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Conversations in the Community with Allan Whitley - Gardening in Michigan

Conversations in the Community with Allan Whitley

March 8, 2021

Frequently Asked Questions

I love the idea of a Mobile Garden Bed! Can you share designs?

Allan’s plan is to build a series of raised beds (similar to design above) but installing handles and wheels for easy mobility. He’s still designing it for this year, so we’ll be sure to share pictures when those become available! In the meantime, we encourage you to explore some Container Gardening resources to help you think about gardening in small spaces or with limited sun. This resource is helpful, https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/container_gardening_for_growing_food, and you might be interested in last year’s Cabin Fever Conversation with Rebecca Finneran on container gardening (and if you need a friendly reminder about the importance of drainage!).

How do I keep unwanted critters from eating my harvest? 

There will always be some inevitable loss to critter, so planting a little more than what you need is a good preventative strategy. Worst comes to worst, you share extra with neighbors! Deer can jump tall fences with ease, rabbits and groundhogs can burrow below, and squirrels are canopy acrobats. That being said, there are some tips and tricks to try to minimize damage! Check out these two resources for ideas on creating a critter resilient garden:

 

Resources

Video Transcript

Well, it is 1230, so we're gonna go ahead and get started with our conversation today. Welcome everybody to our fifth - and we're about halfway through the Cabin Fever Conversation series. I know it's not quite spring yet, but it's getting there and it's it's coming. Although one of our attendees sent me a lovely graphic saying that this is just "false spring" and then in Michigan, we still have the re-emergence of winter, followed by second False Spring, followed by several more iterations of that until we actually get warm. So, we will get there. So welcome! We're glad to have you here today and I'll turn it over to Isabel to introduce our panelists. Sure! Today we have Allan Whitley from Root of the Vine urban garden. Welcome Allan. We're really excited to have you here. And we wanted to start off by first asking you to introduce yourself a little bit and, share with us what about this "Root of the Vine" urban garden project is really bringing you hope or joy. [Allan} Well, first off, there's just, again, it is Root of the Vine urban gardens. It actually started as a home garden. So to feed me and my wife. And throughout that first season I was excited, so I posted videos and pictures and it turned into people asking questions and people wanting to know about gardening. So I started, I mean, I've been guarding all my life somewhat, but at that point I didn't know as much as I know now. So I started doing research and talking to my father and other gardeners that I know have been doing it for a long time in the questions just kept coming in. So I started a Facebook page. And from there we just started groups and people were asking questions and wanting to know And it went from, like I say, the home garden, which started off ten by ten . The second year, it was 15 by 15. The third year, I think I jumped up to about 20 by 25 or something like that. And starting this year will be still doing that garden. But we have a quarter acre plot that we'll be working on and doing a lot more teaching and just being able to help people grow their own food. Awesome! Growth is really exciting. And I forgot to mention that you're based in Lansing. Allan: Yes, I am. My own garden is on the north side of Lansing Northwest and then the larger garden that we want to be doing is going to be based on the Southside. I love that and I also love that you shared that connection to other community members and to parents and ancestors than I know a lot of us did not learn gardening in a vacuum. And so just that ability to connect to a whole host of people through learning and kind of going through that learning process together. I think it's one of the really powerful things about your project. Wondering if you can just maybe introduce to our viewers a little bit about your projects the origins, you shared a little bit about the origin of how it came about, but what needs you saw that weren't being met or that you were really excited to tackle when you started this? Well, again, like I say, it was just, it really started out as a personal home garden. I wanted to grow some food for me and my wife. ... but as the questions started rolling I started noticing that a lot of people automatically think they don't have the space. They think gardening is too hard. And on the other side, people think they don't have the funds to actually garden. And you don't need a lot of space. You don't need a lot of knowledge. I mean, it is good to have the knowledge, but you don't need a lot of knowledge. And then you technically don't need a lot of money. I mean, you can make it happen on a very fixed income. It's actually, I'm learning now that as far as people that are unlike government assistance and food stamps, it's a lot easier for them to start a garden or even start a garden project using the assistance funds that they get. Because you can buy things like seedlings with your food stamps, you can buy fruit trees. You can go to places like Horrocks or your farmer's markets. And buy transplants for your garden. As far as not being able to garden with those same food stamps, you can go to local farmer's markets and get double bucks. So if you spend a typical $100 a week on produce, you can get either $200 a week going to the farmers markets or you can cut back on your spending, still get a $100 worth of food, but you're only spending $50 of your food stamps. So that kind of inspired me to ask my aunt and uncle can I use some of their