Thursday, February 2, 2012

Manistee PhotoVoice

What would you do if someone handed you a camera and asked you to go out and take pictures of what keeps you from being healthy? That is just what happened with a group of seven WISEWOMAN participants in Manistee County. Using an evidence based program called PhotoVoice developed at the University of Michigan, we gave the women each a camera and said, “go take pictures of what keeps you from being healthy.”

Before the women ever took the first picture, Cheryl Griffin, the WISEWOMAN Lifestyle Counselor in Manistee County met with the Norman Township Board and the Healthy Manistee Coalition. Both groups agreed to participate in the process by viewing the final video and talking about what they could do to address any barriers identified.

A local photographer worked with the seven women to teach them how to use their cameras. They also learned the elements of taking a good picture. That first meeting was a chance for them to get to know each other. When they left that day, they were on a mission.

A few weeks later, they gathered again to review and discuss their photographs. As a group, they talked about which photos captured the barriers to being healthy. They talked about themes they saw running through their pictures, and identified key points they wanted to address in the slide show.

With a little help from the Lifestyle Counselor and some of the folks at the state WISEWOMAN program, the women created a video slide show complete with narration and music.

The women presented the video to the Norman Township Board and to the Healthy Manistee Coalition. In both cases, it set the stage for some great dialog about ways to address the barriers the women identified. That was in October. This month (February), we plan to conduct interviews with some of the board and coalition members who saw the video. We want to find out what has happened since those meetings in October.

One outcome is already apparent. The women who participated have become more active in their communities. They have started taking leadership roles in community events. PhotoVoice taught them how they could get involved to help make their communities more healthy. Now that they have experienced community mobilization, there is no stopping them!

Take a look at the video. We posted it on YouTube, so everyone would have easy access to it. You can find it here at the Michigan WISEWOMAN channel.

WISEWOMAN PhotoVoice Group

Friday, January 27, 2012

Life Happens

I always intend to keep the blog updated regularly with news from WISEWOMAN, but something always seems to get in the way. For the last month, I have been working on our annual report and reapplication for funding to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Before that there was always another deadline or commitment.

As I sat down to write this blog post, it hit me. I have trouble finding time to write this blog, the same way our WISEWOMAN participants have trouble finding time to be healthy.

You know how it goes. When she is in your office, she has great intentions. She sets her goal, and she walks out the door ready to make it happen. Then, as the saying goes, “life happens.”

The car breaks down, so she can’t get to the store to buy healthy foods. Once the car is fixed, she doesn't have the money to buy the healthy foods.

She has to take care of her sick granddaughter, so she can’t get out and walk every day like she planned.

Her spouse gets laid off at work, and the added stress makes it too difficult to quit smoking.

How do you react when she tells you? Do you start offering suggestions of ways she could work on her goal in spite of her difficulties? Or, do you empathize with her, and validate how difficult her situation is?

What about your own life and all those good intentions you have that get pushed aside because “life happens?” Think about your own good intentions when you are talking to your WISEWOMAN participants. When she tells you about everything that gets in the way of meeting her goal, use it as an opportunity to express empathy, and then help support her self efficacy by being positive and encouraging her to keep trying. 

Remember, progress not perfection!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Entrepreneurial Gardening - 2011

The WISEWOMAN Entrepreneurial Gardening Project is winding down its fourth season. It has been an exciting year for everyone involved! Here are some of the highlights.

Growth: You would expect growth in the gardens, but we had growth in the program too. In 2010, 25 women gardeners from six counties participated in the project. In 2011 participation increased to 50 gardeners from 10 counties.

Staff: For the first three years, Helen DeFlorio from Michigan State University Extension (MSUE) has led  the charge from Ogemaw County. This year, we were able to officially bring Helen on board as the Coordinator of the Entrepreneurial Gardening Project. She has been able to visit all of the counties and meet all of the gardeners.

Creative Gardening: They say necessity is the mother of invention. Well, our gardeners need places to grow, so they get pretty inventive. Below are a couple of examples of  creative ways to grow crops. Both of these creative planting options allow a gardener with back problems to work in the garden without stooping as much.
An old refrigerator is given new life as a raised bed
Growing beans in a barrel

Community Gardens: Several of our gardeners made use of community garden plots. It is a great alternative if you do not have room to grow, or you just do not have a yard with a good sunny spot.
Manistee Community Garden
Raised beds in Manistee Community Garden

Mentoring: We now have gardeners who have been involved with the program for two or three years. It has been great to tap their experience to help the newer gardeners.

