Growing Hope: Community gardens will benefit by solar-powered watering system

Growing Hope: Community gardens will benefit by solar-powered watering system

Eastside neighborhoods in Flint will soon have year-around access to healthy food options when Kettering University and the Asbury Community Development Center open in hoop house community garden.

The project is made possible by a $25,000 award from the Ford Motor Company Fund to Kettering and the Asbury Community Development center to integrate productive solar energy systems to scale up urban gardening efforts in the community. The award is part of the Ford College Community Challenge (C3).

Pastor Tommy McDoniel is a catalyst behind the growing movement to improve nutrition education and resources in Flint.

“Nutrition is a big issue for people in our community,” says Pastor Tommy McDoniel. “Then the water crisis hit. With proper nutrition, many of those negative side effects can be kept dormant.”

A hoop house can go a long way to provide that nutrition. A hoop house is made of large metal, plastic pipe or even wood hoops or bows covered with a layer of heavy greenhouse plastic. The skin is stretched tight and fastened to baseboards with strips of wood, metal, wire or even used irrigation tape and staples.

Asbury has purchased and leased land in the neighborhood surrounding the Asbury Church from the Genesee County Land Bank and constructed a hoop house.

Now, Kettering students will assist with the project by installing solar-assisted irrigation systems for the community gardens. The proposed project will also use surface rain catchment to collect water.

“With the sustainable method of collecting rain water, we can really turn this project into a large-scale process, into a large-scale business involving the community,” says Noah Lukins ‘18.

Lukins believes Kettering students will be able to apply the engineering skills learned in the classroom and from their co-op employers to provide leadership and expertise on the project.

Support from the Ford Motor Company Fund will lead to the development and installation of the solar technology. The ultimate goal of the project is to implement sustainable technologies in urban gardens in Flint to improve urban agricultural outputs and enhance access to healthy food for residents in Flint.

Kettering University’s faculty member Dr. Laura Sullivan understands how solar-powered hoop house watering systems can energize community wellness and recovery efforts in Flint.  Sullivan is helping drive the hoop house partnership and other collaborative efforts to connect Kettering students with community initiatives. Photo by Pop Mod Photo p’s Ryan Garza for Kettering University

Each year, 10 Ford C3 grants of $25,000 are awarded by Ford Motor Company Fund to colleges and universities. The winning proposals address an unmet community need tied to driving social mobility, changing the way people move through smart mobility and building sustainable communities. Overall, the program is designed to empower college students to inspire community-building projects addressing pressing local needs. The Ford C3 is celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2017.

The foundation of Kettering’s project is a unique partnership between Kettering faculty and students and a community non-profit in Flint. Dr. Laura Sullivan, mechanical engineering faculty member, is driving the collaboration by connecting Kettering students with community initiatives.

“This is an opportunity for students to demonstrate leadership in the community with an emphasis on sustainability. I’m looking forward to seeing Noah leading other Kettering students to engage residents of Flint about the potential of solar energy to help pump water for urban gardens,” Sullivan says. “Our desired outcome is to enhance the understanding of the potential of solar energy to provide sustainable solutions in the community while enhancing residents’ access to proper nutrition in Flint.”

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