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Urban farm project gets Lansing digging in the dirt

hoop house photo
Scott Pohl
Caitlin Schneider (and baby Frida) check out the spinach growing in the Lansing Urban Farm Project hoop house.

For city-dwellers, farming might not appear to be a viable career option. A program in Lansing works to encourage urban farming through the Lansing Urban Farm Project apprenticeship program.

The first of two information meetings about the program is tonight.

On a cold winter morning, the little urban farm on South Hayford Street in Lansing doesn’t look like much, but even now, there’s some growing going on in the nearby hoop house. It’s steps from Caitlin Schneider’s back door. Schneider is a former Lansing Urban Farm Project apprentice who now manages the farm. In the summer, tomatoes grow here. This winter, spinach and salad mix are still being produced.

Ingham County Treasurer Eric Schertzing oversees this operation, which opened on a parcel that had been foreclosed in 2010. "The urban farm area," he explains, "is comprised of about a half dozen parcels that make up a couple dozen acres in that vicinity, but it has spawned other small, urban farms in the Lansing area.

The program is looking for four apprentices in the neighborhood this year. They get a stipend of $4,000 to work about 20 hours a week for six months. The money comes from USDA grants, the Community Foundation, the Ingham County Land Bank Authority, and there was a farm festival fundraiser last year.

Back at the farm, manager Caitlin Schneider explains that she grew up on a farm, and she’s glad this apprenticeship program gave her a chance to get back into agriculture. She remembers digging potato trenches on a very hot day during her first summer in the program and thinking "I am so happy that I'm doing this right now! This is what I should be doing with my life!"

Tonight’s meeting to learn about applying to be a Lansing Urban Farm Project apprentice starts at 6 p-m at the Allen Market Place on East Kalamazoo Street. There’s another on February 23rd.

Scott Pohl is a general assignment news reporter and produces news features and interviews. He is also an alternate local host on NPR's "Morning Edition."
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