The Garden Resource Program
The Garden Resource Program supports and connects urban gardeners in Detroit thereby strengthening the local food system.
There are currently over 1,300 family, school and community gardens in the city of Detroit. This high number of gardens in Detroit did not happen by accident. There is a simple but effective system of garden support called the Garden Resource Program that does exactly that – provides essential resources to gardeners in the city of Detroit to encourage and facilitate local gardens with food production and ultimately, food security.
The Garden Resource Program provides education, seeds and seedlings to gardeners in Detroit for a very low-cost membership and is coordinated by a new food and farming organization called Keep Growing Detroit.
The seeds and seedlings are distributed in early spring, late spring and mid-summer for both warm- and cool-season crops. Participants have over 75 different seed and seedling varieties to choose from.
Keep Growing Detroit also provides numerous educational opportunities to gardeners to encourage successful use of garden resources distributed through the
Garden Resource Program, while also promoting the establishment of thriving community gardens. The Education Series consists of informal two-hour workshops offered twice a month at different locations throughout the city on a variety of gardening topics. These workshops are offered at $3 for members or $5 for non-members. Urban Roots is a 9-week comprehensive community gardening and leadership training program that incorporates both community organizing and the core horticulture skills gardeners need to know to cultivate successful and lasting gardens. Urban Roots was developed with several local organizations including Michigan State University Extension, and will celebrate its tenth anniversary in 2014.
However, the Garden Resource Program goes beyond providing resources for gardeners- it has also formed an organizational structure that provides incentives and reinforces participants’ active involvement. The program organizes gardens into 4 regional areas, providing participants a way to meet other Garden Resource Program gardeners in a more local area of the city where they can connect and support each other. Each region in the Garden Resource Program has a leadership team and locations to hold meetings, host tool banks and seasonal workdays. Participation in meetings and activities has incentives. For example, by attending meetings or garden work days, participants have access to additional resources such as compost, woodchips or tomato stakes. This incentivizing of participation is a unique component of the Garden Resource Program that strengthens the organization.
The Garden Resource Program also has seasonal potluck dinners and an annual strategic planning meeting where gardeners are able to tell organizers which vegetable varieties and educational sessions they liked and would like to see more of and those that did not work well.
The regional network with the incentives for participation and the meetings that incorporate feedback from the membership are important components of the Garden Resource Program that have played an important role in the growth of the urban agriculture movement and ultimately the food system in Detroit.