Community Grown Gardens

with Danielle West

March 18th, 2021

Host: Ben Fogt

with Danielle West

Ben Fogt 0:00

This is Episode 20 of What's the Deal, Grosse Ile? the podcast that explores the people, places, history, and events that makes Grosse Ile unique. I'm your host, Ben Fogt.

Now this is another episode with a time warning. We talked for about 40 minutes, but it's worth it. If you have kids who are interested in nature and plants or technology, business, and electricity, make sure to listen through to the end. As always, there are a lot of links in the Episode Notes.

Now for me, this episode begins in 2016. We were renting a flat in Hawthorne Glen in step one of our move to Michigan. We were accustomed to a house that was five times larger than that apartment. And we'd had about two acres of forested hillside before. So getting out and about was essential. I'd given up my life as a farmers market vendor in Indiana. But I wanted to get connected with one here. That's when I learned about what was then Gardens of Hope. And over the next few years, I was so fortunate to meet some of the most wonderful people. Unfortunately, Mike Johnson is not with us anymore. But he really made what we're talking about today possible.

Danielle West has been the Energizer Bunny of community green gardens for years now. She has stepped up to be one of the chief organizers of the gardens. And you're going to enjoy our conversation today. It's a real pleasure to talk with you today. Danielle, Community Grown Gardens has been part of our family for years, and we feel like everyone on the island should be involved with the programs that you have. Thanks for being on What's the Deal, Grosse Ile?

Danielle West 1:30

Thanks for having me, Ben. And, likewise, we feel like the bread brothers and your family is part of our family too. Yeah, we're looking forward to sharing those programs. And we agree everybody should be involved in the programs. There's something for everyone.

Ben Fogt 1:46

Yeah, even just in our last episode, there was a mention or I guess two episodes now. Somebody learned about the Farm Market just from from the interview. So hopefully we'll spread that that word really wide? Well, at least as wide as the island is. Yeah. So let's start with just the general stuff. So what community growing gardens, where is it? who's involved?

Danielle West 2:07

Well, Community Grown Gardens is a nonprofit urban farm in Grosse Ile. We are actually located within Westcroft Gardens and Farm over on now West River Road there. We are not part of Westcroft, but we do rent land from them or a chunk of land from them. So we are two separate businesses, which is often hard for people to understand just at the you know, at the introduction of things. But anyways, we're nestled back on on Westcroft's property. And we are four hoop houses and two outdoor gardens. So we'll talk a little bit more about that. So so you understand kind of what the hoop houses are and what we use them for. So we grow food year round at Community Grown Gardens, and we do that to provide food but really to provide educational experiences for for people. And in particular for school groups. In Michigan, we are unable to connect agriculture to the school calendar, the traditional school calendar, just due to the growing season. So these hoop houses allow us to be able to take a student group through the entire life cycle of our growing cycle of a plant, because we can extend our season with hoophouses students could potentially see the process from seed to harvest, which was impossible before we could extend our season in this way. So anyway, so we have three hoop houses that they're very large structures, I would say 30 by 70 is one of them. And the other two are more like 20 to 24 by maybe 100. So they're they're real big structures, and they're filled with garden beds. And we have three of those for growing food year round.

In addition, we have another hoop house that is used as a utility space and a classroom space. So it's set up with a big giant wasp wash station, because when you have a lot of produce going through, you need a way to you know, at least knock the dirt off. We do not process food so to speak. But we do you know, get it run stuff for people. And then that that room also holds all of our tools and other supplies that we need including tables and chairs for for visiting guests and student groups. We have two outdoor gardens too. That just helps us increase production. But it also helps us to be able to give people a demonstration on what gardening would look like without a hoop house. And as an educational facility. We feel that yes, it's great to be able to teach schools and school groups but we want

To the wider community to have access to our educational services in terms of how they can grow food. And the best example for that is, this is the time of year that you would plant it, this is the time of year that you would harvest it. So it's important to line up with what somebody's real time calendar would be like so. So yeah, I do want to point out, though, that these indoor hoop houses are, they're not greenhouses. They differ from greenhouses. And I think that that that's a real confusing thing for people. So greenhouses are traditionally lighted with supplemental, you know, supplemental light, and they're heated with supplemental heat in a hoop house, it only uses passive solar energy. So basically, there's this is kind of fancy plastic that we have over it, that allows all the light to pass through and traps the heat, the heat cannot pass back out. So we get this kind of warmer environment there. But we don't have to use any energy to get it. So that's the term passive solar energy. Now, if there's not sun, we don't get that same kind of, you know, heat. So there are cold days, and our plants have to be strong enough to be able to survive that. So we have that, you know, specialty layer of plastic, but then we also have this other kind of hoop system without within our hoop houses, that allows us to blink at our crops in the very coldest of times in Michigan, so that we can protect them. It's really great.

