Posts tagged Michigan First Credit Union

Lookin’ Back!

It was just another day in the garden when I spied crawling slowly through the blades of grass a huge tomato worm.  It was camouflaged smartly so as to hide itself from its predators but it did not escape my watchful eye as I was tending the garden with the assistance of our student gardeners and a host of volunteers.  Tomatoe-horn-worm2Seeing this as another learning moment I jumped at the opportunity to draw the attention of the nearby kids to this fearless destroyer of tomato plants.  After a cascade of oohs and ahs…”what is that…oh, it’s nasty…can I touch it” type comments one little girl, who goes by the name of Jade, turned, looked down to see what everybody was talking about.  Her eyes opened wide and then with her “little big foot” she just stepped on the caterpillar.  She SMASHED it!  She then looked around at all the other kids, wiped her shoe on the grass, shrugged her shoulders as if she couldn’t understand what all the fuss was all about and why is it always left to her to do all of the dirty work.  AHHHHHHHHhhhhhhhh, it is wonderful to be outdoors and working with kids!

For many people, the idea of city school kids actively participating in gardening, urban farming if you will, just doesn’t make sense.  These kids are expected to be running the streets, playing sports or just gaming on either their cell phones or an x-box.  Gardening?  It’s not cool!  It’s not urbane!  It’s…it’s…well, it’s COUNTRY!  How is that FUN?

It was the spring of 2011 that we first started the garden here at Nolan Elementary-Middle School.  Since then we have had 4 different principals and we have been fortunate that each one has seen the educational and recreational benefit the garden provides for its students.  They see that one of its many values is its ability to be used as an extension of the classroom.  We teach math in our garden…measuring and calculating.  We teach science too.  Reading comes into play also.  We encourage leadership and teamwork skills.  They learn how to collaborate.  The garden, for them, is a place where their imaginations can run free and their minds can be as fertile as the soil they are playing/working in.  Here they can experience the wonder of growth and the humility that comes from understanding the power of what one seed can do.  The garden reflects the realities of life and the benefits of investment, commitment and hard work.  That might sound a little heavy for a bunch of 8, 9 and 10 year-olds, but amazingly they get it.

So here we are in 2016 getting ready to nurture our future world leaders from the ground up.  It is here where they will learn about sustainability and gain a deeper appreciation for the environment.  They are participating in the oldest rituals in the world…sowing, tending, and harvesting their own food.  There’s no better substitute!


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 Cabbage Harvest


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Weighting Produce


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B.E. Culturally Exposed

Bonnie Odom-Brown

MIFCU logo and tagline

Andy Daily


Maura Ryan-Kaiser


Arthur Littsey


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The Major “Get” of 2015

October 2015 BE Culturally Exposed, the organizer of the garden at Nolan Elementary-Middle School, participated in the Detroit Community Development Awards “People’s Choice Awards” which was presented by Comerica Bank.  This was the first year of the People’s Choice Award and the winners would come from 7 geographically defined districts in the City of Detroit.  Each winner would be given $1000 and would be determined by an online voting program where supporters could vote as often as they’d like, once a day, during a 15-day period.


Winning out of District 3 was BE Culturally Exposed!  We contribute our success to the online efforts of friends, volunteers and supporters, you know “people who know somebody that knows somebody”.  We used every social marketing tool that was available for us to use to reach out to our constituents to get them to vote not just once but as frequent as the rules allowed.  It was a social networking miracle that enabled us to compete with other “more recognized or established” programs.  But like the little engine that could…we did, we won and it couldn’t have come at a better time.


We were vandalized at the end of the year by some individuals that do not appreciate what we are doing for the students of Nolan, the school, families and the community immediately adjacent to the school and several of the beds were in need of repair.  That’s where the award money is going…new raised beds!  New beds will be easier and safer for the young gardeners to manage.  Plus, we suspect they will be slightly more durable.  Lastly, they are modular, so we should be able to come up with some unique bed formations that may fuel their creative minds.


We also received a sizeable donation from Michigan First Credit Union toward the repair of the beds.  Lowe’s Home Improvement then stepped up big time by selling us some beds at cost, donating several more and providing soil upgrading materials at cost. We were able to feed and upgrade the soil conditions of each bed, including the new ones!


