Nonprofits and Sustainability

Urban farmers prepare for move to new center

Urban Roots, which grows and sells produce in city settings, is on its way to Madison Square.

November 13, 2015
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Urban Roots is planning to put down roots in a new home.

The Grand Rapids-based urban farming and permaculture design social enterprise recently announced plans to renovate and move into a building at 1316 Madison Ave. SE.

Currently located at 1059 Wealthy St. SE, Urban Roots has plans to move out of this location and into the Madison Square neighborhood to develop more access to and education regarding naturally grown food, said Jennifer Kok, spokesperson for Urban Roots.

Volunteers are being invited to help from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 21, doing demolition, debris removal, painting and other manual labor jobs.

“On Nov. 21, we will begin our renovation process at 1316 Madison so we can fully move in by next year. This center will be surrounded by our community farm that will be worked by employees, interns and community members,” she said.

“The produce will be sold to members who purchase a monthly box of produce. It will also be available in our onsite and mobile farm stand. This branch of Urban Roots will also host internships and various community workshops to enrich minds. The goal is to educate and empower the community while also making healthy food accessible.”

Urban Roots is a three-pronged enterprise, Kok said.

The first prong is its Urban Roots Mobile Classroom, which travels to various organizations that wish to create their own food source. Urban Roots plants a garden, educates them on food systems and agriculture maintenance, and then helps them sustain their garden, she said. Many of these organizations are local schools that strive to provide their children with food systems education and healthier meals.

Its second prong is the Urban Roots Community Farm, which “will be our hive — our home base,” Kok said. It is no accident Urban Roots’ new home is on Madison Avenue. According to, almost half of Madison Square inhabitants fall below the national poverty level.

“Currently, we are located at 1059 Wealthy and have two off-site farms. We chose 1316 Madison because we hope to join the organizations and individuals in that area and help engage and educate community members,” Kok said.

“We want to join the conversation and empower the community, all while increasing access to healthy food and productive social activities. To fully create the ideal space that will benefit our beloved city, we hope to raise $1 million over the next five years.”

The third prong is Urban Roots Permaculture Design, its division that meets with residential and organizational clients who wish to invest in edible landscaping. Urban Roots designs and installs edible gardens and educates the owners on maintenance, Kok said.

Urban Roots was founded in 2013 by Levi Gardner as a for-profit company, but after re-evaluating his goals for the company, Gardner decided to change direction and applied for nonprofit certification, which Urban Roots is in the process of getting, Kok said.

“We have a financial sponsor and can accept donations while we are waiting for the application to go through,” she said.

“Donations would be used for projects like renovating our space, buying and branding a panel truck for Urban Roots Mobile Classroom, and investing in supplies to plant farms at Urban Roots and organizations in need.”

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