“Our City is Growing!”: BGR’s Partner, Keep Growing Detroit

The following is the annual report sent to BGR by its partner, Keep Growing Detroit. Thanks to Ashley Atkinson, director of KGD, for providing the report.

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The Garden Resource Program

With approximately 40 square miles of vacant land and headlines reporting a city on the brink of collapse, the news of Detroit may seem grim. However, if you walk the streets and talk to the many dedicated and resilient city residents, including the more than 15,600 residents that participate in Keep Growing Detroit’s Garden Resource Program (GRP), you’ll see they are writing a much more inspiring story with a headline that reads, “Our City is Growing”!

Their story tells a tale of our great city’s transformation, which begins with seeds planted in 1,375 gardens in the rich soil surrounding community centers, block clubs, churches, and in backyards of families across the city. Read deeper and you’ll see that these 805 family, 424 community, 56 school, and 90 market gardens are not just growing delicious and healthy food, they are a model for how once industrial urban centers struggling with economic and social challenges can use urban gardens as a tool to build a greener future for their city, with strong families, thriving communities, and robust local food economies.

In 2015, gardeners in the program picked up over 45,000 seed packs, 245,00 transplants, and a diversity of gardening resources, such as compost, perennial fruit, and raised bed materials, transforming over 165 acres of land into abundant and thriving gardens. In the spirit of collaboration, over 360 gardeners spent more than 1,200 hours helping with seed packing, transplant production, and resource distribution for the entire community of gardeners.

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Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi with KGD greenhouse manager in central Detroit.

The city may be going through hard times, but gardeners in the Garden Resource Program are taking up their shovels to shift Detroit’s hardened image and tough realities by working everyday in their gardens and communities to increase food access in the city, maintain beautiful and safe places to congregate, and promote healthier lifestyles for their families and communities.

Urban Garden Education Series

Detroit is not your average city trying a hand at urban agriculture. Recognized as the first city to promote urban agriculture, our roots go deep! Detroit is known for the dynamic skills, innovative ideas, and accomplishments of our gardening community, from garden elders to emerging new garden entrepreneurs.

Key to the success of Detroit’s urban agriculture community is a commitment to blending the best of both, recognizing the skills that are held within our community and stopping at nothing to bring the best ideas and innovation, particularly when it comes to providing educational opportunities for the participants of the Garden Resource Program.

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Ven. Bodhi and Michigan Walk organizer Maureen Bodenbach, with KGD volunteer.

In 2015, Keep Growing Detroit’s Detroit Urban Garden Education Series featured 41 unique classes designed to support gardeners and farmers across the city in learning essential skills and exciting techniques for growing fruits and vegetables, all while cultivating community and inspiring a new food system. In 2015, gardeners devoted more than 2,694 hours to cultivating new skills, attending workshops with topics ranging from cooking and canning to garden planning and season extension. An impressive 51% of the classes hosted by KGD this year were taught by talented community members.

Thanks to the wonderful mix of all the growers, educators, organizers and hosts who came together this season with a willingness to learn and to share their wisdom, talents and curiosity. As the network of Detroit gardens grows, so too will the diverse and tangible skills of gardeners that make our gardens and therefore our city thrive!

We are thankful to BGR for your support, which has been a welcome contribution to the development of our programs.

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