So a Big THANK YOU to all of our friends and supporters (the people that know somebody) that voted and helped us win the $1000 award.  Thanks to Michigan First Credit Union (Andy Daily) for their continued support and thanks to Lowe’s Home Improvement for their timely contribution.


This was so much fun, let’s do it again!


Bonnie Odom-Brown

B.E. Culturally Exposed


Maura Ryan-Kaiser

MIFCU logo and tagline

Andy Daily, Bus. Development/Community Dev.


Arthur Littsey

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Dig Them Potatoes!

“It’s the latest, it’s the greatest
Mashed Potato, ya, ya, ya-e-eah!

Mashed Potato started along time ago
With a guy named Sloppy Joe!”*

Ahhhhhhhh…sweet, sweet memories! The chart-topping hit song that inspired the dance, undoubtedly inspired many a youth, myself included, to eat potatoes…mashed or otherwise. And starting two years ago, potatoes have become a hit at Nolan’s “Planting the Seed” garden. Our first attempt to grow potatoes was such a success that we had to grow them again this year and grow they did, we had a fantastic crop.

Taking care of the bed!

Taking care of the bed!

So green!

So lush…so green!

Who knows what secrets lie below ground?

Who knows what secrets lie below ground?

Are they ready?  They gotta be ready?

Are they ready? They gotta be ready?

As members of “Keep Growing Detroit”, my sister Jenni and I were able to combine what we got as participants of the program along with what Bonnie Odom-Brown received also, to insure that we were going to be able to plant a considerable amount of “seed pieces” to begin with. It can’t be stressed enough how important Keep Growing Detroit is not only to the efforts of the Nolan school garden but to other gardens in the cities of Detroit, Highland Park and Hamtramck.

Dig them potatoes!

Dig them potatoes!

Ain't they purty?

Ain’t they purty?

A happy "fierce Nolan gardener"

A happy “fierce Nolan gardener”

Following their instructions, Maura Ryan-Kaiser and Bonnie Odom-Brown loaded one of our raised beds with three different varieties of spuds, Yukon Gold, Kennebec and Red Skins. That was basically it! We watered when necessary and fortunately with all the rain we got this summer, we didn’t have to do too much of that. We did have to keep adding more soil to the bed, a process called “hilling”, but other than that it was purely a walk in the park!

Mama Mama, look what we grew!

Mama Mama, look what we grew!

A little dirty but, Mmmm Mmmm Good!

A little dirty but, Mmmm Mmmm Good!

All the young girls!

All the young girls!

Dividing up the days harvest!

Dividing up the days harvest!

Guess what's for dinner?

Guess what’s for dinner?

What did we do with the potatoes once they were harvested? Well, I would recommend using them in a frittata. There’s a lot of different frittata recipes, but I like the “Bacon and Potato Frittata”. This recipe includes a lot of the vegetables we grew in the garden this year and I bet you will enjoy it as much as I do.