Ben Fogt 6:31

And in the summer, they get really hot, but there's ventilation too, right?

Danielle West 6:35

Yeah, yeah, thank you for bringing that up. It's really important. So it wouldn't be uncommon on a sunny day in the summer, where it's at 85 outside for our hoop houses to get to 120 Plus, because of that passive solar energy. And you know, plants are like humans in some ways, right? We we like comfortable temperatures. And each plant is a little unique. You know, some of them like cooler temperatures, those cool ranges, like 70 degrees, some of them prefer, you know, 80 or 90, like your tomatoes, but none of them like 120 I guarantee.

So yeah, we have to ventilate. So these hoop houses have, they have louvers built into the top, because you know how they arises, right? So the hottest of the IRS is way up high, so we ventilate there. But then they also have these mechanisms on the sides of the houses, to where you can you can manipulate a crank and roll the sides up. So in the hotter or sunnier days, we open the sides up all the way, open the louvers as well, and then have the doors open to create as much air movement, pull in the cooler air from outside and get that hot air out almost like a convection oven, you know, keeping that air moving through just to stabilize temperatures and regulate temperatures in the house. So yeah, they're really neat. Those those hoophouses. So they are they are and you know, there's so much technology out there. And we're going to get into a little bit this year with a project that we'll talk about later in this podcast. But there's just some really neat things that you can do with technology to kind of stabilize the ventile of the temperatures using ventilation.

Ben Fogt 8:27

So how did the gardens get started?

Danielle West 8:29

Well, this is a great story. The the gardens got started about six years ago, by two long time longtime area residents who were recently retired, Bob and Mike Johnson. And Bob had come up from Florida, and had a background or excuse me, Mike had come up from Florida and had a background in business, but also a heart in kind of serving serving his community. Bob had recently retired from why and that schools as the agriculture teacher, he built all sorts of programs, their Future Farmers of America, he ran that program. They did the flowers throughout why in that with the students, they're just all sorts of great programs. But anyways, he had recently retired from his position there. And so the two of our two of these guys here were scheming up a way to keep themselves busy and help their community at the same time. So what they what they kind of settled on as a vision was to create a project that could feed people in need year round in Michigan, that could connect students to agriculture in Michigan, and that could give the wider community but including West craft garden, a insight into what farming could look like in the future. And at the time, Michigan State University can

kind of been exploring and introducing this concept of this hoop house farming. And so they took some classes, wrote a grant and got that first hoop house put up on West crafts property. And by the way, I'd like to back up for just a second. And this is just a really important pieces is, you know, they, they decided that Westcroft was really a great place to start this project. Because Westcroft I and I know you've done a podcast with them, but but for those who may not have heard this, Westcroft Gardens and Farm is the oldest single family owned farm in Michigan, meaning it's not the oldest farm but it's the oldest farm that stayed within the same family. It's been passed down seven generations. It's run by its eighth generation of management, and actually has its ninth generation born on the property two summers ago. So it just an amazing historical place, you know, in in that farm fed that people have grown to our way back in the day. So what a great place to start a farming project. Right.

Ben Fogt 11:08

And that's Episode Two, for anybody that wants to listen to that.

