Garden Supervisor Joe Rarus shows off his red raspberries at the Southfield Senior Garden July 12.

Garden Supervisor Joe Rarus shows off his red raspberries at the Southfield Senior Garden July 12.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Senior garden is ‘practically family’

Applications available for city senior garden plots 

By: Kayla Dimick | Southfield Sun | Published July 25, 2019

 Plants thrive in a raised garden bed July 12 at the Southfield Senior Garden.

Plants thrive in a raised garden bed July 12 at the Southfield Senior Garden.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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SOUTHFIELD — Whether you’ve been gardening all your life or you just want to get out of the house, the Southfield Senior Garden has a plot for you. 

According to Nicole Messina, the senior adult facility coordinator for the Parks and Recreation Department, the Southfield Senior Garden, located at Mary Thompson Farm, 25630 Evergreen Road, has been in operation for around 25 years. 

The garden is run by the Parks and Recreation Department, Messina said, and is open to all resident seniors. 

For a fee, residents 50 or older have access to a 400-square-foot plot of land, unlimited water, a tool barn and the guidance of a master gardener. The only thing residents have to pay for is the plants or seeds they wish to tend. 

In between bites of a cinnamon roll, master gardener and Garden Supervisor Joe Rarus — nickname “Joematoes,” for his love of growing tomatoes — said the gardeners are at the farm as early as 6 a.m. on any given day. 

“Everybody’s got their own style for gardening,” Rarus said. “There’s the early birds, and then there’s other people who show up until it’s practically 80 or 90 degrees. They just love it hot. They’ll be here at 3 o’clock in the afternoon — the hottest part of the day — and they’re just working like it’s springtime. There’s different personality types.” 

Rarus said the garden is a good way to learn about the hobby, whether your thumb is green or not. 

“There’s a ... wealth of information. There’s people who were born and raised on a farm, and then we have people who are, like, brand-new and all excited. But the nice thing being part of a community is that you can ask everybody. And if you don’t feel like asking, you can just walk around and use your own power of observation and say, ‘Oh, they’re doing that.’”

Gardeners in the program take their sense of community seriously, he said. 

“It’s practically family. Everybody knows each other or they’re next-door neighbors or they go to the same church. So if somebody is having a birthday — let’s have a party,” Rarus said. “It’s wonderful.”

Southfield resident Wilson Boyd is currently working on his very first plot at the farm. Right now, he’s growing corn, cabbage, zucchini, peppers, tomatoes and beans. 

“It’s good when you can see your stuff grow,” Boyd said. “It’s nice to pass a little time, and I have my wife out here helping me, so it’s something we can do together.” 

Messina said the program is not only good for seniors to get out of the house, but it can also help improve their mental health. 

“It’s good for independence and it helps to fight depression. They form friendships and relationships — and it’s beneficial for physical fitness as well,” she said. 

Space is limited, but Rarus said interested seniors call fill out an application at the Southfield Parks and Recreation Department. For more information, call the department at (248) 796-4620. 

The garden opens in May and closes for the season in November.

Call Staff Writer Kayla Dimick at (586) 279-1108. 

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