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