property? The first thing he said is "nephew there are too many deer. You're not going to be able to do it." and, you know, I kind of ran with that. But then I thought about it. We can actually build a fence and we can make it happen. And in that process, me and my wife got interviewed by the City of Lansing a couple of years ago for the "My kind of people" project. And I didn't say anything about the project or say anything about plans, but I got a 250 dollar donation from a church. And with that, I tried to build a fence and I failed. The fence didn't happen, so I kind of gave up last year and I was like forget it. But over the winter season I thought let me actually put something on paper and start trying to connect with people. So I did a fundraiser. We got a lot of funds off of the fundraiser. And then from that, I had a young lady that is already established in the gardening world here in Lansing and she was like, "I want to help you. So I'll add you onto this grant that I'm going to get and you'll be able to get some funds. You'll be able to get some, you know, equipment and things for your garden." So thinking about that, I'm like, Okay, how can I help if somebody is willing to help me? So with this project is again, it was just the Home garden, But what we're going to do this year is we're going to be blessing five families. with sort of CSA, style produce. But I'm going to call it community driven agriculture because it's really not community supported it in the sense that you pay and you get the produce for yourself. But with all the donations and the help from the young lady that we're going to call community driven because it's basically, we're going to be growing the food. We're going to pick those five families. They're going to get fresh produce all season. We're going to teach them how to garden throughout the season. And then sometime probably mid-season, we're going to build them a mobile garden bed. And I say mobile just in case they're not in a place where they can stay. So that way there'll be able to take the garden with them on to the next location number not in a permanent home. I loved your attitude of just kind of jumping in and figuring it out as you go along. I think there are so many barriers when you started on it that you could get really caught up and having to do it perfectly. You mentioned the deer, you mentioned the lack of maybe being in a place where you're going to be a long time and just the creative ways of kind of jumping in and navigating around that as a way to get started and then to build that by growing and bringing other people in. I just think that's a really powerful message to all the folks who are like feeling like they don't have the knowledge or they don't have the resources, or they don't have whatever to just kinda start and dig in. And my approach to deer has always been plant, one extra plant for the deer. Of course they never end up going for that plant, they're always like, " Oh, you planted this for me. I'm just going to eat the entire other side of the row..". Hopefully your fence is more effective. Yeah, I hope so because the fence that I built last year, it was kinda funny because me and my brother are going to be working that plot of land, and I went out and because he was at work that day, I started to put the fence up and I went all the way around with a "invisible fence". And not even an hour after I left, my aunt sent me a video of the deer basically saying, "screw your fences". They walk right through it and the rest of them walk the right under it. And I'm like," We gotta make this work somehow." But I think this year we're going to be able to get it done. And again, it's always best they say to plant more. So I think they have woods around their property and that's where the deer come from. So I think if we take in plants and stuff in the woods, maybe they won't have to come out into the field. So I don't know if that's going to work, but it's in the middle of the city and people wouldn't think those are other things that might deter somebody from gardening. And it's like, no matter what, if you have to do it and they eat it, keep doing it, and figure out a way to get over the fact that something in your garden... there are so many ways to figure out around the damage that's being done, but we gotta make it happen. Yeah, there's always that... it's like the experience, being able to experiment and learn from your mistakes and learn from what went well and keep moving forward. Yeah. So Allan, why do you think the work that you're doing is important? Well, for one reason, I mean, Lansing is a smaller city. I've lived in Chicago before And Lansing doesn't have the same effect, but there'speople in Lansing as well as a big city like Chicago where there's things like food deserts where you have to physically leave your neighborhood to get fresh produce. Or you can get the not necessarily grocery store, convenience store food. You can get your chips, you can get your pops, you can get your fast food,, but actually being able to get fresh produce, you have to leave your neighborhood, whether you can afford it or not, and you just don't have the access. In realizing. I will just say me starting out with the smaller garden. I realized you don't need a lot of space to grow something. If you're growing one thing. A second kind of side to this project is, in the garden we're doing, I'm going to do a small experiment for a neighborhood food system. So in the middle of the garden, we're going to have probably 10 to 12, 16 by 16 square foot plaques in the garden just to see how much we can grow in each plot. And you can kind of pattern that to a neighborhood. For instance, If my block has, there's 14, 13, 14 houses on my block now all of them might not be lived in, but if you think 14 houses in a neighborhood, and if you have 10 or 12 people growing on 16 square feet, you can grow 16 heads of lettuce or 16 Heads of cauliflower