Feeding the Freedom to Grow

Ford is honoring Black Business Month by supporting entrepreneurship, culture and cuisine to the table. We’re celebrating those who inspire us through their stories like Peace Tree Parks, a nonprofit that works to convert vacant land into gardens allowing them to beautify the city while feeding the community. The founders are proud Ford owners dedicated to increasing access to fresh produce in the community they know and love.

“To repurpose the land, our goal was to feed the community once we discovered Detroit was pretty much a food desert at the time,” said Eric Andrews, Co-founder of Peace Tree Parks.

Peace Tree Parks plays a vital role in increasing access to fresh organic produce in Metro Detroit. In 2015, when the nonprofit was established, the city had been a food desert for almost a decade. High school best friends Eric Andrews and D’Andre Riggins began this movement after noticing an increase in vacant land, lack of grocery stores, and realizing the need for more access to fresh organic produce and healthy food options.

It began as an awareness campaign for Peace Tree Parks to educate community members on the variety of produce that could be grown in Detroit. Each month, they hosted volunteer events where they taught others how to plant, maintain their garden, and harvest crops. They worked with the Detroit Land Bank Authority to begin repurposing vacant land throughout the city into community spaces. This partnership led to a process that now allows neighborhoods across the city to duplicate the concept that was developed at their first community garden site.

“So, we started growing produce – we grew everything from watermelon, pumpkins, peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, and strawberries. It was more of an awareness thing, we wanted to show the community that this is the variety of produce that you can grow in your backyard,” said Andrews.

Planting the Future

Peace Tree Parks has two initiatives which work together to reach those in need, regardless of race, age, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. Their community garden program is for residents in the surrounding area to pick produce at no charge. The organization has converted a total of 13 vacant lots into community gardens which has inspired many to begin growing their own produce.

The organization’s other initiative is the residential garden program which was created as an extension of the community garden program to provide access to those that don’t live nearby. The program’s mission is to bring organic gardening to the backyards of those who want direct access to produce options. Those interested in joining this program should begin by completing an online application. Although the program is free for local residents, donations are encouraged to support its growth.

Peace Tree Parks also offers farm-to-school programming and has collaborated with various schools in the Detroit Public School District (DPSD) to implement aspects of their programming. They currently partner with four local educational institutions in Detroit where they provide supplies and teach students skills needed to grow their own produce. Peace Tree Parks actively collaborates with Black-owned food businesses like local chefs to cook at their community events.

Driving for Change Through Entrepreneurship

Peace Tree Parks is one of many with a drive for change, and Ford is proud to be their vehicle of reliance as they go out and make things happen. They started out building residential garden beds for friends and family, and it was their Ford Explorer that allowed them to load the vehicles up with enough bags of compost to complete two residential gardens per day. They now own a Ford F-150®, helping them to tow heavy equipment to and from their current job site, and their Ford Expedition® SUV which allows them to tow while still arriving in style. Their Ford vehicles have helped the organization increase the number of people able to provide produce from local food businesses to homeless shelters.

This nonprofit strives to help community members appreciate the value of volunteering by allowing them to have a hands-on therapeutic and inspiring experience. Their aim is to remind others that when you plant a seed… a plant will grow when given the time, consistency, and care. A concept in which their organization was founded on from taking their idea (a seed) and now harvesting what they’ve produced in the last decade through consistency and care. Like Peace Tree Parks, Ford believes in the power of Black businesses. Learn more about their organization at peacetreeparks.org.

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