Resilient Neighborhoods: Neighborhood farm stand offers accessible, affordable food to Detroiters

An older resident with a friendly dog approaches a tent stocked with fruits and vegetables in the grass field next to St. Dominic's Outreach Center in Detroit's Woodbridge neighborhood. It's an overcast day in mid-June, and the farm stand is staffed by two young men, one of whom sports blue dreads. The visitor looks over the tent's produce carefully, finally settling on a squash and a zucchini. 

"Gotta support local business!" he says cheerfully, handing a few dollars over and receiving his change. Over the next half hour several other people, from all walks of life, stop by the tent to purchase fruit and vegetables. They leave in good spirits. 

The farm stand is a joint collaboration between two area nonprofits, Eastern Market and Woodbridge Neighborhood Development (WND). It takes place at the lot adjacent to 4884 Trumbull every Friday this summer between 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The program kicked off on June 2 and is scheduled to run through August, but could be extended into early September because of rain days.   

Nazar Carpenter is one of the two young men who oversees the Woodbridge Farm Stand. He's part of Eastern Market's Food and Health Fellowship, a 25-member cohort that is responsible for the nonprofit's Food Assistance operations, Farm Stand program, and other food access initiatives. Although the season just started, Carpenter has been having a fun experience so far.

"The farm stand has been chill. People are friendly," he says "On the first Friday of each month we give away produce for free. Everybody loves that. We're just excited to have affordable produce [available for neighborhood residents]."

Nazar and Serge at the Woodbridge Farm Stand.
Accessible, affordable produce

Now in its third year,  the farm stand was created for Woodbridge residents to have a new convenient option for getting fresh fruits and vegetables.

"For three hours [every Friday], we've got kind of a mini-Eastern Market right on the edge of Woodbridge," says Angie Gaabo WND's executive director. "It's accessible produce that's very affordable. You can pick up greens and other fresh food right here in the neighborhood on foot or on a bicycle."

The farm stand is just one of more than a dozen mobile pop-up produce stands supported by Eastern Market that operate in Metro Detroit each year from mid-May to mid-October. As with the other locations, the Woodbridge Farm Stand is stocked with produce from Michigan farmers as well as non-Michigan items like bananas and oranges from local suppliers connected to Eastern Market. As the season progresses, more and more Michigan items like strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and peaches will become available to customers.  

The Woodbridge Farm Stand came online in 2021. Its purpose is threefold. First, it's intended to enhance the walkability of the neighborhood, by giving residents a useful amenity they can take advantage of on bike or by foot. Second, it offers a great way for seniors and low-income people who live in the area to have access to fresh fruits and vegetables at an affordable price. And lastly, it offers WND another way to share information about programming with residents it might not reach by other means. 

While the Farm Stand was originally set up at Scripps Park, organizers eventually moved it to its current site, which has better street visibility. The current location next to St. Dominic's Outreach Center is convenient for those who visit the Catholic charity's pantry, which is open on Fridays (as well as Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays) from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Those who stop by the outreach center can supplement the clothing, household items, and dry food goods they pick up at the pantry with fresh produce. It's also worth noting that the farm stand accepts EBT and Bridge cards and has double up food bucks incentive for these shoppers. 

"if Bridge Card shoppers spend $10 on their Bridge Card at our table, we give them an additional $10 that they can spend on Michigan produce," says Morba. Its a good way to stretch  the food budget, try something new, and encourage people to bring their bridge cards to our table and double their dollars." 

Julie Mingo, a retired computer programmer who has lived in Woodbridge since 1982, is a big fan of the farm stand. Although she has a car herself and can drive to other places to get produce, she appreciates the quality of the fruits and vegetables Eastern Market brings to the neighborhood.

"Last week we found some strawberries that were really nice.and we enjoyed a lot. and in the past we've had peaches," she says. "It's always a delight when you find cherries, peaches, or things that are locally grown."

Clare Liening, a Woodbridge resident who works in the communications field is a newcomer to the farm stand. 

"I just became aware of the farmstand this year. and I actually just checked it out for the first time a couple of weeks ago," she says. "I rode my bike over. I just love having the fresh produce available at such an easy access location."

Liening, a member of the Woodbridge Citizens Council, also feels that the farm stand is also a convenient option for local seniors who may not have transportation or others who may not have the time to go to someplace like Eastern Market to get fresh local produce.  

"Woodbridge is a really diverse neighborhood with people from a lot of different socioeconomic backgrounds," she says. "So to have that easy access to fresh produce close by really just makes it a more feasible option for a lot of people."

Yoga at Scripps Park. (Photo Courtesy of WND)
Summer in Woodbridge

In addition to the farm stand, Woodbridge Neighborhood Development sponsors a variety of other different summer activities for neighborhood residents. 

Those interested in a little stretching and mindfulness can check out Yoga in Scripps Park, a weekly yoga class taught by Caitlin Brown of Mindful Detroit. It takes place Saturdays from June through August  from 10-11 a.m. at Scripps Park (3666 Grand River Ave.). Participants are asked to bring a yoga mat and water. 

And for parents looking to get their children involved with activities like football, basketball, and field hockey, there's Westside Play. It's a youth-intensive drop-in recreation sports recreation program organized by WND in collaboration with Northwest Goldberg Cares and 360 Detroit.

"It's an introduction to sports. Youth 18 and under get a chance to become familiar with different kinds of sports activities, and it's an all day long staffed event," say Gaabo. 

Starting June 11, Westside Play in Woodbridge will take place Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m to 4 p.m. at Freedom Place Apartments (1101 W Warren Ave). For youth who live in Detroit's Northwest Goldberg and Virginia Park neighborhoods,  the program also takes place Mondays and Wednesdays at Trumbull Crossing Apartments (5500 Trumbull Ave.) in the Northwest Goldberg and Wednesdays at 360 Park (1404 Virginia Park St.) in Virginia Park. Check Westside Play website for exact times. 

Working with the Douglass Branch of the Detroit Library, WND is also sponsoring a kids-oriented event called Fun Fridays @ the Library. Every Friday from June 23 through August 18 between 12:30 and 2:30 p.m., Scripps Park will be hosting a pizza party with storytime, arts and crafts and a special visitor. On rainy days, the events will be held indoors at the Douglass Branch library (3666 Grand River Ave.)

Finally on August 18, WND will be hosting a movie showing of "The Secret Life of Pets" at Scripps Park from 8:30 to 11 p.m. Check out WND's website for further details about summer events.

Photos by Steve Koss, unless otherwise noted.

Resilient Neighborhoods is a reporting and engagement series that examines how Detroit residents and community development organizations are working together to strengthen local neighborhoods. It's made possible with funding from the Kresge Foundation.

Detroit Public Library's Douglass Branch.
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Read more articles by David Sands.

David Sands is a Detroit-based freelance writer. He's covered the news for Huffington Post Detroit as an assistant editor and worked as a staff writer for the transportation news site Mode Shift. Follow him on Twitter @dsandsdetroit.