or broccoli in a little four-by-four plot. So just imagine if every neighbourhood did that. So the goal is to be able to teach those that might be able to have access to fresh produce to grow their own and more so those who don't have that access to be able to say, Okay, well, I might not be able to go and get this, but if I talk to the people in my neighborhood, okay, now we have 16 different piece of the fresh produce that we can get right here and not even have to leave. And it also that will build community. So instead, you're going out to the grocery stores, and yes you speak to the people at the grocery store, but what better way to go to, you know. Because of my wife's and my schedule... we have a neighbor that moved in a couple of years ago and their schedule as crazy as well. We haven't met them yet. But I've talked to one of the gentlemen that lived there on occasion because I'm outside in my garden. So that just little quick passing of the garden. He's like, Okay, that's where I was able to say hi to the gentlemen or hi to the young lady. So other than that, it's like it's hard because of my schedule so that right there you have a neighborhood Food Network. You have some food equity and some health equity. And you also have a chance to build your neighborhood on the fact that, okay, you have greens growing I haves peas growing, okay, we're going to swap out. The man down the street has corn growing ... and now you know everybody, The neighborhood become safer. The neighborhood becomes a little bit healthier. And you're growing food and you're going the neighborhood. Yeah, I think that's one of the gifts I reflect on this last year of being forced to stay a little bit more local and spend more time in my home. That those casual interactions with neighbors are more plentiful and some ways, right? And the ability to connect via food and care for each other and have that kind of community care built-in is really powerful in kind of giving us grounding in home and stuff too. We did have a couple of questions before we get too far away from this about the mobile garden that you shared. And I'm wondering if you could share a little bit about your design or how you make it mobile. Because I think we've got some folks in some of those temporary situations who want to garden and also don't want to invest all their resources in place. They're not staying. Well. I have made one particularly yet. But the idea is I, I drive for CATA, so we get a lot of boxes. When it comes to building the mobile beds, we're actually going to go out and purchase the wood from the store. I used the boxes and CATA for my personal garden, but my thought was okay, we have a box that's about four feet long and two feet wide. And I'm thinking, you know, for me personally I put a piece of lattice board on the back of it. I grow peas. Sometimes, I've even grow sweet potatoes in there. So I've grown a lot of food in that small little box. And my thought is, okay, this is hard to lift, it is full of soil full of compost and we can't lift it. What could I do? Because I like these boxes and if me and my wife were to move, it will be good to leave a garden, but I would like to take them. So my thought was okay, we can put some handles on each side and we can put wheels on the bottom. And what that will do is it would give you the means to either move it around your yard for the sun or ok. Now we're moving. I can put this on the back of a truck. It will make it easier for me to put this on the back of the trailer and you take it with you. So it's and the goal is also, like I say, I filled mine with compost and topsoil. It's super heavy. I know you've can grow on straw bales. Straw bales will actually fit perfectly in the boxes that we plan to build. It'll make it a lot less heavy for you to carry or roll and you still have the same nutrients in the box to grow whatever food it is that you're trying to grow. So you just you can grow on the run. I mean, if you, if you're in an apartment, you have to get approval to leave it outside or whatever, but you can take it, put it on your balcony. If you're in a house, you find a sunny spot in your yard. And then when the sun move, you move it with it. So I know you shared some of your visions for kind of having multiple community members all engaged in this collective growing. How do you currently hope that the community is able to interact with Root of the Vine and what some of the projects you have going on there. Well, the first thing is I don't know if any of the people that donated are watching or are in this webinar. But I want to thank everybody that donated over the year from last summer. And that's one thing. There's people that I've seen that donated, that don't garden. They're like, "I just see what you're doing and it's a blessing" that right there in my personal mind makes me think that if they're willing to donate to something like this. They might want to garden in the future. So now, Okay, That gives them the opportunity to build their community. They might not live in my community. I might not ever have the opportunity to meet them. But now they see a model to follow. And on the other end, it's almost like we want to be able to, just say for instance, the five families that we're looking to give food to. Some of them, I've picked out two already and I have to contact them, but there's an older gentleman has three kids, so that's going to bring the kids in. That's going to give him the chance to get in and so now they've grown their food this whole year, this whole summer. Now they can teach somebody else. They might be able to touch somebody that I can't such so we being able to help the people in the community? Again, we'll build community and it'll just take it far. It'll make it to the point where again, I might say something to you that blesses you. And there's so many people that you know, that I won't be able to touch, but somebody blessed me and I'm