The University of Michigan Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum

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Building an arbor at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens.

Cultivating Community started in 2004 when a group of University of Michigan students, faculty, and staff and several community members came together to create a student-based program for promoting food-system awareness. The discussion was initially spurred by a visit to Matthaei Botanical Gardens by Will Allen of Growing Power in Milwaukee, orchestrated by Ruth Knoll. Follow-up discussions with Sara Warber and Kate Irvine at the UM Integrative Medicine Program and MBGNA Director Bob Grese continued the conversation about creating a group focused on food-system awareness.

Students from several UM classes studied the logistics of integrated vermicomposting and food production as a demonstration of a closed loop recycling project on campus during 2004-2005, and the first Cultivating Community garden was built in the summer of 2005.

Cultivating Community obtained its first batch of red worms from Growing Power, and from there conversations began between Michigan Union chefs, Residential College faculty, the Ginsberg Center, Cultivating Community members, and others about how to best promote this unique program. Guidance from the Ypsilanti-based non-profit group Growing Hope helped advance our goals and community garden plans.

Since its inception in 2004, Cultivating Community has revised its mission to focus less on large-scale food production and vermicomposting for the University and more on educating UM students about organic gardening and community food systems. The decision to focus more on education stemmed from the limited feasibility of adopting a University wide closed-loop food system managed by students. Cultivating Community now manages two demonstration gardens where UM students can participate in hands-on learning about organic gardening. Additionally, Cultivating Community provides an opportunity for students to get involved with local food-related projects, businesses and organizations.

Cultivating Community is a student program that is a part of the University of Michigan Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum. Other connections with the University of Michigan span from Waste Management & Recycling Services and Grounds Services to the University Dining Services. Cultivating Community also has connections with the Ann Arbor community through Project Grow and Food Gatherers.

The original inception of this program would not have been possible without the creative mind of Ruth Knoll and the generous funding from the Andrah Foundation.

In addition, thanks to our 2008 in-kind donors:

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