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Farming in a Shipping Container

In the early 20th century, people left their farms to come to Detroit and work in factories like Henry Ford’s. Now, in the early 21st century, the Ford Motor Company Fund is setting out to educate kids about farming and nutrition with a mobile, indoor, year-round gardening project in Detroit.

Cass Community Social Services is initiating a hydroponic farming and education program that will supply Detroit area residents and restaurants with fresh produce year-round.

Located on its “tiny homes” campus in Detroit, the garden will be housed in a 40-foot shipping container.

The Two-Fold Project

Photo by: Charlotte Bodak / Ford Motor Company Fund

Cass Community Social Services, along with The Ford Motor Company Fund are creating The Ford Mobile Farm. This hydroponic garden planted in a 40-foot freight container will be housed at Cass Community Social Services (CCSS) and will help feed the hungry at the organization’s community kitchen. In addition, produce will be sold to local restaurants to to help support the freight farm. CCSS is a Detroit non-profit dedicated to providing area residents with food, housing, health services and job training.

The freight container will be fitted with LED lighting, powered, in part by solar panels, to allow seeds to sprout and vegetables to grow. The container will have the growing capacity of up to two acres of land and generate up to 52 harvests per year, bringing in several tons of produce.

CCSS will also take a demonstration garden, planted in the back of a Ford F-150 pickup truck that was donated by Ford, to local schools and Ford employees will volunteer their time instructing the kids. The garden will help students understand how produce is grown, with lessons on nutrition and farming. Beyond providing another source of fresh produce for those in need, the new program “gives us the opportunity to teach people in our city how to create their own gardens that will give them better nutrition and be more cost-effective,” the Rev. Faith Fowler, executive director of Cass Community Social Services, said in a news release.

The idea for the program came from a participant in Ford’s Thirty Under 30 program challenged last year to improve the Ford Mobile Food Pantries, which launched in 2008.

A $250,000 grant through the Bill Ford Better World Challenge grant program funded by Ford Motor Co. and personal support from the carmaker’s executive chairman, Bill Ford Jr., is providing seed funding for the mobile and stationary gardens and the educational arm of the program.

The Thirty Under 30 program takes younger, salaried workers from Ford sites across the country and puts them through a yearlong leadership course where they learn about philanthropy and nonprofits while studying social issues. Bill Ford launched the program in 2016 to promote the next generation of community-minded employees.

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