Home Opinion Columns Column: It’s time to turn the soil at local community garden

Column: It’s time to turn the soil at local community garden


Now that summer is officially here, it’s time for me to break ground again at the Garfield Park Community Garden. The garden was established by the Garfield Park Neighborhood Association last spring.

Community gardens are becoming a familiar sight in the more urban parts of Grand Rapids. They help provide healthy, fresh food to people living in urban areas that may not have easy or affordable access to it otherwise. As the summer progresses, I will provide updates as to what’s being planted, harvested, and other going ons at the garden in my role as a core volunteer.

The lot where the garden is located, 1714 Madison Ave Se, used to have a house on it and had been left dormant for several years until we broke ground on the garden. When I first saw the lot, it was covered in scruffy grass with bits of trash that had blown in from the street. Tilling the garden for the first time was no easy feat. We found numerous relics of the house that once stood there. From buried extension cords to light bulbs, broken plates, scraps of wood, bricks to other countless bits of rubble. With the help of volunteers, and the kids who live next door – that also like to help pick carrots – the lot has been transformed into a fertile garden that renders healthy produce during the summer and fall months.

Phil and Louise Wheeler live next door to the garden. Phil has 40 years of experience in the agricultural business, with a focus on organic and sustainable farming. His knowledge of plants and soil have been invaluable to the garden’s success and fertility.

As I said earlier, I’m breaking ground again at the garden. Specifically with a rototiller. Rototilling breaks up the soil to allow for easier planting and applying of fertilizers.

I volunteer my time here because I have a deep love for farming and gardening. I grew up on a small farm in Marne and participated in The Grand River 4-H club from the age of 9 to 18. Being involved in 4-H gave me opportunities to actually see where our food comes from, and all the hard work that raising animals and farming entails. In our modern world, the actual production side of what we eat is usually out of sight or behind the scenes.

After graduating high school, I lost interest in gardening until I moved to Colorado in 2012 and lived and worked on several small organic farms in the mountains.

After moving back to Michigan, I wanted to continue to be involved in growing my own food. When my longtime friend asked me if I wanted to help establish a community garden, I jumped at the offer.

So here I am, breaking up the soil so that myself and others can have the opportunity to grow healthy, nurturing food in our own neighborhood. Next week I can tell you about what we’re planting, but until then, I’m just breaking ground.