Desiree blames her new “farmer girl” tan on her backyard garden. This summer she’s planning to spend time outside, weeding, planting, and feeding her 20-month-old son cherry tomatoes straight from the vine. Between working two part time jobs, taking a class at Eastern, and raising Corin, Desiree has found time to grow fruits and vegetables for her family.
“In the beginning it takes lots of patience and it’s easy to get discouraged. But anyone can do it. Just grow one or two of your favorite foods, and if you mess up you’ll know better next time,” she says. Desiree sits back in her lawn chair and smiles. Her auburn cropped hair catches the evening sun; she looks at ease talking about her new role as a backyard gardener. Desiree is honest about what it takes to start gardening, but with a passion for healthy food and a desire to introduce Corin to fresh vegetables early, she’s not letting a few weeds and bugs stop her from growing produce.
Instant garden… just add water
Desiree wasn’t planning on starting a garden this year, but when she saw a flyer for Growing Hope’s “Home Vegetable Garden Program” she took a chance and turned in the application to participate. She heard of the organization by shopping at the Ypsilanti Downtown Farmers Market (which Growing Hope manages). When she discovered she could receive three free raised beds, soil to fill the beds and 10 vegetable seedlings she jumped at the opportunity.
Growing Hope is a non-profit organization based in Ypsilanti, MI with a mission to help people improve their lives and communities through gardening and healthy food access. Every year the organization provides raised beds as well as garden education and support to 25 households that qualify for food assistance. Beyond a few small specialty grocers, the city center of Ypsilanti does not have a full service grocery store or supermarket. This makes access to healthy food difficult for many in the community. Growing Hope’s “Home Vegetable Garden Program” responds to this issue by giving new gardeners a boost through providing the startup materials. In addition to the beds, soils and seedlings, each program participant receives access to a gardening tool lending library, discounts at YpsiPlanti–Growing Hope’s garden supply store, free garden workshops, seed packets, and more.
Empowered by food
“It’s empowering to make your own food,” says Desiree as she picks up Corin. “He gets really excited about picking the food, and he’s really strong and healthy.” In the past three months Desiree has become an involved program participant, attending a Growing Hope potluck, shopping at YpsiPlanti for compost, and stopping by the organization’s farm on Michigan Avenue to get her garden questions answered.
Desiree has no intentions of stopping with just three raised beds. She’s already added more beds, a fence, and has aspirations to grow fruit trees and expand the garden to half an acre one day. “Starting this garden was the catalyst to get the rest of the backyard in shape,” she says.
“We come out here more often now. If I didn’t have the garden I don’t know how much I’d be out here. I thought, I gotta make this yard better for Corin,” she says as she lifts her son up to her lap. “I want him to appreciate where his food comes from, just like I do.”
Growing Hope Center
922 West Michigan Ave. | Ypsilanti, MI 48197
734-786-8401 | growinghope.net