Nutrition Education: Being a WISEWOMAN gardener means learning about nutrition as well as learning about gardening. The nutrition education is useful to the gardeners, but it also means they carry that information with them to the farmer’s market to share with their customers.
Nutrition information in the garden

Canning and Preserving: When you have fresh produce, you have to eat it, sell it, preserve it, or compost it. No one wants to throw out the fruits of their labor, so our gardeners have been learning ways to save what they do not eat or sell. They will be able to enjoy their produce throughout the winter.
Herb infused vinegar
A variety of jams. These will taste great this winter!

Friendship: One of the great benefits of participating in this program is forging new friendships with other gardeners. When we talk with the gardeners they often tell us how happy they are to have friends who can relate to them.

Outcomes: We do not have the results from all of the post project surveys yet, but already we are seeing gardeners who report losing weight, being more active, and eating more fresh fruits and vegetables.

Extra Income: When we started this project, we wanted it to be more than just a gardening project. We wanted our gardeners to be able to sell their produce and earn extra income. We do not know how much money our gardeners made, but many of them have been able to bring in extra income this year. In these tough economic times, that is a terrific bonus!

Looking Ahead: For next year, we are looking at low cost ways to extend the growing season. These boxes are iodine containers used by big dairies. Our gardeners can get empty containers from the dairy farmers, cut the containers in half and use them as mini hoop houses.

Mini Hoop Houses at Friends Ministry in Lake City

Friday, August 5, 2011

Michigan Farmer's Markets

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to visit the Farmer’s Market on the Capitol Lawn. It is held twice a year, and I always enjoy attending. Apparently others enjoy attending as well. Even Governor Snyder was there! Farmers from around the State Of Michigan drive to Lansing to set up their tents and sell their wares.

I was amazed by the variety of products for sale. As you would expect, there was plenty of fresh produce. However, I also saw people selling fish, lamb, cheese, breads, jams, jellies, and even goat’s milk gelato! The one common denominator was Michigan. Everything was either raised or made in Michigan! It was exciting to see so many Michigan vendors in one place. From what I could tell, it looked like the vendors did okay. There were a lot of people buying things.

The Capitol Farmer’s Market is really cool, but it is not the only farmer’s market in Michigan. There are farmer’s markets all over the State where you can buy locally grown produce and locally made products. If you do not know where to find one close to you, just go to the Michigan Farmer’s Market Association website. You can search by city, by county, or even by day of the week.

This is the time of the year to enjoy the wonderful variety of fruits and vegetables grown in our state. After all, Michigan ranks second in the U.S. in agricultural diversity. So, what can you expect to find at the farmer’s market? Take a look at the Michigan Availability Guide to find out what is in season.

Discover a farmer’s market near you, and try something new!

Friday, July 15, 2011

It's Summer in Michigan. Get Outside!

It is supposed to be pretty hot this weekend. People who have never lived in Michigan think it sounds strange for it to be hot in Michigan, but the temperature does creep up above 90° on occasion. Of course, I do not want to sound like I am complaining. It may be hot and humid, but that is okay. My garden grows better when the temperature is 90° than it does when it is 20°. This time of year, I can go outside without wearing a coat, hat, mittens, and snow boots.

Sometimes in February, I wonder why I live up here in the frozen north. Growing up, I swore I would never live north of Kentucky. However, after my first summer in Michigan, I was hooked. We may have a few days when it is uncomfortably hot, but the rest of the time, the summer weather is glorious!

Michigan has a lot to offer any time of year, but the summer is especially nice. The scenery is beautiful, and there are plenty of opportunities to get outside and be active. For example, the summer weather is perfect for gardening. Whether you want to grow fruits and vegetables, or flowers and ornamentals, getting outside and digging in the dirt helps exercise your heart, build muscle, and relieve stress! Find out more about gardening in Michigan here:

Four of the five Great Lakes touch Michigan, and there are numerous inland lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams. All of that water provides plenty of space for swimming, canoeing, and kayaking. Swimming is a terrific non-impact aerobic activity for those of us whose knees and ankles will not let us run. (Benefits of Swimming) Canoeing and kayaking (also known as paddling) have health benefits beyond just building upper body strength. (Benefits of Paddling)

If water sports are not your thing, you may want to dust off the bicycle, put air in the tires, put on a helmet, and go for a ride. Some people like to ride on the road. Others, like me, prefer to ride on a trail. Michigan has many trails for bicycles and other non-motorized vehicles. Do you want to find a trail near you? Check out Trail Link.

