Traverse City News and Events

Going Native

April 11, 2015

From edible trails and native nurseries to seed bombs and plant programs, numerous efforts are underway to help local communities return to their roots - literally. Just in time for spring, The Ticker looks at some of the key players in the movement to “go native.”

Grand Traverse Edible Trails Project
After raising more than $5,000 on crowdfunding website Indiegogo, a network of environmental and land use groups planted two stretches of edible forests along the TART Trail system last year. The Cedar Lake and Cedar Creek Food Forests will eventually feature jostaberries, hazelnuts, elderberries, blueberries, sweetfern, mulberries, persimmons and several other varieties of fruits and nuts that are free to be enjoyed by anyone using the Leelanau Trail.

Owner Stuart Campbell of Perennial Harvest – a partner in the project – says the group will next turn its attention to other potential planting sites along TART, including Jupiter Gardens near the corner of Rose and Boyd streets. “We’re looking at pitching an ‘Adopt-A-Berry,’ similar to an ‘Adopt-a-Mile,’ where businesses or people could adopt a certain stretch of the trail (for planting),” says Campbell. The group is also pursuing grants and other funding sources and hopes to develop a website of resources that can help other communities plant their own edible forests.

“Our hope is we could become a template for others,” says Campbell.

Farm & Garden Nursery
Campbell is also a partner in another new venture designed to encourage local use of edible and native plants. Campbell, 9 Bean Rows and Manifest Manikas are teaming up this year to launch Farm and Garden Nursery, a community nursery on M-204. The business will grow edible and native plants and heirloom vegetables using a hoop-house and 9 Bean Rows farmland, with a focus on farm-to-school distribution and sourced plants for area farmers and gardeners.

Campbell notes fruit trees and indigenous perennials can be particularly difficult to find in Leelanau County. “It’s a niche specialty,” he says. “They’re not often available locally.” 9 Bean Rows owner Nic Welty agrees. “It’s very hard to find even normal fruit trees here like plums, peaches and apricots,” he says. “There’s a shortage of plant material up here outside of your normal landscaping plants. To have more diversity and offer more of those unique edibles and native plants that are well-suited to our area…I see that as a huge benefit.”

The nursery also reflects a growing trend – encouraged by Go Beyond Beauty, a Northwest Michigan Invasive Species Network (ISN) campaign – to move away from selling/planting high-threat invasive ornamental plants and instead emphasize native varietals. The Grand Traverse Conservation District, a partner in ISN, notes native plants “pose no risk of becoming invasive…require little additional effort to thrive…(and) support an amazing diversity of butterflies, moths and other insects. Non-native plants simply cannot perform this critical habitat role.” 

ISN offers a database of nurseries and landscapers in northern Michigan who are committed to using native plants. The group also maintains a “Top 20 Least Wanted Species” list detailing the greatest invasive threats to the region.

Get Planting!
Ready to get planting? The Conservation District will hold its annual Native Plant Sale on May 16 from 8am-3pm at the Boardman River Nature Center. More than 40 species of native wildflowers, grasses and woodlands will be for sale at the event. The organization will also hold a pre-sale workshop on April 15 from 5-7pm with a presentation on preparing and choosing the best plants for your site.

At NMC’s Sweet Earth Arts & Music Festival on April 18 from 1-7:30pm, families can make free seed balls and participate in other no-cost science and gardening activities. Perennial Harvest – which will be present at the event – will also have its popular flower seed pods (formed in the shape of Michigan) available for purchase, as well as Michigan Native t-shirts, the sale of which will help benefit the 10 Cents A Meal for School Kids & Farm program.  

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