Danielle West 11:11

Excellent. Yeah. So just rich, rich history. And and we, you know, we wanted to build on that story. So anyway, so they, they put that first hoop house up in the two brothers, you know, they continued on the operating that with just a couple of volunteers, and West craft, through all of its phases, had done all sorts of different kinds of growing and just different, you know, business projects throughout their many years of existence. And it just so happened that they had these kind of empty frames on their property, where at one point, they may have stored plants or something of that nature. So the Johnson brothers decided to see if they could retrofit one of those structures into a hoop house, a makeshift hoop house. And there happened to be a structure right next to the big house that they had already written a grant form put up. And so they they refurbish that existing structure into another growing space. And that too, was successful, they were able to successfully get crops in there. And this is about the time of the story where I came into the picture. So they had started a farmers markets, I happened upon the farmers market, and then happened upon the project, once I was in conversation with them at the market, really fell in love with with the mission of feeding people in need, had personally been trying to grow food in my own backyard for about three years at that point, just some degree of success. But you know, definitely lacking in some ways that well, this is a great way for me to learn how to do that better. And importantly, part of the reason I wanted to learn how to grow food, or I wanted to have my own garden is because I felt this real, just all of a sudden, my life just felt this real strong urge of importance for me to know how to grow food, and to make sure that I could show my children how to do it. So the fact that their project was based on making sure that knowledge was passed down, was just really, you know, right on point with what I felt, you know, was it was important, right about the same time that that that came to me, so was just a great match. So I joined the project then and kind of helped the brothers with some some outreach and some volunteer coordination. And just some, you know, maybe getting a few other groups in the island behind it. We we partnered with Northridge church at that point, and they came out and built our first outdoor garden behind the big house.

Ben Fogt 13:50

I think I remember that.

Danielle West 13:51

Yeah, yeah. That was a great project. Yeah. Yeah. They're a great group to work with, by the way. So that was successful. And and then this is really kind of the turning point. At this point. It had been just a project right? Like this, this great project. And then that summer, I want to say it was the summer of 2018. There was about five of us that were really committed at that point, maybe six of us, Susan and Betsy included in that who, who, for anybody listening or two of our real long time, fantastically dedicated volunteers. But we sat down and said, You know, this is a great project, but it could be more than a project like do we want to do this, do we? And what would it take to do that? And so we we did, we sat down for a couple of different sessions and kind of mapped out what what it would look like to take that next step forward.

We decided to increase our footprint, took that idea to West Croft and after some consideration, had that idea accepted and basically doubled our space, our growing space and included that classroom environment that I had a

explained earlier in that growth or that expansion, and then also decided at that point to formalize the project into a business. So went through that process and also made some decisions that structurally, that really belonged in the nonprofit space. So applied for that 501 c three status, you know, just went through through the whole kind of all the steps necessary to make that happen and have have really been putting the pieces together ever since on on what that looks like to really become a real functioning, nonprofit business serving its community. You know, and that doesn't happen without a lot of support. And we've just been really lucky. I mean, this story doesn't, doesn't happen, it wouldn't have taken place, if we didn't have such a great community to build this story in the chapters of this story within

Ben Fogt 16:01

How has the pandemic affected everything this last this last year?

Danielle West 16:05

Well, there's been so much that has changed within our organization due to the pandemic. I mean, certainly some of the smaller things in terms of, you know, changing some of our processes, you know, when you know, certain mask wearing times, and glove wearing times, and that kind of thing, but we'll talk about the big picture changes. Number one, the demand for food within our pantries, has skyrocketed. So we have always felt a real big sense of pride, I guess, or accomplishment, tied around the food that we donate, which we didn't even talk about that at the beginning, which excuse me that I didn't do that we talked about what community grown Gardens is, for all the people listening out, we grow food year round. And we never talked about what we did with that food. So we have a lot of food access programs, and some of them go to paying customers in the community. But about half of our food is donated to food pantry Meals on Wheels, other food access programs that support food, insecure families, so and that's a big driver for our volunteers. So we've seen that need and pantries go up substantially. And so we have made sure that we have kept enough food available to increase our donations to help address those those leads within within those communities. So so that's one one major change due to the pandemic is that the demand for, you know, food donations has gone up. Another thing we have really, that's really changed for us is that school groups aren't coming on to our property, right, schools are either not opened, and if they are open, it's kind of for the basics right now. Right? And they are not they're not going off site. So are they definitely, you know, put a little last step in our plans of our educational outreach. And but it's okay, pauses are okay. And it gave us some time to reflect on what programs I think ultimately will serve students the best, it gave us some time to really focus on our food programs. And, and we know that that there's a light at the end of the tunnel, and those kids will come back. But I will say this, we really miss them. Really, we had one group that that came every week with a lot of teaching helpers. And so we miss that energy that they brought to the farm. They only came and worked for about an hour. But you know, we spent probably about an hour preparing for them. You know, so that was every Tuesday afternoon. That was what we did, right? We got ready for the kids and or the students Excuse me. And and then, you know, we we enjoyed that afternoon with them and they loved being there. So again, kind of like that was a piece that drives our volunteers with the food donations. That's another piece that drives our volunteers is is you know, helping got youth and students. So we missed that piece. And we can't wait to get that piece back.

