Category Archives: Gardening

What Is . . . . Marquette Growth?

More and more we hear about the lack of understanding of the connection between our food and where it comes from, but how many of us are actually doing something about it?

In 2012, a group of friends asked each other what they’d do for our community if they had a million dollars, and realized they all wanted to empower the community’s ability to grow food. This led to the creation of Marquette Growth. Marquette Growth is a non-profit community garden initiative aimed at providing access to free, healthy, organic, growing sites and education for the community, with a focus on getting food from farm to school.

As Vice President Scott Lawrence describes, “We heard the same reasons over and over for why people don’t take responsibility for a portion of their food—no time, space, money, or education. We realized a free educational community garden group was the answer, where people can donate time for fresh produce.”

It took months of sustained effort for group members Tyler Phillips, Jess Zerbel, Miriah Redmond and Scott Lawrence to find a place to start the program. Thankfully, Marquette Alternative High School Principal Andrew Crunkleton believed in their vision and work began on the hoop house at Graveraet, where the school was located at the time.

Lawrence also began a Kickstarter Fund in 2013, which raised $2500 to start a food forest of fruit trees and other perennials, plus annual garden beds at Vandenboom Alternative High School. Marquette Growth facilitated a full day of gardening workshops leading up to the actual planting of the trees and other perennials, which was accompanied by live music. Annual gardens were also planted, which the students help maintain.

Since then smaller sites have also been established, including at Cherry Creek Senior Living, behind the Wild Rover, Ore Dock Brewery, Sandy Knoll Elementary, Black Rocks Brewery, Teaching Family Homes and Sweet Water Café, with items such as sunflowers, a mint garden or fruit tree.

Lawrence explains, “The hoop house is open to all community members, young or old. We like the way that gardening connects all walks of life. We all eat. Why not eat the best quality food? We are happiest seeing young working next to old, poor working next to wealthy. We want to bridge the gaps of our community through growing high quality food. And get kids excited about growing their own food, or at least give them the knowledge of where their food comes from.”

At Gravaeret Elementary, students have access to hands-on agricultural education through the school garden from seed to fork. They help as much as possible in the hoop house, which is watered, planted and maintained solely by volunteers, and their garden produce is implemented in school lunch options. “Last year’s 4th graders even sold seeds and seedlings to raise funds for a field trip to MSU North Farm as part of an educational unit Marquette Growth ran in partnership with MSU Extension, Marquette Food Co-op, Transition Marquette, and the school district. Students toured the farm, seeing how the transplants used in the school garden were started, and saving seeds from these and other plants,” describes member Miriah Redmond.

Marquette Growth would like to help establish hoop houses at all of Marquette’s public schools. Once approval is obtained, the group will seek funding. Already, “hundreds of pounds of food, lots of enlightened/educated community members, and tons of new relationships have been created,” describes Lawrence. He’s passionate about the need for this initiative, explaining, “We are at the end of the food delivery routes. Major grocery stores only have enough food to support our community for two to three days. If fossil fuels seize to exist, so will our food. We need to work together to build a food sovereign community. Younger generations need to be educated on these matters to encourage them to take responsibility for a portion of their own food. Together, we can build a more resilient community. Spread the word of Marquette Growth, get people excited about growing food and bridge any gap in existence to get us all working together.”

New helpers are welcome to join Wednesday work nights at Gravaeret Elementary, as well as additional open hoop house hours, various workshops, and Facebook.com/groups/marquettegrowth. The initiative can also be supported by financial contributions through Paypal by contacting mqtgrowth@gmail.com.

Reprinted with permission from Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, Spring 2016 issue.

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Filed under Environmental Education, Gardening, green living, Marquette

Beginning Your Own Herb Garden

by Victoria Jungwirth

I gave a presentation recently to a class of students at NMU and was asked what herbs I would grow if I was just starting up an herb garden. I had to think for a moment because I don’t grow many herbs, using mostly wild-crafted plants, or herbs I buy because they don’t grow well in our climate. But I do have some things in my garden that I can’t imagine life without, all easy to grow for beginners, good basics for medicinal use, and available from most seed catalogs.

Nettles

(Urtica Dioica):  I have cultivated a good patch of nettles in my garden.  They arrived by accident in compost imported from the city, and I was very happy to see them. A perennial, they are one of the first greens to appear in spring, well before anything I might care to sow, and I pick the young leaves for steaming and eating. (I am very careful when picking and don’t mind a few stings, but if you do, wear gloves for this!) As the season progresses, I pick and dry bunches for tea in the winter and make a batch of tincture. Nettles are high in vitamins and minerals, especially iron, so they make a useful addition to winter teas and stews, and are a great tonic, especially for treating persistent skin problems. They are easily cultivated from a root cutting or from seed, and grow well in most garden situations.

Comfrey

(Symphytum Officinale): Another perennial that grows vigorously, the pretty blue flowers attract bees to the garden, which is an added bonus. Comfrey appears early too and I add small leaves to salads, but they quickly become too furry to be palatable. Comfrey is the consummate healing herb for open wounds, speeding the healing process and reducing scarring. It can be infused in oil, or the leaves can be used fresh as a poultice. Excess leaves can be used to make manure tea for the garden by rotting them down in a bucket of water. The smell will quickly remind you why this is called “manure” tea! Again, a root cutting is the easiest way to propagate, but it can be grown from seed as well and grows anywhere!

Calendula

(Calendula Officinalis): This is an annual, so it needs to be sown each year, but the seeds are easy to save, and it often reseeds itself! The flowers are a beautiful addition to any garden and continue flowering late into fall, tolerating the first few frosts. Sometimes it’s hard to bring myself to harvest the flowers, but the more you pick, the more flowers will come. Calendula is mildly antiseptic and anti-inflammatory, so it is useful for skin rashes or abrasions, especially if infection is suspected or there is swelling. It makes a great massage or baby oil, so consider putting some up for gifts. Pick the flowers on a dry, sunny day and cover them with good quality oil for four to six weeks. It’s as easy as that!

This year I grew feverfew and chamomile for the first time. The feverfew did well and I was able to make a batch of tincture with it, but the chamomile was not as productive. I’ve found some non-native plants do not produce such strong medicine, even if they appear to cultivate well. Echinacea is an example. I got some growing in my garden, but when I harvested the roots and made tincture, it was nowhere near as strong as the product I made with roots from the West Coast. I’m assuming that the shorter season and less sunshine contributed to this effect. So there is lots of room for experimentation.

Victoria Jungwirth is the owner of Wilderness Herbs and specializes in local medicinal plants. She lives in a remote corner of Marquette county where she and her husband build birch bark canoes. She is also a manager at the Marquette Food Co-op.

This article was reprinted with permission from the Spring 2013 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine, copyright 2013. All rights reserved.

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Filed under Gardening, Gifts from Nature, Herbalism, Victoria Jungwirth