It’s 7:30 AM Monday morning. The HAVEN Kitchen is humming with the gentle gurgle of the coffee pot, the chatter of women as they fill morning bottles for their little ones, and the whirl of the salad spinner as it whisks cool water from the tender leaves of spring mix. It’s harvest day at the HAVEN Garden Project.
Since the initial planting in mid-April, the HAVEN Garden has been growing abundantly and beyond all expectations. Perhaps it’s the infusion of love and care from the HAVEN Community, the careful execution of an innovative crop plan, or the swell of support from generous donors that has brought us to the point of surplus and success. More likely, it is a combination of all of these — the perfect mix of the tangible (remay row covers) and the intangible (synergistic energy). Whatever it is, it’s working.
And the proof? How about 425 pounds of produce harvested over just three weeks? Our harvest weights are off the charts, and this is just the beginning — we’ll be harvesting twice per week through October. In fact, the Garden has produced so plentifully that we have already donated over 100 pounds to Gleaners Food Bank in Pontiac! So far, we have harvested: buttercrunch and romaine lettuces; spicy baby mesclun mix; baby spinach; a variety of greens — collards, chard and kale; radishes; turnips; beets; kohlrabi (or as the HAVEN kids call them: “Avatar Vegetables”); and scallions.
Beyond the staggering harvest numbers, our crops are reaching maturity earlier than anticipated, by two to three weeks, even. Sure, some timely rainfall and kindly weather have contributed to their early vigor. But more than that; it’s our technical skills as trained growers that have teased beets the size of fists out of the soil by the second week of June, buttercrunch lettuce heads ten inches in diameter by the last week of May and sixty-six row feet of “Easter Egg” and “French Breakfast” radishes by our last harvest day this past Thursday. The Michigan Young Farmer Coalition has brought the expertise and innovation required to make these milestones, and we’re poised to continue to set records throughout the rest of the season.
ï¿¼June 11th, 2010. Ben and Aaron show off the bounty of beets — unprecedented in size for this time of year! Ben transplanted them, which gave them a jump start on the season. Proof positive that you CAN successfully transplant a tap-rooted crop successfully.
Our Garden Manager, Aaron Kyle, is steering the day-to-day operations on the ground with finesse and confidence. And to think that he had no agricultural experience before this spring! Ben and I have been training him in organic growing techniques, harvest and post-harvest handling and community engagement for the past several months. Each week he takes on more responsibility and makes more executive decisions, like generating harvest lists, work plans and protocols for community involvement. Our fundraising success has afforded us the opportunity to CREATE this job and employ a local neighborhood resident who is not only making a living in the Garden, but developing new skills and leadership experience in the process.
“I made the most delicious salad last night: baby spinach with a little bit of bacon, scallion and walnuts and a creamy dressing I learned to make from a chef,” a HAVEN Resident recounted to me the other day. Just take a moment to consider the significance of this exchange: her healthy, fresh, organic meal wouldn’t have been possible without the efforts of so many since early February, when the HAVEN Garden Committee embarked on this vegetable growing journey. Neither would the “Sunday Collard Greens Feasts” that have been become a regular feature of the residents’ weekend gastronomical adventures.
What’s on deck in the Garden in the coming weeks? Our early crops are steadily finding their way from the field to the HAVEN resident refrigerator and staff coolers, clearing the way for second plantings of summer crops like summer squash, beans and cukes (we already have most of our summer crops in). Maya’s Garden, which has been producing copious amounts of lettuce since late May, will be turned over and planted in cover crops for the summer to build soil fertility. The tomato trellis is being installed as I write, and our cut flower bed (sponsored and donated by the Michigan Young Farmer Coalition) is filling-out nicely. Raspberries are ripening in the glow of the early summer sun and work on the Edible Forest Garden is getting underway as our permaculturalist draws up plans and plant lists. The Summer Youth Program is kicking into high gear, and the HAVEN resident youth will be harvesting with Aaron every week.
There’s lots to do, and we’re ready to get it done. Young Farmers, community visionaries, spirited women and children … together we are an agriCULTURAL force of growing power.
To see more photos of our progress, follow our Flickr: www.flickr.com/havengardenproject.
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