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#OTGYpsi: Growing Hope expanding 'tool lending library' in Ypsilanti


Concentrate Ann Arbor

Rylee Barnsdale's Feature Article: Growing Hope plans to expand tool lending library in Ypsi

Growing Hope


Rylee Barnsdale: You're listening to 89 one WEMU. I'm Rylee Barnsdale, and this is On the Ground Ypsi. For over 19 years, Ypsilanti nonprofit and urban farm Growing Hope has been working to make growing your own healthy food in your own context more sustainable and accessible through their weekly farmer's markets and community education events. Now, the team is working to make tools even more accessible. Growing Hope's farm on West Michigan Avenue has always provided tools to other growers in the community, but this spring, the goal is to open an official tool-lending library to the public, where hobby farmers and educators and more can sign out and borrow gardening tools--hopefully opening up a door to those who were interested in growing their own produce, but didn't have the space or means for their own tools. Here with me today to look at how this project is developing is Growing Hope farm manager Christopher Hallett. Hi, Christopher! Thanks so much for being here!

Christopher Hallett: Hi, Rylee! Thanks for having me!

Rylee Barnsdale: So, Growing Hope's lending library is not necessarily something new. It just wasn't maybe broadly advertised as being a resource available to the public. Is that right?

Christopher Hallett: Yeah, that is for certain. We would never shut anybody away from borrowing one of our tools.

Rylee Barnsdale: So, what prompted the idea to make this a more widely-known resource for the community?

Christopher Hallett: I would say we just wanted to be able to have an avenue, so there was no barriers towards gardening or whatever else that somebody might get into that we have tools for.

Rylee Barnsdale: And what kinds of things are currently available in the library. You know, what kind of tools will be available for folks to check out and use?

Christopher Hallett: We have a lot of landscaping tools, shovels, we have hard rakes, we have soft rakes, we have weeding implements, we have a dolly, which isn't farming-related but is helpful to some. We also have a type bender, building like low tunnels over somebody's garden that they want to extend their seasons: in the springs or in the fall. And for like small pipes, we also have, like, a larger hoophouse. If you wanted to build something, like seven feet wide over however long you wanted to make it, you can even make a small cover if you wanted to as well. So, it's not specific to agriculture, but we have these handy tool for people to be able to use it. And we're currently discussing whether or not we have gas-implemented machines. Currently, we don't. But hopefully, we can have a volunteer database that knows how to fix gas engines, so we can keep having them.

Rylee Barnsdale: This is WEMU's On the Ground Ypsi. I'm Rylee Barnsdale, chatting with Growing Hope farm manager Christopher Hallet. So, Christopher, you talked a little bit about the kinds of things that will be available for folks to borrow from the tool library. Are these things that you maybe already had on hand at the farm? Are these things that were donated by community members? How did all of these tools come together?

Christopher Hallett: Yeah, we had a large portion of them, but, slowly, we've had a couple people donate tools. Like, we had somebody come by and donate some wheelbarrows. I came into work one morning and there was a set of posthole diggers. People have been slowly donating some tools here and there, and we're using whatever that we have around.

Rylee Barnsdale: So, is there an active call out for donations?

Christopher Hallett: Yeah, absolutely! We would love to pass through the tools and see if there's something that we can use or something that the community has asked for. But we did ask on one of our newsletters. And we got a huge list of what people are looking for.

Rylee Barnsdale: And given that this is a working farm, I understand the goal with this resource is to sort of start small and kind of see how it naturally evolves based on that community need that you described. Are there other tools or items that you want to have in the library in the future to better serve the community?

Christopher Hallett: Yeah. There's a lot of people who had requested woodworking tools. It seems like that's something that is like a high-end purchase that people would like access to. So, I think we'll try and get as many woodworking tools as possible, but we still need to figure out what's the liability of power saws and things like that are. So, it might look like that. Yeah, we have hammers and ratchets and screwdrivers and maybe drills and things like that. But saws might not be an option for a while. But planers would be an option potentially if somebody donated planers. We have a car battery charger. It's definitely an option for renting.

Rylee Barnsdale: So, definitely, wanting to hear what the community need is as time goes on to ensure that the library is stocked with what folks want to use.

Christopher Hallett: Right.

Rylee Barnsdale: This is WEMU's On the Ground Ypsi. I'm talking with Growing Hope farm manager Christopher Hallett. Christopher, you and Growing Hope executive director Julius Buzzard are still hammering out the details of the library. Are there similar tool-lending models that you're considering or looking at to develop Growing Hope's?

Christopher Hallett: Yes. I've been looking around at different places just to see like what their staffing looks like, what the hours look like, and the tools they have. And it kind of seems like it's all started in the same kind of way--like seeing what the community needs and then going from there. As for myself, I have used and very much benefited from O'Reilly's Auto Parts store or AutoZone from using their tools and renting them. They allow you to rent tools for the price of the tools. So, if you have the money to be able to do that, you get refunded. But I know that I am just indebted to that program. It's so great, and I'm really thankful to be able to do it on the side of agriculture.

Rylee Barnsdale: I understand that you're also working with the Washtenaw County Conservation District. They also have a tool library. They've offered to the whole of the county for a number of years now. Is there anything you can share about what that partnership is looking like?

Christopher Hallett: Yeah. Currently, the partnership is looking like they are donating a couple of tools to us, and they are going to put the tools that they're donating on to their tool-lending library on their website. And people will be able to check it out through their website from us, or they'll be able to check out tools from their own site. So, we'll have a presence on their online database via the tool that they donated to us.

Rylee Barnsdale: So, this is even going beyond Ypsilanti now and hitting the rest of the county.

Christopher Hallett: Yeah, yeah. It is. Because we are in Ypsi, we would like to prioritize Ypsi people more so than other folks driving in from Ann Arbor.

Rylee Barnsdale: Sure.

Christopher Hallett: So, we will be monitoring as much as possible.

Rylee Barnsdale: With it warming up outside, I'm sure plenty of folks are itching to get out and start planting and growing their own veggies and herbs. When can we expect to see the lending library open officially?

Christopher Hallett: We are hoping by the end of the month or beginning of May. You know, check out our website, growinghope.net. And we have volunteer opportunities at the farmer's market and at the farm. And you can always email people in case you have questions about donating tools. And people are more than welcome to email.

Rylee Barnsdale: Well, Christopher, thank you so much for being here and giving us a better idea of this reinvigorated community resource that Growing Hope is providing. Thanks so much!

Christopher Hallett: Yeah! Of course! Thanks for reaching out and talking!

Rylee Barnsdale: For more information on today's topic and links to the full article, visit our website at wemu.org. On the Ground Ypsi is brought to you in partnership with Concentrate Media. I'm Rylee Barnsdale, and this is your community NPR station, 89 one WEMU FM, Ypsilanti.

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Concentrate Media's Rylee Barnsdale is a Michigan native and longtime Washtenaw County resident. She wants to use her journalistic experience from her time at Eastern Michigan University writing for the Eastern Echo to tell the stories of Washtenaw County residents that need to be heard.
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