Photo by Melody

Community Gardens Different in their own Unique Ways, Part III

By Paul Rodman (paulgrowJanuary 7, 2008

This particular garden is a real success story for urban farmers. Founded by 3 Dominican Nuns to teach low income inner city families to grow their own food. This location is actually the second spot this garden has been located. The first piece of property was taken over for the expansion of a mega casino in downtown Detroit.

Gardening picture

Detroit, Michigan has to be one of the leading cities in the U.S. in establishing Urban Farming programs.

Detroit and many other large cities have witnessed the exodus of many residents to the suburbs. This left behind many homes which fell into disrepair and eventually had to be torn down. This left many vacant lots throughout the city which became littered and weed choked.

The auto industry had been hit hard and unemployment began to climb. Food depots began to see a rise in people who need food and had little money buy it.

Community activists began to discuss how these disadvantaged folks could be helped. An idea was born: let’s teach many of the residents how to grow their own produce in an urban setting.

Several organizations banded together to establish a number of programs to train and support residents with plants, tools and gardening advice.

In 2004 The Wayne County Extension with its Master Gardeners, The Greening of Detroit, and The Detroit Agricultural Network began to design a training program called “Urban Roots”. The program would be similar to the Master Gardener program, but would also cover grant writing, procedures to test soil for toxic substances. Community organizating and how to go about obtaining vacant parcels of land. I am proud to say that I was a part of organnizing this program which has become an overwhelming success. The classes have been full since they began in 2005.

There are over 50 community gardens in the Detroit Metropolitan area raising organic foods. Some of them have branched and are providing nutritional programs for children.The kids are taught how to grow fruits and vegetables and about the vitamins and minerals they provide to their diets.

The image
Raised beds are often used in urban gardens where soil quality is poor.

This “Hope Takes Root” garden was a result of this program. It stands in the middle of urban Detroit. It’s a ¼ mile north of the old Tiger Stadium. It’s about 3 blocks from the giant Motor City casino. The old Michigan Central train station can be seen from the garden.

The image
Very little is thrown away, cut logs are used to border
rnamental grasses

These 5 city lots produce organic vegetables, berries, honey and a tree nursery to provide shade trees for members. The garden has two sections, one to provide members their own produce and a “community” section which supplies fresh produce to a food depot.

The image
Several bee hives are in the garden for honey production
and pollination of the crops.

Many of the ash trees were lost to the Emerald Ash Borer, in this garder they take smaller size shade trees and grow them to a size suitable for transplanting. These will replace some of the many ash trees lost to the EAB.

The image The image
Tree nursery Several fruit trees in the garden

  About Paul Rodman  
Paul RodmanPaul Rodman has been gardening for over 45 years. He is an Advanced Master Gardener, and American Rose Society Consulting Rosarian. He is President Emertius of the Western Wayne County Master Gardener Association in Wayne County, Michigan. He currently serves as the greenhouse chairman of this group. Rodman has amassed over 5500 volunteer hours in the Master Gardener program. Rodman is the garden columnist for The News Herald newspaper, in Southgate, Michigan. He has also written for the Organic web site. He is a certified Master Canner and has taught classes on Home Food Preserving for 7 years. He has lectured on various gardening topics throughout southeastern Michigan. His favorite pastime is teaching children about gardening. For the past several years he has conducted classes for second grade students teaching them about subjects ranging from vermi-composting to propagation.

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