WTPOF NEWS

  • Mon, August 31, 2020 1:40 PM | Anonymous

    We the People Opportunity Farm

    August Newsletter

    Greetings everyone!

    It’s been a couple months since I last checked in with you, but I’m happy to report that our organization, farming operations, community engagement and programming are moving along in a way that has far exceeded my expectations. I have lots to share with you regarding our organization, but before I do let me tell you about my son and my grandson’s first visit to the farm!!...In short, my son took my grandson’s shoes off and shortly after, took his own shoes off!! To behold two generations of me walking around the farm barefooted...my son drinking from his jug of water and my grandson snacking on an organic apple... witnessing them being free and BREATHING was beyond nirvana! And for some reason my grandson who was 21 months old at the time kept walking through a few vegetable beds we had recently filled with very rich soil in preparation for planting. As we were walking out of the farm area he held my finger; I along with my son walked in the pathway while he walked in one of the vegetable beds with the recently filled rich soil..and then out of nowhere he announced to the world one simple word!...he said, “SOIL”!!!

    My grandson visited again 3 weeks ago, this time he was brought by his grandmother (GaGa) and by this time he refers to me as “Poppi”. I saw him get out of the car and once he saw me and then realized where he was, the first word I heard him say was...you guessed it! “SOIL”!! :)


    Now let me bring you up to speed!...In the month of June one of our interns had to leave us, and we all were sad to see him go. However, very soon after we were able to welcome on board another awesome young man who has been formerly incarcerated. Both of our interns are growing in good soil just as our plants are! They have visited 2 urban farms in Detroit so far (Oakland Avenue Urban Farm and Detroit Black Community Food Security Network). Next week they will be visiting and helping out at Food Gatherers. And the following week they’ll begin spending a day every week helping Habitat For Humanity’s home restoration program in the community.

    According to a lot of folks, not only does our produce that we are growing look amazing, it also tastes great! :) In July we began our no cost food distribution initiative thanks in part to United Way of Washtenaw County, Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation and Grace Fellowship Church House of Solutions. We distribute our produce the first & second Saturday of the month and so far we have with joy, distributed over 300lbs to date and have met over 100 new neighbors! Some of our produce makes its way to these awesome local restaurants:

    • Zingerman’s Roadhouse
    • Detroit Street Filling Station
    • Maiz Mexican Cantina
    • Frita Batidos
    • Juicy Kitchen
    • Zingerman’s Delicatessen

    Our produce can also be found on the shelves of both Argus Farm Stop locations and also the Ypsilanti Food Co-op along with the People’s Food Co-op. Thanks to The Farm at St. Joes, we are proud to announce that some of our produce now goes to help food insecure patients at Saint Joseph Mercy of Ann Arbor Hospital & Eastern Michigan University’s Bright Futures program families.

    Speaking of bright futures! We The People Opportunity Farm’s future is bright because of the friends who have come alongside us in support of our meaningful work.

    Since my last newsletter we’ve had a couple of volunteer opportunities and those who answered our call showed up and showed out!!! They were such a huge help in getting a couple projects moving that were of the essence. Thanks y’all!!  

    Recently I’ve had the opportunity to talk about our organization’s work through several media outlets including Michigan Radio, Ann Arbor Observer (print) and the Ypsilanti District Library. All of these can be found on our website under “Recent News” at wtpof.org.

    As some of you may know, on July 1 we launched our 90 day fundraising campaign drive. Our goal is to raise $125,000.00 and thus far with the help of our community and wonderful folks & business owners far & wide we have received over $44,000.00 which means we are over 35% of reaching our goal! Gracias to all who have helped us get this far. Thank you for coming alongside us (Information regarding why we are raising these funds can be found on our website).

    Before I begin wrapping this up I want to send a declaration of recognition to one of our community partners, Grace Fellowship House of Solutions and their nonprofit arm, Community Family Life Center! Without their belief in us our farm would not be in the perfect location (on their property) that it is. Thank you for allowing us to lease some of your land and thank you for all the good works that you continue to do in service to the community.

