Community garden cultivates food sustainability

Hundreds of urban gardens have sprung up on the streets of Detroit over the past few years and because of the staggering success the movement is beginning to branch out to smaller communities that share in their economic struggles. Marquette County was selected by the national organization ‘ACHIEVE’ to receive funding to get a similar project started. The effort eventually found roots at Marquette Alternative High School.

It’s an exciting enterprise: watching something grow out of nothing, especially when you finally get to share the taste of success with the community who helped bring your dream to life.

“A group of friends and I came up with this question: If you had a million dollars to give your community, what would you do?,” asked Mariah Redmond, Project Manager at MQT Growth. “We all sort of simultaneously thought, ‘we would start a community garden.’ We realized we didn’t need a million dollars to do that.”

So Mariah and her friends devised a plan to form a community gardening initiative called MQT Growth.

“We found this hoop house as a pilot project, so we created a partnership with the Alternative High School and MQT Growth to grow food,” added Redmond.

It was a perfect match, three years in the making, for Marquette Alternative High School as they had been sitting on a grant since 2010.

“It just kind of sat idle. We didn’t have the time or the manpower to put into it,” remarked Andrew Crunkleton, Principal of the MAHS Program. “Then MQT Growth came to the forefront with some ideas and they kind of took the reins.”

They partnered with kids of all ages, showing them the ins and outs of gardening.

“The kids were involved from day one; building the beds, bringing in compost and soil. Now, Mariah with MQT Growth is working to come into the cooking classes and incorporate food into the curriculum, along with sustainable food growth and healthy lifestyle choices,” Crunkleton noted.

“How do we get the students involved or enthusiastic growing food?” wondered Redmond. “We decided it was through their stomachs. Food sustainability is important because we all eat, but none of us really grow food. It is really important for food production and agriculture to be a part of education. It sort of like a grassroots movement, and it’s inherent knowledge that we all sort of have and need to have as a survival skill. Learning how to grow food is just one more step you can take towards independence from a bigger system. We’re at the end of all the trucking routes. What happens if gas prices get too high or truckers go on strike? This is sort of a step to take towards food sovereignty.”

But it’s not just for kids. They’re taking their shoestring budget to the neighborhood, asking for help tending to the garden, cropping up donations, and finding new sites for even more community garden hoop houses that can stay in commission for up to 9 months thanks to their climate controlled design.

Because in the end, “food just tastes better when you grow it yourself,” reiterated Redmond.