- Associated Press - Sunday, April 30, 2017

GRAND BLANC TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - A three-acre strip of land on the grounds of Genesys Health Park is being used to help women in the community learn to farm and start their own independent businesses.

The idea for the Women in Agriculture Farm Development Center sprouted from a partnership between Genesys and several organizations, including Michigan Food and Farming Systems, a nonprofit working with underserved farmers to provide resources that will help them begin careers in the industry.

Jen Silveri, field director with MIFFS, said their focus is helping women interested in growing fresh fruits and vegetables to supplement or become their main source of income.

“A lot of it is starting with market gardens, people who have had some sort of experience gardening and are looking at how do I start selling produce or turn this into a job,” she said, with the group having worked with others in Flint and Grand Blanc.

The group approached Genesys and Nick Evans, vice president of business development for Ascension Mid-Michigan. Ascension Mid-Michigan is the parent company for Genesys.

“Philosophically it was perfect for us because we have 500 acres and the hospital embraces not just providing health care but also economic development,” Evans said. “As they kind of described what they were thinking about doing, it just seemed like a great opportunity for us.”

A three-year lease for $1 a year was provided to the group, which Silveri said will offer women the chance to gain expertise from other women on a variety of topics such as soil management, composting, harvest, price things to get to market, storage issues, regulations.

“It’s really a community of support that helps growers lift each other and kind of empower them to take that next step and claim being called a farmer if they want to do that,” she said.

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Information from: The Grand Rapids Press, https://www.mlive.com/grand-rapids

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