MARQUETTE - Expect to see gardens this summer in Marquette, but not just the kind with flowers.
The Transition Marquette group, which looks at preparing the community for life after oil production peaks, has announced the start of the 100 YARDen Dash, a program designed to encourage 100 or more households to transform all or part of their yard into a food-producing garden.
"It's really about gaining skills," said organizer Steve DeGoosh, who transformed his own small yard into a food-producing garden, which he ended up calling the "Yarden."
Steve DeGoosh of Marquette shows where he pruned his apple tree in his front yard on Park Street in Marquette which he has transformed from lawn to food, which he calls his “yarden.” (Journal photo by Danielle Pemble)
On a plot of land less than 50 square feet, DeGoosh said he was able to produce hundreds of pounds of food each season.
"Just the impact you can have in your own food supply is amazing," he said.
Now the goal is to have at least 100 new or expanded food-producing gardens in the Marquette area this summer, a challenge to the Marquette community itself and to the Traverse City Transition group, which is holding a similar program this summer.
Whether people are interested in turning their entire yard into a food-producing garden or they just have space for a few planters on their front porch, the challenge is open to anyone who wants to participate and learn more about food.
"This project is also people taking that first step," DeGoosh said. "A lot can be learned from making mistakes."
Although the group is willing to provide some help to new gardeners in terms of tips and connecting with those who have more gardening experience, even providing some seedlings to start with, one of the goals of the challenge is to have people self organize and take charge of their own gardening experience.
"Ultimately this is really about building community," DeGoosh said.
A key to the success of the project is the interaction between new gardeners and those with more experience, bringing neighborhoods together.
"There's a lot of folks that have experiences and skill sets that could bet tapped into and shared with folks who are new to gardening," DeGoosh said.
In addition, the project will hopefully lead to the start of a bank of seeds and plants that thrive in the local climate, including the discovery of heirloom seeds that have been grown in the area for generations.
"We need to develop a much more capable and resilient community and that involves food," DeGoosh said.
With food often traveling thousands of miles before it arrives on our dinner tables, grown using pesticides and other environmentally-harmful methods, an emphasis on local food has been increasingly important to those wanting to live a greener lifestyle.
Those interested in participating are asked to register their garden at 100yardendash.com so that an accurate count of participants can be kept. Participants are also encouraged to take "before" and "after" pictures of their gardens.
The project's website also includes tips on how to get started, what can be grown in small areas and ways to connect with landowners who might be willing to allow a garden to be planted on their property.
Registering will also allow participants to keep up to date with events, such as seed swaps, associated with the project.
Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401.