Ben Fogt 19:17

But you adapted with a family program last summer, right?

Danielle West 19:20

Yeah, we did. We did make some adaptations. Absolutely. And it's not I shouldn't say that education has stopped entirely as certainly we are still educating Master Gardeners who who come on site and other volunteers who want training that never stopped. We never shut down fully because we are an organization both that provides and grows food. So you know anything agriculture didn't shut down, but also any organization that provided relief was never shut down. So we always functioned you know, as long as we had our volunteers felt safe about coming, they were they were always allowed to come but any

Ways Yes, we did go ahead when we felt like we could safely bring groups in over the summer, we did open up to a couple of field trips from Building Blocks. And now we just changed some of the formatting for what we would have done in the past, we just split kids up into groups that they traveled in, kind of like centers or stations, that idea that that schools use so that, you know, kids were essentially traveling with, you know, four or five other kids instead of 15, or 20 other kids. So we did a couple of those educational experiences. And then we also opened ourselves up to some family days, and that was in the early fall. And families could sign up to rotate through basically those same kind of center approach, learning activities, and both of those programs were really successful, they went off really well. So I mean, it just gave us some more insight into what kinds of things we can we can do for the community. So I should say one more thing, another way that the pandemic affected our programs, which is something that will always keep now is we had always done an in person Farmers Market until last year, you know, we we didn't feel like it was a wise decision to do an in person market. You know, we're we're functioning on somewhat limited resources. So to plan something and coordinate something as big as a farmers market is is tough in a normal year. But to do it during a pandemic was just something we didn't feel like we could take on and to keep up with all the kinds of regulations and things like that that might be necessary. We just weren't, weren't sure we were the right people to do that at the time. So we developed a online market and it turns out our the entire time our website had the capability to have

stuff for sale online. So So now we'll never, we'll never go go without that that online component to a market. Even when we do go back to an in person market. We'll keep that feature as well.

Ben Fogt 22:04

Well, and even 2019, I believe is when you started the CSA program. Right? Yeah, yes. Mm hmm. Do you want to talk about this? Is that happening in 2021?

Danielle West 22:13

Yeah. Oh, yeah, we will have a CSA, I'd love to talk about the CSA. That's actually my favorite food program. Um, so a CSA is actually a term that stands for Community Supported Agriculture. And the idea behind it is, basically your community can and should support your local farmers. And knowing that farmers, you know, are in their, you know, hardest months throughout the winter, what happens is, is people sign up for or, you know, pledge support and put their money towards the CSA program in those hardest months. So, you know, maybe January February, a CSA sale opens, people purchase that membership, the farmer then has money to buy the supplies, they need to get their, you know, growing season started their seeds, their soil, what, you know, amendments, all those things. And then in turn for the purchase of that membership, all the CSA members get a share of the farm produce for the growing season. It's an interesting program, because, you know, if a farmer has some kind of a disaster, right, like something happens, you're going to have a little bit less of your share in your share that year. And if the farmer happens to have just a season with just,

you know, great success, you're going to see extra in your share that season. So that's, you know, kind of an interesting spin on things. But the bottom line is you're always supporting supporting local agriculture and, you know, local growing, and that's, that's just something we feel is important. Another reason I really like the CSA is it really forces people to kind of explore with new foods, right. So if you're just shopping at a farm market, you're going to select the things that you kind of already are comfortable with,

that you know, you like, if you are a member of a CSA, you get what you get, right, you're going to get those tomatoes, but you're also going to get that ground cherry or that husk cherry in there that you've never tried before. And so of course, being an educational, entity focused entity. We never put things in there without a little bit of instruction and lesson on them. And so with our farm share program, we include a weekly email describing what's in your share, along with some recipes that may help you understand how to use those foods. So we learned our lesson a few times when people would do things like get a husk cherry and not know to take the husk off it before they ate it. So

You have to be willing to help teach people to when you're giving them new foods. So anyways, that is one of our one of my anyways. And I think overall as an organization, one of our most favorite programs for getting food out to people.

