$50,000 Grant To Kettering From Ford Will Help an Urban Farm Get off the Water Grid

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Photo: Kettering University

Photo: Kettering University

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FLINT — For the second year in a row, Kettering University has won a $50,000 grant from the Ford Motor Company Fund’s Ford College Community Challenge (Ford C3) to help Flint’s Harvesting Earth Educational Farm.

Ford C3 is a national challenge grant competition that recognizes colleges and universities that utilize a school’s resources to address a community need.

“Winning proposals have a distinctive student perspective on what it means to have a sustainable community,” said Mike Schmidt, director of Education and Community Development at Ford Motor Company Fund. “Each year, we select five winning proposals to receive this award and it is unusual that a university would receive this grant two years in a row.”

The new $50,000 Ford C3 grant will continue the work being done at Harvesting Earth Educational Farm by Matthew Sanders, of Kettering University, and his senior industrial engineering students. The urban farm, located in one of the poorest communities in Flint, teaches local residents horticulture and commercial food production skills. Sanders and his students also won a $50,000 Ford C3 grant last year.

The new project will develop an irrigation system for the farm using solar energy, rain collection and ground water from a well.

“The focus of this capstone project was to take all preliminary steps necessary to get a well installed on the property that meets the needs of the greenhouses,” said Sanders, a professor of industrial and manufacturing engineering at Kettering.

Students researched irrigation alternatives at the urban farm’s greenhouses by determining ground water levels, rainfall measurements, necessary horsepower, water needs and well installation costs. The project offered several options for the installation of a well at the property, owned and operated by Jackie and Dora King, founders and co-directors of the non-profit Youth Karate-Ka and Harvesting Earth Educational Farm.

“The students designed an automated system to monitor soil moisture levels, for more efficient water usage,” said Sanders. “Through the newly designed automated system, they will collect data for tracking temperature, sunlight intensity, ventilation fan usage, irrigation usage and geothermal pump usage.”

Harvesting Earth relies solely on water from the City of Flint for irrigation. Next to heating the greenhouse and labor costs, watering crops is its largest expense. By using rain collection cisterns, which will gather rainwater from the roofs of the greenhouses and storage shed, and by supplementing this with a well, the Farm could remove its dependence on the City’s water resources.

The water project is expected to be completed by May 2012.

Ford Motor Co. Fund and Community Services works with community partners to advance driving safety, education and American heritage and community life. The Ford Motor Co. Fund has operated for more than 60 years with ongoing funding from Ford Motor Co. Innovation in education is encouraged through national programs that enhance high school learning and provide college scholarships and university grants. For more information, visit http://community.ford.com

Kettering University is located in Flint and is the country’s premier engineering, science and business university dedicated to experiential learning and co-op education. For more information, visit www.kettering.edu.

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