Feed people. A few weeks ago, a planning meeting for the HAVEN Garden Project revolved around those two words – feed people. And for the past six years, that is what this incredible project has done; feed the people of HAVEN, to the tune of 2 tons of fresh produce each year.
When our small founders group comprised of Michigan Young Farmer Coalition members Ben Gluck and Alexis Bogdanova Hanna, and HAVEN Director of Business Operations Marianne Dwyer and I, sat down we knew we had accomplished much more than the nutritional value of the food consumed. Our simple idea from seven years ago had far exceeded increasing the amount of fresh fruit and vegetables available in the shelter. It had become a vital program within HAVEN, a program devoted to the holistic care, personal growth, and the sanctity of the garden space.
Our accomplishments over the past six years are many. In addition to the 12 tons of produce grown, we also have:
- Educated hundreds of individuals about growing organic produce.
- Taught multiple concepts of nutrition and health.
- Created a space for quiet reflection and meditation.
- Shown children, as well as adults, how real food is grown and harvested from the earth instead of a can.
The list goes on – the growing food led to conversations and training on budgeting, food preservation, land stewardship, mental and emotional health, and exercise. Who would have imagined that growing tomatoes, carrots, onions and more would add such depth to our programming?
A few summers ago, a woman residing in our shelter program was in the garden daily. In addition to using the produce to make some rather amazing meals, she often reflected on how she found her time in the garden to be soothing and she was able to use the quiet space to think and sort through her plans for the future.
The children in our residential program also have enjoyed the garden over the years, finding it a place of fun and learning. The children have had scavenger hunts, helped with planting and harvesting, food tasting contests, and learned to cook some great dishes. Imagine doing all of this while reaping the benefits of fresh air, exercise, and a beautiful setting. And imagine having this opportunity while healing from trauma and abuse.
At our new location, we are excited about the growth of our garden space. This year we are starting small with approximately 20 raised beds of vegetables and strawberries, but plans are in the works over the next several years to have an orchard and to expand to nearly an acre of growing space. We will soon add a children’s garden, gazebo for respite and educational sessions, additional berries, herb garden, and larger crops. The support of the Community Foundation of Southeastern Michigan is instrumental in literally allowing our garden to grow!
We have accomplished much and institutionalized the garden due to the dedicated volunteerism and financial support of the community. The vast majority of all the necessary garden labor is completed by volunteers and the expenses of the garden covered by donors. The work has truly become a labor of love for many. If you would like to join our efforts, we can always use some additional garden volunteers as well as financial contributions.