One local woman is hoping to make huge changes in the poverty cycle across Northern Michigan with the creation of the Boyne Valley Community Greenhouse.
Ruth Milks is heading up this new nonprofit to help local families by providing organic fresh fruits and vegetables to those with low incomes, as well as to educate them on how to plan, prepare, grow and store their own fresh fruits and vegetables.
“I have worked for the food bank for the past eight years and am very aware of the struggles of so many of our local families, as well as the struggles of the agencies trying to serve them,” said Milks. “Families go without healthy options due to the cost. Many agencies go without fresh produce if food bank or pantry donations are down. The idea behind the community greenhouse is to provide a stable, healthy supply of produce for anyone needing it.”
Milks said education components of the new greenhouse will include various storage methods including freezing, canning, drying, freeze-drying, and long-term cold storage.
“These skills are life-changing and poverty breaking,” she said. “By teaching families these skills, we will be able to teach them to be self-reliant and not depend on the system to get by.”
Milks added, “Children are encouraged to participate; therefore, we are also helping teach future generations skills that have been lost.”
The first of the greenhouses have arrived and Milks said she is in the process of building a vertical aquaponics system. With this construction they will be able to grow one-hundred-percent organic produce in a fraction of the time and produce three times the amount of product naturally.
“Once our community project is completed, we will have a total of four greenhouses—two regular style for berries and cold weather vegetables, one 20-by-80-foot pit-style for regular needed produce, and one 20-by-30-foot pit-style for citrus and tropical fruit and veggies that are so hard to come by in the north,” Milks said. “On completion, all greenhouses will be self-sustained, completely organic, off grid, and cost minimal to maintain.”
With the greenhouses centrally located in Boyne City, Milks said distribution will be an easy option for Emmet, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Otsego, and Antrim counties.
“Borders are not an issue and anyone in need will be taken care of,” said Milks. “Delivery will be available if necessary.”
Distribution of the produce will be done through on-site hours, agencies serving low-income families, senior centers, veteran agencies, and food pantries.
“It is my hope that this adventure proves that, with just a small amount of space and vertical gardening, we can feed a community,” said Milks.
Anyone wishing to help with this project is invited to the work bee at 11 a.m. on Saturday July 13 at the Boyne Valley Community Greenhouse, located at 531 Delmax Lane in Boyne City.