Bacon and Potato Frittata

Gourmet Live | April 2012
by Gina Marie Miraglia Erique

Bacon and Potato Frittata recipe
photo by Lara Ferroni

Makes 4 servings
active time
35 minutes
total time
35 minutes

Consider the recipe below as a loose template to be altered according to what you’ve got lying around. You can substitute cooked pasta and rice for the potatoes, and cooked greens for the raw. Play around with different cheeses, or skip them altogether. It’s your chance to let your frittata freak flag fly!
• 8 large eggs
• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, parsley, or tarragon
• 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 6 slices bacon, chopped
• 1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
• 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
• 1 small onion, or more to taste, chopped
• 2 garlic cloves, or more to taste, chopped
• 2 to 3 cups spinach or arugula, coarsely chopped
• 1/2 cup chopped roasted peppers, or to taste
• 3 ounces sliced Provolone (5 to 6 slices), optional
• Special equipment: 10-inch heavy ovenproof skillet, preferably nonstick or cast-iron; heat-proof rubber spatula
Preheat broiler.
Whisk together eggs, basil, Parmesan, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl.
Cook bacon in a 10-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring, until crisp. Transfer bacon with a slotted spoon to a large bowl then pour off all but 2 tablespoons fat.
Add potatoes and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper to skillet, and sauté over medium-high heat until golden, about 3 minutes. Cover skillet and continue to cook over medium-low heat, stirring a few times, until potatoes are just tender, about 3 minutes more. Transfer the potatoes with a slotted spoon to bowl containing the bacon.
Add 1 tablespoon oil to skillet and sauté onion and garlic over medium-high heat until pale golden, about 4 minutes, then add spinach and sauté until just wilted.
Gently add the potatoes and bacon, the roasted peppers, and remaining tablespoon oil into onion mixture, spreading it evenly.
Pour egg mixture evenly over vegetables and cook over medium-high heat, lifting up cooked egg around edges with a heat-proof rubber spatula to let uncooked egg flow underneath, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and cook, covered, until it appears mostly set, with a moist top and center, 3 to 5 minutes more.
Remove lid. If using Provolone, broil frittata 5 to 7 inches from heat until set, but not browned, 1 to 2 minutes, then top with an even layer of cheese and continue to broil until browned and bubbling, 1 to 3 minutes (watch carefully).
If skipping the cheese, broil frittata until the top is lightly browned, 1 to 3 minutes (making sure it doesn’t burn).
If using a nonstick skillet, slide the frittata onto a serving plate. If using a cast-iron skillet, cut and serve wedges directly from the skillet.
Nutrition Information
per serving (4 servings)
• Calories623
• Carbohydrates25 g (8%)
• Fat44 g (68%)
• Protein30 g (59%)
• Saturated Fat16 g (80%)
• Sodium870 mg (36%)
• Polyunsaturated Fat5 g
• Fiber3 g (13%)
• Monounsaturated Fat20 g
• Cholesterol423 mg (141%)

* Dee Dee Sharp (Cohen, Gorman, Garrett, Dobbins, Bateman, Holland)

Nolan Elementary-Middle School’s

Planting the Seeds Garden is led and sponsored by

Be Culturally Exposed/Bonnie Odom-Brown

Snelling Staffing Services/Maura Ryan-Kaiser

Michigan First Credit Union/Mark Guimond

Project Sweet Tomato/Arthur Littsey

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Back To School!

Intercom Voice: (SQUELCH) All students in the garden club please come to the auditorium immediately. BEEP!

It’s Tuesday at Nolan Elementary-Middle School and Bonnie Odom-Brown (BE Culturally Exposed) and I (Arthur Littsey/Project Sweet Tomato) are meeting with our student gardeners for the first time. They are a rag-tag bunch that covers at least 4 different grade levels. For the first time since the move to Nolan, Planting the Seeds has an abundance of students. There are almost 20 kids of varying ages and for another first, we have strong representation from the young males of the school. 8th graders too? Yes, I am very surprised.

As you would expect, this has brought a few more challenges for the team, but we are starting to get a grip on things, with the help of some recent advice from our sponsor, Maura Ryan-Kaiser. She helped create a plan for managing so many students. One can tell that she never forgets that she is dealing with kids (I think she has the camp counselor gene) and in spite of that they can be managed effectively. And she had an immediate affect on them. She grabbed their attention and held it throughout the gardening session. They performed very well for her. And I can tell you from previous experiences that’s not a very easy thing to do.

We’ve got a lot of vegetables in the ground with more on the way, courtesy of Keep Growing Detroit. New this year will be watermelon, a new variety of sunflower, peas, strawberries (they are surviving so far), onions and sweet potatoes. We are also growing many of the standard summer vegetables, like tomatoes, green and yellow beans, garlic, zucchini, greens, cabbage, kale, broccoli, lettuces, basil, parsley, peppers, radishes and potatoes (Yukon Gold and red skins). There’s a lot going on and it would be difficult to manage without the help that we get from the Snelling Staffing Services volunteers. They are a great bunch…easy to get along with; supportive (for me that means young and strong)…that takes their volunteer work seriously and has fun doing it. It’s a lot of fun to watch them learn a few things about gardening too!

There has been a change outside the garden as well. Sandra Tomlin, the former Vice President, Community Relations, of Michigan First Credit Union, retired. She was a wonderful advocate for our little program and we thank her for her support. She has said that now that she is retired, she might pay the garden a visit. So, now would be a good time to welcome Mark Guimond as our new contact at Michigan First Credit Union. Mark’s title is Assistant Vice President – Business & Community Relationships. MFCU is active with several schools in and around Detroit and I hope that we continue to earn their support.

