Sunday, February 22, 2015

2015 Updates for the Community Food Network

Community Food Network Meeting
As you know the Community Food Network no longer has a coordinator! Billie Patterson has been directed elsewhere as she serves her 2nd year as AmeriCorps VISTA at United Way Montcalm-Ionia Counties. Billie is available to assist you with questions, but not able to act as coordinator for this group. Penny Beeman has left the world of nonprofits with another job taking her out of the county 50+ hours each week. Penny is also available to assist with questions on a limited schedule. The best way to reach either of these past coordinators is via email to as both people continue to monitor the email and one of us will respond to you as soon as we are able.


Gardens & Pantry Committee: 

  • Many gardens and pantries continued to serve their community in 2014 despite the limited coordination with the Community Food Network.
  • We do not have any meetings set up for 2015, and without a volunteer coordinator, monthly meetings are next to impossible. However if others are interested in participating a semi-annual meeting might be possible. Please let us know if you are interested in a Spring Meeting!
Awareness & Resource Committee:  

  • The website at is no longer active, please remove any links you may have from other websites.
  • The Community Food Network Blog Site is updated with new pages to register your 2015 Community Garden and your Plant A Row Garden.
  • The Community Food Network Facebook Group is also active and may be the best place to post questions about gardening for group members to share their knowledge.
Educational Committee:   
  • The Ionia County ISD has the Outdoor Learning Lab available at H.O. Steele Education Center if you need an outdoor space to teach garden lessons or hold other outdoor activities.  Contact Deb Wagner at if you would like to use this space.
  • The Community Food Network is on many state email lists, receiving emails daily.  When information about a conference or other educational opportunity becomes available, info will be posted the CFN Blog.
Resources Available
  • United Way Montcalm-Ionia Counties does still have some hand tools available for new gardens or to replace broken tools at existing gardens.  Please contact to request these.
  • MSU Extension also has some supplies in the storage shed.  We need a volunteer to go out to the shed and inventory what is there so we can make it available to gardens.
  • The Do-It-Center of Ionia has again donated a bag full of seeds for local community gardens.  If you would like to pick up some seeds, please contact Penny for details.
If your garden or pantry is hosting a special event this year, please email pictures, flyers, and info to and we will get them uploaded to the blog as quickly as possible.  Thank you for being a part of the Community Food Network!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Cookbook: Cooking From The Pantry

From the Capital Area Health Alliance...
We are pleased to announce the roll out of Cooking from the Pantry.  Many families find it challenging to create healthy meals on a tight budget. This cookbook is intended to help people make the most out of foods that can be found at a local food pantry.  These recipes and food tips have been compiled with help from the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, Mid-Michigan District Health Department, and MSU Extension.  The Cooking from the Pantry Cookbook was produced by the Capital Area Health Alliance through the Michigan Health and Wellness 4 x 4 Grant as well as the generous printing donation of ASAP.
The cookbook is available on the Alliance website at  Hard copies are also available.  Please contact us at 517-347-3377 if you are interested in distributing some cookbooks to your constituents.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Growing School Gardens - Growing School Gardens
Free Webinars
Meet the Presenters

Danielle Fleury, Farm to School Lead in the USDA Food and Nutrition Service's Northeast Regional Office  
Emily Jackson, Founder and current Director of the Growing Minds Farm to School program of the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project  
Brad Pillen, CitySprouts Garden Educator

