Come get your hands dirty and help plant fruit trees

Friends of Grand Rapids Parks invites you to join them at 10 a.m. Saturday, October 12 to plant An Orchard for Martin Luther King, Jr. at M. L. King Park, Fuller Avenue and Franklin Street SE. The saplings are only about 5 feet tall, so the planting won’t take much time.
These trees will be a public resource for all visitors to the park to enjoy. Once the trees are mature, they will provide shade, storm-water management, aesthetic beauty, and healthy fruit production for the benefit of everyone in the neighborhood.
Laura Casaletto, OKT urban forester, will be on site to help. In addition, the West Michigan Jewels of Africa, will  perform traditional African drum and dance during the planting. Bring your kids so they can learn how to plant a tree! All tools and supplies will be provided by Friends of Grand Rapids Parks.
For information,  contact volunteer Vince Lambert at

Well House hosting farmers’ market on Wednesdays

Well House urban gardener, Camilla Voelker, vending at the Southeast Area Farmers' Market.

Well House urban gardener, Camilla Voelker, vending at the Southeast Area Farmers’ Market.

Market operates Wednesdays from 4 to 7 p.m. at 600 Cass Avenue SE.

In addition to vending at the Southeast Area Farmers’ Market, Well House is now hosting its own farmers’ market, Wednesdays from 4 to 7 p.m. at 600 Cass Avenue SE. Well House works with homeless people by providing safe, affordable, long-term housing. Thirteen people currently call Well House home.  “We are sensitive to the very limited options for finding healthy, nutritious food in our neighborhood,” says Camilla Voelker, Well House urban gardener.  “We are growing that kind of food at Well House, organically and spray-free, and using the space as a place to learn how to grow, prepare and preserve food.”

The Well House market will offer canned goods, seeds, seedlings and
fresh produce. Groundswell Farm will also offer fresh produce at the
market on occasion. In addition, those visiting the market can sign up
for upcoming food justice workshops. “The idea behind this market is
to connect the food stuffs grown and made at Well House with our
neighbors,” Voelker said.

Well House also shares gardening skills and resources with tenants and
neighbors so they can grow, prepare and preserve their own fresh,
nutritious food. Its organic garden uses heirloom seeds that are saved
from year to year, securing food for years to come. These seeds have
not been tampered with, that is they have no genetic modifications for
disease or pest resistance.

The Well House farm staff recently built 30 raised beds on two vacant
lots on Pleasant and Sheldon acquired from the Kent County Land Bank.
This Well House Neighborhood Garden is open to neighbors who want to
grow their own food—or benefit from what grows there. For information,
email or call 616-245-3910.

Seed Saving Workshop at Well House Sept. 30

“Seed is the first link in the food chain. Seed is the ultimate symbol of food security. Free exchange of seed among farmers has been the basis of maintaining biodiversity as well as food security. This exchange is based on cooperation and reciprocity.”From Seed Freedom: A Global Citizens Report, coordinated by Navdanya

1236462_657749657569146_1000651918_nOctober 2 is the kick-off date for Navdanya‘s Fortnight for Seed Freedom and Food Freedom, a global action being promoted by internationally acclaimed seed warrior, Dr. Vandana Shiva. One way we here in the Grand Rapids can participate is by learning about saving seeds.

We are fortunate to have experienced seed-savers among us. Two of them work as urban farmers at Well House, Jeff Smith and Camilla Voelker. They will be facilitating a Seed Saving Workshop 6 p.m. Monday September 30 at Well House, 600 Cass SE in Grand Rapids.

The workshop will address the importance of saving seeds and how to save them. Participants will will look at a variety of ways to save seeds and discuss the importance of non-GMO/heirloom seeds.

To sign up for this workshop, please contact Well House at 616-245-3910 or Well Houses asks  for a donation of $20 per person, but also offers scholarships so that money will not be a barrier for people to sign up. The money raised from Well House workshops is used to sustain its urban gardening projects.


