Bay Mills Community College Focuses on Foods

Feb 15th, 2011 | By | Category: 22-3: Food Sovereignty, Spring 2011, Tribal College News

Along the shores of Lake Superior, Bay Mills Community College (BMCC, Brimley, MI) is doing its part to motivate interest in local food production and consumption. Under the direction of President Michael C. Parish, BMCC’s Land Grant research and extension efforts have increasingly focused on local food system issues.

For six years, BMCC has supported a community gardening initiative and placed more than 60 raised bed gardens around the community. Community members—many of whom are tribal elders and families with young children— also receive organic compost, topsoil, seeds and transplants, and instructions to get them through their first growing season.

Another fixture on BMCC’s main campus is a small, heated greenhouse that science classes use as a learning laboratory; it’s also used to start transplants for community gardens. Some of the greenhouse’s energy is supplied by a small windmill and solar panels.

On BMCC’s west campus, research funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s (USDA/NIFA) Tribal College Research Grant Program is currently underway. In partnership with Michigan State University Extension, this program will expand the knowledge base for vegetable production in unheated hoophouses or high tunnels. By determining effective planting cycles, conducting variety trials, monitoring production rates, and experimenting with watering rates, temperature, solar energy, and other variables, BMCC hopes to demonstrate the full potential of unheated hoophouses.

The west campus also hosts a traditional food garden. There, the Bay Mills Indian Community Cultural Department incorporates traditional gardening practices such as the three sisters combination, and plants traditional heritage seeds.

A new USDA/NIFA-funded grant project will provide the resources to conduct a community health promotion program combining health and fitness activities with experiential gardening education. Each participant will receive gardening space at BMCC’s 40- acre agri-science research, extension, and production facility located south of the main campus. Extensive instruction and support will be provided to these families as they maintain their own family garden plots as well as a larger community plot. In addition to support for the actual food production, participants will receive education for harvesting, preparing, and preserving their bounty.

Bay Mills Community College will be partnering with the Ojibwe Charter School and the Boys and Girls Club with a new USDA/NIFA-funded project aimed at exposing young people to agricultural activities. The project may ultimately lead to food-themed curriculum development and student-grown produce being served in the cafeteria at the school.

In all of its local food system initiatives, BMCC strives to incorporate and promote sustainable and culturally relevant practices.

For more information, contact BMCC Director of Research and Extension Dr. Steve Yanni at

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