Meg Giuliano, CitySprouts Garden Educator 
Thank you to our co-hosts

The Edible Schoolyard Project 
Life Lab 
National Farm to School Network
Summertime in the School Garden:
Exploring Opportunities to Support and Share Your School Garden
Wednesday, May 28th at 4pm ET
Presenters: Danielle Fleury with Emily Jackson
Summertime presents both unique challenges and important opportunities when it comes to school gardens. Who takes care of the garden when school is out? How can the school garden be connected to summer learning and healthy food access opportunities?
In our community's next webinar, Mary Stein, Associate Director of the National Farm to School Network, hosts two partners from the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project and the USDA-FNS for a discussion of various aspects of school gardens in summer. You will hear examples ofhow school gardens across the country are connecting to important summer feeding program sites and other out-of-school educational opportunities.
Then, learn about how Cooperative Extension, Master Gardeners, YMCAs, universities, parent coalitions and more can connect your school garden to the community during the summer break. Join us on May 28th for ideas and steps to take to connect with community partners to make the most of your school garden during the summer months.
Healthy Food + Healthy Ecosystems = Healthy Neighborhoods
(A Summer Garden Program for Middle School Youth)
Monday, June 16th at 4pm ET
Presenters: Brad Pillen and Meg Giuliano, CitySprouts Garden Educators 
Middle schoolers can get a lot out of the school garden experience, from growing food to learning about the science underlying the natural world. At CitySprouts summer youth program in Cambridge, MA, 100 young people ages 11-13 go through a month-long summer internship program at various schoolyard garden locations.
Middle school interns learn garden skills and how to care for their school garden - planting, weeding, watering and harvesting food for lunch. They go on field trips to hunger-relief organizations, grocery stores, and farms outside the city to get a bigger picture of their local food system. They also learn about the interdependent relationships that exist among parts of an ecosystem as they explore the compost, the garden soil and water catchment systems in the school garden.
In this webinar Brad Pillen and Meg Giuliano, two CitySprouts Garden Educators, will present about using school gardens in the summertime. They will share with us how CitySprouts connects and engages 6th-8th graders with STEM core ideas and food systems through their Out-of-School Time Service Learning Curriculum that connects to the new Next Generation-aligned standards for 6th grade ecosystems. Join Brad and Meg to learn more about summer garden programs for middle school youth.
Growing School Gardens
School gardens are a growing initiative to help children understand where their food comes from and how their food choices impact their bodies, the environment, and their communities at large.
A school garden can have an impact on the entire life and educational program of school and the surrounding community. Gardening activities can be incorporated into nearly every curriculum subject to enhance the appreciation of the natural world, and to provide hands-on learning activities for students.

As a member of the community, you'll receive...
  • Invitations to free webinars and live chats.
  • CE certificate for attending/viewing our webinars.
  • Access to all of the recorded webinars, presentations, resources, and online discussions.
This online learning community is a place for educators, gardeners, parents, and community volunteers to come together to share information and resources on how to start and maintain a school garden, and integrate it into the curriculum and the life of a school.
JOIN the Community

Friday, May 23, 2014

CFN May 2014 Meeting Agenda

Feel free to come to the meeting early and help with planting in the raised beds:)  
Community Food Network Meeting
Date and Time: Tues. May 27, 2014 at 3:30pm
Location:  H.O. Steele Education Center
North 66  between 57  & 44  (10260 S Sheridan Rd., Fenwick, MI  48834)


    • Gardens & Pantry Committee:
    • Needs still unmet?  

    • Other updates?  

    • Awareness & Resource Committee:  
    • Plant A Row Outreach Plan--This is ongoing
    • Sheridan Family Health Fair Thurs, June 26, 2014  2-5pm at the Sheridan Community Center.  Billie will have a table set up with United Way so will be on hand for CFN.  Anyone else interested in setting up table just for CFN stuff?  There is no cost.
    • Billie working on getting to all the food pantries with the farmer’s market materials.  Some places have been given the print outs.  This will be done by the end of next week.  Anyone like to help distribute?

    • Educational Committee:   
    • Outdoor Learning Lab soon to be set up at H.O. Steele Education center.

The next meeting will be the on June 24 at 3:30 pm at the H.O. Steele Education Center


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Grant Opportunity

Department of Agriculture Logo USDA-AMS-LFPP-2014
 2014 Local Food Promotion Program Grants
 Department of Agriculture
 Agricultural Marketing Service

The Local Food Promotion Program is a component of the Farmers Marketing and Local Food Promotion Program (FMLFPP), authorized by the Farmer-to-Consumer Direct Marketing Act of 1946.  Under FMLFPP, two completive grant programs are available: the Farmers’ Market Promotion Program (FMPP) and the Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP). LFPP offers grant funds with a 25% match to support the development and expansion of local and regional food business enterprises to increase domestic consumption of, and access to, locally and regionally produced agricultural products, and to develop new market opportunities for farm and ranch operations serving local markets.  Two types of project applications are accepted under LFPP—planning grants and implementation grants. Applicants can apply for either but will receive only one type of grant in the same grant cycle. LFPP Planning Grants are used in the planning stages of establishing or expanding a local and regional food business enterprise. Activities can include but are not limited to market research, feasibility studies, and business planning. A minimum of $5,000 and a maximum of $25,000 will be awarded for any one proposal, and the grants must be completed within a 12 month period; extension will not exceed an additional 6 months. LFPP Implementation Grants are used to establish a new local and regional food business enterprise, or to improve or expand an existing local or regional food business enterprise. Activities can include but are not limited to training and technical assistance for the business enterprise and/or for producers working with the business enterprise; outreach and marketing to buyers and consumers; working capital; and non-construction infrastructure improvements to business enterprise facilities or information technology systems. A minimum of $25,000 and a maximum of $100,000 will be awarded for any one proposal, and the grants must be completed within a 24 month grant period; extension will not exceed an additional 6 months.