blessing you. And now it's just basically paying it forward. [Abby] Yeah. And I I will say that's one of the things that stands out so much about the work that you do is just how much of it is about empowering people to be able to make similar choices in their own space or participate in their own ways. And it's, it's a very powerful pay it forward kind of mindset. [Allan} The thing is is again, so many people don't think they can do it as far as space, as far as time as far as, you know, funds. Again when I first started, it was 10 by 10.. I didn't really know what I was doing. I had the means to learn, but I went to a dug up the yard. We grew a little bit of food. We didn't have any pests, we didn't have anything messing with the garden. My wife was happy. I was happy. The next year it grew and there is so weird because even people in my neighborhood that I haven't spoke to walk past the street and they're like, What are you grow on or what are you doing? And they might not even come across, that's the threshold and come onto the grass. But again, building community, building gardens. And just again, the whole pay it forward thing is no matter what it is, whether it's gardening, just me being a bus driver or my wife working at the hospital or you guys doing what you do... People are watching us. And just like when it comes to children watching parents, we might not know that they're watching. And we might not know that we've blessed somebody to go out and do something. So my goal is to do as much as I can to show people, okay, you can do this or you might not be able to do it, but I always take it back to... I'm six foot three and I can't play basketball, but if I can do a couple moves and show somebody that might have the ability to play basketball, I play. Now if you give me the ball, I can't do what they could do. But because of some of the things that I've learned from family members, my wife was a basketball player, just, you know, as a youth watching Michael Jordan, there are things that I could tell you that might help you out, but I can't do it myself. So doing it that way as this, always try to be able to do something that if somebody sees you, they can bless somebody else with, even if I don't know that they see me doing it. [Isabel} I think that piece of being the model and the role model is really important to empowering people to kinda get out there and just try it, right? Otherwise, you won't even know. [Abby} And I will say there's something to be said I feel like a lot of people have that first year where they've never gardened before and sometimes they just throw things in and it works! Llike my first year at gardening, I was like, "Oh, I could do this." Then it was like the more I learned, the harder it became almost so that that first year can sometimes be like that easy in and you don't really have any expectations and hopefully it helps you to continue participating in that. {Allan} In that and that in its though is good because even, even being a bus driver, I listen to hip hop music a lot while I'm driving. And it's so funny because I get older people or younger people who are like" what are you listening to?" And then I have my own garden podcast only because I've listened to over 1000 Garden podcasts while I'm driving the bus. So with that being said, I'm listening to hip hop music. I'm listening to the garden podcasts. I might listen to a health podcast. and the people know. So just an example. There was a young lady she was homeless and she had her son. He was listening to my music as they rode each day. And I changed it up, not even thinking of it and now I'm listening to Garden podcasts and he walked up to the front of the bus. And of course they can't cross that yellow line, but he's like, What are you listening? The boy is probably no older than five years old. And he's like they were talking about fruit trees and he was like "I like fruit!" And so we got to talking about that. And like I say, the boy's no older than five years, so they got off the bus. Next time I seen him, I think I was eating a mango. And I already knew that he liked fruit, He he's like, What is that? I'm like "its a mango". He's like "What's a mango?" I told him. he was like "what's it taste like?" I'm like, "Well, this one tastes like ice cream." And I said that and I mean, it kind of did. But I said that because I'm thinking young kids saying they like fruit, really don't. And the next time I see them I was like, well, tell your mom to get you a mango. They've got them at Meijer they've got them at Kroger. Next time I see him, he walks up to me on the bus and he said, "Man, I miss your mango." Now I'm thinking. I'm like "your mom didn't get you one?" he's like "no, she didn't get it." So I got him the mango. And it took me a while to catch back up with them in when I gave it to him It was early in the morning. Two hours later, they got back on the bus. He still had that mango, eating on it. That right there, right there being able to... This little boy, probably, is like I say, no older than five years old. But he's paying attention to me as a bus driver, listening to what I'm listening to as the bus driver and paying attention real life. If this man is driving the bus, listening to somebody talking about fruit. And now that's somebody that, one of his little brothers or sisters might not like a certain fruit. And now they say Okay, we're going to try this mango. It tastes like ice cream. I wonder what this one tastes like. Or I wonder with that one takes like." Just being able to do that without even trying to do it. It's like okay, now I have to make sure what I'm doing is something that if it's being watched, is going to be able to help somebody whether they speak on it or not. [Isabel} Yeah, definitely. So we're gonna get into the garden a little bit now and just ask you what have been some of your favorite things to grow? What are you're growing plans for 2021 look