We’re beginning this blog with a small group of Michigan Master Gardeners located in Northwest Lower Michigan, mostly in or near Traverse City.  We invite you to learn with us!  We believe ever so strongly in getting children involved in gardening.  It’s a beneficial activity in many respects, and one that’s likely to enhance the quality of their entire lives.  Updates of our area's many thriving school gardens will be provided here as they become available.  If you're in the know about ones we've missed, please contact us.
We owe much to our mentor and friend Pam Bardenhagen, former Home Horticulturalist/Master Gardener Program Coordinator, MSU Extension, Leelanau County.  One of the gardens we’ll be discussing is the Leelanau Community Garden, now coordinated by Elise Carolan, Consumer Horticulture Program Instructor, MSUE-Leelanau.  If you live within convenient driving distance of Leelanau County, we strongly suggest you contact Elise at 231-256-8888 or carola10@msu.edu for information on that and other “learning gardens” in the Grand Traverse area, and on Michigan’s excellent Master Gardener program; or see: http://mg.msue.msu.edu/ or your local Extension office.

Mike Davis
I'm a long-time home vegetable gardener originally from Southwest Ohio. For many years in Ohio, I gardened “the old way”; that is, I tried to apply the traditional methods I learned while growing up on a subsistence farm in the 1940’s and early 50’s.  Those methods work.  They produce food.  But they’re wasteful of labor, of land area and soil fertility, of power machinery and petroleum; and they add unnecessarily to CO
2 emissions into the atmosphere.  The climate and soils in Ohio were sufficiently different from those here in The North that when my wife and I moved here in 2007, I found I had much to learn about even the basics!  “Experience” is the sum of mistakes; my transition into a new gardening environment is, and will always be, a work in progress.  In that, I profited from the example of adaptation to new gardening circumstances provided by my first gardening mentor, my mother.  For a bit of background, please see: In the Garden.  
Contact Mike at mcd49621@gmail.com

Ellen Lapekas
Have had my hands in the dirt since age 6, growing up and working in the muck farms of Southwest Michigan.  Gardening was, and still is, all about food production with a few flowers thrown in.  But then, living along Texas' southern gulf coast, we battled heat, drought, wind, cutter ants, humidity, more heat and and poor soil.  The only thing that thrived was rosemary, so well in fact that it was trimmed with a lawn mower.  Now, after years in the woods of northern Michigan I'm back at gardening, and lovin' it!

Mike Kiessel
I grew up on a cherry farm in the Suttons Bay area of Leelanau County which included livestock and grain crops.  Vegetable gardening has been a part of my life since I was old enough to pick up a hoe.I have always been fascinated with growing things and with genetics.  I am a listed member of Seed Savers Exchange.  Genetic diversity is something that is very important to me as well as trying to raise public awareness of the need and the benefits of it.  I also dabble in plant breeding which includes everything from ornamentals to vegetables to fruit trees.  Seeds and plant propagation have become my passion.  Contact: mikekiessel@gmail.com

Trina Ball
I was raised in a small land-grant university town in MassachusettsAs a child I occasionally accompanied my parents down the steep hillside trail to where the forest ended and the campus community garden began.  Spending time on that acreage and in our large kitchen was how I first learned where my mother’s delicious food actually originated, and how to cook it.  My father was a professor of taxonomy, genetics and entomology, so the conversation around our kitchen table was often about control of insects on plants, soil fertility, water usage, population growth, and food shortages…. the same pressing issues still facing our world today!   The word Why” in our home was defined as “What survival value does this or that trait have for the species?”  Or “How does this or that trait aid in adaptability?”  As children, we were taught to investigate alternatives and to be alert and open to discovery.  One discovery seemed to raise 10 more questions.  And in gardening there were oceans of variables. 
Gardening is a cultural activity to be enjoyed by everyone, including children.  By working with MSUE’s Junior Master Gardeners, I was reminded that although kids are naturally drawn to the fascination of discovery, they have little or no time for food gardening.  In today’s complex culture many 4th and 5th grade children cannot identify common vegetables.  Community, school and home gardens offer a practical teaching tool.  And these gardens benefit brain development and problem-solving skills in our nation’s children.  According to the Leelanau Children’s Center, “The brain develops in response to the environment in which the child lives and grows.  A child who spends the first few years in an enriched environment with engaging relationships will have a brain more apt to manage complex thinking and planning.  This brain will assess incoming data accurately and will allow the growing child to make considered decisions.”
Today I have not by any means “mastered gardening.”  I often find out what plants need after they need it.  And I appreciate more than ever the words of an anonymous writer: "Humankind, despite its artistic abilities, sophistication and accomplishments, owes its existence to the top six-inch layer of soil—and the fact that it rains!"

...And other contributors to follow.

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