Monday, January 17, 2011

Urban Farming

The new Keller Futures Center at Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC) had a recent 7-week project for our community. The Center and the project topic were the brain-child of local businessman and philanthropist, Fred Keller. It helped to define the Center and the process for engaging with all sectors of the community.

The goal: Reinvent our region though innovative means

The topic: Urban Farming

The questions: What do we want West Michigan to look like? Specifically for this project, what might the future of urban agriculture (farming, gardening, etc.) look like in West MI? What trends do we see coming?

The project goal: Innovate in the area of the facilities, infrastructure, and architectural features and products needed to support community farms of different scales.

They offered three ways for West Michigan residents to engage:

A. Project Team (those present for the 7 on-site sessions),
B. Virtual Collaborators (facebook page, linked in discussions, tweets by John Rummery),
C. Process Observers (people explaining what they saw actually being developed; how were participants learning and practicing the skills).

I spoke with Liz McCormick, the GRCC Director of Innovation Projects. The project coordinators were Patti Trepkowski (GRCC Administrative Lead), Moss Ingram (Innovation & Sustainability), Mark Champion (Futures Research), Linda Chamberlain (GVSU, Entrepreneurship & Innovation), John Rumery (formerly with GVSU, now teaching adjunct at GRCC - social media facilitator), and the facilitator, Bill Fluharty. Fluharty is a local expert with a wealth of experience in industrial design.

The participants were faculty from GRCC, college students from GRCC, GVSU, Kendall and Aquinas, business professionals, and impassioned community citizens. As noted on the GRCC website, they were pioneers that gave of their time and talent for seven weeks to test and validate this new community innovation.

The project attracted a project team of 27 participants with nearly 300 community citizens contributing via social media. Seven compelling ideas and 6 high potential opportunity paths with early business-case content were created.

The first project to come to fruition was Root Camp. This is a 6-session gardening course that meets for one lunch hour monthly. It is held from December 2010 through May 2011. Although it has started, new participants are welcome and can find more information here. The goal of Root Camp is 1,000 new gardens in West Michigan this Spring!

Check out the other results below and let us know what you think via this blog or the Root Camp facebook page.

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