Portage Health Foundation awards over $37,000 in grants to community gardens, how Ryan Street Community Garden will benefit


HANCOCK, Mich. (WJMN) – The Portage Health Foundation recently awarded $37,400 in grants to nine community gardens.

“Overall, we are very pleased with this group of grantees,” said Dr. Michelle Seguin, Director of Community Health at Port. “The projects funded will serve a wide cross-section of the community in a variety of different settings including traditional community gardens, schools, and residential housing complexes. It’s especially exciting to see the collaborations involved including school-community-based partnerships and opportunities for intergenerational learning. When we learn, grow and eat together, we all win.”

One of the recipients is Ryan Street Community Garden on Finlandia University’s campus. This garden allows people a space to grow fresh vegetables and herbs

“We have about 15 raised beds right now divided into plots for local community members to rent,” said Amanda Lounibos, Garden Coordinator, Ryan Street Community Garden.

Space at the garden is in high demand.

“We typically have a wait list of one to two years to get a plot because it’s a very productive place and people enjoy it so much, we don’t have very much turnover,” said Lounibos.

Ryan Street Community Garden received $5,000 dollars through this grant that will help install two new raised beds, install and plant a new perennial garden, offer workshops, add a picnic table and benches, and host field trips.

“This would give us an opportunity to provide more people in the community to grow vegetables here,” said Lounibos.

“The Ryan Street Community Garden is one of the more prominent community gardens in the Houghton/Hancock area,” said Seguin. “They do a wonderful job at providing access to individuals and families to grow their own food.”

The other recipients of this grant include:

Chassell Township Schools – Chassell School Garden – $5,000

In hopes of teaching students to learn environmentally sustainable plant growing and harvesting techniques, nutrition and healthy eating across the lifespan, gain knowledge of local food systems, and to experience the joy of gardening in what can become a lifetime practice, Chassell Public Schools is creating a shared greenspace, including a community garden. This new school garden fits into the district’s goal of creating a nature trail through a partnership with the Lake Superior Stewardship Initiative. Students in the CTE Building Trades class will assist in the construction of six beds and cold frame. During the school year, students will assist in the planting and harvesting of produce.

City of Hancock – Herb & “Three Sisters” Garden – $1,900

In an effort to continue the beautification of Hancock and provide an opportunity for food education and security, Portage Health Foundation, with the assistance of a private donor, has funded garden projects at Porvoo Park on the waterfront in Hancock. The new raised garden bed and the previous overgrown circular bed are now full of edible herbs for public use. The demonstration garden is a “Three Sisters” garden with a traditional planting of corn, beans and squash. Master Gardener, Kathe Salmi of the Hancock Beautification Committee directed the planting and will be teaching about the use of the herbs. Porvoo Park is the site of the new Hancock Outdoor Farmers Market held Thursday afternoons.

Dollar Bay-Tamarack City Schools – DB-TC Tower Gardening Project – $2,500

It can be difficult to farm and harvest during the off season, and the Copper Country isn’t exactly known for its long growing season. However, when grown indoors in a controlled hydro system, lettuce and other greens can be harvested year-round. That’s what is coming to Dollar Bay with this $2,500 grant. The system will connect students to their food, with the hope of changing attitudes about greens and healthy lifestyles. The school district will be measuring lettuce consumption rates before, during and after learning about the hydro garden. The hydro garden will use a tower gardening system, which is known to grow more in less time with few resources. The tower system has been proven to increase yields by as much as 30 percent, triple the speed of plant growth, and use only 10 percent of the water and space traditional planting would use.

Gogebic-Ontonagon Intermediate School District – School Community Garden – $5,000

In an effort to increase the consumption of healthy produce for students and community members, increase opportunities for health education, and to create a space to foster social connection among community members Gogebic-Ontonagon Intermediate School District in partnership with Ontonagon Area Schools is going to create a community garden on the school district’s campus. In addition to growing fruits and vegetables for the school, community members will be invited to a community garden space where regular meetings will be held to discuss garden progress, needs and health educational sessions. Their goal is to have 25 percent of students using the garden space in the first year, with 80 percent of their students using it by year three.

Hancock Public Schools – Barkell Elementary School Garden – $5,000

A 20’ x 30’ school garden will be created behind Barkell Elementary School in Hancock. It will be in close proximity to the location of their previous garden, which was ruined in 2019 because of a roof collapse. The new garden will support six beds, including an elevated raised bed that will be used by three Copper Country ISD special education classes. Those elevated beds will allow access to students in wheelchairs. Students will learn how to grow plants to produce their own food with the hope of creating lifelong learners. In addition to the beds, they will be purchasing new tools, benches, a compost station and water barrels to collect rainwater.

Ontonagon Village Housing Commission – Pedestal and Raised Bed Gardens – $3,000

This grant allowed the construction of raised bed gardens that are accessible to individuals with mobility issues and help create a community environment within Ontonagon Village Housing, a 60-unit residential housing complex. The grant funded materials to construct the gardens, including wood, dirt, fencing and mulch. The gardens are intended to help residents live a healthier life both physically and mentally by providing exercise and mental stimulation, while working with a group to achieve a goal of having healthy foods.

Osceola Township – Dollar Bay Community Garden – $5,000

A community garden in Dollar Bay will provide local residents access to fresh, seasonal vegetables as well as serve as an educational resource for the community. The new garden will be located within walking distance of the school, creating the potential to host on-site learning tied to grade-level curriculum. The site will also be used for community education for residents interested in learning sustainable gardening practices which protect the local watershed. The township is also investing $3,000 into the project. Keep up with the project and get involved by finding the Dollar Bay Community Garden Facebook page.

Village of South Range – South Range Community Garden – $5,000

The creation of a community garden in South Range should provide a space for many programs to be successful and help the village promote more community involvement and spark a strong sense of community pride. The Adams Township School District hopes to involve students in the trades and culinary programs at Jeffers high School and younger students at South Range Elementary School to use this space as a tool for learning about plants and ecosystems.

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