Posts tagged Greening of Detroit

Detroit School Garden Collaborative…The New Game in Town!

Sometime last fall, I heard about a new urban gardening program that sounded like one of the best ideas in quite some time, the Detroit School Garden Collaborative (DSGC).  In 2013 it planned on putting in raised beds in about 45 schools.  They also talked about developing nutritional programs and using produce from the gardens in the schools.

On May 14th, they put in six new raised beds at Nolan.  I wasn’t there and from the looks of it I am glad I wasn’t.  This was some very hard work!

No, this is not a prehistoric landfill!

No, this is not a prehistoric landfill!

Setting Up

Setting Up

Let's get busy!

Let’s get busy!

Coming along just as it was planned!

Coming along just as it was planned!

Coming together one bed at a time!

Coming together one bed at a time!

- - TA DA - -

– – TA DA – –

At the end of the day, Nolan had 6 brand-spanking new raised beds.  Boy were we going to have fun with them!!!

For more on the Detroit School Garden Collaborative take a look at the blog:  Days of Our Garden: Diary II (December 2012 – March 2013) at John R. King Academic and Performing Arts Academy.  Teacher/Garden Coordinator, Gwen Bouler, attended all of the DSGC sessions and workshops.

I think that the DSCG will eventually find its way, though the path may not be as easy for them as they would like.  They will need to have complete and total buy-in from all of the stakeholders and that includes kitchen personnel.  They will have to hire smart!  They don’t need people who are looking for an easy job, because it isn’t.  They need smart people, gardening people who are self-motivated and individually-inspired to take care of the gardens they are charged with.  They need to have a practical plan for when schools are on break and most of their resources are not accessible.  They have a unique program and logistically, only a few schools are properly set up to do everything that they’d like to have happen.  So because of that, they need to focus on and recruit only those schools that can accomplish what they are trying to achieve.  They should be the resource the schools and their gardens need them to be.  Detroit schools, just like the city, are not sitting on stacks of money.  They are needy!  Oh yes, the children will have enough of the basics to make learning less of a challenge than it is, but anything extra-curricular, well…er…ah…ahem…you know!  So don’t start something for them to have to financially support later.  They will buy school books and classroom materials…but garden tools?  That might be just a little too much to ask.

Negativity aside, like I said at the beginning, I think that they will find their way.  I do know some of the people there and if those I don’t know are as good about their work as the people I do know, then there is not a lot to worry about.

Good Luck…Happy Gardening!


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The End Of The Beginning – Moving Towards The End…Harvesting!


Let me begin with saying “Thanks to all of you that have found the time to read our little blog”.  We have followers from all over the world and we appreciate the interest in our small and humble effort…the Planting The Seeds Garden, managed by Nolan’s Fierce Gardeners.  Our garden drives home the point that the other community gardeners are making here in Detroit and across the United States…through positive attitudes, healthy food can be an easy option in urban areas.  This is a throwback to the times, for most of our gardeners, of their grandparents and great aunts and uncles…for them easily a generation or two ago.  A time when the “village” raised the children…everybody’s children.

So what we have here is a series of pictures as we are starting to close down the garden in August, September and October.  The weather being what it was, the school garden had a very long run.  There was lettuce that was still growing in November (that was the last time I looked…who knows, it was probably still growing up to the snowfall right before Christmas).  I have often wondered how much the kids would have harvested if we hadn’t been vandalized twice.  Putting aside any negatives thoughts, when I look at these pictures I get a very warm feeling inside.  I know the effort it took for the garden to look like this…at any point, but especially at the time when the pictures were taken.  It’s not hard to go back to when it all started…the volunteer help we had on the very first day, the ongoing efforts of Snelling Staffing Services employee/volunteers, the guidance provided by the Greening of Detroit (Lindsay Pielack and her group), the financial and material support provided by Sandra Tomlin/Michigan First Credit Union and the leadership, drive and commitment of Bonnie Odom-Brown and Maura Ryan-Kaiser, BE Culturally Exposed and Snelling Staffing Services, respectively.  Even with all of this help, the kids put in a lot of hours over the summer and they deserved this outcome…nature, in all its splendour…God, in his Glory!  Say Amen!

One thing I must reveal is that there are just a few pictures from the Harvest Picnic.  The reason for that was we were all too busy to pick up a camera.  The focus was on the kids really, as they showed off the garden to their parents, harvested some veggies (yes, they worked that day too!), received their end-of-the-season compensation, along with book bags, food harvest bags, school supplies and lots and lots of food*.  It was a great time and very satisfying to watch.

So are you ready for our magical tour?  Then, everybody sing along with me…

Green acres is the place to be.

Farm livin’ is the life for me.

Land spreadin’ out so far and wide

Keep Manhattan, just give me that countryside!**

What have we here?


Zucchini...very impressive!

Zucchini…very impressive!


