SFSI Intern Working with Detroit Urban Farms to develop Online Marketplace

Author: Keesa V Johnson

Published: June 3, 2020

As the morning air hits my face, I open the blinds to look out my “ big picture window” of life, as flaring pieces of trauma fill my mind from the continuous acts of anti-blackness sentiments through the United States and the globe plays out continuously. In 2020 we’re living in the time of global pandemics. Racism and COVID-19 have unraveled the disparities in a myriad of ways within our health, education, economic, and political systems as well as heightened the contradictions in our Food Systems.  

This summer, I am an Urban Agriculture intern, which is sponsored by the University of Michigan Sustainable Food Systems Initiative. My focus within this time of great creation and conceptualization is to cultivate, support, and implement value-driven design shifts in food and farming. The goal for my summer internship is to assist in the development and implementation of a community-driven online MarketPlace for two well-known Urban Farms (Oakland Avenue Urban Farm and D-Town Farm) within the city of Detroit.  

Currently, through a marketing partnership with Taste the Local Difference, we choose to work with the Local Food Market Platform, which is an Oregon based technology company that supports Food Hubs and local farmers online. Due to the impacts of COVID-19, buying habits of community members have shifted, yet the importance of getting quality food has not. As urban farmers, we know that 81% of the food stores offer unhealthy food choices which is a major key to health equity and collective healing of what goes in our bodies.  

So I’m learning a great deal about resilience and care by working with both (Oakland Avenue Urban Farm and D-Town Farm on how black farmers do not sit idle while their communities and livelihoods are attacked. We push for the right to thrive, survive for self-determination.  

Keesa V. Johnson is a Master of Integrative Design Candidate at the Penny Stamps School of Art in Design at the University of Michigan where she is studying Equity and Access in Food Systems.