Non­prof­its’ ur­ban ship­ping con­tainer will ex­tend pro­duce sea­son to all year

Fash­ion X Phi­lan­thropy melds style, char­ity

The Detroit News - - Sports - BY MAU­REEN FEIGHAN The Detroit News

Detroit’s bur­geon­ing ur­ban farm­ing scene has an ob­vi­ous down­side: the grow­ing sea­son isn’t that long.

But a lo­cal so­cial ser­vices agency and a group of am­bi­tious Ford Mo­tor Co. em­ploy­ees may have found a way around that. Their so­lu­tion: grow­ing a farm in a 40-foot en­closed ship­ping con­tainer equipped with LED light­ing and so­lar pan­els that can pro­duce crops year-round. Take that, Mother Na­ture.

The Ford Mo­bile Farm, cre­ated with a

$250,000 grant from

When Amanda Fisher and Jen­nifer Granger met, they were amazed at how much they have in com­mon. What re­ally de­lighted the chic Oak­land County pair was their mu­tual pas­sion for fash­ion and phi­lan­thropy. “We agreed that there has al­ways been a syn­ergy be­tween the fash­ion world and the phil­an­thropic sec­tor,” says Fisher.

“So why don’t we take it to the next level? Why not feel awe­some about sup­port­ing our com­mu­nity and look awe­some at the same time?”

Thus, Fash­ion X Phi­lan­thropy was born, a non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion that will pro­duce in­cred­i­ble ways to en­joy style, the Ford Mo­tor Co. Fund, the au­tomaker’s phil­an­thropic arm, will be on the cam­pus of Cass Com­mu­nity So­cial Ser­vices on Detroit’s west side.

There, work­ers and vol­un­teers will not only grow food in a ship­ping con­tainer, but they’ll also trans­port some of the farm in an F-150 truck do­nated to Cass this spring by Ford. They’ll use it to visit schools to talk to kids about the im­por­tance of farm­ing, where crops come from and healthy eat­ing. “Ev­ery­body is al­ways talk­ing about ur­ban gar­den­ing, which is great — for sum­mer,” said the Rev. Faith Fowler, Cass’s ex­ec­u­tive de­sign and fash­ion while do­ing re­mark­able things in the com­mu­nity. On Thurs­day, Fisher and Granger cel­e­brated the launch of Fash­ion X Phi­lan­thropy with a stylishly fes­tive gath­er­ing at Saks Fifth Av­enue in Troy.

In ad­di­tion to the launch, the party was to ben­e­fit Mu­sic Hall Cen­ter for the Per­form­ing Arts’ five Per­form­ing Arts Ed­u­ca­tion pro­grams for Detroit Pub­lic Schools, and to in­form guests about its up­com­ing gala, Detroit Mu­sic Week­end 2018, that be­gins June 15.

More than 150 guests at­tended with a wait­ing list of half as many. Mod­ern Cock­tail was the over­all theme, adorned with a top-notch fash­ion show from Saks that pro­vided women and men wor­thy op­tions for a night out in down­town Detroit. Dressy but not tra­di­tional black-tie out­fits were shown — specif­i­cally what to wear while at­tend­ing the up­com­ing Mu­sic Hall event.

Guests en­joyed passed hors d’oeu­vres, wine and cham­pagne, along with a cot­ton candy con­coc­tion from Blue Henry Spir­its. An added touch to the evening was a spe­cial ap­pear­ance by the pres­i­dent of Creed Fra­grances, Thomas Sau­jet, to high­light his ex­quis­ite brand founded in 1760.

“We are so ex­cited about the suc­cess of this event,” adds Granger. “We have three more events planned at Saks that will ben­e­fit dif­fer­ent char­i­ties. Also, we have some fun events in the pipe­line that will high­light lo­cal de­sign­ers, re­tail­ers, and char­i­ties. Stay tuned Detroit.”

di­rec­tor. “But the other three sea­sons it’s not so great in terms of pro­vid­ing fresh food. We are very ex­cited about the prospect of be­ing able to go 365 days and har­vest­ing food year-round.”