like? [Allan} Favorites? Tomatoes, of course,. I guess that's everybody's first or favorite thing to grow. Tomatoes are one of my favorites. I love mammoth melting snow peas for two reasons. You get a lot of them. The more you pick them and my wife doesn't eat them. So I can get all of them, but it's an easy crop to grow. Also, I didn't not like kale until I grew it in my garden for my wife. One day I went out and picked it and I'm like, okay, this is kind of good. And from there I've been able to try something new because I had never had it. I've never liked it. My sister tried to get me to eat it and I couldn't eat it. My wife would eat it and I will just let her eat it. But after growing it, it was like, okay, now that's a staple. Every time I grow something, there's going to be kale growing. So tomatoes, mammoth melting snow peas, kale are some of my favorites. And I guess I kinda wanna do it Market garden style, so I'm going to grow a lot of things that we'll be able to get. A lot of things like lettuces, radishes... I've had no luck with broccoli or corn, but I will not give up. I'm going to try broccoli and corn again. And there. I mean, it's a lot of things that I plan to grow. And again, I just want to be able to make it to where I can see how much I can grow in the small spaces in the garden to spread out onto this, experiment for the neighborhood food system. My favorite image of that too is like, I'm good at growing some things and then there are some things like corn never works for me no matter what I do. I'm just like, I think it just doesn't enjoy my energy or something like that. But when you have this neighborhood mindset, I'm sure there's somebody else near me that loves to grow corn and who's much better at it than I am. And so it kind of allows you to hone in on the things that you're really both good at and have like joy around. And then have your neighbor's goods, the things that give them joy. And I also love how you included the thing you grow just for you, The snow peas, because I definitely have those that I'm like, I know these are for me because nobody else wants to eat them. And then also the space that your wife's preference created for you to try something new, right? And I think there are so many things we get from the garden that we've tried in the grocery store, we've tried frozen or canned or what have you, that just don't taste the same as that fresh from the garden. And so it's wonderful to hear about those changes and preferences that come from the engagement in the garden [Allan} Really because even with tomatoes, like, you see so many different varieties of tomatoes at the grocery store and all of them taste the same. But last year, and the year before, I grew upwards of, Between 7 and 13, within the two years, 7 and 13 different varieties of heirloom tomatoes and with kale and with tomatoes, it hurts my feelings during the wintertime to have to go into the grocery store and buy those because my wife tasted a couple of them, but a lot of the times they go directly into a salad or we might add them into our greens and or something like that. But just eating them raw, I tasted a couple, and it is nothing compared to . So that's another thing when it comes to getting somebody to garden or at least grow something, it'll change your palate. So again, like with the kale, I couldn't stand it. But now it's like, again, is one of my favorite things to grow and it's one of my favorite things to eat. [Abby] Do you have a favorite tomato variety of those 7 to 13? I thought I had a lot with my nine in the garden but 13. Wow! {Allan} Yeah, my favorite out of those, I believe. I would say. What is the yellow pear? Oh yeah, that's one of my favorites. And of course the Chadwick Cherry was one of my favorites. But one of the, the most, I guess you could say crazy tomatoes... Last year I grew the Black Beauty. And it's like a super dark purple. But when you look at the tomato, its black. And at first, when I've seen it... I've seen it in 2018, I believe or 2019 and I'm like, I'm going to grow this. And everybody was like that's not real. And I found the sea. And when I grew it, I gave a couple of them to my father and it was like, those were the ones that worked for him and those were the ones, to have this big black jet-black tomato. But then we slice into it it is like a beautiful burgundy red purplish color on the inside and it's delicious. {Abby} Yeah, and that's not something you get in the grocery store. They're not growing for that kind of beauty. [Allan} It's not what's even crazier is a grocery store, tomato, the Brown Kumato, It's a little probably about half the size of a tennis ball. It comes in almost a perfect circle. They're good from the grocery store. But a couple of years ago I took a slice, put it in a Dixie cup, and grew some of them myself. That same exact tomato that I bought from the grocery store and decided to grow, tasted completely different when I grew up myself. And it's, you know, it's weird. When at the same time it's like Okay, the practices that are used to grow certain things a lot of time are what make that taste and what will make that taste grow on you? [Allan} Yeah, for sure. And in your garden you wait till it's perfectly ripe on the plant to eat it and that's kinda like at its peak of everything. I've never tried to do that with the grocery store tomato, I think I've just sort of written them off. But it's a nice reminder that there's opportunity there as well. And another quick note on that is this a hybrid tomato? and they tell you you can't necessarily grow seeds from hybrids. I've got the exact same tomato that I purchased. So it might not happen every time, but I got what I bought. And my only problem with that situation, is they were so good, I didn't save seed from what I grew so... Yeah. I got them and I just kept eating them and we were adding them to everything. But, you know, I always experiment. That's what I tell