Sunflowers in the city, culinary gardens on the block, and students learning about food systems while cultivating fresh food and leadership skills: these sights are business as usual at the corner of Third and Plum in Detroit. That’s where Keep Growing Detroit (KGD) operates the Plum Street Market Garden, a beacon of urban agriculture for the cities of Detroit, Highland Park, and Hamtramck.
KGD, a Health Fund grantee, takes urban agriculture to a whole new level. The nonprofit is a gardening, economic development, and educational organization all in one. Run by a passionate staff, energetic volunteers, and committed student apprentices, the organization is buzzing on any given day—literally, thanks to the Sweet on Detroit Bee-ginner Bee Keeping program.
For more than a decade, KGD has worked to improve access to healthy food in Detroit by supporting gardens that serve schools, families, communities, and markets. They provide physical resources, like seeds and transplants, and less tangible but equally critical resources like a network of gardeners and advocates. They’ve developed a tool-sharing program to reduce costs for local gardens, and workshops in canning and preserving; growing perennials; composting and soil health; and other topics to help people better understand and master their own gardens.
We visited KGD a few weeks ago, and had the pleasure of touring the expansive garden space with dynamic Co- Director Ashley Atkinson. Atkinson encouraged us to try ground cherries (a nutty-kiwi flavor blend), warm grape tomatoes off the vine (yum!), a yardlong bean (delicious!) and a couple varieties of edible flowers. We also met Molly, the garden field and farm operations coordinator, and three incredible Detroit Public Schools high school students participating in the Summer Apprenticeship Program.
The students shared with us how they view KGD’s purpose and programs, and what they have learned
so far: how to plant, grow and cultivate a garden; how to harvest, wash and package produce; and that gardens have a lot of weeds and successful gardening is hard work! Beyond gardening skills, they’re also learning professional skills: how to present themselves to visitors and volunteers, write a strong essay, and overcome a fear of public speaking.
Many thanks to Ashley and the Keep Growing Detroit students and staff for showing us around and for all the great work. KGD exemplifies how healthy food, healthy people, and healthy communities often go hand in hand. To that we say keep growing Detroit, Keep Growing Detroit!