Sunday, April 12, 2009

Farmer Ford

Did you know Ford is an urban farmer? Since a couple of years, Ford has planted 200 acres of abandoned parking lots and storage plots with corn, wheat, sunflowers and soy beans.

From their press statement:

DEARBORN, Mich., Sept. 17, 2008 – As sunflowers bloom in Dearborn, Ford is shining a light on sustainable landscaping.

Ford Motor Company maintains nearly 200 acres of sunflower fields, prairies and grow zones around its world headquarters and research and engineering campus in an effort to conserve natural resources, create wildlife habitat and lower grounds maintenance costs.

“We’re being strategic about what we plant, where we plant, and how we maintain our landscapes in an effort to reduce costs and improve the environment,” said Terry Burt, manager, Fairlane Grounds, the group responsible for Ford’s landscaping and grounds maintenance.

For example, Ford planted 100 acres of corn and sunflowers this year on several large fields near its world headquarters. By replacing what would otherwise be traditional turf grass, the company saves approximately 30 percent on the cost of labor, gas, and fertilizer, while creating an attractive habitat.

Planted in late summer, the crops provide food for birds and animals throughout the winter. Fox, wild turkeys and coyote have been spotted on Ford properties, several of which have been certified by the Wildlife Habitat Council.

In addition to planting annual crops like sunflowers, Ford uses many native plants that are wellsuited to the local soils and climate and therefore do not require significant use of fertilizer, pesticides or irrigation.

According to Burt, finding the right balance between traditional and sustainable landscapes is key to gaining public acceptance. “People want to do what’s right for the environment, but they aren’t accustomed to what ‘natural’ looks like,” said Burt.

To help educate the public, Ford has installed several grow zone signs around the fields designating them as natural habitats.

Because of the amount of land Ford devotes to sustainable landscaping and its visibility from the freeway and other major roads, Ford’s efforts are attracting a lot of attention. “Based on the number of phone calls we receive from people asking questions and expressing their gratitude, we know we’re making a difference,” Burt said.

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