Hoop house prepared for growing season

MARQUETTE – Though the structure has been dormant for two years, students at the Marquette Alternative High School and AmeriCorps members – as well as several area community groups – will begin work today to ready the school’s hoop house for a plentiful growing season.

“(Today’s) focus is, let’s build this thing,” said MAHS Principal Andrew Crunkleton.

The group will spend much of today building raised flower and garden beds, digging a trench to bury a hose out to the hoop house and moving manure and compost into the beds.

Crunkleton said the group hoped to begin planting today as well.

“Once it’s built, the learning component will really start taking place,” he said. “We have a cooking class as an elective. It will be amazing for them to come in in the fall and be able to have fresh produce and herbs and actually incorporate that into what they cook in their kitchen.”

AmeriCorps members helped spearhead the project as part of their Upper Peninsula-wide service project. As part of the program, members must complete a certain number of service hours in the community they work in.

Also involved in the project are the Superior Alliance for Independent Living, the Marquette Food Co-op, Northern Michigan University and the Marquette Growth Committee.

Committee coordinator Miriah Redmond said her group – which was formed just one year ago – works to initiate community gardens in the city.

“We’re trying to use the hoop house as a community garden space to bring all different kinds of members of the community together – children, the teenagers at the alternative high school, adults – and use it as an educational facility,” Redmond said. “We’re just trying to get the community together and garden. It’s about growing food and food sovereignty.”

Redmond said members of her group have also been invited to present in MAHS teacher Chris Bloom’s class on sustainability. Crunkleton said Bloom has been a driving force in revitalizing the school’s hoop house, adding much of the project’s educational component will center around sustainability and learning to work within the community.

“The reason we want to teach sustainability, it’s just a great life skill to have,” Crunkleton said. “It’s good to understand where your food, your nutrition, all of those life essentials come from. More important than sustainability, for me as principal of this program, is that it’s building a bond with the community and a community partnership. That’s an unbelievable life skill for kids to have, is how to work well with others within the community.”

Crunkleton said the hoop house would be open for community use, adding that involving the school’s students with the community helps take away some of the stigma that comes along with the name “alternative school.”

“It’s waning, but there’s a bit of a misunderstanding of what the alternative high school is,” Crunkleton said. “I think it’s a great opportunity for people to work hand-in-hand with our students and help teach them and also learn from them.”

Crunkleton said the hoop house would also include a handicap-accessible bed.

Anyone with questions about the project can call Crunkleton at 225-4302.

Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.