IMLAY CITY — Lapeer County 4-H, in collaboration with Imlay City Schools, was the recipient of a $5,000 Sustainable Development Award Grant from Conagra Brands to use towards continuing to build the Imlay City School garden facility.
The school’s garden was initially built in 2019—thanks to the expertise of Scott Aldridge and fellow volunteers—with plans to start it’s first crop in the spring of 2020. Planting was postponed due to the pandemic, followed by additional construction delays in 2021.
Sarah Griffin, Lapeer County’s 4-H Program Coordinator, said earlier this year, 4-H joined the schools in a collaborative role to help the garden come to life.
“I had the thought of starting a community garden since I became a 4-H leader about eight years ago. This past June, I took my kids to play on the playground at Weston a few times. I kept noticing that nothing seemed to be happening with the school garden,” she said.
She contacted Superintendent Dr. Stu Cameron and asked if there was a way that Lapeer County 4-H could help get the garden going. On behalf of the district, he accepted that offer for assistance.
“At that point it was nearing the end of June and the garden needed a lot of weeding. 4-H adult volunteers and youth members put in a lot of hours to get the raised beds ready and planted,” Griffin said.
“There is still weeding that needs to be done and we are hoping to get a couple cold crops planted yet this season. We have a lot of produce starting to ripen: tomatoes, cucumbers, multiple squash varieties, green beans, cantaloupe, watermelon, eggplant, and cabbage. We are working with the schools to possibly use the produce in the cafeteria and classrooms and to set up a stand of free produce for the community,” she continued.
Griffin plans to continue to work in collaboration with the schools to help grow the garden and educate more students on agriculture.
“This coming year I am hoping to work with the schools to create an after school garden club or to visit classrooms during the school day and share information about how our food grows. An ultimate goal would be to begin vermicomposting and to have the schools participate by collecting food scraps during lunch. There are so many learning opportunities that come with having a garden on the school campus,” she said.
The community has been supportive of those plans, including the large donation from Conagra Brands, the parent company of Imlay City’s Vlasic plant. Griffin said the initial plan is to use those funds for upgrades to the garden’s water system.
Additional community support came from Brandywine Farm Nursery in Dryden who donated tomato plants; and Imlay City’s MI Farmacy Market who gave a discount on other plants.
Griffin says they are still taking donations on crops that can still be planted this year, seeds for next year and monetary donations to help with the water system upgrade, care and maintenance of the garden and for additions of vermicomposting, rain barrels, and other gardening items.
“Among the fruits and veggies there is also a pollinator bed that includes milkweed and other plants to help attract pollinators.” she added.
Contact Sarah Griffin at email@example.com or 810-667-0341 for information on the garden or to donate.