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Community Gardens Dot the Metro Grand Rapids Landscape

As winter fades away and the days grow longer, many in West Michigan begin to think about gardening. And those without a space to garden in their own yard, look to community gardens.
Enjoying summers past at Perkins Community Garden

Enjoying summers past at Perkins Community Garden /Perkins Community Garden

A past summer at Perkins Community Garden

A past summer at Perkins Community Garden /Perkins Community Garden

Located in neighborhoods throughout metro Grand Rapids, community gardens provide a space for neighbors, friends, and community members to share a piece of land and grow their own produce, typically in individual garden plots.  Some of these gardens are new initiatives, informally organized but a group of cooperative neighbors.  Other gardens have been around for decades and follow a more formal arrangement.

Each community garden is unique and represents the neighborhoods where they’re found and the individuals who garden together.  Here’s a look at some of the community gardens in our area:


Kentwood Community Garden

Location: 355 48th St. SE, Kentwood

Plots available for 2014: 14 as of this publication

A program of the Kentwood Parks and Recreation Department, this community garden is located just east of the Kentwood Activities Center.  It features a total of 35 plots (14 are still available) that are approximately 24’ x 12’.  The garden is open April 28 to October 24.  

The Parks and Recreation Department says, “A community garden improves people’s quality of life in a city by stimulating social interaction, encouraging self-reliance, beautifying neighborhoods, producing nutritious food, reducing family food budgets, conserving resources and creating opportunities for recreation, exercise, therapy and education.”

The cost of a plot is $39 for residents and $54 for non-residents.  A $10 discount is available for each additional plot.  There is also a $25 refundable cleaning and key deposit required.

Water is available.  Gardeners are asked not to use weed killers.

To learn more, call the Kentwood Parks and Recreation Department at 616-656-5270 or see page 30 of their spring and summer brochure.


Hillcrest Community Garden

Location: 1412 Lyon St. NE, Grand Rapids

Plots available for 2014: None.  To join the waiting list, email Norma Jansma.

Owned by the Fulton Heights Neighborhood Association, the Hillcrest Community Garden has a long history in the neighborhood.  Nancy Jansma, one of the garden organizers, said some members have been gardening in the space for more than 30 years.  Prior to that, it served as a community education garden for the school across the street.

This popular garden does not have plots available for 2014, however, there is a waiting list for those who are interested in plots that may become available, although priority goes to residents of Fulton Heights.  

Full plots are 50’ x 25’ and cost $52.  There is a $26 discounted rate for seniors older than 65.  To include more people in the garden, they now offer smaller plots, as well: half plots for $26 and quarter plots for $13.

Hillcrest is an organic garden and they rely on volunteer help from each gardener for spring and fall cleanup, and other tasks throughout the year.

To learn more, visit their website.


Perkins Community Garden

Location: 1625 Perkins NE, Grand Rapids

Plots available for 2014: None.  To join the waiting list, email Paul Haan.

Located in northwest Grand Rapids, this one acre property is owned by the City of Grand Rapids. The city has allowed neighbors and community members to garden the property since 2006 when the garden was established with the help of the Greater Grand Rapids Food Systems Council.  

Like many other community gardens, the Perkins garden is full for 2014, but they have a waiting list that interested gardeners can be added to for 2015.

Paul Haan, one of the Perkins gardeners who also helps to organize it, said the Perkins garden has nearly 40 plots that are 40’ x 25’.  The annual cost to rent a plot is $50.  There is a $30 reduced rate for seniors and people of low income.  The garden is fenced, fully plumbed for water, and tilled prior to the spring planting.  Perkins does not require their gardeners to use organic methods.

The garden is a collaborative effort throughout the season.  “Everyone pitches in on the community infrastructure like parking and fencing, but you have your own plot to garden,” said Haan.

To learn more, visit their website.


The Treehouse Community Garden

Location: 1045 Logan St. SE, Grand Rapids

Plots available for 2014: none.  Volunteers still needed.

Matt Fowler, his wife, and some friends began The Treehouse Community Garden in the Baxter Neighborhood in 2012.  They were inspired to create the garden after becoming acquainted with some of their neighbors and realizing that many of the children in the area didn’t have access to fresh produce because Baxter Neighborhood is a “food desert.”  

In 2012 and 2013, they used a typical community garden format where neighbors gardened their own individual plots.  However, for 2014, the organizers have decided to shift to a community supported agriculture inspired program.  There will be no individual plots.  Rather, the neighbors who contribute their time working in the garden will get a share of the food produced.

In all, 15 families will be participating in the garden program this year, and organizers are not accepting any more at this time.  However, they still welcome people who are interested in simply lending a hand and volunteering in the garden on Saturdays.

The garden is part of a larger project undertaken by Matt and his wife to build a safe, educational, and friendly gathering space for those in the Baxter Neighborhood.

To learn more, visit their website or email Matt.

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