The Women of Keep Growing Detroit

In the middle of downtown Detroit, just a a few blocks from the city’s lively Eastern Market, sits The Keep Growing Detroit Farm. It’s a hotspot of workshops for growers of all ages and the birthplace of the popular Motown Music garlic seed.

Keep Growing Detroit is a nonprofit devoted to the city’s food sovereignty, helping the community cultivate their own healthy produce in a sustainable way. Their Garden Resource Program, now over 15 years old, has woven a connection across thousands of local gardens, providing resources and tools to the area.

Nikolette Barnes (pictured above), a Detroit native, has been growing food since 2008. For many years, she worked alongside her dad, the farm manager of D-Town Farm. Using the skills her father taught her, she took a summer job supervising kids who were learning how to grow their own food. Nikolette bonded with them deeply and discovered her passion to teach young people about food sovereignty. Her mission is to expose her hometown to the Food Justice Movement. Through that, she hopes to see a shift in how consumers utilize their spending power, making better food choices overall.

“My title is Early Childhood Garden Development and Family Engagement Specialist. I am responsible for all facets–garden and farm to table education–in the early childhood centers. I do everything from training teachers and parents on basic gardening skills to installing garden beds at schools…Our programs provide gardeners with seeds, plants, education, and technical resources to grow and sell sustainable produce in the cities of Detroit, Hamtramck, and Highland Park.

Urban Agriculture institutions like Keep Growing Detroit are vital for communities because of the need for access to tangible resources for growing food. It’s also important that Detroiters living in low-income communities are provided with accessible and affordable options for healthy food. KGD helps to foster an environment for thousands of growers to help fill that need.

The best part of my work is being surrounded by the next generation of food revolutionaries! I absolutely am blessed to be able to teach the babies how to grow, cook, and love the food that they grew for themselves. I also love completely transforming the mindset of someone who didn’t think they could grow food or enjoy fresh vegetables. It’s pretty rewarding.

The most challenging part of my work is dispelling the myths and breaking down the walls that result from misinformation about healthy eating and agriculture. It’s also very difficult to do this work while actively fighting against the system of oppression that creates tangible barriers to families having access to fresh locally grown food.” -Nikolette Barnes of Keep Growing Detroit Keep Growing Detroit / Crafted in CarharttKeep Growing Detroit / Crafted in CarharttMolly Hubbell (pictured below) is the Farm Operations Coordinator for Keep Growing Detroit. Her background is in plant and soil science. She’s spent many years farming, working in different positions and various situations. When she’s not at work, she’s on her own farm, in north Detroit.

“I started working in nurseries 16 years ago, and have been a gardener/farmer my whole life. My mom is an avid gardener (Master Gardener), and my father passed on his appreciation for the natural world…Farmers don’t have superpowers, we rely on intuition. That intuition comes with time and patience, and can be learned by anyone willing to put the time in.” -Molly Hubbell of Keep Growing Detroit

“My back has been sore for 16 years. Totally worth it.” -Molly Hubbell of Keep Growing Detroit

Keep Growing Detroit / Crafted in CarharttKeep Growing Detroit / Crafted in Carhartt

Keep Growing Detroit / Crafted in Carhartt
Lindsay Pielack

Lindsay Pielack is a Co-Director of Keep Growing Detroit. Her background is in Resource Ecology and Management, with a B.S. from University of Michigan. She played an influential role in the Garden Resource Program, helping it grow from 70 gardens to almost 1,500 gardens in just 8 years. Lindsay has lived in Detroit her entire life, and works hard to keep the community links strong.

“On a regular basis, I am supporting residents to start gardens and for those without a green thumb, I always encourage them to start by putting their hands into the soil and grow something! Once they do, the fire will be lit with the excitement of growing their own food and from there, I would say that every year is an opportunity to get better at it! One season at a time!

I would recommend that everyone, young or old, try their hand at growing something. You don’t have to commit to growing all your own food, just get connected to where your food comes from. There are lots of ways to do this, as simply as starting a container of herbs in your window or volunteering at a garden or farm near you.” -Lindsay Pielack of Keep Growing Detroit

Anita Singh (pictured above) is the Youth Programs Coordinator at Keep Growing Detroit.
Drawing from her background as a high school science teacher, she runs the farm education program. Anita has developed youth programs in many different cities, including Cartegena, Columbia.

