We Fight Spotlight: GT Area Children’s Garden

For this week’s Spotlight, We Fight chatted with Sarah Kuschell, Executive Director of the Grand Traverse Area (GTA) Children’s Garden! We Fight is thankful for the work that the GTA Children’s Garden does every day to get young people of all abilities involved with producing and appreciating their own healthy food, while building community.

We Fight is also thrilled to have a plot at the GTA Children’s Garden this summer! If you and your family are interested in taking care of the garden for a week, please sign up today! We’ll also be holding several events at the garden over the summer, including planting our plot. More info soon!

How would you describe your organization to a stranger? 

The Grand Traverse Area Children’s Garden fosters healthy living/eating, good stewardship to the earth and the love of gardening to school-aged children.

Our over 20-year-old nonprofit continues to expand. Last year, we added free public programming on Thursday nights from 6-7 PM. This year, we are replanting the walkthrough garden.

What are some resources you offer that are underutilized?

The walkthrough garden (directly behind the library) is the perfect outdoor classroom! It’s a spectacular space to learn about a variety of plants and insects. It’s also just a nice place to sit and read a book.

What would you love to overhear someone say about your organization?

“My son ate his first green bean because he grew it himself and now loves them!”

“My daughter isn’t afraid of bees and worms anymore! She knows how important they are.”

What are you most proud of about your organization?

The mission, and the groups that participate — from the Coast Guard, to the Salvation Army, to Generations Ahead, to Father Fred, to the STEM Program — they all use gardening as a way to grow young hearts and minds in a unique way. We are excited to see We Fight in the garden this year!

There is so much to learn from a garden: the waiting, watering to maintain, rewards of hard work, sharing with furry friends, and even accepting loss that goes to compost. There is a way to learn from a seed, stem and fruit no matter what you are trying to teach.

Last year we started the Ability Garden Program for neurologically and physically diverse children and teenagers. Different therapists (speech/music/occupational therapists etc) came in each week and we learned so much about ourselves. We developed therapy techniques that we could use anywhere in nature. One of the gardeners was so excited that he tried a raw zucchini right out of the garden bed! Raw zucchini isn’t the best but the motivation was so inspiring. His pride was a huge success.

At the end of the season we had some inclusion days where we invited community members and paired them up with ability gardeners. Everyone learned how to make a friend. At the end of the day you couldn’t tell who was a visitor and who wasn’t. We answered the question “how do you treat someone who is different than you are?” …hint: like everyone else. 

The mission and core values of the garden blend so perfectly with what is inspiring about and valued within the citizens of our Traverse City community. We are extremely proud of that.

What are some misconceptions about your organization?

That the garden is just for specific groups. There is a community plot that anybody can use. Anybody can garden there. The gate is always open. Please come in and see us.

If you had a blank check, what would you fund? 

New irrigation and new signs that mark the different gardens. These two things are 20 years old, the plants and children count on them, and both need to be replaced.

As a true nonprofit, we keep track of every dollar. Funding our internships (We will pay two high school students this year) is something that we hope to continue for years to come, and would like to expand, but the budget is tight.

Replanting the walk-through garden is a major expense that has to be completed by the end of the summer. If you would like to donate, please reach out (by call or text) at (231) 357-2792.

How can people help?

We are always looking for volunteers. Specifically, we need volunteers who want to work at their own pace to help with the replanting as well as two more volunteers to work with the kids in the learning gardens this year, and one to act as a floater. It is a one-hour, once-a-week commitment.

  • Learn more about the GTA Children’s Garden
  • Contact the GTA Children’s Garden for more information
  • Follow the GTA Children’s Garden on Facebook or Instagram to stay up-to-date on their activities
  • Sign up for a week with the We Fight garden plot this summer!

Please join in celebrating and building awareness for the GTA Children’s Garden. There are lots of ways — big and small — We Fight members can help, including the following:

  • Sharing the Spotlight on social media
  • Forwarding this newsletter to a friend
  • Writing a review on Facebook or Google
  • Telling a friend or neighbor about the GTA Children’s Garden — or, better yet, bringing them there!
  • Contacting Sarah and asking what the garden needs — call or text at (231) 357-2792
  • Donating to support upcoming projects

We Fight members can nominate organizations/initiatives to spotlight using this form.

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