Ben Fogt 25:15

So also, we talked about, you know, people go into the market and not picking those things. But will there be a Saturday market again this year is that in the plans, there is not a Saturday market.

Danielle West 25:25

Sadly, from our coordinating standpoint, we just don't have the capacity to do that this year, we've had, you know, the pandemic is caused a lot of kind of shifts and changes in people's lives in general. And we just didn't feel like we had the volunteer capacity to coordinate everything that it might take to coordinate a market this year. So there may be a market still happening, that we could be part of just not the coordinating entity for at this time. Okay. But I do want to say that it is something that we really value that in person interaction in that market, and I still believe that our community is a great place to have that. And that if we can kind of get over this, once once we kind of get over this hump, we will be We will be happy to bring that back.

Ben Fogt 26:20

All right. So you talked about that there. There are some commercial sources that that buy the produce, were some places where we can get food that's prepared with the produce from Community Grown Gardens?

Danielle West 26:32

Yes. So right now we sell to we have sold to three different restaurants in the past. Right now, the only one we are selling to is The Promenade in downtown Trenton. And that has just been one of the most enjoyable partnerships in relationships that we have experienced.

Ben Fogt 26:53

And they've expanded into the Fisher building.

Danielle West 26:56

Yes. Isn't that exciting? Yeah, so we we haven't had any produce. And so we haven't connected with them in a couple of months. But we should have stuff coming in very soon here. But yeah, they if you go in and eat those tomato sandwiches they have in the summer, those are our tomatoes, if you have their salads, you know, that's our kale mixed in, you know, and just all sorts of other things, you know, eggplant, they have something with eggplant, there's a, there's a pretty fair chance that it came from our firm zucchinis, things like that. So and in the past, we had tried out some explored some partnerships with the Yacht Club, the Grosse Ile Yacht Club. And, and then, when The Promenade had opened up there, they had another cafe that they opened that is now closed, but in wind that we were supplying them as well. So we may or may not take on another restaurant, we'll see we are really going to see what we can do to increase production. So we're trying a few new growing strategies this year, that would potentially increase our production to the point where we could, you know, expand to sell to more restaurants. So so we'll see, we'll see how that goes.

Ben Fogt 28:15

Great. And of course, if anybody wants to learn how to do those techniques, they can come and volunteer.

Danielle West 28:20

That's right, we are always recruiting volunteers, the best way to volunteer. So the best way to volunteer if you're interested in any information at all, the place to start is our website, And once you get to that landing page, there's some navigation. That's that's pretty clear at the top. If you want to see what programs we offer, there is you know, a tab for programs. If you want to volunteer, there's a tab for volunteer. So if you if you found yourself interested in volunteering, you could go to community grown, head over to our volunteer page, and right on that page, as posted our volunteer schedule for the 2021 year. So you can see on Tuesdays, we're working on general gardening and education. So if you are interested in learning gardening techniques, you would perhaps sign up for Tuesdays. On Wednesdays is the day where we prepare food for the food pantry. So if what you're interested in is helping to serve people in need, then you would maybe sign up for Wednesdays and on and on. So that volunteer schedule exists and is posted on that page. And then below that volunteers schedule is a contact form. So you would just put in your information, your name, what volunteering you want to do and submit that and that comes across to us and we can reach out. The first thing that would happen is we would schedule a tour so that you could get acclimated to the project and get an orientation on you know, kind of here's where we keep the tools and this is how you know how we asked you to clean the tools when you're done and you know

This is these are all the people who are here on this day and that whole kind of training kind of plan, and then basically just start coming and we put you to work. And it's, it's, it's nice, because, I mean, really we do ask that if you sign up for Tuesdays, you come on Tuesdays, and or just let somebody know, but there's always enough of us that, you know, it's you just tell somebody, I can't be there on Tuesday, and it's not a problem. So we have some people who work every program, you know, and then we have other people who are strictly Wednesday, people. So there's all sorts of different opportunities for volunteering. And I should say, while we're talking about volunteering, you know, you don't have to be a gardener to volunteer. I mean, we are completely other than one staff person, who's part time, we are completely volunteer run organization. So you know, hey, if you've got some marketing skills, and this sounds like something you want to help grow, reach out, you know, even if you can sit with us once a year and help us make a little bit of a better brochure, you know, that helps us and you know, really, ultimately, what we're trying to do is is too big for what we have right now to do it. So we're always looking to recruit people and really build this project out to what it could be.