A real pleasure to find…

Are you ready for some "fried green tomatoes"?

Are you ready for some “fried green tomatoes”?


From a tiny seed…


Look at what I’ve found!

Kale...little soldiers all in a row!

Kale…little soldiers all in a row!

Beans...beans good for the heart!

Beans…beans good for the heart!

Our new sign on display!

Our new sign on display!

The view from afar!

The view from afar!

This is how it looked in early October...nice, eh?

This is how it looked in early October…nice, eh?

October 2012

October 2012

Program Founder and Coordinator

Bonnie Odom-Brown

BE Culturally Exposed


Founding Sponsor




Presenting Sponsor

MIFCU logo and tagline

The Greening of Detroit




*Food Sponsor:  Mazin Shina/Imperial Supermarket

**The Theme from “Green Acres” (TV show)

The End Of The Beginning – She Leaves H_ _ _ t P_ _ _ _ s!

The End Of The Beginning – A Letter Of Appreciation To Ms. Maura

The End Of The Beginning – This Is The World Nolan’s Fierce Gardeners Made!

The End Of The Beginning!

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The End Of The Beginning – Thanking The Help!

While we still have your attention, we thought now was probably the best time to thank the people that regularly came out to help and support B.E. Culturally Exposed’s “Planting The Seeds” Garden, Nolan’s Fierce Gardeners and Project Sweet Tomato.  We couldn’t have made it without every single one of them.


Jenni Littsey

John Adams

The Greening of Detroit/Garden Resource Program



Jan Sansom

Bonnie Ponder

Parents and friends of Nolan’s Fierce Gardeners


The Staff of Snelling Staffing Services




Auburn Hills


Food & Supplies

Mazin Shina

Imperial Supermarket

Mazin Shina



Presenting Sponsor

Sandra M. Tomlin

Vice President, Community Relations

Michigan First Credit Union

MIFCU logo and tagline


Founding Sponsor

Maura Ryan-Kaiser

Vice President, Regional Manager

Snelling Staffing Services




From all of us to all of you…Thank You Very Much!


Nolan’s Fierce Gardeners

Nolan Elementary-Middle School


Bonnie Odom-Brown

B.E. Culturally Exposed


Arthur Littsey


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The End Of The Beginning – This Is The World That Nolan’s Fierce Gardeners Made!

This is the world that Nolan’s Fierce Gardeners made…


This is the field

that is part of the world that Nolan’s Fierce Gardeners made


This is the plant

from the land

that was planted by a child

in the field

that is part of the world that Nolan’s Fierce Gardeners made


This is a vegetable

that came from a plant

in the land

that was planted by a child

in the field

that is part of the world that Nolan’s Fierce Gardeners made


These are the firemen

that watered the garden

that helped the children

that grew the vegetable

in the land

that was planted by a child

in the field

that is part of the world that Nolan’s Fierce Gardeners made


These are the children

The Firemen helped by

watering the garden

that grew the vegetable

that came from a plant

in the land

that was planted by a child

in the field

that is part of the world that Nolan’s Fierce Gardeners made


To this day, our harvest day

we say “Thank You”

to the Children

to the Firemen

the vegetable

the plant

the field

for the bounty we got

in the wonderful world that Nolan’s Fierce Gardeners Made!



Revised by A. Littsey

Composed by © 2005 T.W. Brighton


Yes it has been quite the year, this 2012!  The Nolan’ Fierce Gardeners have had a lot to deal with working at the Planting the Seeds Garden, from vandalism to drought and yet they endured and survived.  With the way the high heat and the lack of on-site water (we had to haul in water, with the exception of the help from our firemen friends, and hand water every plant) affected everything we did, including bad weather day-offs…like thunderstorms, it was a sure bet that this year was not going to be as successful as our previous year.  But I am here to tell you that those of us that held that belief were wrong, very wrong.

The 2012 garden was different from 2011 in several ways…

  1. From day one, we had the gardeners think and develop a process for how they planted the seeds and plants.  We taught them about measurement and its relevancy for spacing and placement.
  2. They were taught them about seasonal growing (over the winter of 2011 we planted garlic)
  3. We taught them about insects…those that were harmful and those that were beneficial.
  4. They learned the importance of proper garden management, including maintenance (weeding, pest control, watering).  The garden was organic and they ensured it would remain so.
  5. We gave them management and responsibility roles…encouraging them to mature, by presenting situations/projects that had them manage it themselves.
  6. The gardeners were presented with more off-site experiences.  They went to market (Eastern Market), The Detroit Institute of Arts and the main branch of the Detroit Public Library.
  7. They experienced working at other community gardens where they learned different planting techniques and developed social skills amongst their peers and adults.
  9. They looked forward to coming to the garden bonding with the plants just as they did with each other and the adult supervisors.
  10. And we had more adult involvement!  Parents or guardians visited the garden more frequently.  Of the trips the gardeners went on, most of the time a parent was providing transportation and chaperone duty.

