MSU to build food research center in Detroit
A neighborhood in Detroit is about to hold Michigan State University’s very first urban-based center for food research in the beginning of 2018.
The MSU-Detroit Partnership for Food, Learning and Innovation, which was launched on Nov. 16 in Detroit, is aiming to create a community-based learning center with activities such as growing plants and soil sampling.
MSU Extension Director Jeff Dwyer said there are already several activities ranging from business to youth opportunities in the neighborhood where this partnership is taking place.
“One of the really nice things about this opportunity for Michigan State, in addition to having a specific location in Detroit to focus on these issues, is that in the Riverdale-Brightmoor area there are already a number of really exciting activities,” Dwyer said.
The MSU Extension has a 100-year-old history with being involved in Detroit, according to Dwyer. Although there are already over 30 MSU Extension staff members located in Detroit and a variety of projects already established, this project will be a focal point in providing a range of opportunities related to food production.
The site will also be used to do more with health and nutrition programs, cooking classes, and training in handling food products, Dwyer said.
“The long term plan is that we’ll have an actual building,” he said. “It will be a place where we bring faculty and other experts from the university.”
According to the masterplan for the MSU-Detroit Partnership for Food, Learning and Innovation, the urban agriculture center will eventually have classrooms, community gardens, an art trail and research fields.
“It’s really going to be a site where we can teach people how to grow and what to grow and how to do that efficiently, whether it’s in their, you know, flower bed or they want to do it as a business,” Dwyer said. “It’s also going to be a place where people can come together and do other kinds of experiences together.”
This center is different from many other projects done in the Detroit area because it is a rare and exciting outlet for research, MSU Extension District Coordinator Richard Wooten said.
“It’s going to focus on urban issues. It’s one of the few facilities like this in the country, and that’s what makes it so exciting,” he said.
According to Wooten, who works primarily in the Detroit area, the MSU Extension is distinguished from many other organizations because, since it is associated with a large university, it is able to stay involved in a project for a longer amount of time.
“Because we have people embedded in the community, we can be involved in a project for multiple years, unlike some organizations and groups,” he said.
Although the center is not yet built, Wooten said they will already begin working with partners across the street and beginning some of the programs they have in mind.
“We agreed to provide programs to the residents from low cost to no cost,” he said. “We won’t wait until the facility is up and running, we will move forward and start having some of those conversations with some of the local partners and start developing some of those programs.”