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.

Keweenaw Shore Nature Sanctuary

by Joan Chadde

Some of us have a favorite song, a favorite rock, a favorite book, or perhaps a favorite place. The Keweenaw Shore Nature Sanctuary in Keweenaw County, (owned by the Michigan Nature Association), is one of my favorite places in the Upper Peninsula.

The Keweenaw Shore Nature Sanctuary straddles M-26 adjacent to the Esrey Park roadside picnic area, about 8 miles east of Eagle Harbor and 6 miles west of Copper Harbor. A short three-quarter mile trail begins across from Esrey Park, passing through four distinct plant communities and over several rocky ridges of Copper Harbor conglomerate—a sedimentary rock formation consisting of individual rock fragments within a finer-grained matrix that have become cemented together.

At the start of the trail, the hiker enters a northern boreal forest of white spruce, balsam fir, aspen, and white birch. Look for heart-leaved arnica growing on the rocky, dry soil, and Usnea  lichen, (Old Man’s Beard), draped over the balsam fir and white spruce trees, creating an eerie atmosphere. Light green Usnea covers tree bark and branches with a profuse, beardlike growth that can reach a foot in length!  Many bird species, including ruby-throated hummingbirds, boreal chickadees, American redstarts, and white-winged crossbills pad their nests with these soft lichens.

The Usnea lichen is particularly effective at absorbing minerals from the air, making it sensitive to airborne pollutants, especially sulfur dioxide, so it’s a useful bio-indicator of air quality. Under poor air quality conditions, Usnea lichens may grow no larger than a few millimeters, if they  survive at all. Where the air is not polluted, Usnea lichens can grow ten to twenty centimeters long.

The second plant community along the trail is a cedar swamp. Look for white cedar, balsam fir, alder and a dense ground cover of sedges.  

Next, the hiker enters a small sampler of a northern conifer bog, complete with sphagnum moss as ground cover, along with bog laurel, pitcher plants, leatherleaf shrubs, black spruce, and Labrador tea.

Lastly, the trail climbs over a rocky ridge and enters a dry hardwood-conifer forest before   descending to Brockway Mountain Drive. Plants common to this forest plant community are white pine, arnica, bracken fern, aster and thimbleberry.  White pine needles carpet the dry rocky soil. 

The geology is special here, too. Some of the rocks are more than one billion years old! The trail traverses a series of rocky ridges interspersed with low-lying wet areas. Look for the rounded gravel deposited along one of many shorelines associated with periods of glacial retreat, which occurred only a few thousand years ago.

Driving Directions

From Eagle Harbor, follow M-26 northeast about six miles, (or follow M-26 eight miles west of Copper Harbor), to the Esrey Park roadside picnic area along Lake Superior, less than a mile from Brockway Mountain Drive’s west entrance. Visitors may park at Esrey Park or along the south side of M-26 near the Michigan Nature Association sanctuary trailhead sign. 

Trail Description

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Terrain: Flat to rolling

Distance: 0.75 mile trail from M-26 to Brockway Mountain Drive; 1.5 miles roundtrip

Size: 36 acres

Ownership: Michigan Nature Association

Contact: (517) 655-5655, www.michigannature.org

Joan Chadde has 25+ years of environmental education experience. She authored Michigan Water Quality Curriculum (2006), Design Guidelines to Enhance Community Appearance & Protect Natural Resources (2004), and most recently compiled Walking Paths & Protected Areas of the Keweenaw (2009), from which this article is adapted.

The Michigan Nature Association, established in 1952, is a nonprofit conservation organization dedicated to protecting Michigan’s exceptional natural habitats and extraordinary and endangered plants and animals. Our members have made it possible for us to preserve 165 nature sanctuaries in 56 counties throughout the state today and forever. MNA published Walking Paths & Protected Areas of the Keweenaw (2009). Copies may be purchased on their website, http://www.michigannature.org, in Marquette bookstores and twenty-two Keweenaw Peninsula locations.