Ben Fogt 31:19

Something we need to talk about are the grant that you guys are gonna be working on this summer, and and also the stem shadow program.

Danielle West 31:27

Yeah, yeah. So really exciting thing that happened this year. And I have to say, I just I was just floored that that were to the point that a foundation recognized our work enough to grant us this opportunity. But this year, we were granted a $25,000 grant from the HDR Foundation. And HDR is a worldwide engineering company. It's an employee owned company, and the employees of HDR can contribute to the foundation and then what happens is, is people working in HDR serve out on projects in their community. And then if they want to, they can kind of recommend a organization that they serve in to be granted now the organization has to do all the work as far as writing the grant and executing the grant. But anyways, that that happened with us this year, an HDR employee, Grosse Ile resident Lara Zawaideh took us under her wing, I guess, so to speak as as the project that she wanted to bring to the foundation. And we wrote a grant to power the farm, which is so exciting, you know, we have been operating this whole project with no electricity, other than we occasionally drag a series of extension cords across the farm so that we could maybe run a cultivator, an electric cultivator and or a fan to cool our employee or volunteer staff

Ben Fogt 32:56

that is that is a long distance to run an electric cord.

Danielle West 33:00

No, it's a real pain to do it the way we've been doing it all this time. So But anyways, uh, you know, I mean, with with everything we've been doing to really build this into an educational facility that's used more frequently, you know, you can imagine electricity is is not really like something that you can go without any more. So anyways, the plan in the project is for bringing traditional power to two of our houses. I asked him when growing house just because that growing house is so close. in proximity, it's silly not. And we had an we had to bring regular power because of our plans, or things that just couldn't be powered with solar power, right, like, we need to get a cooler, we need to walk in cooler. And there is really no way that some solar panel panels are going to do the job to power, you know, a big walk in coolers, so we had to bring that traditional power in. But then the other another piece of the grant is to put a solar panel at at the base of each of the growing houses. That solar panel then is wired in to, I don't know if it's wired, but it's connected into a storage, maybe maybe it's a battery, so that it can store that collected energy. And then that battery is hooked up to a motor. And that motor is hooked up to our sides of our hoophouses. So now what happens is we have a regulator a temperature, you know, regulator or sensor, I guess it's a sensor inside of our hoophouses. And we've got that set to a certain temperature. So if we have plants in there that thrive at 70, we have our sensor set to 70. And once our house reaches above 70, it signals down to you know, in whatever way that information travels it signals down so that that motor kick

Sonne, and it rolls up the sides of the house so that the houses ventilate, in can regulate and stay at that kind of optimum temperature. So that should create healthier plants, but then also alleviate some of the work for the volunteer team, right? Because this hoop house growing is pretty labor intensive. So like I mentioned, the sun comes in, and it can warm those houses up just so quick. So you've got to have somebody ready to run out. As soon as that some sun comes out, if it's going to stay out, right, like, you might think it's going to be cloudy all day long. And so you leave all the houses closed up, well, you know, those clouds break, and the sun's going to be out for a couple of hours. If you don't get up there and ventilate, you're going to bake your plants. So, you know, this kind of alleviates the need for us to be running back and forth, or at least some of the need for it. And so creates healthier plants, but, but really optimizes some of our volunteer time as well. So that's another piece. So we have the traditional power, we have the solar power, which you know, those things are fantastic, because not only does that help our farm function, but what that does, folks, is that gives us a teaching opportunity, right? Like I mentioned, so many times, we're an educational farm. So now we're bringing those student groups in. And not only can we show them sustainable agriculture, now we can talk to them about energy, you know, we can talk to them about why we have traditional power in some places, and why we have solar power in some places, we can talk to them about why we have active solar power, and why we have passive solar power, you know, we can really point out the differences within a project and uses for all of those different types of energy. So what a really cool and unique learning tool we have now because of this grant. And I think that's the real power behind this grant. Right? It's not that they just powered our farm, it's that they just gave us a learning tool that really, I don't know where else exists. So then on top of that, so we went all crazy with this, just so everybody knows, because it's just so cool. So then we also wrote into the grant that we would like these solar building kits. So the students who come and they they learn the Sustainable Agriculture exists, right, we can do better growing for our environment, right? We can we can grow food, we can feed the people in our environment, we can meet the energy demands in our environment, we can do so in a way that doesn't harm our environment. So we've done all of those great lessons with these kids visiting the farm. And then we sit down and we have this solar bug that we can build with them. So HDR Foundation funded the purchase of 500 solar bug kits. So each student who visits can sit down and you know, build this solar powered bug, it comes pre wired, because that was you know, wiring was a little more intense than we wanted to get into. But anyways, there there is some construction that's necessary. And then the bug moves after it's built based on the capturing of solar energy.