    And finally as I bring this to a close, I have two big asks of folks!

    1. If you’re willing, please send us your favorite collard green, kale, tomato or jalapeno pepper recipe with your permission for our organization to at some point potentially post it on our website
    2. If our organization has in some small way helped “change the soil” in your life in some way, we would LOVE to hear from you and with your permission, at some point post this on our website as a testimonial

    *Email us at info@wtpof.org or melvinp@wtpof.org

      In Solidarity,

      Melvin Parson

      Executive Director

      We The People Opportunity Farm


    1. Tue, August 04, 2020 12:07 PM | Anonymous

      Farmer Melvin Parson was highlighted with, We the People Opportunity Farm along with other Ypsi and Farm Gardens by the Ypsi District Library.

      "Melvin Parson started gardening in 2014 at Avalon Housing when his friend Verna sadly passed away and left him her garden plot. He didn’t know what he was doing but he felt her spirit and wanted to honor her by taking care of it. Out of a desire to start taking care of himself, he went to the farmer’s market to learn more about vegetables. While looking around Melvin noticed that the majority of vendors and visitors did not look like him. So he started to think about how he could really empower the Black community through farming."

      Click here to read more.

    2. Sun, June 28, 2020 5:16 PM | Anonymous

      On July 1, we are launching a $125,000 fundraising campaign to help us grow more food, grow our impact, and grow the relationships we're forging with people coming home after being incarcerated. 

      The donations you make towards our $125,000 fundraising campaign will not only help us be financially resilient, but you'll also help us expand and enhance the experience of our paid internship program, the program your giving made possible this year. Our goal is to add new coaching, infrastructure, and mentoring for formerly incarcerated people to return to our community with opportunities, skills, and a strong social net of support. Our interns not only benefit from their work with our community, but in turn help us continue to feed our neighbors and partner with our restaurant and retail clients as they are doing their own pivot toward re-opening post COVID crisis. We are creating a local food ecosystem of resilience, responsiveness, business and love that you are a much needed part of. 

      It took a whole village to wrap its arms around me when I came home from prison. Thank you for coming alongside me as I pay our gratitude forward to those who are coming home and find their way now. Won’t you join me now in paying it forward ? 

      Your donation to our campaign will ensure that no pandemic, no blip in the economy, no systemic injustices will change the direction of this organization or gets in the way of our impactful mission. Your donation to our campaign allows us to secure more land, will put more returning citizens to work, will keep our community fed, and will do so much to allow the common roots of an equitable future for everyone to take hold. Join me in this work, donate today. Our farm needs your help to make the future possible. 

      In Solidarity 

      Melvin Parson
      Executive Director
      We The People Opportunity Farm


    3. Fri, June 12, 2020 11:54 AM | Anonymous

      We the People Opportunity Farm

      June Newsletter

      Greetings,

      These past few months have been a little taxing on my soul. Being a Black man I have felt under siege on many fronts… COVID 19, civilian & police brutality and oppression. Although I haven’t been one of the POC who disproportionately contracted COVID 19, nor have I been hunted down and murdered while innocently jogging, nor have I had an officers knee on my neck, I still feel those moments deep within my soul. I feel my Black skin is the target and there have been many days in the last few months when I have had to call on/ reach out to my “folks” for reassurance. I have an incredible son and an adorable grandson who calls me “Poppi” and I’m driven by making sure no one's knee is on their neck and that they are able to BREATHE! 

