PONTIAC, Mich. -

Inclimate and unpredictable weather has wreaked havoc on crops throughout the state. In spite of that, one garden is boasting a most fruitful season of hard work and community. HAVEN Garden Project has grown more than 8,200 pounds of fresh, organic produce for the shelter kitchen, and is opening the garden on August 28 for a unique hands-on experience.

An "Evening Gardening" with Garden Manager Emily takes place on Wednesday, August 28, from 5:00- 7:00 p.m. The activities include moderate physical activity and include weeding and harvesting. Volunteers are encouraged to bring gloves, sun protection and a bottle of water. To reserve a space, contact Emily at newleafgarden@gmail.com.

The HAVEN Garden Project in Pontiac, planted in 2010, is a cooperative effort of the Michigan Young Farmer Coalition and HAVEN and is located in Pontiac at the HAVEN shelter for domestic and sexual violence victims. It was conceived to provide healthy food for the shelter residents while educating them about nutrition. Additionally the garden feeds other HAVEN clients and staff, and as a long range goal - the community.

This season the Garden has been managed by “farmer in training” Emily Eisele of the Michigan Young Farmer Coalition. Among this season’s successes for Eisele and her volunteers is the completed Zen garden. Designed by Jared Bogdanov-Hanna, it is replete with perennials, kitchen herbs and wildflowers. As well to deal with the weather and its effects on harvest, Eisele has learned to “put food by” which might include freezing a harvest or repurposing a bumper crop like shredding and freezing zucchini for bread, making and freezing pesto from basil, or making fridge pickles of cucumbers.

The HAVEN Garden Project differs from other urban gardens because it is part of the Residential Program at HAVEN for family members of all ages who bring varied gardening experiences. Eisele reports one of the greatest benefits is watching the kids who are staying at the shelter as they learn about the different crops. “I feel lucky to witness young kids showing off the names we have taught them,” she says. It is not all work and the garden is a place for play too. She continues, “You might find them putting grass clippings and flowers over a straw bale and calling it a ‘cake.’ They are so inventive creating a ‘secret kitchen’ where they line up pea gravel, and green beans and edible flowers to reveal a cooking challenge for me. Their engagement- that is the real value of the garden beyond the produce.”

HOW VOLUNTEERS CAN HELP

In addition to the Evening Gardening with Garden Manager Emily on Wednesday, August 28, the Garden has a variety of volunteer opportunities. They range from donating a few hours to creating a community service project. Groups or individuals like scouts might create any number of things for The Garden Project including permanent seating/benches in the Zen garden, a mural or garden sign, a fort for kids (or a trellis fort to grow squash on to make a "green castle"), a Children's Mandala Garden or a rain collector.

Following is a list of specific needs of the garden:
• a standard hoe
• large tarps
• hand trowels
• seating including sturdy outdoor benches, tables and chairs.
• gift cards to Johnny's Seed or other garden centers
• clear plastic click-top storage containers in various sizes.

To arrange for an item, contact HAVEN Development Department at donate@haven-oakland.org.

HAVEN is Oakland County’s center for the prevention and treatment of domestic violence and sexual assault. The nationally recognized non-profit organization is a leader in preventing and treating the trauma of domestic violence and sexual assault, through community education and empowerment of survivors. HAVEN believes that everyone deserves to live without fear.

For more information about HAVEN and its programs and services, visit www.haven-oakland.org or call (248) 334-1284. To arrange interviews with HAVEN or to learn about HAVEN programs and events, please contact Melissa Bunker at marketwrite@comcast.net and (313) 886-9074.