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Growing and Learning Together: Neighborhood Garden Proposal

During the growing season, Michiganders flock to farms and orchards on the weekends to enjoy our state’s famous apples, cherries, and blueberries.  We do so because there is nothing more delicious than fresh-picked fruit, no better way to teach our young ones about healthy food and our agricultural heritage than visiting the source, and nothing more gratifying than bringing home produce that you worked to pick.  For people fortunate enough to have backyard gardens, they get to enjoy, learn, and feel a sense of gratification daily. For the rest of us who do not have the space, know-how, or resources, community and neighborhood gardens can help!

Neighborhood gardens are known as drivers of health, opportunities for beautification of public spaces, and centers for social interaction.  In addition, neighborhood gardens also produce benefits from a municipal perspective.  Cities across the country have found that neighborhood gardens can increase property values for surrounding homes, lead to civic engagement and volunteerism, and serve as an effective education tool for students.  Recognizing these findings alongside and the existence of a strong network of neighborhood gardens across Livingston County, the City entertained a proposal from nearby FlexTech High School to create a neighborhood garden in Brighton’s Kissane Park. 

FlexTech High School is not new to community collaboration.  Previously, they partnered with Brighton community members to construct the Little Free Library at the Imagination Station.  The school sees a neighborhood garden as another opportunity to contribute to and learn with our community members.  FlexTech has a robust greenhouse and organic garden on campus and a third of their students live in Brighton, making them a natural partner for a neighborhood garden project.  The City has been extremely fortunate and excited to pursue collaboration with programs like the Brighton Area Schools Explorers Camp, which yielded a variety of ideas and momentum to improve the downtown.  The City values the contributions young people can make throughout the community, and would like to see them involved in Brighton’s neighborhoods.

The proposed garden would bring FlexTech high school students together with residents to build raised beds in a corner of Kissane Park.  The students would work with residents to design, construct, plant, water, and harvest.  FlexTech hopes to build a volunteer network, including existing civic organizations, which would assist in the long-term care and maintenance of the garden.  Furthermore, the students would be able to provide fresh produce to the neighborhood, host educational events in partnership with their culinary arts classes, engage with civic leaders, and join the City in other projects.

Representatives from FlexTech and the City met with a number of residents on August 10th in Kissane Park to present the general idea of the neighborhood garden.  We had a dynamic conversation and generated areas of further study, such as ensuring that the size of the garden does not interfere with the current use of the park, the aesthetics of the raised beds, cleanliness, and traffic down Kissane Avenue, among others.  Residents were also invited to the September 1st City Council Study Session, where this idea was presented and discussed.  Supportive of the concept, the Council directed City staff to coordinate with FlexTech to address the questions raised, conduct further community outreach, and look into alternate sites for the garden.  While there is further study to take place, City Council is excited about further involvement of students in civic life in Brighton.

The City will work with FlexTech to refine the proposal for future City Council consideration.   See the linked presentation for more information!

FlexTech Neighborhood Garden Presentation