Ben Fogt 38:06

So the no stingers, right?

Danielle West 38:07

Yeah, no stingers.

And, and then lastly, the other piece of this grant is that we are we are executing this grant with a group called the STEM Shadow group. The intention of of this student group or our intention with the student group is to take a group of learners, we envision that group to be somewhere between middle school and you know, maybe just recently graduated high school, but take them through the entire basically project process with us and have them work alongside our volunteers and HDR engineers, as we work through the project to power the farm. Those people who are part of that group will be doing things like managing the budget. Now, you know, they're not going to have access to the bank account, necessarily, but they're going to keep track of that, you know, they're going to be keeping track of the task list, they're going to be maybe setting up the Google Drive, they're going to be on site when the the, you know, the construction people are on site, just to really familiarize that group with what it really takes in a real world to manage and execute a project. So some real world experience for some students, and we are still accepting applications for that program. Again, I drive you to the website, community grown And under our programs tab, because this is an educational program, you will see an introductory video to the whole grant project, as well as the application process for that, which is folks super easy. a two minute video of of yourself answering the questions.

Ben Fogt 39:51

So all right, and I'll make sure to include a link specifically to that too. So

Danielle West 39:56

Oh, thanks, Ben. Yeah,

Ben Fogt 39:57

is there a cutoff date for that?

Danielle West 39:59

You know,

I shouldn't go on updated on the website, because we had originally put it as this week. But the problem is, is we didn't get the word out. Just, you know, like so many projects, you got to give a little bit behind as you figure out how to get it started. So I would say at this time, it's ongoing applications are open, ongoing. So the garden as soon as possible, but as soon as possible so that you can be part of the whole project. Thank you.

Ben Fogt 40:26

Of course, you know that I always end with the big question. So what wish would you grant Grosse Ile if you could?

Danielle West 40:35

So I guess, long term, and in relation to our project, and just me as an island resident, part of why I love living here, kind of the capture of all of that is that as we continue to move ourselves into a more technological world, that we do not lose sight of, you know, the natural world that's out there, and that we continue to get out there within our families. But then, you know, really going to have to prioritize, making sure our children going forward, have some of that knowledge. So that would be up. Let's just not lose sight of the natural world.

Ben Fogt 41:15

And you're doing a great job to that effect.

Danielle West 41:17

Oh, thanks, man.

Ben Fogt 41:18

I want to thank you for your time today. You know, our whole family appreciates you and all the work that all the volunteers have done, and we really admire your energy. And we're thankful very much for everyone that's making things happen in the gardens. Thank you.

Danielle West 41:31

So yeah, thanks for having me on today and just to the wider community of Brazil. Thanks for all the support that you've shown the gardens you've made us what we are. So thanks for having me.

Ben Fogt 41:43

Thanks again, Danielle. My goal is to shoot some video out of the hoop houses to release a video version of this episode on YouTube. If that happens, I'll share it on the Facebook and Instagram pages, as well as on the new Facebook group. Those are great ways to ask questions or comments about any of the episodes. The group has some additional content as well. Well, that's it for today. I tried to make it as short as I could.

What’s the Deal Grosse Ile? is recorded and produced by me, Ben Fogt. You can keep in touch with me through the What’s the Deal GI Facebook page. Or email me at WhatsTheDealGI You can share episodes from Facebook or hear them from the web site, And of course, it never hurts to subscribe so you can get the latest episodes through your favorite Podcast Delivery tool, like Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Pocket Casts, and so many others. Our intro and credit music is Moctails in the Rain by Antti Luode which is used through a Creative Commons license. Find more of his music on as Anttis Instrumentals.

Unknown Speaker 42:50

Thanks for listening to What's the Deal, Grosse Ile?