Keep Growing Detroit / Crafted in Carhartt

Imani S. Foster (pictured above) is the Farmers’ Market Coordinator at Keep Growing Detroit. She is a native Detroiter who found her way into farming unexpectedly as a Crew Leader with the Student Conservation Association. Her role has expanded from vacant lot reclamation to Farmers’ Market Coordinator.

“The food a person sustainably grows is so much better than what’s bought in the supermarkets. Placing your hands in the soil is healing. A person can reestablish relations with family and friends by working together…

One of the best parts of my work is helping the small gardener earn capital. Of course, I love that our customer base continues to grow. There is something so exciting about folks coming to the table and sharing how glad they are that we are back for the season. I know that the work I’m doing as the Grown in Detroit Market coordinator is retooling the culture that this is their (the gardeners’) business to grow.” -Imani Foster of Keep Growing Detroit

Keep Growing Detroit / Crafted in Carhartt
Lola Kristi Gibson-Berg, Molly Hubbell, Imani Foster, and Anita Singh

Lola Kristi Gibson-Berg (pictured below) is the Community Education Coordinator at Keep Growing Detroit. She’s a Detroit native and a proud graduate of The Roeper School in Bloomfield Hills, MI. It was during her senior year at Kalamazoo College she realized her passion for growing food. She graduated from Kalamazoo with a BA in Human Development and Social Relations and then returned to Detroit.

“Farming makes me feel hopeful. It’s a privilege to be connected to a community of people in the city who know how to grow food, enjoy doing so, and are cultivating and growing their communities.” -Lola Kristi Gibson-Berg of Keep Growing Detroit

Keep Growing Detroit / Crafted in CarharttKeep Growing Detroit / Crafted in Carhartt“As a single mother and female farmer, I struggle with having enough time to spend with my son while also being very active in the urban agriculture community. I hope to pass on the tangible knowledge of how to grow his own food on a small or large scale. Currently he is enrolled in a program called Food Warriors (housed by Detroit Black Community Food Security Network) where he is growing food as well as exploring food justice on a local and global level. We garden at my home and two community gardens. He is in charge of watering the plants at home! I also hope to pass on the importance of being an active and contributing member of the community that you live in. ” -Nikolette Barnes of Keep Growing Detroit

Keep Growing Detroit / Crafted in Carhartt
Nikolette Barnes

“I wish people knew how therapeutic farming can be. There is so much healing when you put your hands in the soil and grow something that will nourish your body. I also wish people knew how easy it is grow food at your home. People often feel like growing food is something only those with a green thumb can achieve. That is a huge myth, especially as it relates to growing on a small scale. There are so many resources for new gardeners to learn basic gardening skills..

I definitely do not have superpowers when it comes to growing food. I am still learning so much about how to problem solve as it’s related to my crops or soil quality. Farming makes me feel powerful…It’s not a walk in the park or romantic. Sometimes you will experience seasons where nothing grows abundantly or someone steals all of your melons. Stay the course.” -Nikolette Barnes of Keep Growing Detroit

If you’d like to find out more about the work these outstanding women are doing in Detroit, click here.

Hive Five For All The Dads!

Helena and Matthew Sylvester have been partners long before they were ever married. As Helena’s interest in growing food developed, Matthew encouraged her–from growing plants on their patio in Oakland to leasing a farm of their own in Sunol, California.

“It was my goal, but it was a group effort. Matt was there supporting me every step of the way…While the years have aged me, the giddiness and drive are still there – as is Farmer Matt’s unwavering support (he’s now full time on the farm, going on his 5th year) – it’s amazing what you can do when you believe in yourself, but it hella helps when you have others who believe in you too.” -Helena of Happy Acre Farm

Helena and Matthew are now partners in marriage, on the farm, and in raising their son, August. Mornings at Happy Acre start early and evenings stretch out as long as possible. We all know that farmers are some of the hardest working people, particularly when you have to teach yourself everything from scratch. The daily routine is met with flexibility and a support system of their own making.

