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Baxter Greenhouse Initiative: Growing more than greens

Baxter Community Center is opening its first ever greenhouse for the growing season. Through the Greenhouse Initiative, they're raising awareness about urban agriculture and educating the community about gardening and nutrition.
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Upcoming Events and Classes at Baxter


April 28 (10 - 1 PM)
Healthy Hubs / Healthy Kids Day Neighborhood Party

May 10 (4:30 - 6 PM)
Gardening Basics Part I

May 11 (4 - 5:30 PM)
Gardening Basics Part II

June 9 (12 - 1:30 PM)
Summer Strawberry Social Neighborhood Party


/Danielle Veldman

In the Garden: Local class visits the Greenhouse

In the Garden: Local class visits the Greenhouse

Around the Table: Canning Class at Baxter

Around the Table: Canning Class at Baxter

In 2009, the Baxter neighborhood was declared a “food desert” by the Health Department for having no nearby sources of fresh food or produce. In response, the Baxter Community Center began the Greenhouse Initiative as part of its 40th Anniversary Initiative. This spring, Baxter Community Center is preparing to open its first ever greenhouse for growing fresh produce. The Greenhouse Initiative aims to grow more than food. It is working to empower and educate all ages about sustainable urban agriculture and nutrition.

“The general idea behind everything we do at Baxter is to meet the basic needs of our community, but we also walk along side people on a path to sustainability,” says Danielle Veldman, whose passion for the project led her to become the Greenhouse Program Coordinator, in addition to her work as the Grant and Communications Coordinator for Baxter.

The initiative looked to Growing Power (based in Milwaukee) and Earthworks (Detroit), two highly recognized organizations for food security agriculture projects and youth programming in the United States. Taking inspiration from their practices, the Greenhouse Initiative has created two main branches of programming: In the Garden and Around the Table.

In the Garden is the urban agriculture side, which includes free seedling distribution, youth programming in the greenhouse and in the garden, and adult monthly gardening workshops. Around the Table is the cooking and nutrition aspect, which includes food preservation, canning and freezing classes, adult cooking workshops and children’s cooking classes. “As we were planning this, we knew we wanted to work through both the nutritional aspect and the urban agriculture aspect - they have to go hand in hand; and we knew we wanted to reach out to kids and adults,” Veldman says.

While Baxter was in the process of planning The Greenhouse Initiative, the YMCA selected it as a designated hub for their Healthy Living Hubs project. By becoming a Healthy Living Hub, Baxter has been able to put on a variety of children’s workshops, staffed by YMCA educators. “Something they do best is kids programming,” says Veldman, who worked closely with staff from YMCA to plan some of the curriculum. As the only official programming staff person at Baxter, she notes, “It’s been really fortunate… the YMCA has been a really good partner in listening to our input and what we think would work in our community.  So it’s been a great experience working with them.” The Baxter community Center is just beginning year two of the three year partnership with the YMCA. The YMCA has a fund development team working to extend the Healthy Living Hubs project while the programs continue to develop.

The Greenhouse Initiative also reaches out to children by partnering with local schools to bring classes in to learn about the greenhouse and volunteer. This summer, Baxter hopes to build more volunteering partnerships with schools. After hearing about a student whose mother said he couldn’t wait to come back to volunteer, Veldman said “It’s great he's so excited…these are the kind of kids we’re looking for!”

Beyond kids programming, the Greenhouse Initiative is also offering many educational opportunities for adults. These include cooking classes, gardening workshops, and seedling distribution, all of which are free. These are made possible by volunteers from the community such as master gardeners, knowledgeable neighbors and partners from local organizations like Our Kitchen Table and Heartside Gardeners.

Baxter Community Center will also provide seedling distribution as part of its initiative. It plans to distribute organically practiced (not certified) seedlings to anyone who has a home or community garden. “We’re also working to provide seedlings for several local community gardens to attract neighbors to go to those plots, especially if they don’t have very viable land access,” notes Veldman.

The greenhouse was completed in November 2011 and is expected to operate its first spring growing season this year. A variety of vegetables planted in December have grown throughout the winter already. Veldman credits the success of the greenhouse to its Agricultural Committee, which helps to plan many of the greenhouse’s programs. The committee is comprised of community members with experience in community outreach, education, greenhouses and farming. “They are not only a knowledgeable group, but they’re also really active and excited to get things started after every meeting.”

The initiative will have its Official Greenhouse Launch on Saturday, April 28 in conjunction with YMCA’s Healthy Kids-Healthy Family Day. This will include kids activities, healthy food samples and cooking demos, and a chance to visit the greenhouse firsthand.

Upcoming classes, workshops, and seedling distributions can be found online. (This will load a PDF file of the classes from Baxter's website.)

Visit Baxter Community Center for updates on the Greenhouse Initiative, upcoming community events and opportunities to volunteer.

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