Our formerly incarcerated paid internship program is off to a GREAT start! We are fortunate to have TWO dynamic interns, Malachai Muhammad and Abdurrahman (Abdu) Banta. Just as my grandmother left a legacy in my life, they are who I’m striving to leave a legacy for. Both have shared with us their delight regarding being in our program and they both feel valued & supported. In fact, just the other day, Abdu arrived at the farm earlier than scheduled because being out there brought him a sense of peace.
We have lots of plans for our interns that include opportunities to be involved with staple organizations including Food Gatherers and Habitat For Humanity. They will also get a chance to meet and talk with the Mayor of Ypsilanti, Beth Bashert (Note from the editor: Beth Bashert is no longer the mayor of Ypsilanti). And now that more restrictions have been lifted, we are lining up field trips to urban farms and the State Capitol.
Farming operations, which are being led by our outstanding Farm Manager, are moving along well and our spring planted crops will be ready to begin harvesting in only a few weeks. We are anxiously awaiting this moment because it is at that point we’ll begin distributing a large portion to our surrounding community at no cost! Our valuable community partner, Habitat for Humanity, has offered to build us a Farm Stand to use as a distribution point near our farm. This pivot was made possible with support from United Way of Washtenaw County and the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation.
And yes, the remaining produce will still wind up in the kitchens and on the plates of some outstanding restaurants like Zingerman’s Roadhouse, Zingerman’s Deli, Detroit Street Filling Station, Maiz Mexican Cantina, The Lunch Room, Argus Farm Stop, Frita Batidos, The Ypsilanti Food Co-op and The People’s Food Co-op Ann Arbor.
“Changing soil”, “Building community”, “A seat at the table”, are all phrases which have driven, and continue to, drive me. I and all those involved with We The People Opportunity Farm feel strongly about this work and we guarantee that there will be more to come; more “soil to change” in folks’ lives for years to come.
In July, we will launch a campaign drive to support the essential work that We The People Opportunity Farm is doing in our efforts to address incarceration, equity, opportunity and food scarcity. Our goal is to raise $125K. We realize this may seem lofty. However, in comparison, it cost this amount to keep 3 folks locked up for 1 year on parking ticket violations! We ask that you give. Stretch yourself! Not only because our organization needs your support, but stretch yourself because our organization is worthy of it. This IS the time for change! We ARE making a difference in the lives of folks and the community and we WILL double our capacity to bring formerly incarcerated paid interns into our program in 2021, and we plan to double THAT in 2022! Join our soil & community changing movement!! Our formal campaign launch will begin July 1, but you can certainly give right now!
Melvin Parsons is the Executive Director of We the People Opportunity Farm in Ypsilanti, MI. WTPOF exists to break the cycle of incarceration in Washtenaw County by investing in the employment and development of formerly incarcerated men and women through farming and community engagement. Learn more about the farm:https://www.wtpof.org/