Earthworks began in 1997 as a small garden to augment the Capuchin Soup Kitchen run by the Capuchin monastery. Brother Rick and the ministry, in accord with their concept of being in relationship with all of creation, recognized “a need to address the systemic causes of poverty, broken relationships, and a wounded Earth.” Their initial goal was to raise enough food to feed their clients, but also address food security in their neighborhood. Brother Rick organized the neighbors to help. The response was very positive.
Earthworks is located near the Detroit River off Lafayette Street in the heart of a very rough urban area. A number of properties in the area were abandoned. Some burned. Others collapsed and were razed. While devastating, it was also an opportunity. Over the years, the Capuchins were able to expand the garden to local vacant lots. Along the way they partnered with the local health department to promote healthy eating to low income families with children.
In 2001 they began Project FRESH which brought farmers’ markets to local health clinics and neighborhoods. Slowly they added training to local residents, and began to produce value added foods, like jams, pickles, and canned tomatoes. They also offered training for bicycle repair, beekeeping, cooking, and basic workplace skills. Many went on to use those skills in the employ of local businesses. They continue the farmers’ markets through their teen program, thus teaching another generation entrepreneurial skills.
Darryl generously showed me around three separate lots with hoop barns. The simple greenhouses allow for year-round growing. They also harvest water, make extensive compost, work with aquaculture, hydroponics, and have orchard crops. Darryl introduced me to several folks tending their own small gardens in a community garden set apart in one of the lots. They were excited to experiment with new varieties, or just grow some old favorites.
Darryl was hopeful for the future of the gardens. He pointed out the huge impact Earthworks had on so many people, how much it had positively affected his neighborhood, and the potential that it held for the future. The garden is a welcome opportunity, no locks on the garden gates. It’s just a matter of opening the door.
– January Nordman