people whether it works or not. Do what they say, what whatever they tell you is not going to work. I have a motto when I say let the soil tell you no, because it might, we might stay next door to each other in, in my growing your yard and not grow in mind. What if we both, if I tell somebody not to grow it? They may be able to grow it, but because they listen to me, now they don't have that experience. [Abby} I love that. Let the soil, tell you no. that's a good one. So looking forward, do you have kind of any long-term - I know you shared some of your efforts around like trying to get more folks involved in that community-driven ag relationship... Do you have any other kind of big goals about what you're hoping to accomplish with the project ? [Allan] To just be able as far as community engagement, I want to be able to... one of the families that I wanted to approach, I approached the husband or boyfriend, and he was kinda standoffish. Some people would take that as disrespect and I don't know, I want to be able to basically help people and let them realize that It doesn't take a lot and, community engagement is a lot, so now I know either I approached this gentleman wrong or they're just not interested. So even when we think we're helping people, we have to figure out the right ways to do it. We have to figure out the right times to do it. I might be able to help you out... And one thing I've noticed in myself, and this is when it comes to gardening and just life. There was a point in time where I wouldn't ask for help for nothing. And if somebody offered help, I would not take it. And it came a time when I was in college where I was eating peanut butter and crackers and I lived in a house with people that had food and I wouldn't ask and my sister stopped by when I wasn't there and found out that I was eating peanut butter crackers. When I say my family, I was living in Chicago at the time my family came from Michigan. It was my mother, father, aunt, uncle, grandma, sister, and they brought so much food and just that simple. I could have called somebody and said, "Hey, I've got no food" and I wouldn't have had to get not necessarily backlash, but the fact of me not asking for help. And at the same time, the way my sister did it when they came, they did get down on me for not asking for help. But it was two things that I learned. If I need help, ask for it... And also when it comes to helping somebody be mindful of how you approach them. Because you could really send of a real form of disrespect by trying to just help somebody. Everybody doesn't want help at the time that you think they would need the help. So it's about how you approach it on asking for help, as well as, you know, trying to give somebody help. Even with the the 250 dollars we got from the church, they didn't have to do it. I didn't ask them to do it. I didn't even have a project in mind when they gave us the money. So it was like I could have said now we don't need the money. But okay. I looked at it, my wife about it and she's like, Well, what you're going to do. I'm like, Well, I mean, I had to think about it because I didn't want them to just give me $250 to go for food for me and my wife when we didn't need that extra 250 dollars, so ...help is help. But if people don't want the help or they feel that they don't need it. We have to work on, no matter how much good we have in our heart, we have to work on how it is we approach people. In my aspect I don't think that I approached the gentleman wrong, but It's a mindful thing when it comes to helping people out. You can't just force somebody to take the help. [Abby} Yeah. One of the things I spend a lot of time thinking about is the difference between our intentions and the impact, right? So we can be really well intended people and want to, want to be supportive of others. And the impact can still not land in the same way. And sometimes it's just about finding that different approach. I know you also shared what a role model you are as a bus driver and as a community member and how people see that and interact with that in a different way to. And so there are all these different angles we can, we can go to engage people and sometimes it just requires getting creative and demonstrating first, maybe for some folks finding those other ways of communicating and inviting people in to projects. So should we move to Q&A do you think, Isabel? Or do you want to ask one or two more questions. [Isabel} I think we can move into Q & A. Okay. So there's a lot of curiosity about your vision for these mobile garden beds. So we might ask you to share a little more behind your thought process that we could share in a follow-up e-mail. But there are some questions about your approach to soil health. And I'm guessing some of these are spurred by the fact that we had a soil health conversation a couple of weeks ago too. But how have you been incorporating like continuing to build soil health in your Gardens? Do you do any cover cropping or any other practices like that. What kind of your vision there? [Allan] Well, as far as the larger garden we are planning to do cover cropping. And I as far as at the home garden, the first year I dug it completely up and I realized that the water sat on top of the garden the whole season. I mean, it penetrated a little bit, but after that, I was kinda looking into like Charles Dowding, and a lot of the people that do no-till. So I just started to bring in compost as well as make my own compost and cover the ground with the compost and grow into that. And I've noticed the the growth of the vegetables are better as well as there were more worms and I'm studying and now learning about the different microorganisms and things like that. But when it comes to building soil health, I'm learning to not dig and till as much as well as just like last season, and the season before, instead of pulling everything out of the ground, cut it off at the roots, and let