Pictures? Yes, here’s a few…

Getting ready to plant some onions!

Getting ready to plant some onions!


Lettuce, Cabbage and Greens

Lettuce, Cabbage and Greens

Prepping the big bed!

Prepping the big bed!

Putting the kids to work!

Putting the kids to work!

Is this a weeding party?

Is this a weeding party?

Our first peas...ever!

Our first peas…ever!

Thursday's Garden Angels!

Thursday’s Garden Angels!

Well, I’ve got to get back to work. Between home and here, there’s a lot of work that needs to get done.


This story is dedicated to one Jack Kaiser. He’s a great guy to be around and to have around. Thanks Jack…for what you do, the way you do it and for who you are!



Thanks To…


BE Culturally Exposed

MIFCU logo and tagline



And a Special Thanks to the gang at…

Keep Growing Detroit


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Happy Holidays!!!

This year the sponsors of the Nolan Elementary-Middle School “Planting The Seeds” garden decided to spread a little holiday cheer.  With the help of the school administration two families were picked to receive gift certificates to buy food for their holiday meals.

Thanksgiving Gift Certificate Recipient & Bonnie Odom-Brown

Thanksgiving Gift Certificate Recipient & Bonnie Odom-Brown

Christmas Gift Certificate Recipients & Bonnie Odom-Brown

Christmas Gift Certificate Recipients &
Bonnie Odom-Brown



Bonnie Odom-Brown & Family

B.E. Culturally Exposed

Sandra Tomlin

Michigan First Credit Union

Maura Ryan-Kaiser & Family

Snelling Staffing Services

Mazin Shina 

Imperial Supermarket

Arthur Littsey

Project Sweet Tomato

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It’s the Great Pumpkin…Decorating for the Holiday!

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Bonnie’s Pumpkin!

It’s the last week of October and the garden club, under the direction of DeAndrea Rogers, P.C.I.S., and teacher Carrie Hahn, were decorating pumpkins to take home.  With the cooperation of Farmer John’s Vegetable Market (Warren), we were able to give away nearly 20 pumpkins.

(Click on each picture to enlarge)

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Without the cooperation and the support of the following this classroom 

moment  would not have happened…


The Administration of Nolan Elementary-Middle School

Angela Underwood, Principal

DeAndrea Rogers, Parent & Community Involvement Specialist

Carrie Hahn, Teacher


Bonnie Odom-Brown


B.E. Culturally Exposed


Sandra Tomlin, Vice President Community Affairs

MIFCU logo and tagline

Michigan First Credit Union


Maura Ryan-Kaiser


Snelling Staffing Services


Project Sweet Tomato


Arthur Littsey


Comments (1) »

What Your Sons and Daughters Learned From the Garden Club

These are mostly third-graders we are talking about!

  • They learned order and discipline.  The garden is not a place for physical hijinks and bad behavior.  They had fun while showing respect for the unique environment that was theirs.
  • They learned patience through the science of plant life.  They planted seeds and watched them mature into food producing plants or flowers.

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  • They learned to focus and pay attention to detail.  Usually, they only needed to be told something once before they were capable of doing it on their own. 


  • They learned responsibility.  They were very diligent in their role as gardeners.  No one complained. 


  • They learned that work could be fun.

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  • They got a sense of accomplishment.  When harvesting of the garden begun, August through the end of the school year, each child (estimated) had taken home 8 to 10 pounds of vegetables.  Those who came subsequently were able to take home an additional 5 to 10 pounds.

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  • They went to market where they learned social skills and earned money (age appropriate).

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What’s Next?  Our Goals for 2014

  1. Engage with the students as early as possible (get an early start indoors as well as outdoors)

  2. Work with the Contact teacher to develop in-class activities.

  3. Attract older students (11 years and older) to take to market.

  4. Get more parents involved.

  5. Work more closely with the school food service.

  6. Develop a column for the school newsletter or other communication vehicle to the parents.

We are looking for gardeners in the classroom as well as out in the field.  Beginning in January we hope to create a few classroom projects to keep the children interested.  If you are interested in your child becoming a member of the 2014 garden club please contact Ms. Bonnie Odom-Brown at (313) 804-6776 or

Nolan’s Fierce Gardeners Certificate Presentation

October 9, 2013

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