The grants were to provide money in support of community gardens and to provide supplies
to improve the gardens.
Unlike most of the other community gardens located in Kalamazoo, Parkwood Upjohn
Elementary used its grant money to start a garden from the ground up and also a small
garden located indoors for continuous growth throughout the year.
“Fair Food Matters was one
of many grants that we used
for constructing the garden,
bulk soil, mulch, sand to
underlay the brick raised beds
and fencing. Seeds and
indoor seedling needs such as
potting soil, grow lights, trays
and a rack allowed second and
third graders to plant the
seedlings and monitor the early
growth, a much richer experience
than purchasing seedlings,”
said Carol Steiner, principal of Parkwood Upjohn Elementary School.
The Comstock Community Center used grant funds to purchase, build and plant raised
“These gardens were used by our senior population because they are far more accessible
than gardens directly on the ground. They’re also less worked because the soil does
not have the weed issues. Fresh vegetables were made available to any senior who
wanted them,” said Mary Gustas, executive director of the Comstock Community Center.
So how did these gardens get picked by Fair Food Matters to receive grants and how
long has Fair Food Matters been offering grants?
“For two years, the Kalamazoo Community Foundation awarded grants to area community
gardens and directed the funds through our organization. This year, for the first
time, the foundation allowed us to select those recipients. We funded 16 community
garden projects using funds from three foundation grants,” said Paul Stermer, executive
director of Fair Food Matters.
The criterion for who receives grants is mostly determined by the Kalamazoo Community
“Projects must be community gardens located within Kalamazoo County. The focus of
the program is to provide healthy, fresh food to neighbors and friends; to encourage
physical activity by maintaining a community garden; and to strengthen neighborhoods
by sharing work, food and fellowship,” Stermer said.
The grants proved useful for many of the 16 community gardens because of the severity
and timing of Michigan’s weather this year. Having the extra money available allowed
community gardens to work more quickly before winter hit.
“The granting agencies allowed the garden to be constructed and planted within a
one-school-year time span. Without the grant, a scaled back demonstration garden
might have taken two years or we may not have been able to gather enough dollars
to do the project at all,” Steiner said.
With the overall success of this year’s grants, Fair Food Matters plans on providing
as many grants, if not more, for next year.
“Yes, we and our funders are committed to the idea of building neighborhoods and
creating community through gardens. We definitely plan to do this again next year,
and as long as there's a need,” Stermer said.
The community gardens that received the grants are also hoping to receive grants
again next year and have a lot of ideas if they received them.
“We will expand the number of raised boxes as well as invest in some nutrients for
the soil. We also want to reach out to a group of senior residents with garden space,”
said Cheri Bales, founder of a community garden in Kalamazoo and coordinator of marketing
and communications for the College of Arts and Sciences at Western Michigan University.
“This year, the garden provided all its members with plentiful peas, tomatoes, brussels
sprouts, potatoes, broccoli and greens,” Bales said. “Many of these plants we received
as a donation from Fair Food Matters distributed at the garden across from old Kalamazoo
Central High School, so we will try to purchase higher-quality or younger plants
this year. We also are harvesting seeds from this year's plants to use in next year's