the roots die out, or just let it sit overwinter in the beginning of the season before you start, cut everything off at the roots. Because what happens with that is you have the microorganisms that are in the soil. They still have food from those roots. We might not be able to get food from those plants anymore, but there is still life in those plants that the microorganisms that are feeding the soil are actually taking up from the roots or the leftover leaves or different things like that from the garden. [Abby] Yeah, I think we have this eagerness to like season so we have to clean it perfectly and we're making it so much worse for ourselves the next season. Leaving material there is actually really helpful for making sure you have food next year from the soil. So, right. [Isabel] So some people are curious what your favorite gardening podcasts are if you are willing to share. In addition to your own... What's you know, what's funny? My podcast is called the G-talk Garden podcast, is not my favorite. I like it and I'll listen to it when I'm out of, the other podcasts, but the first garden podcasts I heard was the Joe Gardner podcast. And the only thing bad about that podcast was I was backed up so I listen to all of them. And then I got to the point where now they're coming on only once a week. So the Joe Gardner podcasts, he has TV shows. And I've actually spoken to this man. And that's not necessarily the reason that I like is podcast so much. But he goes from the technical aspect of the people that are master gardeners to the people like me that might be gardening in their backyard, just trying to help people out. So it is so much information. My next favorite would be... there's a podcast called Black in the Garden. And this young lady, her name is Colah B. Tawkin... And she focuses more on the African-American aspects of gardening and things like that. But you get the gardening, you get African-American history, you get good laughs throughout the whole podcast. Another one is the Urban Farm podcast, and they literally have, and I've listened to every single one over there almost as 600. So I binged while driving a bus, listening to all of those podcasts... And again, it's just like the Joe Garner podcast. I'm at the end of the rope and now I have to wait to the next podcast comes out. But those are three of my favorite. There's other ones that I'm listening to, the Afro Beats podcast, which is another African-American podcast. But they go over things like veganism and gardening and just things of that nature. But When it comes to guarding podcasts, There's so many because those are some of the ones that I listen to more. But there's not really a favorite because you gain so much information from even the ones here locally in the States too, I got a lot and I listened to that are from people from England or the UK or different things like that. So if you guys are, into podcasts, you might want to listen to this G-talk Garden podcast. But if you find a garden podcast, just listen to it. [Abby] Yeah, I love the diversity of experiences shared there too. And I think it's really powerful often were like we need to find the people with the expert title, or whatever... But there's so much wisdom to be learned from people who have just been doing it for a really long time. And I I'm just, yeah, I have some notes now on podcasts I need to add to my repertoire. Thanks. [Allan] Yeah, One thing about that. And I talk with my father all the time is I know that once I can't learn anymore, I can't teach you anything, you know, so it is a process to be able to keep learning. So again, go through that diverse list of different podcasts and seek, seek out more because there's so much information that we'll be able to, you know, you never know which bit of information is going to be able to help you. [Abby] So we just got a really great question in that I want to share with you, which is, "How did you find help for your garden vision? So for somebody who's just buying a new or just, just gardening on a new plot that might come with as its history of soil issues or deer or ground hogs or what have you, how did you find that initial kind of like support and help for vision. And what's, I guess in that it's sort of like the motivation to, to try on some things that might be really difficult at first, any tips on that? [Allan] The first thing I would say is, we'll just call it almost say experimentation, but almost the hard hardheadedness... Because there's so many things that people will say, you can't do... And again, that goes back to letting the soil tell you no. But I would say experiment. But also, again, when it comes to gardening videos and gardening podcasts, go through everything. I listen to a lot of videos of people that are in Florida. We're in Michigan, of course, you know, our climate is nothing like Florida. But you can take things from that . One experiment that I'm going to try. And I know in my mind I know it's not going to work. I'm going to grow a papaya tree here in Michigan. And people are probably listening like you're crazy, papaya, tropical. You can grow a papaya tree from seed to fruit within a year. And in my mind, I can started it in my basement. I can get it to a certain size. Boom. Now we have spring. I can put it outside and I can have fruit before the winter. It might work. It might not work, but the motivation behind it is try it and see if it'll work. [Abby] ...and if you get that Papaya we might be coming over. [Allan] Another thing with that is if I do it and it works. Climate change, I mean, not climate change on a negative aspect, but that's how you begin to grow things in different climates. So now if it might not work, but if it does work, what happens? Okay, now I have a papaya that is possibly kind of geared to the climate that we have here. It might not grow year after year, but the seed might be like, "Well it was kind of cold, and now I want to grow." And