Several years ago, Detroit Public Schools started growing vegetables in raised beds in many of their schools. They also started a large, 2 ½ acre garden called “Drew Farm” at the Charles R. Drew Transition Center, a vocational center for cognitively and physically challenged students. To date, there are 92 garden beds, 6 to a school. The students and teachers at the schools can decide what goes in three of the beds, so the students can watch flowers as well as tomatoes grow. The other three beds are planted with vegetables which end up in the schools’ cafeterias, transformed into salads and fresh cut vegetables. For the first time, many of these vegetables are being sold during August at our Northwest Detroit Farmers’ Market and at the Tuesday Eastern Market.
As we all know, vegetable gardens don’t weed themselves, and this is where kids like Zharia, Derek, and Tia step in. Zharia heard about the Detroit School Garden Collective from one of her science teachers at Renaissance High School who handed out flyers with a call for “garden attendants.” The job paid nearly $9 an hour and offered overtime. Zharia called the number on the flyer thinking “How hard can it be?” Zharia was interviewed, got the call back, and soon “started weeding away.” Derek heard about the program at Cass Tech High School, and Tia heard about it at MLKing Jr. High School. In all, there are 12 paid student garden attendant positions available. These three students are led by Roxanne Brown, the market manager, temporary mother, and, something that leaves the kids green with envy, the tractor driver. All three students had some family experience with gardening, but nothing like what they’re doing this summer.
BRINGING THE PRODUCE TO MARKET
The job runs from the end of the school year through the end of August. These three students look after about 30 farms. They repair the beds, transplant vegetables, plant seeds, and weed. All the students have learned, first hand, a great deal about organic gardening and have also educated others about organic gardening. All the vegetables that are sold at the farmers’ markets are organically grown. “Trust us. It’s all organic. We pull all the weeds by hand. There’s no spraying,” confirms Zharia. The proceeds from the market sales go right back into the program for more seeds, tools, and supplies.
Stop by the DPS Garden Collaborative table on Thursday at our Northwest Detroit Farmers’ Market and meet these hard-working students. They have quite a wide variety of produce: three kinds of kale, Swiss chard, cabbage, banana peppers, cucumbers and more. While they have come to enjoy gardening and derive a great deal of satisfaction from being a part of the program, Zharia, Derek, and Tia most enjoy coming to the markets. “Working the market is the most fun. I like interacting with people!” Zharia says. This is the first generation of student garden attendants to bring the produce to markets to sell. Some of these gardeners will graduate and so there will be another call out this coming school year for a new crop of DPS garden attendants. The DPS Garden Collaborative will be at the Northwest Detroit Farmers’ Market only through August, so be sure you stop by soon! They head back to school once September hits!
For more information about the DPS Garden Program, email Garden.firstname.lastname@example.org, visit http://detroitk12.org/admin/operations/foodservice/, or call 313.651.3457.
The Northwest Detroit Farmers’ Market is every Thursday from 4pm – 8pm through October 12 at 18445 Scarsdale, the North Rosedale Park Community House parking lot. Like the Northwest Detroit Farmers’ Market on Facebook. For more information about the Farmers’ Market contact Chelsea Neblett at email@example.com.