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Garlic provides seeds of new program to help establish small Michigan organic farms

Warding off evil spirits not the only thing the tasty herb is good for!
An innovative new program of the Michigan Land Trustees (MLT) aims to use sales of organic garlic as a catalyst to help small organic farmers become better established in Michigan.

The project is brand new, but the concept is consistent with the organization’s longtime mission. Since the mid-1970s, Bangor-based Michigan Land Trustees has pursued a goal of “revitalizing rural and urban communities by promoting responsible land use and the development of localized food and energy systems.”

In its early years, it operated a homesteading school. After the “back to the land” movement subsided, it helped to create and support the Michigan Organic Food and Farm Alliance. It has given financial support for conferences on community supported agriculture, for a visioning session for the Greater Grand Rapids Food System Council, for the annual Southwest Michigan Harvest Festival, and many smaller projects.

To help support its new focus on “cultivating resilient communities,” MLT is launching an innovative new garlic planting project which will generate funds for micro loans to small organic growers. The idea came from MLT board member Dennis Wilcox—a small organic greens and vegetable producer who operates Blue Dog Greens based in Bangor. This past October, he and fellow board members planted culinary quality garlic for harvest this summer. The net proceeds from sales to local restaurants and markets will go into a fund for micro loans to small organic farmers to help them get better established.

Returns from each year’s crop plus the repayment of the microloans will increase the project fund over time. Another board member is exploring premium wildflower honey as an additional source of project funding.

Local organic production is better for the environment. It saves energy through fewer “food miles” traveled, reduced processing, drastically less fertilizer and pesticide use and contamination, while emitting less nitrogen oxide. It also provides significant soil carbon capture and sequestration.

The tasty herb, it should be noted, has been credited with a wide array of medicinal and therapeutic properties over thousands of years—including folklore bestowing it with the ability to ward off evil spirits. While the Land Trustees make no such claim, they expect their community-building project will help to expand and strengthen its efforts to make Southwest Michigan more self-reliant and resilient.

For more information, visit www.michiganlandtrust.org.
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