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ith urban farming, Mike Wimberley, executive director of Friends of Detroit & Tri-County in Detroit's Hope District, helped revitalize his community's people and purpose.
"We just kind of worked really hard and tried to figure out how can we make a difference within the community. And figure out how can we create some income and generate some wealth in the neighborhood," he explains. "So with what we were doing with our urban farming and growing of potatoes, we kept looking for some added-value product that we could create. A friend of ours suggested that we do potato chips."
The result is Detroit Friends Potato Chips, a brand locally grown and produced by the residents of Hope District at the Friends of Detroit & Tri-County community center.
"So we messed up potato chips a whole lot before we figured out this is how you make potato chips," Wimberley says with a laugh. And with the growth of each potato, the roots of hope were slowly restored to Hope District.
"One of the big things about the potato chip is that it has given us renewed hope in terms of what we can accomplish in the neighborhood," says Wimberley. "Because now we have created something that people would want."
Beyond the production of its potato chip brand, the Friends of Detroit & Tri-County uses its community center as a hub to host counseling and social services for neighborhood seniors, assist residents with health care registration and coordinate revitalization initiatives, such as painting murals on abandoned buildings and planting fruit trees in vacant lots. The aim of Friends of Detroit & Tri-County-since launched by Wimberley's mom in 1994-is to be a driving force of positive change in Hope District with local residents actively participating at its helm.
"We seek to do three things," he says. "To re-establish a relationship with one another through community organization. To re-establish a relationship with the earth, so we do urban farming. And to re-establish a relationship with the economy. And that's where the potato chips come in and some of the other economic projects."
In order to rebuild a community, there first needs to be an understanding of what its people need, says Wimberley. "The other thing we had to figure out is what this neighborhood does best and not try to imitate other areas."
For the Hope District, the answer was simple, he says.
"The product that we sell was hope," says Wimberley. "And that's what we thought was missing, the hope that we could work together and make a change." And by working together, the Friends of Detroit & Tri-County continues to cultivate the sweet rewards of change in its community.
You're Invited to August 1619 at Friends of Detroit & Tri-County
The Friends of Detroit & Tri-County invites you to celebrate August 1619-the historic date believed to be the first arrival of Africans to America's Virginia colony-with a special event running noon-2 p.m. on Aug. 7 at the Friends of Detroit & Tri-County community center (8230 E. Forest Ave., Detroit).
"So much has been made of the Mayflower and how that took place on Plymouth Rock that we just felt we needed to have something that's denoted that we arrived in 1619," says Mike Wimberley, executive director of Friends of Detroit & Tri-County.
The celebration is a build up to the 400th anniversary of August 1619, just four years away, and will feature community entertainment and light refreshments.
Taste Detroit Friends Potato Chips
Detroit Friends Potato Chips are a delicious way to support Detroit's Hope District, and they are available at local food hubs including Goodwells Natural Foods Market and Avalon International Breads. But if you really want to get your hands dirty, learn about volunteering opportunities in the areas of urban agriculture, food service and technology by visiting FriendsOfDetroit.org.