“I’d never met someone who wakes up in a good mood every day, before you. Sometimes it drives me crazy (I need coffee first, sometimes two cups) but really, I admire it. You carry that positivity with you through everything you do. We’re definitely not taking the easy road through life, our route is filled with bumps, challenges, and sometimes a change of directions – but damn than obnoxiously positive attitude of yours keeps us on track, and it’s helped bring us here.”  -Helena to Matthew of Happy Acre Farm

fathersDAYcic15This is Matthew’s second Father’s Day. Both Helena and August are so grateful to have his love and encouragement.

“As hard and stressful as some days (or weeks or seasons even) of farming can be, I am hella lucky. Lucky to be able to do what I want for a living, instead of what I need to do to get by. And lucky I get to spend so much time with my main dudes.” -Helena of Happy Acre Farm

Happy Acre Farm Family / Crafted in CarharttHappy Acre Farm Family / Crafted in CarharttHappy Acre Farm Family / Crafted in CarharttFather's Day at Happy Acre Farm / Crafted in Carhartt

Don’t forget to tell all the father figures in your life how grateful you are for them.

Barbie Thompson Lee of Lucky Dog Ranch

Barbie Thompson Lee left the advertising world to become a farmer in Valley Center, just outside of San Diego. She invested many years developing her own company, but felt it was time for something new. So she went out in search of the perfect plot of land to begin her new adventure—where she’d have to start from scratch, and self-teach her way to success.

“I think some people have a picture of a small farm as an idyllic place that’s kind of laid back and simple. The reality here is that there are always so many things that need to be done and sometimes it feels more like warfare than a laid back place. It’s a constant battle to keep on top of the various bugs that are out to eat your plants, the birds, squirrels and gophers who are found of eating them too, the broken or chewed through irrigation lines. You can’t ever let your guard down.” -Farmer Barbie Thompson Lee

Lucky Dog Ranch / Crafted in Carhartt

Tomatoes are Barbie’s favorite crop.

“I start the seeds in the greenhouse in February then plant when we think it’s safe from frost. Most of the plants go through September or October if we’re lucky so it’s a long time you spend with them. There are so many different varieties that it’s really fun planning out what you are going to grow and adding new varieties to your favorite producers.” -Farmer Barbie Thompson Lee

Although Lucky Dog Ranch is named for Barbie’s pack of happy dogs, she also has quite a few other four-legged friends. There’s Tigger and Tom, a set of barn cat brothers, and horses Buddy and Joanie.

“There really isn’t one Lucky Dog. We really liked seeing how happy our dogs were when we moved out here. They had so much room to play and just be themselves that the name just came about.” -Farmer Barbie Thompson Lee

Lucky Dog Ranch / Crafted in CarharttLucky Dog Ranch / Crafted in Carhartt

I asked Barbie what skills from her previous career translated into her new lifestyle. It turns out having a sense of humor has been crucial in her journey.

“Farming can be really humbling and your plants don’t care how important you think you are or what promises you’ve made on their behalf. They are just going to do what they are going do. You can’t take yourself to seriously. They are really the ones in charge. You just need to do what you can to support them…Never give up! It’s a very rewarding lifestyle. You’ll learn a lot about yourself as well as how to bring a crop to market.” -Farmer Barbie Thompson Lee

Renata Bryant at Pike Place Market

Meet Renata Bryant. During the week, she’s a preschool teacher at Launch in Seattle. It’s a nonprofit oriented towards affordable childcare. On the weekends, she works at Farmers’ Markets, selling flowers for Alm Hill Gardens.

“I appreciate the exchange or intermingling of different folks, but also I really love bartering and trading. Markets are absolutely an important fixture in communities. It doesn’t get anymore local than that but in cities like Seattle with so many people moving in on a weekly basis its easy to feel a sense of loss when it comes to community but in a space like the market folk are not only there to do business but to keep the spirit of the city alive in a very provincial way. There’s a lot of ‘Hi, how are ya!’ with the intention of continuing conversation not just in passing or in a weird obligatory way. Folks look out for each other in a way that you don’t see in all of Seattle.” -Renata Bryant

Pike Place Market opened in 1907. Tourists love it due to its photogenic and exciting nature. The booths are lined with gorgeous flower bundles and fresh produce, fish mongers sling fish over the heads of customers, and it sits perched above the shores of Elliot Bay. The cobblestone streets, quaint architecture, and handmade goods almost entirely convince you that you’ve traveled back in time. Pike Place is the oldest continuously operated public Farmers’ Market, after all.

