September 17, 2014

MSU Extension looking to grow a community garden

Posted

STANDISH — Arenac County MSU 4-H Extension Office Director John Cummings wants to see things grow in Arenac County, including a community garden.

With community gardens growing in popularity around the country, Cummings is gauging people’s interest and hoping that they would like to see one pop up in Arenac County.

“Community gardens are things that are popping up all over the country. We’re just trying to get a feel,” he said. “We were talking to the city of Standish because they have a lot of open spaces.”

Based on volunteers and donations, Cummings said that the possible 1/2 to 1 acre garden would help the most needy in the area put fresh vegetables and fruit on their table for free starting next year.

“The produce would go to the most needy. It’s not going to happen this year, but the prep work could be done this year,” said Cummings. “We are going to have to rely on donations for the top soil, port-a-potties and a sink. We’re not going to put Jay’s or (anyone else) out of business because the people wouldn’t be shopping there.”

B and B Produce Market Owner Mike Beeson said that they would support the garden if it were to happen.

“I’m for helping anyone out. When we close we donate to the food bank,” said the owner about giving to the food bank when they usually close around October. “When you help people out, you get it back. We’re not against something like that. It’s a great idea.”

Though they have many locations in mind, Cummings also said that they are still looking at all of their options.

“There’s several (locations). There’s possibly one in the Standish area and one in the AuGres area, but it could be anywhere,” he said. “It would be in a visible location, and not tucked away because we’ll get more participation.”

Though some may think that the garden won’t amount to much more than community pride, Cummings said that the project would be a very educational and fun thing for the community.

He also said that Arenac Opportunities is already ready to help out with the project.

“Arenac Opportunities would love to partner with us. They’re always accused of being the takers and not the givers,” he said. “Personally, it’s a win-win. (It) will teach (volunteers) about food safety with gardening. The (vegetables) all have to be washed off (and) I have the know-how.”

Cummings also felt that the garden would also help people re-learn the art of gardening, and that anyone could volunteer if the garden does happen.

“Some of the skill sets like gardening have been lost. There’s a learning curve on proper compensation,” said the director during an interview on Friday. “A lot of people would love to garden, but they don’t have the skill set. We won’t turn anyone away.”

If the garden were placed on a residential plot, some may think that the garden would face issues with re-zoning laws.

Using two area gardens as examples, Cummings said that may not be the case.

“There’s one in Gladwin County and at least two in Iosco County. At least two are on municipal property,” he said. “They didn’t have to jump through any hoops. It’s nothing new. We’re just reintroducing people to something that’s been done in the past.”

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