The gardeners took home a lot of food to share with their families.  We started harvesting vegetables in large volumes in late  August or early September, before then, only produce that was at its peak market value was picked and it was taken to market.   Overall, we got substantial yield from almost everything we grew…

  • Collard Greens
  • Kale
  • Garlic
  • Scallions
  • Green Beans
  • Yellow Wax Beans
  • Melons
  • Tomatoes (Big Beef, Black Cherry, Purple Cherokee)
  • Squash (Zucchini; Summer Squash)
  • Cabbage
  • Spinach
  • Arugula
  • Lettuce (GRP Mix)
  • Sunflowers
  • Potatoes
  • Peppers

Not bad for a garden that got vandalized on numerous occasions.  The kids, oooops!  I mean “the gardeners”, worked very hard to overcome the damage that was done to the garden.  That it survived clearly demonstrates what a strong will and a strong “young” back can do!

I am sure that one of the greatest pleasures, we as adults got from working with these kids, was that they went at it on the first open harvest, picking vegetables that they could take home.  We showed them how to remove the produce from the plant… from picking beans and tomatoes to picking Kale and pulling potatoes out of the ground.  They had bags and bags of goodies…it was like the vegetarian version of Halloween.  The smiles on their faces were incredible.  They started talking among themselves as to how they were going to cook or prepare each vegetable, talked excitedly about the specific vegetables that they liked and picked and how proud they were that they did it themselves.  These were…

The vegetables

that came from  plants

from the land

that was planted by some children

in the field

That Is Part Of The World That Nolan’s Fierce Gardeners Made!


Bonnie Odom-Brown


Maura Ryan-Kaiser

Founding Sponsor



Presenting Sponsor

A special Thank You to the group of people from the Garden Resource Program (Greening of Detroit)…Lindsay, Tee, Eitan, Tanya, Ashley, Sarah, Cat, Kido, Giancarlo, Sara, Erin, Minni, Jeff, Elizabeth, Nate and Kristine (did I get everybody?…there’s just too many to name!).  They have been a valued resource and are great friends!





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Res-ur-rec-tion  [rez-uh-rek-shuhn]


  1. the act of rising from the dead
  2. a rising again, as from decay, disuse, etc.; revival

Many of our readers, near and far, have asked for an update on the garden since the vandalism that took place over the last two weeks of June.  The following pictures, taken on July 6th, demonstrate the strength, character, dedication and resolve of Nolan’s Fierce Gardeners.  These kids will not be denied their full gardening experience.  They have worked twice as hard for it to get to where it is now (and beyond) and they are, rightfully so, very proud of their efforts.

Our most recent blogs talk about how the kids have taken on more responsibility in and out of the garden and these pictures clearly show what’s motivating them.  Some of the plants that they have successfully sold at market have come from this very garden and by the looks of things, come August, there will be even more for them to eat and sell!

As we approached…

What a comeback…Beautiful Kale!

Collard Greens on the rebound!

One week later little melons appeared!

These potato plants had been hacked down into nubs!

and Zuchinni
You wouldn’t believe how they looked two weeks prior

Even our “potted” plants came back!

You don’t want to know where these tomato plants started from

Do you believe in miracles?

Re-demp-tion  [re-demp-shuhn]



  1. an act of redeeming or the state of being redeemed
  2. deliverance; rescue

This act of redemption couldn’t have been accomplished without the hard work and support of the following:

Nolan’s Fierce Gardeners

Bonnie Odom-Brown, B.E. Culturally Exposed

Maura Ryan-Kaiser & Family w/Staff of Snelling Staffing Services

Michigan First Credit Union

The Greening of Detroit/Garden Resource Program

Related Story…“Yes, Love’s In Need of Love Today and a Little R-E-S-P-E-C-T Too!

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Nolan’s Fierce Gardeners Going to Market – GROWN IN DETROIT

One of the great benefits from being in the Garden Resource Program is that they provide a wide variety of events, programs and seminars relevant to the urban/community/family garden experience.

They have…

  • Education Series
  • Training Programs
  • Cooking Classes
  • Farm Tours

Many, many programs and projects that help extend the deep and satisfying pleasures that comes from the “I did it myself/We did ourselves” sense of accomplishment.  Ahhhhhhh!

This summer, Grown In Detroit is the program that has really caught my attention.  Grown In Detroit provides an opportunity for members of Detroit’s gardening community to sell their fruits, vegetables and flowers in an actual retail environment.  Families and youths from over 80 garden communities/urban farms (and growing) throughout Detroit, Hamtramck and Highland Park participate in the program and are providing healthy food to inner city communities.

