Small But Mighty: Birmingham’s DTE Energy Garden Helps Feed the Hungry
Last year, the Birmingham garden produced 1,500 pounds of produce for Gleaners Food Bank.
You would never know it, but one of the smallest community gardens in town is producing enough fresh vegetables to feed dozens of local families.
A 1,500-square-foot plot of land, tucked behind an old DTE energy substation near Woodward and Quarton Road, is DTE Energy’s largest producer in their community garden program, which provides food for the Gleaners Community Bank.
In 2010, the Birmingham garden provided 1,500 pounds of fresh vegetables for Gleaners' emergency food program after harvesting 44,000 pounds of produce in all 10 of the garden locations across metro Detroit.
DTE Energy started the program in 2008 and currently has ten gardens located on buffer land at DTE Energy properties in Allen Park, Farmington Hills, Frenchtown Township, Plymouth Township, Pontiac, Southfield, Lyon Township, Washington Township, Westland and Birmingham.
The energy company provides seeds, plants and materials but relies on volunteers to prepare the land, sow the seeds, weed, water and harvest the crops.
This year, DTE will expand their 10 gardens to encompass a total of four acres. They're hoping at least 1,000 volunteers from local schools, community groups and churches will help out. Most recently, employees from Kohl’s Department Store and Dura Automotive Systems from Rochester Hills have volunteered at the Birmingham garden.
“The program has been incredibly gratifying at a number of different levels,” said Vince Dow, DTE Energy vice president of distribution operations. “We’re not only growing fresh vegetables to feed and improve the nutrition of those who depend on Gleaners, but also providing a place to build community, learn more about horticulture and the food cycle and be in a healthy environment.”
Gleaners distributed more than 36 million pounds of emergency food to soup kitchens, shelters and pantries in southeast Michigan last year.
According to DTE spokesman Marc Zupmore, the energy gardens have been very successful the past two years. They also do not use any herbicides, he said.
“We’re not sure exactly why (they've been so successful), there are a lot of variables, but whether it’s the volunteers weeding or what, but it’s been awesome,” Zupmore said. “We practice an organic philosophy at this location and it’s been…wow! (The Birmingham) garden has produced more than any other garden per square footage.”
Nicole Artinowitz, Birmingham's garden coordinator, got involved through the Michigan State University’s Master Gardener program last summer and is doing a large part of the planting herself.
“I could use a couple dedicated volunteers,” she said.
According to Artinowtiz, the gardening season lasts through the fall. Gardeners are still needed to help spread compost, create beds, plant seedlings, weed, hoe and eventually deliver food. Closed-toe shoes, sunscreen and drinking water is also recommended for volunteers. Groups are welcome.
To join the local effort, call Marc Zupmore at 313-235-3579 or email@example.com or the Birmingham coordinator, Nicole Artinowitz at 248-854-7775.
The garden is located at 36823 Woodward Avenue behind Gasow’s Veterinary Hospital, south of Quarton Road.