Renata Bryant at Pike Place Market / Crafted in CarharttRenata Bryant at Pike Place Market / Crafted in Carhartt

Alm Hill is a great farm, owned by rad folk, and I recommend everyone stop by a booth at the Pikes, U District, West Seattle, or Ballard Market next season.” -Renata Bryant

If you’d like to spend your weekends as a vendor amidst all the excitement of a Farmers’ Market,

“Go to the ones in your neighborhood and check out what the space looks like. Some markets are in grocery store parking lots and some are on closed off streets, and the environment around the market definitely influences the vibe. While there are always staple vendors (produce, flowers, tamales or food trucks), there are also unique vendors who come in to different markets. Get really comfortable walking shoes.” -Renata Bryant

Five Marys Farm

Three years ago, Mary and her husband Brian were high-powered Silicon Valley lawyers/entrepreneurs who traded it all away to live the Carhartt way of life. Armed with a strong work ethic and the fearlessness to ask lots of questions, the couple and their four daughters who all share the first name of Mary – but who go by their middle name to keep things “simple” – have proudly become a fully-functioning ranch that sells its meats all over the country.

With a background in biology and business, Mary navigates the world of farming with a unique perspective, considering it a privilege to care for sick or injured animals. When Mary’s not tending to the daily grind of caring for the land and livestock, she’s tending to the business side of things.

Thanks to the movement of knowing where your food comes from, the marketing of the Five Marys’ story has resonated with people near and far. In fact, Mary estimates that 80% of their orders come from people who’ve found them on Instagram, and if you follow @maryheff.5marysfarms on Instagram you’ll immediately see why.

As for the farm itself, the 1,800-acres of land are nestled in a valley of the Pacific Coast Ranges. Weather swoops in dramatically – no matter what chores lie ahead. And at any hour of the day, you’ll be certain to find one of the four younger Marys covered in mud as they chase a little lamb or collect eggs in the barn.

“I am so proud of the life we get to give our girls living and working together on the ranch,” Mary beams when talking about being the mother of four young farm girls. “I don’t think I gave my girls enough credit before we moved here,” she continues, “I made their lunches and filled their water bottles and did all of their laundry, not really expecting them to do too much. By necessity, when we moved to the ranch the girls had to step up to the plate and start helping more, and they are so much more capable because of it.”

MaryFrances or Francie, is the oldest at 9. She loves dogs, looking after all the animals, and reading books. MaryMarjorie or Maisie, is 8 years old. You’ll often find her following her dad around the ranch, helping out in any way she can. MaryJane, or JJ, is a fashion-forward 6-year-old fireball. While sweet little MaryTeresa, also called Tessa or Tiny, is a perpetually happy 4-year-old with a giant smile on her face and typically a tiny animal tucked away in her arms.

We all have the same few wishes for our children: that they are happy, healthy, and they have a spot of dirt where they can run, play, and call home. We hope laughter echoes in their bellies and independence grows steadily with each of their adventures. We want them to be kind and thoughtful, tough, and clever.

We hope you’ll join us in saluting Mary Heffernan, a cut-and- dried example of what it means to be a Carhartt Mom. Stay tuned with daily updates on instagram.

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Jessica Ellis and Siobhan Beal of Growing Power in Chicago

Growing Power is a nonprofit urban agricultural organization that started in 1993. Jessica Ellis and Siobhan Beal work at the Iron Street location. Making healthy food affordable and accessible to all people is of top priority to the Growing Power team. Now with over 12 acres of farm land in the Chicago area, their reach is multiplying. On each of their farms, the crews trains the community to grow, process, market, and distribute food in a more sustainable way. To find out more visit their website.

