a neighborhood as well, attract people to come back and maybe fix up some houses," Schauer said.

The county treasurer said the non-profit organization's presence in the neighborhood also helps boost property values.