Sowing the seeds of change

By: Elizabeth Scussel | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published November 5, 2014

 With just over an acre of land, Micah 6 produced nearly 600 pounds of food last year. Main gardner Sean Koehler reaches for lettuce in one of the gardens. After the fresh food is harvested, it is offered to residents.

With just over an acre of land, Micah 6 produced nearly 600 pounds of food last year. Main gardner Sean Koehler reaches for lettuce in one of the gardens. After the fresh food is harvested, it is offered to residents.

Photo by Cole Yoakum

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OAKLAND COUNTY — From the sprouting of community gardens to monthly barbecue congregations, one local group is spreading the love around Oakland County.

A shared dream of communal kinship and the passion to provide has led to the creation of the Micah 6 Community.

“I really just wanted to do cool things in a big city, and chose Pontiac. I called my three best friends from college, told them my ideas and what I was thinking about doing, and immediately they said, ‘Hey, we’re in,’ and they moved up here, too,” said Micah 6 founder Coleman Yoakum, who moved to metro Detroit from rural Arkansas after being offered an internship with Kensington Church.

Micah 6 — which currently consists of a group of six friends — was founded on the concept of neighborhoods shrouded in an overall sense of community.

First on the to-do list was purchase a place to live.

“Buying real estate in Pontiac is actually really hard when you don’t know what you’re doing,” Yoakum said, explaining that a lot of Pontiac property is city-owned, or agents don’t bother showing the houses because the property values are so low.

Micah 6 accomplished its first mission in August 2012 when it purchased and began renovations on a six-bedroom duplex on Newberry Street in Pontiac. Shortly after moving in, they threw their first neighborhood barbecue.

“We definitely had a lot of skeptical neighbors. I mean, we were the only white people on the street. All our neighbors assumed we were renovating the house to rent it out. We had to explain that we weren’t renting, and we were actually moving in. We were met with a lot of laughs — nothing hostile — I’m sure they just thought we wouldn’t make it there,” Yoakum said. “Our initial cookout introduced us to about 35 people, and the numbers have grown from there.”

Weather permitting, Micah 6 now hosts monthly barbecues where nearly 100 people can eat and have the opportunity to get to know their neighbors.

In the summer of 2013, the group also began cultivating the art of community gardening. With a bit of money and an abundance of available lots, the group began growing. The fruits of their labors are offered to local residents. Just this year, Micah 6 gardens yielded nearly 600 pounds of fresh food.

“From one garden next door to our house, we’ve expanded to six vacant lots all over the city, which include 75 apple trees, grape vines, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries,” Yoakum said. “Today, we own a little more than an acre of land in two communities inside the city of Pontiac, making us the largest gardening group in the city.”

Through partnerships and help from local churches, businesses and countless volunteers, things are moving forward for Micah 6.

Micah 6 is currently in the process of erecting two 60-foot-long greenhouses that will allow for year-round gardening, and the group is also renovating a recently acquired building at 580 W. Huron to serve as a store for their produce.

Last month, Micah 6 purchased a second home in the community, which will soon be occupied by members of their outreach and development initiatives in Pontiac — initiatives that are a step in the right direction, according to Adam Hill, minister of the word at Rochester Church of Christ. Hill explained that the church’s decision to partner with Micah 6 was an easy one.

“Coleman had these dreams of building a church, and being just a couple of miles away from Pontiac, he reached out to us. He has these goals for the city and for helping people in need. His vision fit with who we are, and Micah 6 is living out the mission,” said Hill, who also serves on the board at Micah 6. “That community is challenging. It’s a high-transient area where people come and go quickly. People are now committing to live there for longer terms. It’s become a much more friendly place to live.”

Micah 6 is always in need of volunteers and donors.

For more information, visit www.micah6community.com.

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