      Over the past week I have found myself trying to be still and hear the voices of my ancestors. What keeps coming up for me is the voice of Guthrie Arline Parson.This woman was my grandmother (RIP) and she was the closest person to resemble an Angel that I have met in my entire lifespan thus far. I had the honor and profound fortune of being raised by and prayed over and over and over by this woman. And to be honest, it is this woman I am most certain that is responsible for me being the person I am today. I reflect on one of the last times I saw her…she was in a hospital and she looked tired & fragile. I said, “Mama, I wish that I could give you some of my strength”. In response, with all the sincerity & love she had in her body she looked me in the eye and said, “Baby you keep your strength because you’re going to need it for yourself. I’ll be alright”. I had a praying grandmother; a grandmother filled with love and integrity; a grandmother who poured a whole lot of her into me and I believe that if there is a heaven up above I’m certain that she is up there advocating on my behalf. So, with all this said, I’m dedicating my June Newsletter for We The People Opportunity Farm to her, Guthrie Arline Parson.

      This brings me to our Newsletter.

      As an organization we recently sat down with each other and methodically crafted our Core Values & Definitions. These values will help in leading us as we do the important working of changing the soil in folks lives. Our values will also hold us accountable as we make decisions and take actions as an organization that impact us and our community. I want to take this opportunity to share our values and how we define them with you so that you can also hold us accountable in what we do:   

      Radically Inclusive: Including everyone, especially accepting and accommodating people who have historically been excluded (due to their race, gender, sexuality, or ability). We honor different identities, ideas and experiences and invite everyone, especially those who have historically been excluded, into the pursuit of our mission.

      Intentionally Collaborative: We cannot meet our mission without you. We invite you into our work. We value the power of collective thinking and impact, even when it is challenging.

      Courageously Disruptive: In all that we do we will stretch ourselves and those we work alongside to challenge the Prison Industrial Complex.

      Rooted in Justice: We work vigorously for freedom and justice for formerly incarcerated Black, Indigenous, Latinx, People of Color and, by extension, all incarcerated people.

      Committed to Growth: We will steward all our resources with integrity, love, and respect for the earth. This in turn, fuels our belief that all living things when nurtured in good soil, given sun, and water will flourish.

      Our formerly incarcerated paid internship program is off to a GREAT start! We are fortunate to have TWO dynamic interns, Malachai Muhammad and Abdurrahman (Abdu) Banta. Just as my grandmother left a legacy in my life, they are who I'm striving to leave a legacy for. Both have shared with us their delight regarding being in our program and they both feel valued & supported. In fact, just the other day, Abdu arrived at the farm earlier than scheduled because being out there brought him a sense of peace. 

      We have lots of plans for our interns that include opportunities to be involved with staple organizations including Food Gatherers and Habitat For Humanity. They will also get a chance to meet and talk with the Mayor of Ypsilanti, Beth Bashert. And now that more restrictions have been lifted we are lining up field trips that will span all the way from urban farms to the State Capitol.

      Farming operations, which are being led by our outstanding Farm Manager are moving along well and our spring planted crops will be ready to begin harvesting in only a few weeks. We are anxiously awaiting this moment because it is at that point we’ll begin distributing a large portion to our surrounding community at no cost! Our valuable community partner, Habitat for Humanity has offered to build us a Farm Stand for which we will use as our distribution point out near our farm. This pivot has been made fiscally possible because of the support our organization has received from United Way of Washtenaw County and from the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation.

      And yes, the remaining produce will still wind up in the kitchens and on the plates of some outstanding restaurants like Zingerman's Roadhouse, Zingerman's Deli, Detroit Street Filling Station, Maiz Mexican Cantina, The Lunch Room, Argus Farm Stop, Frita Batidos, The Ypsilanti Food Co-op and The People’s Food Co-op Ann Arbor.

      “Changing soil”, “Building community”, “A seat at the table”, are all phrases which have driven and still to this day, continue to drive me. I and all those involved with We The People Opportunity Farm feel strongly about this work and we guarantee that there will be more to come; more “soil to change” in folks' lives years to come.