GROWINGpower1Growing Power Urban Farm / Crafted in CarharttGROWINGpower4Growing Power Urban Farm / Crafted in CarharttGrowing Power Urban Farm / Crafted in CarharttGrowing Power Urban Farm / Crafted in CarharttGROWINGpower12Growing Power Urban Farm / Crafted in Carhartt

If you’d like to see even more images and videos, take a look at the Crafted in Carhartt instagram.

It’s All About Arugula

The popular vegetable arugula is also known as rocket salad. You might think it’s because of its spicy taste, but you’d be wrong. It comes from the French word roquette, used to identify an unspecified plant in the Brassicaceae family.

Arugula adds a peppery kick of vitamin C and potassium to any dish (like pizzas, omelets, or salads). It’s a cool season plant that enjoys the full sun and well-drained soil. Get a load of these images of the fast growing plant being planted and harvested in a Park City green house.  It may be snowing outside, but there are plenty of green things in here!

Green House in the Winter / Crafted in CarharttGreen House in the Winter / Crafted in CarharttGreen House in the Winter / Crafted in CarharttGreen House in the Winter / Crafted in CarharttGreen House in the Winter / Crafted in Carhartt

Amanda Forgash and Natalie Pappas of Flowers for Dreams

Last week, we talked about how the Chicago start-up, Flowers for Dreams, donates one fourth of their profits to local charities. Well, the donated buck doesn’t stop there. Amanda Forgash and Natalie Pappas are florists for this socially minded business. They are spearheading the movement of transparent pricing in the wedding market. You can now give back to your community as you plan your wedding and rest assured that there won’t be hidden fees or markups before the process is complete.

Take a peak at the Flower for Dreams Lookbook for some inspiration.

Tips from Amanda and Natalie about getting into the florist business:

  • Begin working at a floral shop and see if it’s the right fit.
  • Keep in mind you will be starting from the bottom and working your way up. Be prepared to get dirty!
  • All florists started sweeping the floors of a flower shop, prepping vases, and processing flowers. Those are necessary skills needed to appreciate the end product and understand why each flower is important.
  • Proper floral care is unique to every flower.
  • Always explore different ways of doing things and share tips with your fellow designers through your own personal aesthetics.
  • When creating a bouquet for someone in particular, allow their personality and traits to show through with color, texture, and flower type. Capturing the essence of a person through mother nature is rewarding beyond measure.

Flowers for Dreams / Crafted in Carhartt

Flowers for Dreams / Crafted in CarharttFlowers for Dreams / Crafted in CarharttFlowers for Dreams / Crafted in CarharttFlowers for Dreams / Crafted in CarharttFlowers for Dreams / Crafted in CarharttFlowers for Dreams / Crafted in Carhartt



Angelica Ruiz of Flowers for Dreams

In today’s fast paced economy, there is a racing hope to become the next great app developer or CEO of a startup company to put you on the path toward riches and quite possibly even fame. Stories of success and brilliant ideas float around in the business world, and rightly so.

However, in this highly competitive space, there have been a few companies deviating from the standard of inwardly focused advancement, seeking to do good for the community and maintain a profits. Personally, those are exactly the kind of organizations I want to put my money behind—and I’m sure many of you feel the same way.

Steven Dyme & Joseph Dickstein started selling flowers at high school graduations as a college project. The goal was simple, to make a little money and to make a difference. Half of their earnings went toward buying backpacks for low income students in the area. After a few years, their efforts snowballed into a full fledged company, Flowers for Dreams.

Now they have a bustling staff, a well thought out service, and continue to give back to others on a daily basis. One fourth of all their profits go to local charities.

A couple weeks ago, I got to hang out with Angelica Ruiz. She manages the flower truck. That’s right! I said flower truck. Much like a food truck, Angelica drives all over Chicago, selling bouquets at markets and various events. (Follow @F4DTruck on twitter for more info.)

Angelica Ruiz & Flowers for Dreams / Crafted in CarharttAngelica Ruiz & Flowers for Dreams / Crafted in Carhartt

Angelica Ruiz & Flowers for Dreams / Crafted in CarharttAngelica Ruiz & Flowers for Dreams / Crafted in Carhartt

What better way to brighten the world around you than with a bundle of flowers doing a bundle of good in your own neighborhood?