Volunteer Spotlight: Dominique Edwards

Dominique Edwards has served on Plant Chicago’s Auxiliary Board for the last six months. She will be spending the next week getting permits in Michigan City, Indiana to turn a plot of land not just into a community garden, but into a local Agrihood (urban agriculture hub) for internationals to temporarily reside and locals to learn! Read Dominique’s account below to learn more about her project.

Agrihood by Dominique Edwards

This is a project that has been 5-6 years in the making. It initially started off as a community garden project and after furthering my education and gaining more experience in urban agriculture, GIS and urban design, I decided to develop an Agrihood instead. I planned to initially purchase a single parcel and decided to begin investing in 3-4 more that were adjoined/in close proximity to the single parcel I intended to purchase. One parcel will be the urban farm itself and the additional parcels will house a small community center that has a commercial kitchen, so that we can harvest and prepare meals on site for community members and volunteers, as well as house workshops for the community to learn how to prepare nutritious meals from the produce that they have harvested.

IMG_20170507_213302_260We also want to give rise to an education area, and provide housing to volunteers that are both international and domestic that come from out of town to work at the farm. Our goal is to follow Plant Chicago’s mission in regards to closed loop systems and circular economy development, where materials go in but nothing comes out unless it is harvested and sold to local businesses in an effort to sustain our operations. We want to give rise to zero waste and facilitate a truly sustainable development.

The primary parcel of land is a 120×174 ft (pictured above) lot that used to have an old house and garage that sat on it. It was demolished a few years ago and the site is now vacant and was overrun by weeds and trees. I recently had the lot cleared and will continue to open up the space to let in more sunlight. Currently, I am in the process of purchasing the lot. It is currently zoned for residential and I will work with the City of Michigan City to re-zone it for agriculture as well as obtain any necessary permits required for this development. My goal is to build a sustainable community development that promotes green job creation and gives rise to food desert elimination.

While I am in Michigan City for the next week, I will be working to target local business owners, residents, and municipalities to sponsor and support the project. I am currently working as an individual on this project but I have a few people who are interested in helping me out. I also have a LLC that I own, called GreenEyed and Glorified, which I will rename to ROSE & Associates Design and Consulting. ROSE is an acronym for Redevelopments of Sustainable Equity and also the name of my Mother, who I lost a few years ago. A small part of the farm will house a rose garden in her honor as well as those who have been lost to nutritional based illnesses, such as diabetes and hypertension due to lack of access to nutritional based foods. My mother was a diabetic for over 20 years and she passed away from pneumonia that was provoked by complications from her diabetes.

We want to give rise to sustainable equity by facilitating community based projects that work to solve social issues, such as food access, housing and employment. In the context of sustainability, the term equity involves fairness and observes whether people have similar rights to opportunities, and access to all forms of community capital. In an effort to support urban revitalization, this project has greatly evolved into more than a community garden but as a unique and creative redevelopment that would be the first of its kind in Michigan City and a great asset to the Lakeland neighborhood.

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