      In July we will launch a campaign drive to support the essential work that We The People Opportunity Farm is doing in our efforts to address incarceration, equity, opportunity and food scarcity. So please give! Our formal campaign launch will begin July 1, but you can certainly give right now! https://www.wtpof.org/Contribute 

      Our goal is to raise $125k. We realize this may seem like a lofty goal however, in comparison, it cost this amount to keep 3 folks locked up for 1 year on parking ticket violations! We ask that you give. Stretch yourself! Not only because our organization needs your support, but stretch yourself because our organization is worthy of it. This IS the time for change! We ARE making a difference in the lives of folks and the community and we WILL double our capacity to bring formerly incarcerated paid interns into our program in 2021, and we plan to double THAT in 2022! Join our soil & community changing movement!! We need you!

      In Solidarity & Love,

      Melvin Parson,

      Executive Director, 

      We The People Opportunity Farm


      Find us online!

      Website: wtpof.org

      Twitter: WTPOF@changingsoil

      Facebook: We the People Opportunity Farm

      Instagram: W.T.P.O.F.


      Instagram: W.T.P.O.F.


    4. Mon, May 18, 2020 4:13 PM | Anonymous

      Check out the link below to read how, We the People Opportunity Farm and other Ypsilanti non-profits are addressing community needs during COVID-19.  Thank you to Sarah Riggs for spotlighting  WTPOF and a few of the many great nonprofits supporting the community. We also appreciate the funding from our donors including  United Way of Washtenaw County and the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation

      https://www.secondwavemedia.com/concentrate/features/ypsinonprofits0548.aspx

      We the People Opportunity Farm manager Marly Spieser-Schneider and executive director Melvin Parson.

    5. Thu, April 09, 2020 9:42 PM | Anonymous

      We are currently working on building out our website so please bare with us.

      We also have in the works a new logo so stay tuned!

    6. Wed, April 08, 2020 8:58 PM | Anonymous

      We the People Opportunity Farm

      April Newsletter



       

      Greetings everyone,

      Wow. We are in the midst of some challenging times which are requiring us all to adjust in some very intentional and sometimes uncomfortable ways in an effort to move past the COVID-19 crisis. My warmest thoughts, prayers, and well wishes go out to you and yours. Please continue to stay safe as possible by practicing protocols and equally as important, do all you can to remain mentally sane & sound.

      Our organization, like all others, is working at reinventing and reimagining our place in the community and the work we’re dedicated to doing. There are quite a few awesome transformations and alliances taking shape since our last contact, and I’m happy to share them with you! But first I want to apologize to you if you’ve been following our organization since 2018. The reason for my apology is because it was during that year I saw a 9.8 acre property with an abandoned school on it and from that came this amazing vision for repurposing those 9.8 acres and turning it into a World Class Urban Farm with all sorts of cool things taking place there. Aside from being a farm where we would have employed returning citizens, I envisioned a culinary arts training program, community spaces, etc. Well my vision did not turn into a reality and trust me, it wasn’t from lack of trying. As some of you know, I gave it my all! So, my apology is to those who believed (and there were many) in the vision I had for that property. In several ways I feel as though I failed to deliver and that I let you down.  

      With this being said, our organization continues to adapt and forge ahead with our mission in mind. We, along with our community  partners, have been ‘all hands on deck” in creating a robust nine (9) month paid internship program for folks returning home from Washtenaw County Jail. This paid internship program includes working at our farm, along with skill building workshops, community engagement and training in part with other organizations and a solid off-ramp/completion leading to full -time employment here in Washtenaw County. Our goal is to assist them in “changing their soil”!!!

      Speaking of change, our organization has completed a name change which better reflects the focal point of our work. The name change isn’t radical, in fact it’s just one (1) word. Moving forward, the name of our organization will be We The People Opportunity Farmwe hope that you like it!

