CADILLAC, Michigan -- Transition Cadillac started the growing season with a simple goal: create and register 100 new food gardens in 2012. These gardens could include the community variety, patio containers, and enlarged gardens; there were options available for anyone who wanted to participate, regardless of how much (or how little) space they had available to them. In an effort to get citizens of Cadillac involved, the Transition group hosted their first annual 100 YARDen Dash on Earth Day.
The event was held at the Rotary Pavilion, bordering Lake Cadillac, which provided plenty of room for people to gather, share and learn. An estimated 350-400 community members turned out for the event, drawn by a variety of events, demonstrations, vendor displays, and music. Attendees registering their garden received free, locally hand-painted signs to identify their gardens as part of the Transition program. They also received a discount card, making them eligible to receive 10 percent off selected items at participating local nurseries to get their gardens started.
The goal of registering 100 new gardens was quickly surpassed, as citizens formed a line that ran across the barricaded street to the City Park. One hundred seventy five new gardens have been registered, including those registered at the time of the event and others registered online via the Transition Cadillac website (www.transitioncadillac.org).
“There was such an atmosphere of community involvement,” said Transition Cadillac leader Shelley Youngman. “Before this event, I didn’t know Cadillac could do anything this cool.”
Attendees at the event had plenty of activities to choose from. Local vendors were on-hand, offering plants, garden art, honey, fresh flowers and more. Demonstrations included how to make and/or use raised beds, cold frames, and chicken tractors. Locally made raised bed and cold frame kits were available for purchase. Other demonstrations and exhibits included container gardening; growing potatoes in crates; and using bee hives for honey production.
Music for the event was provided by Seth and Mae Bernard of the Earthwork Collective, a local musical talent focused on being activists through their art. Children attending the event had the opportunity to make nature prints and potting plants to take home with them.
Youngman said the steering committee chose to focus on the importance of local food production and consumption as a launching point for expanding their Transition program because it had the greatest potential for getting people in the community actively involved. The mission of Transition Cadillac is “to promote and inspire abundant, local and resilient communities.”
Focusing on local food production this year allowed the group to emphasize the practice of avoiding chemicals in agricultural production and to stress the importance of increasing sustainability.
“The education piece is the primary focus of Transition Cadillac right now,” said Youngman. “We are focused on re-skilling; on teaching the skills our ancestors used to know and the wisdom they had. We are working on remembering those ways of living.”
This education piece has included monthly classes and workshops throughout the year, including seed-saving and sharing; several garden skills workshops and demonstrations; a wild edible and medicinal walk/talk; and a tour of some of the gardens registered in the 100 YARDen Dash. There are several events still ahead to round out the year, including a canning/food preservation workshop; a fermentation demonstration; a root cellars and other food hideaways workshop; and collecting submissions for a Homegrown Foods Cookbook.
Local reaction to the 100 YARDen Dash and to the educational events provided by Transition Cadillac has been positive. Youngman noted that the group has worked closely with the city of Cadillac to ensure that they are not encouraging gardeners to violate any ordinances. She added that the city has been very supportive of the program and is looking into donating use of city-owned vacant lots for community gardens in the future. “Our mayor (William S. Barnett) has been very supportive,” Youngman noted.
Transition Cadillac will hold their Second Annual Transition Cadillac Area Harvest Celebration on Sunday, September 30th at Foxhill Event Center in Cadillac. The event will celebrate the first annual 100 YARDen DASH Harvest with a potluck dinner featuring dishes made from locally grown foods. Demonstrations will be offered, including sun pickles, herbal vinegars, and cider pressing. There will be local food door prizes and parachute and outdoor games for kids at heart. Dr. Stephen DeGoosh, founder of Transition Marquette and Dr. Rob Sirrine, MSU Extension and Community Food Systems Educator, will be featured speakers. Live music will be provided by Frank Youngman and Friends.
Transition Cadillac borrowed the concept of the 100 YARDen Dash from the Transition group in Marquette Michigan (www.transitionmqt.org). Another 100 YARDen Dash is planned for April 20, 2013 in an attempt to carry over the momentum started this year and to sustain the hunger for locally grown foods will continue to grow.
Thanks to Transition Cadillac for this story! Visit their website for more info and photos at http://www.transitioncadillac.org