Todd Nis­sen, di­rec­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions for Ford Mo­tor Co. Fund, said it isn’t just about ac­cess to healthy food in ur­ban ar­eas, but rec­og­niz­ing it as well. Fowler and some Ford vol­un­teers made their first visit to a Detroit school ear­lier this spring with their new mo­bile farm truck to talk to el­e­men­tary school stu­dents and show them fresh herbs and other pro­duce.

“In a lot of ur­ban ar­eas, kids in par­tic­u­lar, they don’t al­ways make the con­nec­tion — where does let­tuce come from? How do toma­toes grow? And what do they taste like?” Nis­sen said.

The idea of cre­at­ing a mo­bile farm ac­tu­ally came from a group of young Ford em­ploy­ees who are part of a new ini­tia­tive by the au­tomaker to tap the brain­power and fresh think­ing of its younger em­ploy­ees to help ad­dress var­i­ous com­mu­nity is­sues. Thirty em­ploy­ees un­der the age of 30 are tapped each year and put into groups to brain­storm so­lu­tions to cer­tain is­sues. Last year’s topic was food and se­cu­rity.

Nis­sen said Ford al­ready has a pro­gram, the Ford Mo­bile Food Pantry Net­works, that uses a net­work of Tran­sit vans to help non­prof­its with food as­sis­tance. The new mo­bile farm is the “2.0 ver­sion of that.”

Once the ship­ping con­tainer ar­rives this sum­mer — it’ll be in­stalled near Cass Com­mu­nity So­cial Ser­vices head­quar­ters at Rosa Parks and Webb, Fowler said — the plan is to erect hun­dreds of ver­ti­cal planters in­side. The con­tainer will have the grow­ing ca­pac­ity of up to 2 acres of land and pro­duce up to 52 har­vests per year.

“It uses hy­dro­pon­ics, so you have light and wa­ter, and nu­tri­ents go­ing all the time,” Fowler said. “You start the plants in a very small sleeve, grow it for about a week, and then trans­fer it into what looks like hang­ing blinds, quite frankly, up and down the ship­ping con­tainer. When it’s ready to har­vest, you just take it off the blind and away you go and start again. It’s very cool.”

And since it’s en­closed, it takes Mother Na­ture out of the equa­tion, “which is very, very good for Michi­gan,” she said. “... We’ll go all win­ter long, which is a re­ally ex­cit­ing thing.”

Cass likely won’t open the gar­den un­til fall since there will be a bit of a learn­ing curve, Fowler said. The new mo­bile gar­den also will pro­vide jobs to some of Cass’s clients, in­clud­ing those with de­vel­op­men­tal dis­abil­i­ties. And Ford would likely have vol­un­teers help in var­i­ous ways.

“We see it as not only feed­ing, but as jobs,” Fowler said.

The mo­bile farm is about ap­ply­ing “new think­ing to re­ally hard-to-solve prob­lems,” Nis­sen said.

He said Ford could po­ten­tially ex­pand this con­cept to other ur­ban ar­eas, though no plans are in place at this mo­ment.

“That’s one of the great things about this project,” he said. “It could not only trans­form ar­eas here, but we could def­i­nitely ap­ply it to other ur­ban ar­eas.”

A child car­ries pro­duce and plants from a spe­cial F-150 at a lo­cal Detroit school as the chil­dren get hands-on lessons about farm­ing as part of the Ford Mo­bile Farm.

Allen Ross, Vince Paul and Sandy Dun­can en­joy the event.

Pho­tos by Fash­ion X Phi­lan­thropy

Patti Prowse, left, Renee Godin, Jessie El­liott and Vi­vian Pickard

Jen­nifer Granger, left, and Amanda Fisher launch Fash­ion X Phi­lan­thropy at Saks in Troy.


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