Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘food’

This week, I finish up with the McLaughlin Grows crew…

How long you guys been working here?

Michael:  “6 to 8 weeks.”

You guys like it?

Shaquille: “Yeah, it’s cool.  Teaches us life skills.”

How did you get this job?

Michael:  “At the pocket park, they had something going on, on a Saturday.  I went up there to help, and Michael Espinoza told me about it, that they had a summer job program going on, and would I be interested.  I said yeah.”

Shaquille:  “I got the job because I live in the neighborhood.  Trying to help out the community.”

Just for the summer, for you guys?

Michael:  “Yeah.  They’re trying to work it out so we can stay longer.”

And what do you think of Teri?

Michael:  “She’s laid back.”

Shaquille:  “She’s nice.”

Michael:  “She’s strict on us just enough.  Tells us a lot about the plants.  Most of us didn’t know anything about plants; we just know about the food.  And she told us the different plants, and what they do.”

Farm Rows

Is there a lot to learn?  I don’t really do gardening…er, farming, myself.

Shaquille:  “There’s a lot of work.”

AJ :  “A lot weeding.”

Michael:  “Leveling off the beds even.  Watering.”

AJ :  “Turning them over.”

Michael:  “After we got past the hard stuff, all we really do is weed and plant and water.  That’s all.  The first couple weeks were hard.  We had to turn the dirt over, then make all these beds.  Then we had to plant them all, and they cut the tree down.  That’s where all these wood chips came from.  Instead of picking up all the wood chips, we decided to just make a path out of them.”

What do you guys think about the neighborhood in general?  Do you like living here?

Michael:  “It’s a pretty good neighborhood.  Pretty decent.”

Now, are you the football player?

Michael:  “Yeah.”

What position?

Michael:  “Safety.”

What are your plans for the future?

Michael:  “I’m going into the criminal justice field.  Corrections officer maybe.”

Shaquille:  “You’re gonna see me; I’m gonna be a famous lawyer.”

So what are you working on today?

Michael:  “We’re planting these tomatoes we got from the prison.  Those ones we planted are diseased.  Blight, I think it’s called.”

Shaquille:  “And they got bronchitis.  Couple of them have AIDS.”

So what’s your favorite part about working here?

AJ :  “Getting money.”

Shaquille:  “Helping out the community.  Making it look much better than it did.”

Michael:  “At first it was just an empty lot.  There were glass bottles, trash.”

AJ :  “You could get cut out here.”

Michael:  “I used to cut through this yard, then one day I was walking and there was a fence up.  I was like, when did they put a fence up here?”

How about your least favorite thing?

AJ :  “When it’s hot.  Too hot.”

Shaquille:  “Yeah, you gotta weed.”

AJ :  “And the sun’s about to kill you.”

Michael:  “Other than that, it’s pretty fun.  Everybody gets along.  A lot of people pass by and ask what’s going on.”

AJ :  “Sometimes they drop us off something.”

Shaquille:  “You get little kids that walk up and down that are excited about what’s going on.”

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

“Grand Rapids doesn’t have anything like this; Holland doesn’t have anything like this, so for little old Muskegon to pop up and kinda be the pioneers in a way is kind of a cool thing.”

I traipse across the Urban Ag site, as the smart people are calling it these days, to where Terry waits for me with soil-black hands.  “This is going to be a working interview.”  I kneel down and help mound dirt around some new transplants.  This is going to be a cool interview.

Like everyone involved in this project, she gets excited as she talks.

Teri and her daughter Aurora

Teri and her daughter Aurora

Teri grew up in Muskegon and lived in the area ever since.  She went to Michigan State in 2007 to learn how to do this.  It was the very first year of the program; only eleven people participated.  She tells me she likes to work outdoors, likes physical labor.  This job combines all the things she loves.

“I get paid to play in the dirt all day.”

The farm is located behind Goodwill, who generously allows the farm to use their land and water.  It employs a handful of high school-aged workers – Teri’s crew – for the summer, and I want to come back and meet them.  Planting began on June 8th.

“My crew was saying, ‘Can you believe that a few weeks ago, this was just a field?’ It recreates that relationship with ‘where does our food come from?’  Well, I know my farmer; I know who grew it.  It’s a different way of doing food,” Teri says.

Plant

We’re interrupted by a neighbor inquiring about tomatoes.  The relationship with the community goes back before this site was ever around.  It’s been a tradition since the community gardens were planted around the neighborhood, from which this micro enterprise was born.  “It started out with me and Mike Jackson,” Sarah Rinsema-Sybenga once told me, “on the lot which is right across from Bethany, which is now the Gentle Garden, with a rototiller, one day, tears streaming down my face, cause I’m like, ‘Where are the neighbors?  This is not how it’s supposed to be.’  And Mike getting behind this beast of a rototiller and tilling up the soil.  Neighbors eventually got onboard with the vision, too.  So it moved from one community garden to six or seven community gardens or pocket parks.”

Terry picks a handful of basil for me to take home, and tells me a recipe to use it in, which I immediately forget, having worked third shift the night before.  That’s why I have the digital recorder.

Then I pop by the Community EnCompass offices to get a little more background information from Carlos.  Sarah pops her head out of her office.  “Is that basil I smell?  You know what you should do with it?”  She gives another recipe which dissolves in the water of my sleep-deprived mind.

A local healthy good advocate named Chris Bedford came to Community EnCompass and gave them the idea of expanding the community gardening program into a micro enterprise, in part to serve as an economic engine in the neighborhood.  An entrepreneur with the Community Foundation liked the idea and provided funds for the next two and a half years, to get it off the ground.

G & L has already bought all the tomatoes the farm can grow this year, and talks are underway with Mia & Grace and the Baker Culinary Arts Institute.

I make it home to my apartment, handful of basil held before me, amputated bits of plants sticking through my fingers.  Shadow* gasps in horror and faints at the sight.

McLaughlin Urban Ag Logo

*Shadow is the name of a plant, and is my memorial to my residents who have died.  Also, to finish the basil story, I eventually put it with some ground turkey, onion, olive oil, rice, and then ate it.

Read Full Post »