OKT Urban Forester reveals secrets to eating from city’s bounty

Reposed from The Rapidian

by John Wiegand (jwiegand08) on Tuesday Apr 22nd, 2014 11:41am in NEWS


Listen to the audio interview here:


As soon as Laura Casaletto planted popcorn seeds in the backyard of her family’s urban home, her love for natural foods was born. Despite her efforts, she was awarded a crumby crop of corn- but the passion stuck. Now, Laura enjoys scouring the city’s natural areas for edible fare in an activity known as “urban foraging.”

Casaletto is an Urban Forester at Our Kitchen Table (OKT), a nonprofit organization focusing on food and social justice for low income neighborhoods. She often leads walks through Grand Rapids parks and works to educate the community on the benefits of eating directly from nature. Casaletto sees urban foraging as part of a larger picture of nutrition.

“A hundred years ago, a slice a bread was ten times as nutritious as it is now,” she says. “The way that we grow the food now doesn’t allow plants to pull up the trace minerals that they used to. When you forage this stuff it is nutritious. The plants are fighting the same germs that you are fighting and it strengthens your immune system.”

OKT will host an edible plant walk at Garfield Park on April 22, to coincide with Earth Day. The walk is free and open to the public.

Tuesday! OKT Earth Day Spring Tree Tour

Tuesday April 22, 6 – 7:30 p.m.
Garfield Park Pavilion, 334 Burton St. SE

This free tree tour is part of the food justice mission of OKT.

Tree tour guide, Laura Casaletto will lead us through Garfield Park where we will munch leaves and nibble flowers together  for Earth Day. The menu includes spruce tips, the nectar inside tulip tree flowers, black locust flowers, Japanese knotweed shoots, redbud blossoms and perhaps entire linden trees!  We’ll certainly find something nice underfoot to add to your Mother’s Day breakfast in bed–and you’ll get a little booklet to help you recall what you learned.
If it rains, we’ll meet under the pavilion anyway!


Dorothy Griswold named new Southeast Area Farmers Market manager

SEAFM logoOKT has hired Dorothy Griswold as the new Market Manager for the Southeast Area Farmers Market. Dorothy has been working in the local food movement in Grand Rapids for 11 years. She actually helped to found the Southeast Area Farmers’ Market when it first opened.

Dorothy grew up near the Chesapeake Bay in Baltimore, Maryland. On Saturdays and Sundays, her family shopped farm stands to get produce for the week. “I never feel more at home, at peace or happy, than I do when I walk through the stalls of farmers markets,” she says. “I hope SEAFM can become just this kind of experience for the neighbors it serves.”

During a “farm market pilgrimage” to New York City, Dorothy explored the city’s Greenmarkets. She rode the subway for a day to visit the various markets and meet market managers, including one that operated at the World Trade Center site on September 11, 2001.


Dorothy Griswold

Dorothy has had a vegetable garden at every place she’s lived. She joined Trillium Haven Farm in its first year as a working shareholder and intern.  “I love to cook, especially ethnic dishes. I love learning about other cultures through their food,” she says. “I think fresh locally grown produce is beautiful and think photos of food should be on billboards and everywhere else you can think of!”


New GVSU program: “Place-Based Education for Environmental Stewardship and Community Engagement”

Grand Valley State University’s College of Education is excited to offer two pilot courses in a potential* (see below) graduate certificate program in Place-Based Education for Environmental Stewardship and Community Engagement.  Through an interconnected sequence of four courses, the certificate program will prepare learners to:

  • Understand the principles and implementation of place-based education that nurtures and augments academic and ecological literacy
  • Develop insight into the cultural, historical, economic, and environmental character of one’s place
  • Recognize the unique issues that threaten the health and well-being of the inhabitants (both human and non-human) of a particular place
  • Cultivate a sense of responsibility, agency, and empowerment in facing these challenges and designing sustainable solutions

The program will be designed for anyone working within K-12 educational settings as well as individuals outside of the field of formal education who have an interest in issues related to sustainability, community problem-solving, and community well-being. The certificate program can be completed within 12 months and all courses will be held on Grand Valley State University’s Pew campus in downtown Grand Rapids.  Please see the attached flyer for descriptions and meeting times for the first two pilot courses in the anticipated certificate sequence.  Enrollment is currently open and the first course in the program begins the week of May 5, 2014.

This potential certificate program will also be available to undergraduate students.  Interested GVSU undergraduates taking graduate courses through the dual-credit process may be admitted to a graduate certificate program.  The credits for these courses may by applied either as undergraduate elective credit or toward completion of the graduate certificate.  However, an undergraduate student may NOT be awarded a graduate certificate until they have been awarded a baccalaureate degree. Non-GVSU students without a bachelor’s degree will be considered for the program on an individual basis.

*We anticipate the certificate program will be approved and officially established through the University curriculum process by Spring, 2015.  In the event that the program does not move from “pilot” to permanent status, credits earned can be applied as graduate or undergraduate electives depending upon the level of the student.

All interested individuals can apply to Grand Valley State University and register for courses with graduate non-degree-seeking status. Please visit https://www.gvsu.edu/admissions/graduate/apply-to-grand-valley-19.htm for further information about applying to Grand Valley State University with graduate non-degree-seeking-status and registering for courses.

All questions and inquiries about the program can be directed to:

Dr. Kevin Holohan
Grand Valley State University
College of Education
489C Richard M. DeVos Center