Who is eligible to apply?
Agricultural Business
Agricultural Cooperative
Producer Network
Producer Associations
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Network
CSA Associations
Local Government
Nonprofit Corporation
Public Benefit Corporation
Economic Development Corporation
Regional Famers Market Authority
Tribal Government 

More information and how to apply:

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Building Smart Soils

Build smart soils using mulch, composted organic matter and reducing tillage

Learn steps for smart soil building right in your backyard or vegetable garden.

Photo credit: Normanack,
Photo credit: Normanack,
Home gardeners can build smart soilsyear round, but with the start of gardening season, now is a perfect time to plan and implement techniques that will create healthy soils for your vegetable garden. Sustainable practices include use of organic mulches, composted material and reducing tillage. Home gardeners can also look for more local sources of mulch and composted material.

Organic mulches

Organic mulches can be grass clippings, compost, mulched leaves, wood chips, shredded bark, marsh hay or straw. All organic types of mulch break down over time and add nutrients back to the soil. Be cautious with the use of chips or bark; you may want to use it between your rows or areas of vegetable plantings rather than against the base of plants. Use chips or bark that isn’t freshly chipped and place it on top of soil rather than mixing it into the soil.
Where can gardeners find mulches? Look first within your own backyard. Michigan State University Extension does advocate that you return your glass clippings and mulched leaves back to your lawn, but if you have an excess of leaves, you can alternate mulching leaves on your lawn with bagging them up. Use the bagged ones as mulch on your vegetable garden. Additional local mulch sources may include a city’s yard waste collection site, a lumber mill for wood chips (make sure they have aged and dried for a season), or a feed mill or farmer for straw or marsh hay.
Be sure to apply 3 inches of mulch around vegetables and flowers. Mulch will not only add to the soil’s health as it breaks down, but it will also conserve water by reducing evaporation of water from the soil surface. Use of mulch provides a more even soil moisture for plants, thus decreasing stress. It also serves as a barrier against weed seeds, therefore you will have less weeding.

Compost material

Creating composted material or organic matter is another sustainable and smart gardening practice. Make use of a backyard compost system in order to create your own organic matter. Something as simple as three 4x4 untreated wooden pallets fastened together will work. In here, you can place all of your vegetable scraps from the kitchen and excess yard waste.
It’s important to add the right ratio of carbon sources to nitrogen sources within your compost pile. The proper ratio aids in the decomposition or breakdown of this organic material by microbes which need to be present for your pile to work. Using a mixture of brown sources (carbon) such as fallen leaves or wood chips to green sources (nitrogen) such as leafy green plants will help your pile have the right ratio.
It’s also important to allow the pile to heat up internally to a temperature of 130-160 degrees. Be sure that the pile does not dry out during this time. Be sure to provide air to your pile by mixing it. Again, you can also seek out local sources of compost at city compost sites or perhaps a local farm may offer composted material for purchase. Some things to consider, especially for local pickup sources, is whether or not the material has been prepared properly to prevent weed seeds. Also, whether or not pesticides were applied would be difficult to determine with a city compost site collecting from numerous lawns.
Collecting compost
Collecting compost. Photo credit: Mcav0y,

Reducing tillage

Reducing the amount of tillage will also lead to healthier soil. Too much tillage breaks down the natural structure of the soil. Tillage also releases carbon into the atmosphere, thus upsetting the required carbon to nitrogen ratio that microbes within the soil need in order to live and continue the decomposition process that the soil relies upon. Use of mulch and addition of composted material with minimal soil disruption will help build you a healthier soil. It probably won’t all happen this year, but you can begin the process.
Other techniques for minimal tillage include use of root crops, such as longer radishes or turnips, to help break up soil particles and create air and water spaces. Check out the new Smart Soils video with MSUentomologist George Bird who highlights these important steps to a smart soil and shows us the living components within a healthy soil.
For more information on a wide variety of Smart Gardening topics, visit the Gardening in Michigan website at or contact MSU’s toll-free garden hotline at 1-888-678-3464.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Garden Space Available in Ionia

North of Ionia, near the radio station, there is garden space available for anyone who would like to use it.  Believed to be enough space for about 2 families to have a nice garden, water is also available.  The area was not used in 2013 but was used in 2012 so there will need to be some work done.  A tiller may possibly be available to use.  If you are interested and want more info, please contact Billie Patterson @ 616-794-9840.