To be in Grown In Detroit you must use sustainable farming practices. The goal is to “produce food in healthy soil without harmful chemicals, pesticides, fertilizers or genetically modified products.”  Our locally grown food is “miles” fresher and tastes so much better than food shipped from exceedingly long distances.  The big chains can’t ensure that all of the produce you buy has been grown locally and not only that…all of the money doesn’t stay here locally.  As their website says Grown In Detroit produce keeps dollars in Detroit and helps support families in Detroit, Hamtramck and Highland Park.”  Sounds like a good plan to me!

So at the end of one of our regularly schedule workday at the garden the coordinator, Bonnie Odom-Brown, gathered the kids together to discuss who among them would be going to market, as they like to call it.  I was taken back, though by now I shouldn’t be, by the enthusiasm that the kids displayed for this expedition.  I couldn’t help but think about how much of a drudge it was to go grocery shopping when I was a kid and these kids were looking forward…no, that’s the wrong word, they were down right ANXIOUS to go!  Before any decisions were made each child primped and groomed…tidied themselves up a bit, believing that was going to help their chances of getting picked.  Since you have to be of a certain age to go, the number of participants dwindled quickly.  Reluctant, as if she would be thinning little plants, Bonnie had to tell the youngest ones they could not go.  You should have seen the face on one little girl as she walked away somewhat disappointed, yet defiant and promising she will be back to make the trip(s) next year.

With all the drama and pressure of an American Idol finale, three kids were picked.  We weren’t able to leave until the schedule for the entire summer was worked out and each kid knew when he or she was scheduled to go.  Those that were picked for the excursion were actually pumped and proud that they were the first to go.  Preening and grinning, the elation shown via their faces was pretty neat!


To market, to market, to buy a fat pig,

Home again, home again, jiggity-jig

To market, to market, to buy a fat hog

Home again, home again, jiggity-jog

Oh what a life!  I am now appreciating some things at a brand new level by living through the eyes and faces of these very interesting kids.  Kids with very distinctive personalities and yet they share the same common reactions to being acknowledged with being asked or selected to handle additional responsibilities…pride…excitement…. happiness!  Well Alright Now!



Days/Hours and Locations for Grown In Detroit


Saturdays 6AM – 3:30PM

May 7th to November 19th

Russell St. & Adelaide St.

Just North of I-75

Look for “Grown In Detroit” in SHED 2


Wednesdays 11AM – 4PM

June 1st to October 26th

5201 Cass Ave.
Across from the Detroit Public Library

Look for “Grown In Detroit” Banner


Thursday Evenings from 4PM – 8PM

May 26th to October 13th

Bushnell Church

On the Southfield Freeway Service Drive

South of Grand River Ave.

Look for “Grown In Detroit” Banner

You may also find them on occasion at these locations…

For more information contact Carmen Regalado at The Greening of Detroit, (313) 285-1250 x246


More information about “Grown In Detroit”, The Greening of Detroit, and Detroit Agriculture can be found at or


Come on down and support the entrepreneurs of the future, many of them kids that are working in their school or community gardens.  Mmmm, let’s see now…To market, to market to buy a head of cabbage!

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May 12, 2012…The Garden Starts Here!

 It was not just another Saturday in the city.  A bunch of school kids, some parents and the usual cast of “suspects”…Bonnie Odom-Brown of BE Culturally Exposed, Maura Ryan-Kaiser and her family, a host of volunteers that included my sister Jenni, new friend of the garden…Norma, Jan Sansom (Hi Jan!), and myself, the founder of Project Sweet Tomato, Arthur Littsey took it upon ourselves to make yet another footprint in the sands of time.  On Saturday May 12, 2012 another chapter in the Nolan Elementary-Middle School began.  Let’s hear everybody say…Ain’t No Stopping Us Now…GO TEAM GO!

On this day we planted new vegetables, checked the sole holdover from last year (Garlic) and built two new raised beds.  The day was filled with a lot of hard work, fun, food and beverages.  This year we had help from a new sponsor, Michigan First Credit Union and from an old friend, Mazin Shina of Imperial Supermarket (8 Mile Rd and Dequindre/Belmont Shopping Center) as well as support and materials from our buddies from the Garden Resource Program/Greening of Detroit.  Yes, we took a lot of pictures…so take a look at all the work we did and the fun we had!!!

COFFEE…Where’s My Coffee?

It’s here somewhere????????

What’s my motivation? It’s in the METHOD, man…the method!

Still, we are off to a better start than the Tigers!

Did you see the color of those gloves?

What have we here?

Reviewing proper watering technique

Welcome to the “He-Man Woman Hater’s Club”

Now if you see any snakes…

We can fix this so no one will notice…

Diggin’ those Potatoes!

Now tell me again, whose idea was this?

Everybody’s hard at work except for the person that took this picture!

Time to get the grillin’ going!

Everybody’s worked up an appetite!

I told you to get here earlier!!!


End of Part 1

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