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Detroit: Community gardening teaches leadership, revitalization

  • Subject: [cg] Detroit: Community gardening teaches leadership, revitalization
  • From: Don Boekelheide dboekelheide@yahoo.com
  • Date: Tue, 28 Feb 2006 19:07:32 -0800 (PST)

Detroit Free-Press, Detroit, Michigan
GREEN IDEA IN WAYNE COUNTY: Community gardening grows

Program teaches leadership, how to revitalize lots

February 28, 2006


Romanowski Park in southwest Detroit is being
renovated by Urban Roots students. Participants in the
2-year-old program learn about horticulture, how to
assess land, gardening strategies, mapping and more.

At first, Rochelle Jones thought she wanted to grow a
better garden in her own backyard. But as a student in
the Urban Roots community-gardening training program
for Wayne County residents, Jones, 38, of Detroit now
wants to grow community gardens in her northwest
Detroit neighborhood.

"Now that I'm hearing the information about community
gardening, my mind-set has changed," Jones said. "I
feel like I can do it."
Jones and 30 other Urban Roots students are
participating in the 2-year-old program. Its goal is
to increase the number of community gardens in Detroit
by converting vacant lots into garden plots grown and
managed by residents.

The classes, which began Feb. 18, are held each
Saturday for nine weeks at American Indian Health &
Family Services. It is a few blocks from Romanowski
Park, where the students get their hands in the dirt.
The park is on Lonyo in southwest Detroit. A class
also is held at Belle Isle and the Earth Works Garden
at Mt. Elliott and Lafayette.
Five of the nine classes focus on horticulture. The
others teach students how to assess land, gardening
strategies, mapping, fund-raising and leadership for
garden projects.

Ashley Atkinson, project manager for the Greening of
Detroit, a nonprofit organization that plants trees on
public land throughout the city, coordinates the Urban
Roots program. She said there are 81 community gardens
throughout Detroit, but community gardening has waxed
and waned over the years.

The goal of Urban Roots is to train leaders to
establish and sustain community gardens, said Kristine
Hahn, a Michigan State University Extension educator
who met Atkinson through the Detroit Agriculture
Network and developed the program. Hahn, a botanist,
teaches horticulture classes.

The two originally planned for about 25 students the
first year, but at least 30 were accepted. This year
there are 31 students, and there is a short waiting
list for the next class.

Each student's final project is to create a portfolio
with a design and plan for a future community garden,
Atkinson said.

At the end of the nine weeks, students are given a
free membership to the Detroit Garden Resource
Program, which provides seeds and plants for community
gardens, and a subscription to Organic Gardening

The Detroit Agriculture Network, Greening of Detroit,
Earth Works Garden, the MSU Extension and Wayne County
sponsor Urban Roots.
Students pay $75 to attend; some scholarships are

Ida Castillo, 45, of Detroit attended Urban Roots last
year and is volunteering with the program this year.
She said she hopes to develop a garden at the Capuchin
Soup Kitchen in Detroit.

In the meantime, Castillo said she can learn new
things and new ideas while she volunteers. She called
the class "a good way to interact with other people
... have a better kinship with the neighborhood."

For more information about Urban Roots, contact Ashley
Atkinson at 313-237-8736 or Kristine Hahn at 734-727-7234

The American Community Gardening Association listserve is only one of ACGA's services to community gardeners. To learn more about the ACGA and to find out how to join, please go to http://www.communitygarden.org

To post an e-mail to the list:  community_garden@mallorn.com

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