BY JENELLE FRANKLIN
Ypsilanti is definitely a food desert, according to Tanya Andrews, development and and marketing associate at Growing Hope – simply stating that there is a lack of fresh foods such as fruits and vegetables, amidst a community of 20,081 and growing.
Two local businesses came together Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015 for the betterment of their community, and it was a brilliant match- brewed from community involvement, kind hearts, strong minds, and a subtle note of hops & barley.
Cultivate Coffee and Tap House hosted a beer tasting from 5 – 8 p.m. benefiting Growing Hope, an Ypsilanti non-profit organization. Growing Hope organized the event at the newly opened coffee and tap house to create community awareness of their fight to end hunger, particularly in Ypsilanti. Presenting to the audience was Andrews who was accompanied by Erica Bloom, Growing Hope’s program director.
Andrews says Growing Hope has been striving to improve lives in the community through, “creating a great sense of community and gardening.” The community gathered, sat at reserved seating, and learned what it takes to make a great beer, and a great sense of togetherness.
There is a diverse set of ways Growing Hope is helping the community understand and grow healthy food: community empowerment activities such as the beer tasting, donating gardens to schools and community members, donating proceeds from garden-kit sales, advocating for and managing farmer’s markets, and educating youth.
Parkridge Community Center is partnered with both Growing Hope and Washtenaw Community College. PCC is a recreational programming center for Ypsilanti youth under age 18, and has additional amenities such as The Rutherford Municipal Pool, open seasonally to the public.
“I oversee policies for farmer’s markets throughout the city of Ypsilanti, and we are reaching out into the rest of Washtenaw County,” Andrews said.
Ypsilanti is considered in need of food and nutritional education, according to both hosting companies, whose non-profit business models are striving to educate and stimulate the gardening community in Ypsilanti to fight hunger.
The benefit’s hosting location, Cultivate, is no stranger to charitable business practices. They are paying selected taxes, including beverage sales tax, and remaining non-profit, according to Director of Community & Connections Bekah Wallace.
“Owning a for-profit business wasn’t satisfying,” Wallace said of her and her husband Ryan’s last venture five years ago. Cultivate has been a developing dream for the Wallaces and their business partner Billy Kangas, who is the director of coffee & cause.
“Cultivate started as a dream three years ago when my husband and I met Billy,” Bekah recalled, but insists the dream stems from passions deeply rooted in each of them.
Ryan, Cultivate’s director of beer and business, has a love for beer that spans decades, and he himself has been brewing for 12 years.
“It all started on a cold winter’s day, in a garage,” Ryan says as he begins his story, wearing a proud grin as he signals to pass out the first glass of beer. He motions toward the eight brew ingredients set upon each table: water, chalk, barley/malt, oats, hops, Irish moss, yeast nutrient and live yeast. Asking each guest brave enough to taste a small sample of each, he imparts his wisdom.
“Knowing the ingredients will help to better shape your taste for beer, and this is how I was taught,” Ryan said.
Ryan ends his story with his work’s mission and revealing his obsession with bringing beer and community involvement together.
Five different beers were poured for guests – a carefully chosen variety from their larger selection on tap, covering the scale light to dark, beginning with a Pilsner and ending with a Porter. Currently a vendor for micro brews and fine coffees, Cultivate has goals of expanding even still.
“I would love to see us roasting, and brewing in the future, but mostly I look forward to our outreach into the community and bringing hunger to an end,” Bekah said.