We are Ann Arbor Awesome!

The Ann Arbor Awesome Foundation‘s monthly $1,000 mini-grant was awarded to We the People Growers Association (WTPGA) on July 9, 2017 to create a tool shed and employee rest and rehydration station.

We The People Growers Association (WTPGA) recently signed a land lease agreement to create a 1.5-acre community-based farm in Ypsilanti with the goal of employing men and women returning home from incarceration. Currently, WTPGA has tilled 8,000 square feet and created 12 vegetable beds. As WTPGA develops, one of its immediate needs is infrastructure development. WTPGA will partner with Habitat for Humanity of Huron Valley (HHHV) to meet the critical infrastructural need of constructing a tool shed for secure on-site storage, as well as a place for employees and volunteers to rest and rehydrate.

Read more here.

Zingerman’s loves WTPGA! (and we love them)

From Zingermans Roadhouse:

If you had told Farmer Melvin Parson a few years ago that he would be impacting his community though farming, he might have looked at you like you were turning into a turnip. But here he is in Ypsilanti, with rows and rows of vegetables filling up almost an acre. The farm is We the People Growers Association, and Melvin started it to help cultivate his community.

His plot is in the back of Grace Fellowship Church on Harris Road, and I when I go to visit him in the early morning hours, he is hard at work loading up his truck with Swiss chard that he will drive over to the Roadhouse. Currently, we are using his chard, collard greens, and Russian kale on our menu to supplement what we bring in from the Roadhouse Farm in Dexter.

The plants are gorgeous, big and leafy. It takes every ounce of self-control not to start plucking purple-veined Russian kale out the WTPGA garden and chomp away like a “wascally wabbit.” Fortunately, Melvin’s story is quite distracting, and I am able to contain myself.

WTPGA is part of a healing forest

Derek Wolfe just published a series of articles about Ann Arbor as a healing forest for people seeking recovery. The series features WRPGA:

At the Sweetwaters Coffee and Tea on Liberty Street, Melvin Parson sipped from his own thermos and slowly ate his peanut butter and jelly sandwich wrapped in tin foil.

“I don’t want to treat the individual and help the individual get better and then put them back in the same soil that got them sick in the first place,” he explained. “I want to do something with the soil.”

Parson is quite literally doing something with the soil. Last year, he started We The People Growers Association, a farming nonprofit organization that he hopes will one day “create a sustainable system that can support a workforce” in places that lack resources.

Read the rest here.

EMU profiles Melvin

wemuThe EMU School of Social Work just published a profile on Melvin!

Meet Melvin Parson, BSW student at EMU. Melvin is a senior who will graduate this spring. Melvin began his college career at Washtenaw Community College, where he was studying to be a welder. While at WCC, he was approached by a mentor who advised him to explore a social work degree. Melvin described how his mentor told him that he would be happier if he pursued a degree in social work. Melvin took the advice of his mentor and enrolled in the Human Service program at WCC. After completing coursework at WCC, Melvin landed at EMU. Melvin described the experience of transferring schools. Luckily for Melvin, he had a friend, Steve, who introduced him to faculty and staff and showed him around campus. This made the transition much easier, since Melvin became familiar with the program and campus through the help of his friend. He said, “It could have been scarier than it was.”

Melvin discussed going to class at EMU for the first time. He described how he enjoyed social work from a macro perspective, but he initially had trouble seeing the importance of micro social work. Melvin credits Dr. Lynn Nybell for helping him recognize the importance of interpersonal practice. From the beginning of his time in the School, Melvin has felt very supported by the faculty and staff. Melvin mentioned how the professors helped him succeed in his academic career, providing support that went far beyond the classroom.

During his time at EMU, Melvin started a community garden for the people in Ypsilanti. He shared with me how the garden came to fruition and what it means to him. Through research and study, Melvin gradually became aware of his eating habits and what it meant to have healthy, nutritious food. After learning about unhealthy food, he changed his habits and began buying produce from local farmers market in Ann Arbor. Melvin was glad he was able to find nutritious food, but he found it troubling that he didn’t see people that looked like him when he arrived there. Melvin’s mentor advised him to do something about the dissonance he felt at the farmer’s market. Melvin took this advice and founded We The People Growers Association (WTPGA). WTPGA was founded out of the spirit of advocacy, social justice, and equality. Melvin founded it to ensure that members of an underserved community can have access to inexpensive, healthy food. Melvin was proud to share with me the support he received for WTPGA, including support from faculty member Marti Bombyk, whose instruction was very important to him. WTPGA continues to grow and receive support from other local organizations including, EMU, U-M, Zingerman’s, Growing Hope, and many other local organizations and agencies. Melvin shared that WTPGA has the opportunity to grow vegetables for Zingerman’s Roadhouse that they use in their kitchen. For Melvin, WTPGA is about community building and developing a sustainable organization for the people he serves. Eventually, Melvin hopes that WTPGA will be able to support a workforce and provide jobs for members in the community.

Read the rest here.