      Here’s a small list of some other changes taking place:

      • Our website host. We’ll be switching over to using Wild Apricot and our new web address is wtpof.org and we are also currently working on developing it out further

      • Domain name

      • Volunteer system

      • Method in which we farm

      • Addition of a an incredible Farm manager, Marly Spieser-Schneider

      • There have been name changes on our social media accounts 

      • Community engagement/outreach

      • Building internal systems & processes, organizational, board development, governance and fund development

      In closing, I want you to know that our organization is thinking and planning in terms of safety as the weather warms and folks are feeling cooped up. We’re developing a system where small groups of folks (4 or less) can come out and lend a helping hand (we hope to have a digital sign- up sheet soon on our website). There are several other volunteer opportunities as well. Stay tuned for more details, but for now you can contact us at: info@wtpof.org

      We are also working on developing a fundraising model for this year. Due to the uncertain nature of sales from local restaurants which we have relied upon for part of our funding, we are working on obtaining emergency relief funding that will allow us to adapt during this crisis and shift our focus to emerging needs. Our goal now is to offer free fresh produce to the neighborhood where our farm resides. As with most organizations, especially those led by people of color, ours will be impacted financially as a result of the current state of affairs and we will need to reach out to our beloved community for support. Currently our new donation page is fully functional; please consider supporting us at this time at: wtpof.org/Contribute  

      Please continue to stay safe & mentally sound!

      Melvin Parson,

      Executive Director, 

      We The People Opportunity Farm



    7. Fri, November 01, 2019 8:53 PM | Anonymous

      Image

      Letter from the Director

       The Harvest Festival of Thanks was all that we could have hoped for. We were so thrilled to have so many community members, friends and supporters there to celebrate and join in the festivities. Thanks to those who donated time, finances, food, and resources to make this event as spectacular as it was. We can’t wait until next year! Thanks again to our food sponsors: Zingerman’s, Cultivate Coffee & Taphouse, Detroit Street Filling Station, The Lunch Room, Frita Banditos, MAIZ Mexican Cantina, Ollie Food & Spirits, Sidetrack Bar & Grill, Lucky’s Market, Tyler Weston & Dana Laidlaw! You are the best!!

      We also had an excellent reptile presentation by Ahmid Ward the “creature teacher”, and apple cider pressing demonstration by Chuck Barbieri! The kids (and adults) were engaged in the hands-on learning experience. Everyone also enjoyed hunting in our own pumpkin patch and decorating pumpkins generously donated by Kim Bayer from Slow Farm. 

      Updates

      Thanks to your generous time spent volunteering and supporting our organization, we were able to have another successful growing season. We harvested over 2900 pounds of produce that was delivered to local restaurants such as Frita Batidos, Zingerman’s Deli & Roadhouse, MAIZ Mexican Cantina, Detroit Filling Station and The Lunchroom. These vital partnerships with local businesses are the foundation that will drive our organization’s mission to employ returning citizens as we continue to expand our farming capabilities and community relationships.

      Our last harvest for the year took place on October 31st and we have ceased farming operations for the season. As a team we will be shifting our focus to developing a program to holistically support the returning citizens we hope to hire in Spring/Summer of 2020. We are also determining how we can sustainably increase our production and connection to funding sources in order to further our vision and mission in the New Year!

      Did you know?

      Washtenaw County has a recidivism rate of over 60%. This is one of the highest in the state and has continually increased since 2010. According to The Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Department, “A large majority of individuals returning to the jail are low level misdemeanor offenders and probation violators with housing, employment, education or behavioral health challenges”. These realities are what drive us forward as an organization. For more information, see the interview with Sheriff Jerry Clayton at: 

      http://www.crazywisdomjournal.com/featuredstories/2019/9/1/an-interview-with-washtenaw-county-sheriff-jerry-clayton-on-holistic-approaches-to-public-safety-and-bias-free-policing

       


    Find Us On:

    Contact:

     info@wtpof.org

     734-757-5067


    Mailing Address:

    3000 Green Street #131382
    Ann Arbor, MI 48113

    Farm Address:

    1301 S Harris Road
    Ypsilanti, MI 48198