Earlier this week, the Purdue University Cooperative Extension Services in partnership with City of Gary was awarded a $199,676 SARE grant that will support the city’s focus to increase sustainable production and access to fresh produce in the city of Gary. The SARE, (Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education) grant is awarded nationally and was developed to enhance sustainable agricultural programs in urban communities.
While Gary is a city with more than 75,000 residents, there are only four large grocery stores within the city limits that sell fresh produce. The limited access to fresh, healthy produce presents a great challenge for local residents.
The City of Gary has been working through its green urbanism initiatives to utilize urban farming as a means to tackle many challenging social, environmental, and economic issues. Urban farming will also provide an option for Gary residents who currently travel outside of the city for fresh produce and groceries.
Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said, “Receipt of this grant emphasizes the need for the availability of healthy foods in our community. This is also an opportunity to highlight the many components of our green urbanism initiatives to improve food access, eliminate blight, to create green spaces, to create jobs and small business opportunities in the city.”
The SARE grant will directly assist the city in creating programs and activities for urban farmers to gain knowledge about farming systems and increase necessary skills to become successful at growing fresh produce.
Trained urban farmers will also be linked with consumers to sell their local produce through community stores, markets, grocers, restaurants, institutions, and food banks. By working on both the supply and demand sides of the equation, urban farmers will be able to sustainably produce and market their fresh fruits and vegetables.
The grant also supports the creation of an urban agriculture certificate program, a tool sharing initiative for small-scale diversified farmers, the formation of a peer-to-peer networking group, and the development of a validated internship program with trained mentors. In addition expanding agricultural-related opportunities, strengthening the workforce, and economic development are also elements available through the grant.
The Mayor thanked Purdue Extension and Dr. Tamara Benjamin, Project Director for the continued support of our initiatives, the Gary Food Council, Brenda Scott-Henry, Director of Gary Environmental Affairs & Green Urbanism, staff and partners for the unwavering efforts in assisting Gary to receive this opportunity.
In order to viably produce enough fresh fruits and vegetables in an urban area, it is important to provide programs to their urban farmers that allow them to gain the skills needed to be successful. The grant will assist in providing programs and will evaluate experiential learning activities to determine how effective they are for increasing production and knowledge gained by urban farmers in Gary.