Garden spotlight: The Drew Horticulture Program
2-minute read | By Michael Craig, The Charles Drew Transition Center Horticulture Program, GroMoreGood Grassroots Grant Winner
When the pandemic hit in March, The Charles R. Drew Transition Center, along with every other school within the Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD), closed to keep students and faculty safe and healthy.
As the director of The Drew Horticulture Program, which teaches students how to plant, nurture and harvest fruits and vegetables, this meant moving my lesson plans online and closing down our indoor hydroponic operations.
The Drew Horticulture Program’s mission is to teach gardening skills to 18 to 26-year-old students with moderate to severe cognitive and physical disabilities. With our help, these skills can then be translated into vocational jobs that students can pursue in the future as they age out of the DPSCD.
Students from The Charles R. Drew Transition Center harvest habanero peppers grown directly inside bags of ScottsMiracle-Gro soil
Between 140 outdoor raised beds, three hoop houses and extensive indoor hydroponic systems, our program typically produces over 5,000 pounds of food annually. Thanks to local and corporate partners, including ScottsMiracle-Gro, who awarded us the 2017 and 2019 GroMoreGood Grassroots Grant, the Drew Horticulture Program has become the largest farm to school program in the country and continues to grow every year. All of the food grown annually is divided between our programs, local restaurants and community food pantries in the Barton-McFarland neighborhood to provide more fresh, healthy food options.
Student at The Charles R. Drew Transition Center harvests lettuce grown through hydroponic gardening
Once the pandemic hit and our school programs moved to a virtual platform, we were no longer producing food for our community. I began fielding calls from our partners and other community members in desperate need of fresh fruit and produce. That is when I began lobbying our district superintendent, and other district leaders, to allow me to voluntarily plant and harvest tomatoes, lettuce, green beans, peppers and other vegetables in the outside components of our program. During this challenging time, it was important to me that we use our horticulture program’s resources to provide food-scarcity relief to our neighbors and community by donating our harvests to local food banks.
Thanks to the grants awarded to our program by ScottsMiracle-Gro over the years, which helped me expand our garden and integrate new technologies and techniques for gardening, I have been able to personally harvest more than 150 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables for my community over the last few months.
As I look toward the future, I hope to welcome back my students, in a safe and healthy learning environment, and continue our horticulture program. However, regardless of whether or not the 2020-21 school year starts in-person or remotely, I will continue to do what I can to help my community and elevate the importance of easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
At ScottsMiracle-Gro, we are committed to bringing the powerful, life-enhancing benefits of community gardens and greenspaces to 10 million children by 2023. That’s why The Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation, along with our partners at KidsGardening, launched the GroMoreGood Grassroots Grant Program to help garden projects like the Drew Horticulture Program succeed.