Do you want to grow a food garden? Contact OKT today!

anita aCall 616-206-3641 or email We will provide:

  • Site visit and garden blueprint. Visits will take place between now and April 15.
  • Plants and seeds to begin your garden.
  • Raised beds and soil.
  • A food garden coach to assist with designing and planting the garden.
  • Garden toolkit

OKT asks our food gardeners to:

  • Attend a food grower orientation in April.
  • Attend three April & May educational workshops.
  • Attend at least one additional OKT event each month, if possible.

OKT primarily works with households with children in eighth grade or younger who are challenged with access to food. Our geographic areas include Baxter, Eastown, Garfield Park and Southtown (SECA) neighborhoods. If you do not live in these area, we will attempt to help within our capacity.

April 11 Activist Assembly will focus on Climate Justic

Becoming the Media: A Critical History of Clamour MagazineIf you are concerned about environmental justice and want to be part of a conversation on how we can collectively promote and practice Climate Justice, then you might consider participating in a free community forum on April 11.
Change U, a social justice program offered through the LGBT Resource Center at GVSU is hosting its fourth Activist Assembly this year. This activist assembly will investigate the gravity of the current climate crisis, with an emphasis on looking at the causes through an intersectional lens and the need for systemic change. The content presented will expose the fallacies of green capitalism and the push for individual lifestyle choices. Climate Justice is an international movement that recognizes that we need system change, especially an end to neoliberal capitalism. This assembly will provide skill shares and opportunities to learn from people & groups fighting tar sands, fracking, militarism, food apartheid and market-based solutions to Climate Change.
There will be breakout session that looking at the climate crisis on West Michigan, Animal Liberation, Food Justice, how to organize against the tar sands pipeline in Michigan and climate justice from a Native American perspective.
The activist assembly is free and will include lunch. For more information and how to register, go to The Activist Assembly involves students, faculty and community members and is a great way for people to make connections and build relationships with those wanting systemic change and social justice.

Nestle exec, “Human beings don’t have a right to water”

Nestlé’s water privatization push

Reposted from The Story of  

Note: Nestle has water extraction operations in Michigan. Click here for information.

Peter BrabeckAcross the globe, Nestlé is pushing to privatize and control public water resources.

Nestlé’s Chairman of the Board, Peter Brabeck, has explained his philosophy with “The one opinion, which I think is extreme, is represented by the NGOs, who bang on about declaring water a public right. That means as a human being you should have a right to water. That’s an extreme solution.”

Since that quote has gotten widespread attention, Brabeck has backtracked, but his company has not. Around the world, Nestlé is bullying communities into giving up control of their water. It’s time we took a stand for public water sources.

Tell Nestlé that we have a right to water. Stop locking up our resources!

At the World Water Forum in 2000, Nestlé successfully lobbied to stop water from being declared a universal right –declaring open hunting season on our local water resources by the multinational corporations looking to control them. For Nestlé, this means billions of dollars in profits. For us, it means paying up to 2,000 times more for drinking water because it comes from a plastic bottle.

Now, in countries around the world, Nestlé is promoting bottled water as a status symbol. As it pumps out fresh water at high volume, water tables lower and local wells become degraded. Safe water becomes a privilege only affordable for the wealthy.

In our story, clean water is a resource that should be available to all. It should be something we look after for the public good, to keep safe for generations, not something we pump out by billions of gallons to fuel short-term private profits. Nestlé thinks our opinion is “extreme”, but we have to make a stand for public resources. Please join us today in telling Nestlé that it’s not “extreme” to treat water like a public right.

Sign the petition to tell Nestlé to start treating water like a public right, not a source for private profits!

Sources and further reading:
Nestlé: The Global Search for Liquid Gold, Urban Times, June 11th, 2013
Bottled Water Costs 2000 Times As Much As Tap Water, Business Insider, July 12th, 2013
Peter Brabeck discussion his philosophy about water rights

Thomas Street Neighborhood Garden plans orchard with Friends of GR Parks grant

Friends of Grand Rapids Parks offers mini-grants to neighborhoods and individuals to increase Grand Rapids’ tree canopy and engage citizens in caring for mature trees.
Thomas Street Neighborhood Garden choose apple, pear, cherry, plum, peach, and apricot trees for their mini orchard.

Courtesy of Jack Amick

Thomas Street Neighborhood Garden choose apple, pear, cherry, plum, peach, and apricot trees for their mini orchard.

Grand Rapids will be increasing its tree count to the delight of both neighbors on Thomas Street and those at Friends of Grand Rapids Parks working to see the city’s tree canopy grow. The new Thomas Street Community Garden is receiving six fruit trees through a mini-grant from the Friends of Grand Rapids Parks.

Sarah Scott, a member of the Baxter Community, was dreaming about adding some dwarf fruit trees to the new garden for shade and community at a neighborhood meeting.

“We liked the idea of fruit trees on the land because our neighborhood has often been overlooked, and we have not had a good way to connect with each other on our block. I have a fruit tree in my front yard, which is a few doors down from the garden space, and I’ve spent a lot of time in my own yard talking to neighbors, picking and eating fruit together. Our group thought fruit trees on our garden land would be great for teaching each other how to take care of the trees, while picking and harvesting and connecting with one another while doing so,” says Scott.

Scott mentioned saving up for the trees herself to Anna Green, who works at Baxter Community Center greenhouse. Green referred her to Friends of Grand Rapids Parks for their mini-grant program for just such projects.

Scott’s process was as simple as going to their Urban Forest Project website and filling out the mini-grant application form.

“We serve as a resource for other neighborhood groups and individuals. Our goal is to keep it as open and available as possible so neighborhoods can come to us with great projects they already support. Our matching program is pretty easy to do and includes contributions through volunteer hours, donations, or in-kind gifts,” says Steve Faber, executive director of Friends of Grand Rapids Parks.

