Produce by the Park, near MidMichigan Health Park, is a community garden that began late last year with a donation from MidMichigan Health Foundation, and so far, it has been flourishing. The idea came from MidMichigan Phsyicans Group Director Brenda Turner, who has a farming background and dreamed of a garden for her community for years.
“We are so pleased to be able to support this project as it represents very well MidMichigan Health’s purpose of building healthy communities – together,” said Denise O’Keefe, executive director, MidMichigan Health Foundation.
Other local organizations came on board to offer help. Tri-County Equipment of Saginaw donated dirt, and the Agriscience classes at John Glenn High School volunteered to get plots prepared for gardening. The Building Trades program at Bay Arenac ISD built and installed a tool shed. Woodchips from Weiler Tree Service were donated to cut down on weeding, and Nature’s Own Landscaping and Irrigation hooked up a spigot in a central location so that all gardeners could access it easily.
“During our first season, we had just a few plots of our two-acre garden assigned and less than ten participants,” said Ashleigh Palmer, practice manager, MidMichigan Health Park – Bay. “This year, we have all plots filled with more than 40 participants. We have couples, families and individuals who share their experience, produce and recipes with each other. It’s a lot of fun to see the friendships that have developed among our gardeners. The ground is fertile, so produce is thriving, and excess vegetables are being donated to patients of the facility.”
MidMichigan Health staffers Shelby Kuch and Kellie Picard do much of the organizing, serving as “garden ambassadors.” They are excited to see it thriving.
“It has been fun to see how each person has their own unique approach to gardening and harvesting,” said Kuch. “There are so many things being grown: cabbage, corn, potatoes, broccoli, tomatoes, and beautiful sunflowers. You wouldn’t believe the variety and the willingness to share what is harvested with other gardeners, members of the community and patients.”
Picard is pleased to see elderly residents becoming involved. “Many don’t have the room to plant where they live,” she explained. “This place gives them a chance to be outside, grow their own food, socialize with others and get some exercise. It’s inspiring to see their work pay off in so many ways.”
Those who are interested in securing a plot must fill out an application and waiver, and agree to the terms set by Produce by the Park. All skill levels are welcome and there is no cost associated with securing a plot.
“Our goal has evolved,” said Palmer. “We hope to build upon this year’s successes to increase food security by providing access to fresh, healthy foods while reinforcing ties to the environment and encouraging community members to work together. I think we are well on our way.”