Cooperative members share duties

MARQUETTE – Vegetables line the south side of a large house on North Fourth Street in Marquette.

However, it’s more than just a typical veggie garden. It’s part of the lifestyle at the Marquette Climbers’ Cooperative.

One of its residents, Andrew Adamski, led a “Yarden” tour Aug. 14, an event sponsored by the local group Transition Marquette County.

The co-op, he said, started about five or six years ago.

“A group of college students decided that they didn’t want to basically be subject to the landlord-tenant relationship that’s not so great around Marquette, and they decided they’d buy the house, fix it up and turn it into their own,” Adamski said.

The current residents appear to be close-knit.

“We don’t just call ourselves family, we are family,” Adamski said.

As with any family, though, it helps if there’s a common interest and camaraderie.

Self-sufficiency is the goal here, although options are limited.

“There’s only so much you can do in the city limits,” Adamski said.

So, you won’t be seeing a herd of cows grazing in their backyard.

What you will see are rain barrels and beans.

“It’s an interesting dynamic though,” Adamski said of the residents. “We have a couple of vegetarians in the house and it came up, oh, if we got a chicken or a rabbit, they said they didn’t want to kill it.”

However, a discussion ensued in which it was pointed out that raising animals is more sustainable and more in keeping with the co-op mission, giving an animal a better life than it would in a factory farm, he said.

They also would have a steady supply of meat.

The co-op’s objectives, according to its website at, include teaching members how to maintain the garden and allocating weekly responsibilities there and in the greenhouse, as well as organizing community work days to teach interested community members sustainable urban agriculture and involve them in garden and greenhouse activities.

Edible plant-wise, Adamski said, the co-op grows three different kinds of squash, zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, corn, beans, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, broccoli, kale, lettuce, hazelnuts, apples – “basically, whatever we can grow.”

A regular application process is used to accept people, typically college students, into the co-op.

Apparently, that’s a popular thing among the twentysomething set considering the abundance of applicants.

“There were too many,” Adamski said. “We had to be very selective this year.”

A possibility, he noted, is spreading the co-op model to other houses on the block.

In the meantime, the Marquette Climbers’ Cooperative continues its sustainability mission, with the help of seven rain barrels.

According to its Facebook page, the co-op also has been using a greywater system to reduce freshwater usage for years.

Greywater, also spelled graywater, is wastewater generated in households or office buildings from various sources without fecal contamination. Those sources include showers, tubs and washing machines.

Six months ago, residents decided to keep track of their flushes. By reducing the number of flushes, they estimated they saved more than 6,000 gallons of water.

The co-op has a sink that, it is hoped, will be set up as a vegetable-washing station, said Adamski, who also wants to set up a washing machine where water can be redirected from municipal sewage to soaker tubes in the garden.

Co-op resident Heather Toman said members focus on permaculture and sustainability.

“We all have roles in the house to keep us continuing to do these projects to make the house better, more sustainable and everything,” Toman said. “It’s just a great group of people that I get to live with and, you know, learn things from, and then, you know, you have that sense of purpose of improving rather than just living in a place.”

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.