Meet Me in the Garden

Community gardens are thriving across Macomb County

By Shelley Ottenbacher

When it comes to gardeners there are those with beautiful backyards – ready for tours, like Lori Browe with her backyard filled with blooms in St. Clair Shores. Others who love to garden just don’t have the space or the consist time to tend to a garden. Community gardens across Macomb County offer residents a chance to flex their green thumbs and reap a harvest of fresh vegetables, herbs and fruits, all while promoting community spirit and sustainable living. In other words, ways we can make our planet’s resources last as long as possible.

By definition, a community garden is a dedicated piece of land gardened or cultivated by a group of people individually or collectively. Land is typically divided into individual plots where each gardener is responsible for their own plot and harvests the produce of that plot. Community gardens can also include land gardened collectively and the produce shared.

“People and property are what you need to make a community garden work,” said John Hofmann, founder of Urban Seed, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping individuals or communities gain access to the infrastructure and volunteer base needed to sustain a community garden.

“Urban Seed helps anyone interested in starting a community or urban garden to connect the dots however we can,” Hofmann explained.

Urban Seed’s flagship garden in Eastpointe, started in 2012, features individual garden beds as well as 26 “Giving Gardens.” Maintained by dedicated volunteers, the Giving Gardens provide fresh produce to the local community through a free stand every Saturday during the growing season. Some of the produce is also donated to local senior housing and community food banks. The garden also includes seven accessible ‘U-pick’ beds, which are planted and maintained by volunteers, but anyone in the community is invited to harvest from them.

“We donated more than 1,000 pounds of produce last year, “ said Hofmann. “We are working to remove the barrier to accessing fresh produce, and we are changing the way people view volunteering and community.”

Beyond providing fresh, locally grown food, a community garden can also provide a place to connect with neighbors and nature by offering places to gather or sit and relax. Most regularly host events and educational programs aimed at enhancing gardening skills, promoting environmental stewardship and fostering community engagement. All while helping people of all ages understand where their food comes from and the importance of sustainability.

Shelby Township is in its second year of offering a community garden, which is conveniently located next to the Shelby Township Activities Center on land that was once a farm. Residents have first priority, but nonresidents also have the opportunity to request a plot.

“One of the best things about our garden program is the joy on people’s faces – especially those who may have had a garden at one time but now live in an apartment or condo where they no longer have room. We are so proud to be able to help them to enjoy that again,” said Joe Youngblood, director, Parks and Recreation and Maintenance, Shelby Township.

Youngblood also noted that people who begin with a garden plot often go on to engage in one or more of the many other activities offered through Shelby Township Parks and Rec.

“They start with a garden and the next thing you know they’re joining the pickleball league,” he said.

Sterling Heights plans to launch a city-managed community garden in James C. Nelson Park in spring of 2025. Kyle Langlois, director, Parks and Recreation, Sterling Heights said that they are still in the planning stages.

“We plan to have some in-ground plots for larger produce as well as raised garden beds,” Langlois explained. “We will also have a children’s garden for children’s programming.”

He noted that the garden is just another way that Sterling Heights is reimagining their parks and rec department to include all the different ways that residents like to enjoy leisure time.

“Our goal is to provide unique recreational opportunities and help our residents enjoy an exceptional quality of life in Sterling Heights,” he said.

Wondering if your community offers a garden or want to suggest a community garden initiative? Start with your local government or parks and recreation department to find out more. Or visit or find Urban Seed on Facebook to explore the possibility of getting started.

Sign up for our email newsletters

Share This

Share this post with your friends!