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Organic Gardening

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All kinds of people all over and around Ann Arbor are getting into organic gardening. E you haven't already been turned on to the idea you should give it some thought. Basically, when you grow your food organically, you harvest crops that are relatively free of the insecticides, fungicides, preservatives and other synthesized junk that pollute almost all of the food we buy and eat. Mass capitalist production and organic farming are economically incompatible. Large scale farmers who are competing on the "open" market depend on chemical fertilizers and insecticides for their financial success - in order to stretch their production yield, to help them produce "more" for less. Typical Amarican thinking - quantity instead of quality, profit instead of worth. It isn't really the individual farmer's fault - he's manipulated by monster corporations like General Foods and Kelloggs, and must meet THEIR requirements in order to survive. What many people still don't realize is that you don't have to depend on commercial growers for much of the food we eat - especially during the summer. Anybody with a backyard and some spare time and energy can put in a garden. And just as important as the vegetables you produce is the PROCESS of building your own garden. Working on the land is good food for the soul-especially if you do it with your friends. With so many people starting to garden, it seems like a good idea to pull together the information, opportunities and resources that are available in our community. ff you've already had a garden, or are in the process of growing one, you probably know as much or even more than I do about the subject. But if you don't know anything at all and need some ideas on where to start, or if you've got information you'd like to pass around or questions that need answers, this column is for you. ♦ One of the better things happening in Ann Arbor this summer is the Community Organic Garden, located on a 2 acre plot at the corner of Bsale St. and Glacier Way out by North Campus. The land has been donated to the project by the University and the funding is coming f rom the U of M Institute for Environmental Quality. (This is Rockefeller money folks--so take advantage of it. ) Co-sponsoring the project i s the Ann Arbor Ecology Center. Work has been going on at the site for about two weeks. They've already planted about 25 kinds of vegetables, and plan to raise everything that will grow in Michigan, including lots of berries and f lowers. Everyone who's interested in lending a hand and learning the process is welcome. Someone will be at the site every day from around 8 a. m. to 4:30 to coordínate activity. The project is collecting literature, to be kept in a shed at the garden. If you have any gardening books or magazines that you want to dónate, bring them by. Also, if you do go out there to work, take along your own tools if you have them. There's a limited supply at the site. No plans have been made as yet as to the distribution of the eventual crops (and the garden can easily out-produce the needs of all the pie who work on it. ) More on this later. For the moment they are mostly concerned with the process of building a communal garden and watching it grow, which is where the real beauty is anyway. ♦ K you have access to your own land - which means everything from a 100 acre farm to a small back yard - you should give some thought to putting in a garden there. And if you're thinking, think fast because it's time to start planting. For those of us who are starting from the beginning and doing it on our own - it's a good idea to do some preliminary reading. There's a man named J. Rodale who's been into organic f arming in a big way for a long time and he's really got his shit together. The Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening, a hard-bound volume, plus several paperbacks have been published by the Rodale Press. They also put out a monthly magazine called Organic Gardaning and Farming which is available at the Ann Arbor public library. Another source of unbeatable information is the Washtenaw County Extensión Bureau, located in the County Building. There you can find dozens of bulletins and pamphlets relating specifically to Michigan, covering everything from laying out your garden in the spring to canning your vegetables in the fall. Most of the info is free, some costs around a quarter. The Bureau also runs a soil sampling service. They provide you with a special soil sample box which you send to East Lansing. The resulte come back in pretty technical form but if you make an appointm?nt with the friendly, local agent, he'll explain them to you and make suggestions. The U. S. Department of Agriculture also puts out some useful information. The Wayne County Organic Gardening and Farming Club is meeting at, dig this, the Guaranty Savings and Loan Asseciation, 136 N. Telegraph Rd. Take the back door entrance, Saturday, May 15. Pot Luck Dinner at 6:30 costs $1. 25 if you don't bring your own food. Scheduled program is "How to Start an Organic Garden." Sounds like this might be a pretty useful and entertaining trip. This is your column, ff past experience has led you to some fantastic organic discoveries - pass them on. Ask questions--we'll find someone to answer them. K you've got extra land that isn't being used that you would like to see put to use, or if you're already farming and need volunteers for extra help - leave a note or cali for me at the SUN office and we'll pass the information on. We have to start thinking about good ways to distribute surplus produce. There are several potential outlets - the food co-op, local stores like Edens, and an organic restaurant which, rumour has it, will be opening up in town this summer. R really feels great to get out in the sun and dig in the dirt. GROW YOUR OWN! ! 1