Nolan’s “Fierce Gardeners” – The Year In Review Part Three “The Grasshopper and the Ants”










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This morning as I laid in bed reflecting on past glories and projecting my future successes, I thought about the Aesop fable calledThe Grasshopper and the Ants.”  For those of you not familiar with the fable it is the story of a grasshopper that has spent the warm summer months singing and dancing (and “ugh” spitting) while the ant or ants worked to store food for the winter.  We know how this ends, for when winter arrives, the lazy, fun-loving grasshopper finds itself starving to death and when he comes upon the ant(s) and asks for some food he is rebuked for his summertime behavior and activities.  The story and its message is often used to teach the virtues of hard work and the perils of goofing off and engaging in irresponsible behavior. 

So while lying in bed I started to think how well Project Sweet Tomato reflected the fable and its moral conclusion.  In 2011, Project Sweet Tomato was blessed to have found a group of kids that embraced the “ant-mindset” of the story and enthusiastically engaged in an effort that taught them several things about living in the world today.


One of the goals of last year’s garden program was to teach the kids and the adjacent community the meaning of sustainability.  According to Wikipedia, sustainability is the capacity to endure.  “For humans, sustainability is the long-term maintenance of responsibility, which has environmental, economic, and social dimensions, and encompasses the concept of stewardship, the responsible management of resource use.”  Written in those words, it seems like a difficult piece of pie to swallow, doesn’t it?  But the reality is that the kids of Nolan’s Fierce Gardeners, under the tutelage of Bonnie Odom-Brown, along with the mentoring by the people from the Greening of Detroit and with the support of my business, Snelling Staffing Services, and my employees got it…they got it right and by the end of the program they were more like the ants of Aesop’s fable than the grasshoppers that surrounded them in their neighborhood.

Project Sweet Tomato provided, through example, lessons to today’s kids on

  • Responsibility
  • Ecology
  • Economy
  • Society
  • Community

Textbook quality lessons that are learned outside of the classroom in a realistic environment, that makes the benefits more relevant and significant to their lifestyle and existence.  And the lessons and/or benefits that are being taught are not just for the kids alone.  The number of previously unaware parents and adults that have embraced the good that the program has provided does not surprise me.  And when these lessons or disciplines are applied to other aspects of their lives, all of a sudden the program shifted from being just a garden into a positive lifestyle orientation with roots that are deep and miles long.

Another goal of the program was to help reinforce the “inherent moral nature” of the kids, their parents/families and the community in which they reside.  Despite, the bombardment of images and messages of the contrary, greed, and the other six vices, is not good.  It was helpful, that the program promoted the benefits of self-achievement and actualization so that our kids are not always subject to the destructive desires of lust and envy for things that they have not earned or do not deserve.  Some of our kids in the program learned first hand, last summer, how it felt to have something that they worked very hard for to be disrespected.  It is doubtful that they or anybody in their immediate circle (family, friends or neighbors) will forget how they felt when their garden was vandalized or how they felt when in spite of the efforts of a few to destroy what they had started, they stood in triumph at harvest time.  You reap what you sow is how the saying goes.  Project Sweet Tomato sows the seeds of good and positive behavior that will enable the kids to sustain a lifetime of productive citizenry for themselves – individually and in the community – collectively.  

The final and most important goal of Project Sweet Tomato was to demonstrate to the kids, at the most basic level and to the community, perhaps at a higher level, that they are not alone.  People and society are aware of the difficult times and hardships they face and many are not willing to stand idly by and watch them fail.  In 2011, several businesses and their employees, friends, neighbors and community activists came out in support of the activities at the gardens, but more help is needed.  In 2012, the program is expecting even more assistance from a broader list of supporters.  All of the businesses being asked to support Project Sweet Tomato will have something unique to bring to the program beyond their support of the garden itself.  Not only will the kids learn their way around a garden, they will learn even more about life…what is expected of them in life…what they need in life…and how to go about getting what they want out of life.  Knowing that it will take hard work and planning to get there is only the first step.  With my help as a business owner and with the assistance of others, Project Sweet Tomato will teach them more than environmental sustainability.  In 2012 they will learn financial, educational, mental and spiritual sustainability as well.  These kids…your kids…my kids…they’re the future, they are the long-term beneficiaries of any sustainability program we can create. 

In conclusion, my family and I, along with my employees are looking forward to being “ants” again for Project Sweet Tomato 2012 at Nolan Elementary.  Will you join us or are you going to be a grasshopper?  Not too hard of a choice is it?

Maura Ryan-Kaiser


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