Detroit Arsenal Garden Project

Project Overview

Project Type: Youth Educator
Funds awarded in 2012: $1,371.40
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Project Manager:
Dave Galer
U.S. Army Garrison-Detroit Arsenal

Annual Reports


  • Vegetables: broccoli, cabbages, greens (leafy), peas (culinary), peppers, tomatoes
  • Additional Plants: herbs, ornamentals


  • Crop Production: food product quality/safety
  • Education and Training: demonstration, display, youth education
  • Energy: wind power
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture
  • Sustainable Communities: leadership development, local and regional food systems, urban agriculture, community services

    Proposal abstract:

    We plan to create a self-sustaining irrigation system for our existing garden project which includes two rainwater collection systems tied into our building’s downspouts. We will run plastic tubing from these to the gardens and we plan to build a windmill which will pump the water from the rainwater collectors to the gardens. We plan to use drip emitters installed in the plastic tubing at each fruit/vegetable plant to maximize irrigation efficiency by conserving water usage and by irrigating the plants’ root systems directly. We will continue as we did last season to use our produce to supplement Child, Youth and School Services (CYSS) summer camp menus and to offer for sale to parents and Detroit Arsenal employees at the Delicious, Tasty, All-natural (Detroit Tank Arsenal) Veggie Stand, which will be staffed by Middle School-Teen (MST) youth volunteers. Proceeds from the DTA Veggie Stand will be used to fund continued 4-H programming. We will use no fertilizers or pesticides in our gardens other than organic compost from our own compost piles.

    Last winter I and my supervisor, MST Director Teresa Brodsky, took a class offered by our 4-H Extension Service entitled “Let’s Get Growing, Gardening With Kids.” With knowledge gained from that class, and inspired by Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” Initiative, I conceived the idea of a garden project which would involve CYSS youth in all age groups. The project was planned and constructed by our MST youth last spring and summer on the grounds of the U.S. Army Garrison-Detroit Arsenal Child Development Center (CDC). The project incorporated 17 raised beds which include 4 dedicated vegetable beds, a 5'X7' regulation size American Flag bed, a pizza garden, 8 "tot plots", a square foot garden, 4 bean tepees, a prairie sunflower house and 3 potato gardens made from recycled tires which are decorated to look like Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head & Tater Tot. The project also involved red worm and yard composting and gravity fed drip irrigation systems. This season we plan to continue our garden project with some enhancements. The NCR-SARE Youth Educator Sustainable Agriculture Grant would be used as follows:

    1) We will install two rainwater collection systems in the downspouts of the CDC building.

    2) We will build four additional 4’x8’ raised beds in which to grow strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and boysenberries.

    3) We will run plastic tubing from the rainwater collectors to the fruit and vegetable beds.

    4) We will install drip emitters at specified intervals determined by required plant spacings to provide irrigation directly to the root systems.

    5) We will construct windmill models to learn about design and construction techniques. We will then apply what we have learned in the design and construction of two working windmills at the project site which we will tie into the plastic tubing to pump water from the rainwater collectors to the fruit and vegetable beds.

    This project will help to teach our students the importance of water and energy conservation. Although we used gravity fed drip irrigation systems in two of the vegetable beds last season, the reservoir tanks on those systems still had to be filled from the building’s outdoor spigot. This project will show our students how we can lessen our dependence on the municipal water supply, conserve our water resource and decrease our environmental footprint. Additionally, the use of wind power will teach a valuable lesson in energy conservation, further decreasing our environmental footprint.

    This project will continue to impact the students and our community much the same as it did last season. Our students will be proud of the accomplishments they achieve, and will learn skills and practices that they will be able to draw on throughout their lives. Our Army community has used, and with these project enhancements will continue using, the Detroit Arsenal Garden Project as a model for installations in our Central Region and around the globe, exemplifying an ideal activity involving youth of all age groups and providing an excellent opportunity for family involvement.


    We will tap the resources of the Michigan State University 4-H Extension Service, our local Macomb County MSU 4-H Extension Service, and 4-H Master Gardener volunteers Anne Crotser and Richard Frank. The curricula we will use includes: the 4-H Michigan Junior Master Gardener Program; the 4-H National Curricula “See Them Sprout”, “Let’s Get Growing,”, and “Take Your Pick”; and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America “Money Matters” program.


    We will continue to involve youth educators in our Strong Beginnings (ages 4-5), Kindergarten (ages 5-6) , and School Age (ages 6-11) programs, to provide a resource for CYSS staff to encourage healthy eating habits while educating youth on the benefits of “going green”. We will utilize our MST group (ages 11-18) as mentors to the younger children. Our MST youth will also create a powerpoint slide show to highlight their efforts which will be made available to USAG-DA Installation Management Command (IMCOM) for distribution to IMCOM Central Region. Last season’s project was submitted by IMCOM Headquarters in Washington, D.C. to CNN’s iReport International. For reference purposes go to, click on “International” tab, search iReport for “Gardens serve as learning tool for Detroit Arsenal youth.”



    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.