“What we’re trying to do is a systems change. We’re trying to build up a small, local economy that’s place based – that can’t pick up and go somewhere else.”
~Stephen Arellano, Ruth Mott Foundation in Flint
Last week we featured Urban Farming and the Gift of Detroit. Detroit is not the only Michigan city that is turning to urban farming as a means of economic development and simple subsistence.
The Kings of Flint is a documentary that features Jacky and Dora King, of King Karate. Jackie and Dora are also Master Gardeners who see farming as not only a means of self defense – Jackie points out that historically martial arts students have also been farmers – but also as a way to revitalize Flint. They use the discipline of farming and hard work to help their students prepare to meet the challenges that growing up in Flint present.
In six years, the Kings have grown their urban gardening program from nothing to a program that now encompasses 16 former vacant city lots in Mt. Morris Township and Genesee Township. Last year they involved more than 900 volunteers and paid workers. In this feature in Farm World, Michigan State University instructor Troy Hale who co-produced the documentary with fellow MSU Communication Arts and Sciences teacher Geri Alumit Zeldes explained:
“We found out that the Kings are a couple of interesting characters. We just started going up and started to capture what we could capture. The Kings are really passionate about it. The main thing for them is these kids, teaching them some life skills. I think it’s a sense of community, as well.”
|“We’re 20 and 30 years behind on so many things, so we just haven’t made the kind of progress that we need to. There hasn’t been good planning on so many things, there’s been a lot of just managing decline.”
~Dayne Walling, Mayor of Flint
They use hoop houses to farm all year round, selling the fruits, vegetables and eggs they harvest at the Flint Farmers Market. You can learn more including how you can support their efforts at the Harvesting Earth Educational Farm web page.
An article from MSU about the project explains that Zeldes, a Flint native, was fascinated with the idea of sustainable agriculture and the city’s initiatives in revitalizing its community.
Students sharpened their investigative reporting skills and learned how to shoot and edit their own video. They traveled to Flint about twice a month to gather footage and interview the Kings, residents and local government officials.
…The documentary also includes a full-length music video completely shot and edited by MSU and performed by Flint residents Willie White, Ian Reddington, Hakim Gillard and Desiree Brown.
“In Michigan, I think Flint is known as a terrible city with lots of crime and it’s going nowhere, but there are actually people trying to change it,” said journalism student Alyssa Firth, who is the webmaster and a producer of the film.
There’s a whole bunch more videos and last summer the Great Lakes Echo ran some of the documentary footage exploring different facets of the story. Settle back and watch a 13 minute version of a Michigan success story: