The Jewish News | Big Green, Hazon Partner to Grow Produce At Metro Detroit Schools

Educational gardens will be repurposed as community vegetable sources this summer.
Jewish sustainability organization Hazon is partnering with environmental education non-profit Big Green to create new “giving gardens” in several metro Detroit communities this summer.

Work on the gardens officially began this week. The garden beds, which already exist as “learning gardens” at public schools, will be planted by Big Green staff in cities including Ferndale, Oak Park, Hazel Park and Southfield. Hazon has volunteered to provide the seeds and compost to grow carrots, beans and squash.

When the vegetables are ready to be harvested starting around mid-August, students and families from the community will be invited to pick their own veggies. Hazon will then help distribute the remaining vegetables by parking their Topsy Turvy Bus in the community so families can come collect the free produce. Whatever is left after Hazon’s distribution will be donated to local food pantries.

Big Green will also work with online farmer’s market Michigan Fields to help distribute produce in the community, said Ken Elkins, regional director of Big Green Detroit.

Big Green, co-founded in 2011 by Elon Musk’s brother Kimball Musk, builds and runs educational learning gardens in public schools. When COVID-19 hit Michigan this spring, the organization moved their learning garden curriculum online for students to access at home, but their gardens sat empty when schools closed in March. The organization wanted to find a way to put them to use.

“We wanted to do our part as far as assisting and helping our communities,” Elkins said.

Similarly, Hazon shifted its focus towards helping community members plant and grow their own produce with their Relief Garden Initiative when the pandemic began. The program ended on June 5.

Wren Hack, director of Hazon Detroit, said her organization already had seeds to give away from their relief garden initiative, and their bus made for a convenient distribution center.

“It was an easy partnership to form,” Hack said. “…It’s so heartening to know that [Big Green] can activate those gardens and just help people with their meals,” Hack said.

20 of Big Green Detroit’s 52 school gardens will be repurposed as giving gardens, Elkins said. He hopes the other 32 gardens will be able to continue with normal learning garden programming this fall.

– Maya Goldman

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