A message from Greater Lansing Food Bank Executive Director, Joe Wald
The Lansing Roots program was introduced to our community in 2012, supported by an external grant to the Greater Lansing Food Bank (GLFB). From 2012 to the end of 2017, our team worked with beginning farmers to help them gain the skills necessary to start their own farm enterprises; skills ranging from basic farming to marketing, planning and business development. External funding for the Roots incubator farm program ended in early 2017.
In 2016 and 2017, the GLFB Board began a basic review of all food bank programs, including the Roots program. It was universally agreed that this program addresses an important community and national need related to identifying and training the future farmers who will replace the current farmers who are aging. Feedback from the participants has been positive related to the skills that they have been exposed to. The challenge for the GLFB team is to determine how to allocate scarce resources to the areas which will have the greatest positive impact on the people we serve.
After five years of operations including more than two years of analysis and feedback from the participants, the Board concluded that although the Roots program addresses an important community issue and future need, the ongoing financial needs of the organization (which must come from community financial support to the GLFB) dictates that we back away from supporting the Roots program going forward. We hope to find another organization better suited to address this important problem. With food insecurity (not knowing where one’s next meal will come from) in our community continuing to grow, the Board and management have concluded that we must maintain a singular focus of addressing these needs in the most direct way we can. We will use the financial support from our community to feed those in need.
In meeting with our current (2017 participating) farmers, we shared that the GLFB will provide a modest level of support for this next growing season, which will allow them to continue to farm on the Roots land, under the direction of our Garden Project (GP) team, but we will not be providing the training or marketing component. This will enable these farmers to explore future alternatives and give the GP team an opportunity to speak to area farming partners about their potential interest in absorbing the Roots program into their existing operations. GLFB support for this program will conclude at the end of the 2018 growing season.