Cultivating Community

Volunteers pitched in recently to prepare the Sophia Street gardens for the summer season. Forty-two raised garden beds are available for rent each year; all but four have already been reserved this year. (Jane Bond/For the News Advocate)

Volunteers pitched in recently to prepare the Sophia Street gardens for the summer season. Forty-two raised garden beds are available for rent each year; all but four have already been reserved this year. (Jane Bond/For the News Advocate)

By Jane Bond
Special to the News Advocate

MANISTEE — One of the most welcoming signs of spring is when the snow is replaced with blooming flowers and various shades of green, preparing for a season of fresh fruits and vegetables.

With the help of several community gardens across Manistee County, this sight is especially common, and it brings together people from all walks of life to allow the gardens to thrive year after year.

The Sophia Street garden kicked off its ninth growing season on May 22, with a group of volunteers who assisted in a spring cleanup effort.

Sharron Lemmer, head organizer, said that much work needed to be done to ensure that all 42 raised garden beds were ready for planting.

“We have to weed the beds to take care of everything that grew up over winter, as well as add fresh compost so that they are nutrient-rich,” she said.

Lemmer said that the beds are open for the community to rent, and all but four have been reserved already this year.20180522_174232

“It’s open to anyone in Manistee County, for individuals as well as organizations,” said Lemmer. “The beds are tended to by those who are renting, but there are also some shared areas, like the herb bed and asparagus patch.”

The Sophia Street garden began in 2010, and uses organic-like methods such as chemical-free fertilizers, weed killer and deer repellent.

“Many people will plant some deer-repellent flowers in their beds along with their vegetables,” said Lemmer. “Deer are definitely one of our biggest challenge here.”

Britt Uecker is a horticulturist who helps oversee the Sophia Street garden, and she felt that the program allows members of the community to have improved access to gardening experiences.

“They are built so that people of all abilities can access them,” she said. “You can reach all parts of the bed even while sitting in a wheelchair, and they allow those who struggle with kneeling to have a more comfortable experience.”

Uecker said that the garden appeals to people who have unsuitable yards for growing produce.

“Some individuals can’t start their own garden due to the size of their yard, or conditions like sunlight and soil type are not fit for what they need,” she said. “This allows them the opportunity to grow their some of their own food and learn a bit more about self-sustainability.”20180522_174708

The Manistee Community Kitchen is the parent organization of the Sophia Street garden, as well as Jesse’s Garden, which donates each harvest to local food pantries.

The Armory Youth Project has established their own community garden through their Seeds to Save program.

“We have 14 garden beds along with an area where we are rototilling to put more veggies,” said Robert Carpenter, executive director of the Armory. “We will be taking students to the Farmers Market to help harvest and sell produce. These gardens will also provide a spot for students to pick their own produce to bring home with them.”

The program is open to students in sixth to 12th grade, and those wanting to get involved can email armoryyouthproject@gmail.com.

The community gardens help spread the ideals of Live Well Manistee, a health coalition for Manistee County of which Lemmer and Carpenter are both a part.

Live Well Manistee was formed as a workgroup of the Manistee County Human Services Collaborative Body in 2007. Anyone with an interest in promoting a healthy lifestyle in Manistee County is encouraged to participate.

Live Well Manistee meets on the first Thursday of the month from 1-2:30 p.m., at Centra Wellness on Glocheski Drive. For more information, visit www.livewell4health.org or facebook.com/livewell4health or contact the coalition’s chair Erin Barrett, ebarrett@dhd10.org.

 

 

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