Earth Keepers launches garden initiative

MARQUETTE – A new Earth Keepers organization announced its intention to build community gardens across the Upper Peninsula during a press conference held in the Presque Isle Pavilion Friday morning.

“(This) has to do with reconnecting with the earth and becoming more responsible and more creative stewards of the creation that we find ourselves living in,” said Jon Magnuson, executive director of the Cedar Tree Institute.

Magnuson, who said he was using the work of Thomas Berry, a Roman Catholic theologian well-known for his belief in environmental stewardship, as a guide.

The new group, called EarthKeepers II, will continue the work that its predecessor, Earth Keepers, began – joining several different faith groups together to complete work that helped conserve the local environment.

With funding from the United States Forest Service as well as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the coalition – comprised of 10 U.P. faith communities as well as a Northern Michigan University student group – will work over the next two years to complete energy conservation audits at 40 U.P. churches and temples. The group will also give out grants ranging from $500 to $1,000 for each site to assist in changes or repairs identified as necessary from those audits.

Among the energy conservation items involved in the audits are insulation, lighting fixtures, ventilation and heating systems.

The project also includes building roughly 30 community gardens, which will grow native plants and vegetables for community distribution to food pantries.

“The environmental movement and the faith movement are critical movements to join together and through those people, we can actually make a difference in the world,” said Nancy Auer, representing the Episcopal Church of Northern Michigan.

The NMU students are planning to write and record public service messages with energy conservation tips, information on protecting the Great Lakes and about the importance of native plants restoration.

The group is planning to promote dorm room gardening on Northern’s campus – specifically with window gardens.

Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is