Detroit Food Entrepreneurs Get Lift From Grants

The money is targeted to small, recently started businesses or urban farmers who produce a variety of food that is locally grown or produced.

From providing a walk-in cooler for curing handcrafted sausages to paying for a pie-crimping machine, 16 Detroit food-based businesses are getting an economic push by sharing portions of a $30,000 grant from Charter One Bank.

Charter One and Detroit’s Eastern Market teamed to form the Growing Communities Partnership, which develops and expands local food resources in Detroit. This is the second round of grants provided by the partnership ($20,000 in grants were provided in July).

The money is targeted to small, recently started businesses or urban farmers who produce a variety of food that is locally grown or produced. Many of the grants went to Eastern Market vendors.
“Made in Detroit is coming to mean more than new cars and trucks,” says Dan Carmody, president of Eastern Market Corp. “It’s beginning to mean locally-made pies, sausage, freshly-grown produce, and so much more that makes up our rapidly expanding local food industry.”

With a surge in restaurant and café openings, as well as a spike in urban agriculture, the grants are designed to empower a community of food entrepreneurs and spur economic development in Detroit and the state.
“The local food industry in metro Detroit is truly becoming a growth industry,” says Elizabeth Dryden, Charter One’s spokeswoman. “(Eastern Market was) an organic fit for neighborhood revitalization.”

Several grant recipients will utilize their awards for vendor display improvements in an effort to expand their sales and distribution. Others will use the funds to improve their products.

Corridor Sausage Co. is using the $3,000 award for a walk-in cooler that has already “facilitated a lot more volume,” says owner Will Branch. With the new space, the company will expand its curing offerings. “We can start selling in grocery stores, which is a big tipping point for us,” he says.

Ruth Bell, a recipient of $1,280 and the owner of Chugga’s Main Street Bakery, agrees with Branch. “We have to eat to survive and people are trying to do whatever they can to make more,” she says.
Although the second round of grant funding ended in mid-September, look for more funding opportunities from Charter One and Eastern Market. “We intend to continue this effort,” Dryden says.

Other grant recipients include:

  • Brother Nature Produce: $2,000 for a pressure canner and dehydrator. A former schoolteacher turned full-time grower, this Detroit farm sells its produce at Eastern Market and also runs a compost business.
  • Buffalo Street Farm: $3,000 to purchase land for farming. Buffalo Street is an urban farm on Detroit’s Eastside. The owner, a lifelong Detroiter, has the goal of owning an urban farm that contributes to the community and adheres to organic growing practices.
  • Chugga’s Main St. Bakery: $1,280 for market vendor display improvements. Featuring all-natural ingredients, Chugga’s became a vendor at Eastern Market this year after the founder left the corporate world in Los Angeles to pursue her culinary passion.
  • Corridor Sausage Co.: $3,000 for a walk-in cooler. Founded in 2009, Corridor brings handcrafted, artisan meats to the Detroit market using all-natural, hormone-free, and antibiotic-free ingredients.
  • Crossroad Creamery: $900 for website development. Crossroad Creamery produces goat cheese spreads and cheeses for local markets.
  • Flavorable Creations: $400 for signage development. Flavorable Creations is a bakery bringing homemade treats to the Eastside Farmers’ Market.
  • Food Field/Peck Produce: $2,800 for a 9,000-gallon aquaponics tank. Food Field/Peck Produce grows on two plus acres in the North End/Boston Edison neighborhood and sells their products at Eastern Market.
  • For Goodness Sake: $1,280 for market vendor display improvements. For Goodness Sake produces high quality, heart-healthy snacks and other ready-to-eat foods.
  • GreenLeaf Turkey: $2,000 for commercial vacuum sealer. The demand for GreenLeaf’s turkey burgers continues to grow since its 2010 incorporation.
  • Growing in the City: $3,000 to purchase city lots. Founded in 2009, Growing in the City educates residents about the multiple benefits of growing produce in the city.
  • Hampshire Farms: $3,000 for cold storage and proofing room in bakery. This certified organic small family farm sells a variety of crops, including grains and beans. They sell wholesome bread baked in an oven they built themselves.
  • Love’s Custard Pie: $2,700 for pie machine and crimper. Bakers of traditional southern style custard pies, Love’s embodies a rich southern heritage brought to Detroit during the great Northern migration.
  • Love Earth Herbal: $3,000 for storage and packaging equipment. Love Earth Herbal produces organic herbs used in a variety of teas and natural cosmetic products.
  • MyFamily’s Backyard BBQ Sauce: $1,280 for market vendor display improvements. MyFamily’s Backyard BBQ Sauce began in a two-bedroom apartment and now has a strong following in Detroit. Their products are gluten-free with no high fructose corn syrup.
  • Norman Holtz: $1,280 for a complete tent package that will prolong their outdoor selling season at Eastern Market. Started in 1980 with nearly 60 acres, Norman Holtz produces a variety of crops including specialty onions and potatoes.
  • Sweet Potato Sensations: $1,280 for market vendor display improvements. Located one block north of Grand River Avenue, Sweet Potato Sensations was incorporated in 1987 and has carved out a niche as “The Sweet Potato Lover’s Heaven on Earth.”