If you want something a little bit slower paced, you might want to think about hiking. Michigan has plenty of state parks and state forests with hiking trails. I personally enjoy hiking. It is a great way for me to be outside and enjoy the scenery and the wildlife. When you go hiking, be sure to bring a camera to capture the beauty around you. Take a look at this website to find a hiking trail.

What if you do not like to garden, you can’t swim, you don’t own a boat or a bicycle, and there are no hiking trails close by? What then? Well, just get outside and walk! This is the time of year to be outside! Find a safe place near you to walk, and enjoy the weather.

What types of outdoor activities do you like? Do you enjoy one of the ones mentioned above, or do you prefer something else? Let me know. I would love to hear what other people are doing to be active in this beautiful Michigan summer!

Friday, April 15, 2011


Another sure sign of spring is the startup of the WISEWOMAN Entrepreneurial Gardening project. It is still too early to plant a garden in northern Michigan, but it is never too early to plan! Within the next couple of weeks, many of the gardeners will come together in their counties to receive their first nutrition lesson and start planning their gardens.

We at WISEWOMAN are very excited about the project this year. Of course, we are excited about it every year, but this year, Helen DeFlorio from MSU Extension will be playing an even bigger role in the WISEWOMAN Entrepreneurial Gardening Project. Helen led the pilot project in Ogemaw County in 2008 and 2009. Last year, she helped us expand the program into 6 counties by sharing her knowledge, skills, and lessons learned from her experience with the pilot.

This year, Helen will be working as the WISEWOMAN Gardening Coordinator. She will visit each of the participating counties to purchase the supplies the WISEWOMAN gardeners need to get started with their gardens. Helen will coordinate the Nutritionists and Master Gardeners in each county as well as provide support to the participants. It will be great to have someone in the field making sure the women get all of the training and supplies they need to be successful.

Helen has her work cut out for her this year. It looks like we will be adding at least three more counties and we may have as many as 75 WISEWOMAN Gardeners this year! That is a preliminary estimate. I will let you know when we get a final tally.

Another exciting addition for this year is our new WISEWOMAN Gardening Facebook page. I will be providing updates about the project throughout the summer here on the blog, but if you want to get more information between updates, go to Facebook and “like” WISEWOMAN Gardening. While you are on Facebook, be sure to “like” Michigan WISEWOMAN Program if you have not already.

Friday, April 8, 2011


Many people in Michigan enjoy getting outside in the winter to go snowshoeing or cross country skiing. While those activities are great fun, most of us tend to stay inside more in the cold weather. Well, the snow in Lansing is gone, except for the big piles, and it is beginning to look like spring might be more than just a faded memory.

When I look out the window, I see more and more people out and about. Here in downtown Lansing, the sidewalks are getting more crowded as people make their way outside after overwintering in their cubicles. Outside my windows at home, I see people walking their dogs, or just walking themselves as they take in the spring air and sunshine.

Yesterday, my daughter and I pulled out our bicycles and went riding for about an hour and a half. The temperature was still a little cool. It was in the low 50’s, but we had mostly sunny skies for our ride. After about half an hour, we had to take off our jackets! It felt great to be outside moving and breathing in the fresh air.

As the days get longer, the ground is getting warmer. Crocuses and daffodils are beginning to make their presence known. (Can tulips be far behind?) The garlic I planted last fall is poking up through a layer of shredded leaves. I am looking forward to tilling the garden and planting tomatoes, summer squash, and herbs. Since it is still way too early for that, I will probably pull out the cold frame and plant some lettuce this weekend. I just can’t wait to start gardening!

Okay, you are probably thinking, what does all of this have to do with WISEWOMAN? The common thread is getting outside and being active, and being active is an important part of WISEWOMAN. Now that the weather is getting nicer, it is much easier to be active.

As you are talking with your WISEWOMAN participants over the next few weeks, remind them that spring is here! Ask them if they plan to take advantage of temperatures above freezing! They do not have to train for a marathon or the tour de France. Encourage them to get outside even if it is just for a few minutes each day. It is amazing what a little sunshine and fresh air can do to make you feel better about life. When you feel better about life, you tend to make healthier choices, and when you make healthier choices, you feel better about life. It is a vicious pleasant circle.

Enjoy the spring!