Fresh Produce For HAVEN

The HAVEN Garden Project, the MYFC’s first official initiative, made it in the news recently: Fresh produce for HAVEN

By Jeanne Towar for the Daily Tribune

The name of Allison Stuart Kaplan’s company, Ask in Your Face, is your first clue that this is a woman with strong opinions who gets things done.

Kaplan was the guest of honor at a hot and muggy Kids Cafée luncheon in the HAVEN shelter parking lot. Children of residents proudly served up a menu grown almost entirely in HAVEN’s garden, including veggie kabobs, bean salad, lots of fresh greens, zucchini bread and carrot cake, which they had helped prepare.

“One cold, winter day, I came to HAVEN and Beth took me on a tour,” Kaplan said. “When she showed me the pantry, I was struck that all the food was canned and boxed. I asked if the residents ever have the opportunity to eat fresh produce.” Beth is Beth Morrison, HAVEN’s president and CEO, who explained that friends of HAVEN occasionally bring fresh produce from their gardens, but otherwise most of the food HAVEN serves is packaged.

“So,” the founder of Ask in Your Face asked, “could you build a garden here?” Morrison said there was a half-acre of vacant land behind the parking lot, but HAVEN had no resources or knowledge of how to create a garden.

That was all Kaplan needed to hear. Her son, Ben Gluck, and his friend, Alexis Bogdanova-Hanna, are passionate about gardening.

Gluck is finishing his senior year at Michigan State University studying horticulture, and Bogdanova-Hanna, who lives in Troy, is a certified organic farmer who has also studied at MSU. “How would you and your farmer friends like to build a garden for HAVEN?” Kaplan asked. The pair, who founded the Michigan Young Farmer’s Coalition in October 2009, formed a HAVEN garden committee to plan the garden and raise money for start-up costs. Their goals were to train new farmers, supply fresh food for HAVEN, and provide a safe and peaceful outdoor place HAVEN residents could enjoy.

The committee found Aaron Kyle, a Yoga instructor with no agriculture experience, but a deep desire to learn. Under Gluck and Bogdanova-Hanna’s tutelage, Kyle is now a farm manager who works at least 20 hours a week on HAVEN’s garden, harvesting 250 to 300 pounds of fresh produce a week. In addition, well over 600 volunteer hours have been donated to the garden by friends of HAVEN and the Michigan Young Farmers Coalition. “It’s been a huge, collective effort,” Bogdanova-Hanna said.

“Residents are making the most awesome salads,” said Ernestine McRae, director of HAVEN’s residential program. “We don’t waste one ounce.” As well as standards like lettuce and tomatoes, McRae has introduced simple recipes using unfamiliar vegetables like kohlrabi and eggplant.

HAVEN’s kids like to grab blueberries and raspberries right off the vine and eat them in the garden. And, McRae said, they can’t wait to make Halloween jack o’ lanterns out of the massive pumpkins ripening there. “Before, we were rationing lettuce,” McRae said. “Now we have enough that residents can take harvest home with them for family visits.” HAVEN’s garden is producing such an ample harvest they are able to send about 25 percent to Gleaner’s Community Food Bank of Southeastern Michigan.

The end of summer will not be the end of the garden. Kyle just planted fall spinach and salad mix, and is planning a harvest of fall vegetables which can be stored and used all winter. As former Oakland County Circuit Court judge Fred Mester hungrily dug into the veggie lunch, he said, “I’ve been a supporter of HAVEN since its commencement in 1975. They not only provide shelter but a mechanism for resolution of serious conflicts in human relations.” Mester has good reason to know about the conflicts HAVEN residents face, since he now hears all requests for personal protection orders in Oakland County. “It’s great to see what wonderful and tasty results this garden project has produced,” he said.

Plans are already under way for next year’s garden. The farm committee would like to purchase a greenhouse so fresh food could be grown year-round, and they really need to add a covered shed for tasks like washing produce. More fundraising and a new crop of donors are necessary to make that happen. The committee would like to find 24 sponsors at $500 each, one for each of the 44-by-4-foot garden beds, which will be marked by bricks made by the kids. A recipe book to sell at the holidays is in the planning stage, but also needs a sponsor.

“If it weren’t for Allison coming to tour HAVEN, this all would not have happened,” said Morrison.

To learn more about

Kaplan and Ask in Your Face, go to, a website devoted to women’s health, fitness, nutrition and social issues like animal welfare and sustainability. The HAVEN garden is also featured there.

“This garden is truly a labor of passion and love,” Kaplan said. If you can help with the garden, send her an e-mail at For garden sponsorships, donations or information about HAVEN, contact Belle Hornung at or (248) 334-1284, ext. 659.

The Michigan Young Farmer Coalition is a statewide not-for-profit organization working to empower Michigan communities through viable agricultural stewardship.

We are young growers and their supporters living, learning and working in Michigan. We aim to foster and develop the burgeoning community of experienced young growers; provide material, organizational and educational support; and facilitate action toward an abundant, just and food-secure future.

Currently, we are collaborating with the HAVEN Community in Pontiac in the design and implementation of a half-acre garden and education program; assisting in the development of a farmer residency program; facilitating the experiential education of our members through the “Crop Mobbing” model; sharing resources and holding regional social events to strengthen and develop our membership.

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© Copyright 2011  Allison Stuart Kaplan LLC

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