Scott’s experience, she says, proved to be easy.

“The process was incredibly user-friendly and easy,” says Scott. “The mini-grants are only two pages long, and most is just basic info about the intent of the tree planting you would like to do. I asked the Thomas Street group for feedback and hand-wrote the grant in 20 minutes. They followed up with a call and a site visit, both of which were quick and easy. It’s clear that Friends of GR Parks wants this money to be accessible to groups and projects, and not make us jump through lots of red tape.”

Faber says the goal is to “get a project done.”

“We work with them to facilitate what needs to happen,” he says. “It’s long-term thinking of long-term survival, so we not only work to get new trees in, but focus on caring for the trees as they grow as well.”

Faber also notes that as Grand Rapids works to return to a 40 percent tree canopy, caring for mature trees is also very important.

“Mini-orchards help people identify with trees and begin to care about the trees around them. We need this because part of our goal is to preserve and protect what is already there. We must preserve the old, big trees to make it to the 40 percent goal,” he says. “We can plant trees all day, but if the big trees die, it’s decades to replace their spot in the canopy.”

The mini-orchard at the Thomas Street Community Garden will be joining this canopy soon.

“We are in the process of obtaining six semi-dwarf, self-pollinating fruit trees from Flowerland, which are grown in Michigan. Our neighborhood group decided on cherry, apple, plum, peach, pear and apricot trees. Five of the trees will be planted at the back of the garden, so as not to overshade the raised beds we will be putting in with the help of Baxter neighborhood and generous donations of neighbors. One tree will be closer to the front of the land and we hope to have a picnic table under it, for shade from the more intense growing months,” says Scott.

For more resources on caring for existing trees, Friends of Grand Rapids Parks has a list here.

For those thinking of planting mini-orchards in their community gardens, Faber encourages them to apply now for the fall planting season. This season is already full, and spring trees were ordered in February. There’s still room in the fall planting season, which is two months long. Interested people can apply here.

Applications are due by August 15 for fall tree planting.

OKT awarded $300 grant by Slow Food West Michigan

On March 8, Slow Food West Michigan awarded OKT a $300 micro-grant for purchasing seeds and supplies for our food gardening programsThe organization also awarded OKT its Snail of Approval, an emblem that recognizes contributions to the quality,authenticity and sustainability of the food supply of the West Michigan region.

Slow Food West Michigan is the West Michigan chapter of Slow Food, a non-profit, member-supported organization founded in 1989 to counteract fast food and fast life. It stands against the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world.

SFWM supports the mission of Slow Food, working closely with Slow Food USA, the national association headquartered in Brooklyn, NY. Slow Food USA envisions a future food system that is based on the principles of high quality and taste, environmental sustainability, and social justice—in essence, a food system that is good, clean and fair. We seek to catalyze a broad cultural shift away from the destructive effects of an industrial food system and fast life; toward the regenerative cultural, social and economic benefits of a sustainable food system, regional food traditions, the pleasures of the table, and a slower and more harmonious rhythm of life.

OKT on panel discussion following tonight’s screening of “GMO OMG”

Foodie Film Series: GMO OMG
Grand Rapids Downtown Market
Tuesday, March 24, 2015 from 6:30 PM to 9:30 PM Grand Rapids, MI

The Downtown Market invited OKT’s executive director, Lisa Oliver-King to sit on a panel discussing the film, GMO OMG. Others on the panel include Rachelle Bostwick,Earth Keeper Farm;Dr. David Dornbos,Professor of Biology at Calvin College; Hannah Fernando,GVSU Sustainable Food System Major and local agripreneur activist;Emily Helmus, Bloom Ferments and Oscar Moreno, Serafina’s Bar & Grill.

According to the film’s promotional materials, GMO OMG’s “director and concerned father Jeremy Seifert is in search of answers. How do GMOs affect our children, the health of our planet, and our freedom of choice? And perhaps the ultimate question, which Seifert tests himself: is it even possible to reject the food system currently in place, or have we lost something we can’t gain back? These and other questions take Seifert on a journey from his family’s table to Haiti, Paris, Norway, and the lobby of agra-giant Monsanto, from which he is unceremoniously ejected. Along the way we gain insight into a question that is of growing concern to citizens the world over: what’s on your plate?” 

You can see the trailer here.

OKT agreed to join the panel because getting the message out that eliminating GMOs from our diet is one way we can ensure better health and fairer food. You can read more about our stance on GMOs in our GMOs & Food Justice handout. .

While OKT applauds the Downtown Market for embarking on a series that gets the word out about GMOs and other controversial food topics, it is hoped that the market will also take steps to not only become more accessible and inviting to income challenged residents living in its neighborhood–as these same neighbors have little or no access to healthy, affordable foods–but also invite these same neighbors to take part in deciding the future course of the market.

Free “Food Justice Primer” class tonight & Tuesday morning

Food Policy for Food Justice WOMEN OF COLOR online 2Food Justice Primer 

  • Monday March 23 or May 11, 6 to 8 p.m.
  • Tuesday March 24, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
    At Garfield Lodge, 334 Burton St. SE 49507 

Have you heard the term “food justice” and wondered just exactly what that meant? This two-hour introduction to the concept introduces you to the causes of food injustice, how the agri-business industry works against it and proposes actions we can take to make healthy food accessible to all.

Please join OKT food garden coaches, Camilla Voelker and Jeff Smith for this interesting conversation. Knowledge is power!

You might also want to check out OKT’s Food Justice Series. To date, OKT has created eight of these brief introductions to different food justice topics. You can view and download them here for free. And please, feel free to print and post wherever you think the message could be relevant.