Meals from Your Market: Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Chocolate Zucchini CakeIf you’re a gardener that didn’t lose your summer squash crop to the zucchini bore, you may have more of this versatile vegetable than you can handle.

Celebrate the last days of summer with this tasty zucchini desert option, compliments of Yolanda Boyd, spouse of OKT Collaborative partner, bio-chemist Dr. Clinton Boyd.

You can download this recipe from our Meals from Your Market page.

Bicycle Tour of Fruit and Nut Trees foraged Garfield Park

0914131553aOn Saturday Sept. 14, OKT Urban Forester, Laura Casaletto, led a group of cyclists through and around Garfield Park on a fun foraging adventure. In addition to identifying trees bearing edible nuts, fruits, leaves and flowers. Laura pointed out edible weeds and shared tips on how to prepare them for meals–a practice she incorporates into her own daily diet. She also treated participants to homemade low bush cranberry jelly and wild grape juice.

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Baxter Community Center half-way to meeting tool library fund-raising goal!

Baxter Community Center works to provide Baxter neighborhood gardeners with plants, seeds and supplies they need to grow healthy foods for their families. Baxter provides food plants, raised beds,  a traditional gardening library with books on growing, cooking and canning as well as a seed library. Now they are adding a tool library–and they are asking for help. Many of Baxter’s neighbors don’t have access to shovels, rakes, hand trowels and other tools needed to maintain their gardens. In addition, having tillers and power tools would allow neighbors and other community organizations build more garden spaces. 
Baxter hopes to launch the tool library in March 2014. Tools will be available for anyone in the community to use, but especially the families in its Raised Bed Program and community partners that are starting their own urban agriculture programs that benefit low income families. Any extra funding will be kept as a replacement budget for lost and broken tools.

Baxter’s Raised Bed gardening program serves a neighborhood where 33.5% of households fall below the poverty line, 17.5% of residents are unemployed and 99% of school-aged children qualify for the free or reduced lunch program at their school.  In 2009, the Health Department’s food security assessment declared that the Baxter neighborhood was a food desert.

Its Greenhouse and Raised Bed programs  increase food security by providing fresh produce and programming to enhance nutrition, environmental awareness, and community spirit. The addition of a tool library would not only allow neighbors to have more productive gardens, but would help build even stronger ties in our community by promoting shared resources. Since beginning the program, Baxter has been overwhelmed with the community response. People in the neighborhood are excited to be doing something collectively that adds beauty, builds relationships, and addresses important health issues our families face.

Urban foraging workshop at farmers’ market Saturday July 6

Urban Foraging Workshop

12 – 2 p.m. Saturday July 6 at Gerald R. Ford Middle School with Laura Casaletto, OKT Urban Forest Consultant

seafm- 7-6 -foragingThe Southeast Area Famers’ Market will host an Urban Foraging Workshop for the third year in a row, 12 – 2 p.m. Saturday July 6 at Gerald R Ford Middle School.  Just like the grocery stores have helped us forget that food comes from farms, cultivation of domestic crops has helped us forget that many of the native species we see around us (and label as weeds) once were a prize source of both food and medicine. Here is a list of some of the edible plants (weeds) growing in Grand Rapids neighborhoods:

  • Purslane, dandelion and sorrel: delicious salad greens
  • Queen Anne’s lace: Deep fry the flowers.
  • Wild grape and mulberry leaves: wrap rice and meat mixtures, think Middle Eastern cuisine.
  • Mulberries:  a great summer fruit snack and delicious made into jelly or jam.
  • Peppermint:  brew as tea to settle an upset stomach; chew a leaf instead of a breath mint.
  • Plantain: the leaves can relieve insect bites and bee stings. Roll and crush the leaf, apply it to the sting, use a whole leaf as a “band-aid” to hold the crushed mixture in place.

When foraging, make sure you pick plants from an area that has not been chemically contaminated. For example, utility companies usually spray a swath of herbicides under electricity towers.