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Growing Together Initiative

  • April 02, 2019
  • 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
  • Boardman River Nature Center


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A combined presentation by a Michigan State University Extension Educator whose work focuses on bridging the gaps between healthy living, fresh food and gardening and three leaders of area food donation gardens will speak at the April 2 meeting of the Master Gardener Association of Northwest Michigan.  The meeting will be held at the Boardman River Nature Center, 1450 Cass Road. Refreshments will be served at 6 and the program will start at 6:30 p.m.

Starting off the evening is Sarah Rautio, an MSU Extension Educator.  Sarah will describe the new MSU Extension “Growing Together in Michigan” program, a food donation program that will address food insecurity issues in Michigan.  She will share some of the 2018 preliminary data results and describe how MSU Extension Master Gardeners can help. Her talk will be followed by Nancy Popa, Leelanau Christian Neighbors; Kate Thornhill, Leo Creek Preserve and Chris Skellenger of Buckets of Rain and the Leelanau Poor Farm.

Rautio is a MSU Extension Educator in both the MSUE Health & Nutrition Institute and the MSUE Agriculture and Agribusiness Institute. She works in SNAP-Ed statewide programming and also as a MSUE Consumer Horticulture Educator, supporting master gardeners in Northeast Lower Michigan and the Smart Gardening program.  She co-leads the “Growing Together in Michigan” with Mary Wilson.  Rautio has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Biology from Oakland University and a doctorate in Fisheries/Wildlife from MSU. 

Featured local speakers and projects: 

Nancy Popa.  Popa is an Extension Master Gardener, a member of the By-the Bay Garden club in Suttons Bay and the Leelanau Christian Neighbors Garden Project Manager.  She retired from Consumers Energy in 2016 and has worked in various fields including nuclear energy, renewable energy and environmental management.

Kate Thornhill.  Thornhill founded the Leo Creek Preserve in September 2015.  It focuses on educational programs featuring soil biology, regenerative agriculture, soil carbon capture, and creek ecology.   On the site Thornhill has developed beautiful and unique food and flower gardens.  

Chris Skellenger. Skellenger is founder of Buckets of Rain, which supports the rebuilding of Detroit by transforming blighted areas into agricultural oases.  More recently he has operated a food donation garden at the Poor Farm Barn in Leelanau county, a project of the Leelanau Historic Preservation Society.  Buckets of Rain’s focus is “growing hope, feeding lives one garden at a time.  Skellenger is primarily involved in the hands-on work of setting up food security programs in Africa, Central America, and Detroit/Highland Park.   He has a degree in horticulture from Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan and has been growing things for 45 years.

Growing Together is a multi-state project of SNAP-Ed to increase access of fruits and vegetables in food pantries.   SNAP-Ed, along with master gardeners and food pantries, are working together to build and maintain food donation gardens in their communities.  In 2018 it generated over 100,000 pounds of food for food pantries across four Midwest states. 

Master Gardener Association of Northwest Michigan is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, 

as a chapter of the Michigan Master Gardener Association.  8527 E Governmental Center Drive, Suite 107, Suttons Bay. Michigan , 49682

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