then it might be a whole new variety that can be started because I got three crops that I've grown some, but I want to grow... So I'm looking at okra. Coffee and it is cocoa yam, or the Taro plant, which is essentially an elephant ear. All of these originated in Africa, but when the okra was brought over by the slaves and they put them in their corn rows. So that was from an African climate. Okra grows good in the United States. Things like coffee will grow. But again, you might not be able to grow it in Michigan. But I've seen somebody grow a coffee plant in Michigan. They had it inside over the winter brought it out over the summer in year after year. They take it in and they take it out. So the motivation behind a new plot is to plant what you want to eat. If it doesn't work, try a different variety or try something else. And just like me with corn, corn grows good here. I haven't been able to grow it, but I keep trying. So eventually it's either going to work or somebody's going to say, let me grow your corn for you. [Abby] Let me know when you find that person because I'll hit them up too! Yeah, we have some comments in the chat. You have folks bringing in, bringing in citrus trees inside. I tried to grow fig tree for a couple of years. It requires a lot of creativity and commitment for sure. But that can be the things that keep you going to succeeding where people had said not possible. [Allan} I had three lemon trees that I started from organic lemons that we bought from the store. And they got to about 12 inches and then are kind of like had a hard see you then and it was like "Let me take them outside" and then boom, I left them outside for too long, and they ended up turning into fertilizer, but I did it. They said it was also okay. You're not going to be able to grow a lemon tree in Michigan, okay. if I wouldn't have left them out too long in the fall, I would've been able to bring them back in and they would have continued to grow. So again, don't let anybody tell you that you can't do something. Now again, there are things they won't grow in certain climates, but try it. in the whole purpose of the let the soil tell, you know, is if I tell you no, you can't grow that. And you listen to me and then see that somebody else grew it. You might have something against me. But if you're growing 10 things in your garden and you say I'm going to try this and 6 of them grow, 4 of them don't, You're still going to garden next year. So the soil is telling you, okay, you might have to try something different, so rock with that. Let the soil tell you no. find out different things about the soil and engage And it'll teach you a lot. The soil, will teach you a whole lot about what to grow, what not to grow, when to plant it, when not to plant it And those are things that, when it comes to gardening, we always want to listen to who has the best information. Sometimes it's the ground that you're standing on. [Isabel] Yeah. And I liked a comment that came in That said "if all else fails we have our native pawpaws here." So we have that. [Allan} And that's one of the things. I bought some seedlings last year and they're kind of failing but I'm, that's what I want to grow. That's a good thing because a lot of people don't even, I didn't learn about the pawpaw until maybe a year and a half ago. And I was like, wow, So and I want to tell everybody about like what is it? I'm like You look like a mango mixed with a banana, but it's native to to the places that you wouldn't think you would get a tropical fruit from. So I mean, it again, we always got the pawpaw! [Isabel] So Allan, we're gonna, we're gonna start winding things up and a question we like to ask all of our speakers is, "what are you looking forward to in the 2021 one growing season?" [Allan] I guess you can say more growth. My aspect on gardening is I don't necessarily want to make money from the gardening, I design clothes and do different things as well. So I would rather bless people and teach them how to garden and give them, I guess, free produce to entice them to garden. But I'm just looking at growth. So the more I grow and people see me or people focus in on me, I believe the more people will be able to grow. Because if I'm growing and you grow at the same time, you might grow differently and be able to teach me something. and now we're giving and taking. So just basically growth when it comes to personal and also growth when it comes to gardening. [Abby] Yeah. Always room to grow. Well, I think that's a really great note to end on, so we'll close here for the day. Thank you so much for joining us Allan. We really appreciate it and appreciated learning about all the good work you're doing. In our follow-up email we will share a lot of ways to connect with the work Allan's do. And if you want Allan's podcasts or some of the other ones that were shared too, and some follow up resources. I know there were a lot of questions on the kind of mobile boxes and things of that nature. So we'll definitely include some of that in the follow-up e-mail. But apart from that, just want to say thank you. Thanks for being willing to be here with us today. [Allan} Thank you guys for have me. It's just beautiful. to see things like these. This is going to be what makes people grow and it's going to help me to grow. [Isabel] We are really grateful you're doing this. Yeah. Thanks as always to all of you for joining us as well. Thanks to Rachel for interpreting and thanks to our backup crews for helping to keep on top of those questions and answers. So we'll see you all next week at 1230. Isabel, who do we have come to next week? We have David Loewenstein and we're going to talk about insects in the garden. Yeah, so get down and dirty with the beneficial bugs that help your garden survive. So, alright, thanks again, Allan and we'll see you all next week at 12:30. Enjoy this one. Thanks. Bye.

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