Three years ago, a Dearborn resident began a project in a vacant area near Crowley Park. It started with a few seeds planted here and there; some wood panels for raised garden beds; a sign proclaiming the area as the Organic Farm.
My, how things have grown.
Maureen McIlrath, Dearborn’s resident “green” guru and founder of the Going Green Foundation, had a vision for a garden that would teach local kids about healthy eating, inspire her community to think about sustainability, and provide food for the hungry.
“They all thought I was crazy,” she says of her grand ideas with a laugh. But the Crowley Park farm is well on its way to becoming just that.
This year, the City of Dearborn extended McIlrath’s lease on the property for 20 years. They’re also helping to install security cameras to ward off vegetable thieves and spickets for easier watering. The farm also received two grants this year to help with purchasing seeds and plants. And the children’s area continues its popularity, with kids from nearby and other areas growing their own plants.
And, perhaps best of all, McIlrath says the farm has donated as much as 40 pounds in one week to the Help's On the Way food bank in Dearborn Heights.
It’s a visible success, too: plants grow high in garden, and brand-new fencing “defines the area,” McIlrath says. The red of ripe cherry tomatoes and the deep purple of eggplants dots each garden. Peppers are ready to be picked. Vines from the first pumpkins–new this year–snake out of beds and into pathways.
But it’s not a cheap venture, and funding is hard to come by.
“It’s still all about the money,” McIlrath admits, adding that she has put thousands of dollars of her own money into things like fencing and tools–not to mention countless hours of planting, picking and weeding hundreds of plants.
The children working at the farm recently started their own farmers market, held Thursdays from 3-5 p.m. The kids get to keep money from the fruits and vegetables sold from their own plots, and the rest goes back to the foundation to keep the project going.
Additionally, McIlrath has begun leasing out gardening lots–$40 for a 12-by-12 space, and $60 for a pre-made bed.
Efforts to secure more grants are under way, as is planning for a Nov. 18 fundraiser that is hoped to raise a large chunk of funds to move the Going Green Foundation–and the Crowley Park Farm–into its next phases.
That could include beehives, hoop houses–even chickens.
“We’re not even close to being done yet,” McIlrath says. “We’re just starting to get there.”
To learn more about the Going Green Foundation, or to volunteer or donate, visit thegoinggreenfoundation.org.