New City Neighbors partners with GV’s Sustainable Agriculture Project


Courtesy / GVSU’s Sustainable Agriculture Project

Zsolt Palmer

New City Neighbors, a community development organization based in Grand Rapids, has announced a partnership with Grand Valley State University’s Sustainable Agriculture Project (SAP).

New City Neighbors invests in Grand Rapid’s youth by creating job opportunities and providing leadership training for high school students.

Their primary facility was a three-acre urban farm in Grand Rapids where they taught youth how to grow their own food and learn life lessons along the way.

Earlier this year, the organization was unable to renew the lease on their urban farm. Crystal Scott-Tunstall, an affiliate professor of environmental and sustainability studies at GVSU, alongside a New City Neighbors board member heard the news and saw a unique new opportunity.

To continue to enable New City Neighbor’s mission, GVSU’s SAP offered to partner with the community organization.

“We are delighted to be partnering with New City Neighbors,” said Yumiko Jakobcic, Director of the Office of Sustainability Practices at GVSU. “This is a definite win-win for both organizations. The high school students participating in the New City Neighbors program will have the opportunity to experience GVSU’s campus and will get to know students, staff, and faculty. The SAP students will have the opportunity to grow side by side with an organization committed to youth empowerment and social justice.”

New City Neighbors will be using a one-acre plot of agricultural land at the SAP. On Nov. 16, members of GVSU’s Farm Club and volunteers from New City Neighbors worked together to install a high-tunnel greenhouse on the SAP’s educational farm.

The greenhouse will be producing fresh food for those in need. New City Neighbors will be able to utilize this greenhouse and other parts of the SAP’s facilities to continue their mission of empowering and building up the community’s youth.

The partnership also seeks to create new opportunities for the youth of New City Neighbors. As part of the organization’s mission, New City Neighbors seeks to elevate their young members and help them grow into community leaders. Their new proximity to GVSU will be a useful new tool to help their members grow.

“We can now bring our diverse pool of high school students onto the campus of a local university, building relationships and on-ramps to higher education in the burgeoning field of environmental and sustainability studies at GVSU,” said Ricardo Tavárez, executive director of New City Neighbors.

The Sustainable Agriculture Project has not been as affected by COVID-19 as most other organizations have been, owing to the outdoor nature of their activities, so some projects are still well underway.

“We hope we’ll be able to resume normal operations as soon as possible, of course, but thankfully we’ve been able to do a lot of our work safely by being outdoors, wearing masks, and keeping a good distance between us,” Jakobcic said. “The one thing we really miss is class visits, so we’re certainly looking forward to those again.”

The Sustainable Agriculture project looks forward to continuing to grow its relationship with New City Neighbors. Together, the organizations can help their community by building up their youth and growing good food.