MARQUETTE - Community gardens are more common in large cities where green space is scarce. People use them to escape city life, grow plants and enjoy nature.
In Marquette, in addition to all the above, it also provides an opportunity to grow organic food locally, teach kids about where food comes from and make unused parts of the city greener.
"Most people think of community gardens as an urban thing, but I think a lot of people here find it hard to garden," said Tina Hall, vice-president of the Marquette Community Garden Group.
MCGG was formed in 2003 and has been working with the city to expand on its 53-bed plot in between Park Cemetery and the Marquette Fit Strip. Twenty additional beds will be opened this spring at the old shuffleboard courts at Presque Isle Park behind Moosewood Nature Center.
"What we found is the more we expanded, the more people were interested," Hall said.
MCGG was started by Hall and Jim McCommons, MCGG treasurer and former senior editor of Organic Gardening, who found an abandoned children's garden behind Park Cemetery.
With the help of funds from the Marquette Rotary Breakfast Club, a community garden was officially opened in 2003.
"The city runs the sign up, Rotary came in with the money and then the first year, we had 30 beds," Hall said.
Rules and guidelines were established, including encouraging members to grow organically. Synthetic chemical weed and insect killers - such as pesticides, insecticides, fungicides and herbicides - are not permitted.
Since then, people have grown all kinds of foods on beds that vary from 6 feet by 12 feet to 6 feet by 25 feet.
"On a plot, you can grow an amazing variety of potatoes, lettuce, pumpkins and even okra," Hall said, who added she mainly grows tomatoes, which she cans for use throughout the winter months.
"Going green, I think there is a number of people in Marquette who are in apartments, thinking they can never get a garden," Hall said.
The community garden can offer an alternative for those people, she added.
"We have young couples with little kids, students, we have older people who lived on farms all their lives and now live in an apartment," Hall said.
McCommons said it's also a way for a lot of people to get fresh food.
Over the years the garden expanded, and last year the MCGG came across the old shuffleboard courts on Presque Isle.
"The advantage of this one is you can get a wheelchair all the way in," Hall said.