The First Seed
We are so close to spring that you can almost taste it. Although it still can be cold, the sun these days stays around for longer, there are more signs of life outdoors and it’s usually around this time of year that all the farmers, gardeners and growers out there begin to feel the itch of spring planting. To have crops right on time – or even earlier for those with greenhouses – the drive to get those seeds in the ground as early as possible starts to nudge at the edge of the mind right around now.
For those of you local food eaters out there, this time of year also means that more fresh greens, radishes, carrots, spinach, spring onions and other early season produce will be more available at farmer’s markets, local groceries, restaurants and elsewhere. This is especially the case now that in Michigan more and more farm operations employ season extension technologies like hoophouses and cold frames that enable them to have more items available earlier than ever before.
Just go check out the current selection at the Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market, Saline Winter Indoor Farmer’s Market or Detroit Eastern Market, and you will be pleasantly surprised.
This is also the perfect time to start to experiment with growing your own food if you haven’t in the past, whether that means growing basil in a container on your balcony, growing a couple tomato plants in the backyard or growing lettuce, peppers, squash and onions in a community garden.
We are in a unique place here in Ypsilanti, in Ann Arbor, in Detroit and in Southeast Michigan in general that is super supportive of urban agriculture and other forms of residential food cultivation. So, it’s a perfect place to get involved with growing a portion of the food you eat – plus, if you’re in Ypsilanti, you can also have chickens and honeybees!
Who knows? You may even end up like me with so much garden surplus that you start a value-added food business as a means to share that Ypsi-grown goodness with the community. And, as it will soon be easier to produce your own food in the city limits in places like Ypsilanti and Detroit thanks to upcoming ordinances, more backyard growers may certainly find themselves transformed into farmer’s market vendors or occasional restaurant suppliers.
Just think of how much more accessible fresh, locally-grown and produced food would be if there were more and more small-scale urban, suburban and rural growers producing just a little bit extra to sell at market, at restaurants, at grocery stores or to share with the community – not to mention how this increased availability of local foods would mean that it would be easier to get them into institutions like schools or hospitals. And, in many cases, all it takes to get there is a lot of people planting that first basil seed in a container at home.
If you’re interested in getting growing but are unsure of how to start, there are many great local resources here in the Ypsi/Arbor area as well as in Detroit, Flint, Lansing and Toledo to help you out. If you’re in Ann Arbor, Project Grow Gardens can link you up with a community garden plot as well as classes about different aspects of local food cultivation.
If you’re in Ypsilanti, there are multiple community gardens like Frog Island, Recreation Park, Perry/Parkridge, The Giving Garden at EMU and Normal Park that offer plots for rent. In addition, local non-profit Growing Hope has the “Growing Gardens” program that, for a nominal fee, offers growers plants and seeds, educational workshops and access to a tool lending library.
Also, Transition Ypsilanti and Abundant Michigan, Permaculture Ypsilanti (AMPY) are networks of growers and sustainability enthusiasts interested in cultivating community resilience through projects like native plant plantings and collective food growing that would love to share their knowledge with novice growers. Plus, there’s many more resources out there to support you as well. So, go ahead and plant that first seed already! Trust me – we’ll all be glad you did.