A look back at Building Resilient Communities’ pilot year, 2021-2022.
A farm distributes thousands more pounds of produce with new walk-in coolers. A childcare center transforms its backyard with a school garden. A food pantry sees record-high client numbers when offering unlimited produce from local farms. A community garden run by volunteers gets the tools needed to grow and engage more neighborhood families.
All this, and much, much more, is one year of Building Resilient Communities at work.
Groundwork launched Building Resilient Communities (BRC) in 2021 as a forward-thinking solution to the dire economic situations that farmers, families, and communities have experienced as a result of COVID-19 and the existing flaws in our food system. Catapulting from the success of previous initiatives, like the Local Food Relief Fund, BRC aims to improve access to fresh, nourishing food and revitalize our local food economies. We achieve these goals through strategic investments in infrastructure and education. I like to pronounce BRC as “brick” because each of these investments—garden tools, a refrigerator, Crockpots, wood for a raised garden bed—though small, when stacked together with the others builds something strong and grand.
Our team has worked hard to provide $2,000 stipends, staff consultation, and other resources to 26 project sites across our 10-county Northwest Lower Michigan region, ranging from farms and community gardens to food pantries, schools, and mental health centers, each of which has unique needs and challenges.
These five project “snapshots” give you a feel for what we’ve accomplished.
Z&N Farm (Manistee County)
Zac and Nicole and their new farmstand building at ZnN Farm.
The BRC program has transformed Z&N Farm’s ability to provide fresh produce to customers by allowing owners Zac and Nicole to invest in a new fully enclosed farmstand building. With the weatherproof store, Z&N’s customers can access beautiful produce on the farm at least 10 months of the year—a huge plus for food pantry users, who can purchase nutrient-dense produce using “Farm Bucks” here. The new building is even used to teach customers how to cook different types of produce, thanks to recipes posted in a community bulletin board attached to the exterior (along with updates on local events, food assistance program info, and other resources).
“The new farmstand makes everything more convenient for the customers and much easier on us,” says Zac Meseke, who operates the farm with his wife, Nicole. “Running a small farm business is an incredibly difficult task, and anything that makes it easier keeps us motivated to keep doing this work.”
Family Care Network of Manton Food Pantry (Wexford County)
Recipe cards complement the ingredients of the farm’s 2021 holiday boxes, donated to local veterans.
The Manton Food Pantry provides access to fresh food for nearly 600 families each year. With the BRC grant, the pantry increased freezer space for meat donations from local farmers—which they were forced to refuse in the past—and upgraded shelving units to better display the fresh produce offered. Another key piece of the project was investing in a printer and computer to provide pantry clients with nutrition information, recipes, and tips on how to store the produce they take home.
Third Day Farm (Missaukee County)