MiGreatPlaces: Gaylord’s Art in the Garden Festival

Acres and acres of land, once filled with nature’s debris, things like tree stumps and leftover building materials, has since been transformed into a community garden in Gaylord.

But, it didn’t happen overnight.

The Otsego County Alternative Landscaping Demonstration Garden, and Conservation Forest is home to a yearly festival celebrating what it’s become.

In this week’s, MiGreatPlaces, chief photojournalist Corey Adkins and Sara Simnitch explore the history of the land, and the upcoming Art in the Garden Festival.

“It has just become 100% more than I ever thought possible.”

That’s because 17 years ago, Otsego County Commissioners had a tall order for Patricia Osburn, who’s with the local conservation district.

They wanted her to turn acres of what, at the time, was something pretty ugly into something beautiful.

“The county needed a place to put stumps and cement and that kind of thing, not the trash from your home, but just debris.”

Three acres of hard work for a dedicated group of community members and master gardeners.

“We started laying it out as a garden to demonstrate the conservation district seedling sale. We sell trees and shrubs for wildlife habitat. The first things we planted were the grass pathways to build a maneuver through here.”

The end goal was to show people what nature meant to be here.

“This site was just supposed to be a water quality, wildlife habitat demonstration where people can get ideas on how to implement this into their yards.”

It became that, and much more.

“It is a three acre garden area and a 16-acre wood lot that also has bike trails, and places to walk your pets. You’ll see 40 different species of shrubs, all the different trees that we sell.”

A 4-H group came to Patricia. They wanted to get kids gardening again, teaching them the value of hard work and giving back.

“The garden is here because of the hundreds and hundreds of children that have helped build this thing.”

A lot of the food grown here ends up at the local pantry.

“Recently, I’ve added to our children’s garden. A whole area that’s called our seed to harvest, where the kids can start their vegetables in the greenhouse in February, and then transplant them.”

The garden gave seniors the opportunity to get outside again, too.

“People could not find native species in the area, and it was so popular, that we actually built a greenhouse, a native plant greenhouse, and now we sell to northern Michigan customers.”

Three years ago, Patricia was given the idea of dedicating a summer weekend to showing off the garden, and bringing in some entertainment.

Art in the Garden was born. It’s happening this Saturday.

“We’re having 12 different workshops of all kinds of environmental-type, hands-on, adult, kid activities from growing mushrooms to doing stepping stones to different water quality, project-wet programs, and that type of thing. We’re having four different bands that’ll be playing.”

A weekend to welcome the community into the garden – let them know it’s here.

“It just inspires you to get outside more.”

After that, Patricia knows they’ll be back again and again to see its beauty.

“Just get out and enjoy northern Michigan with all the wildlife and the area that we live.”

This Saturday’s event also kicks off the Crossroads Industries Summer Concert Series in the garden.

The Art in the Garden Festival will run from 10:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. on June 28. At 7:00 p.m. the Crossroads Industries Summer Concert Series will kick-off with The Moxie Strings performing a mix of Celtic and Americana music.

Crossroads is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to creating work and community opportunities for people with disabilities. The concert series consists of six Saturday concerts throughout the summer.

Entrance to the Art in the Garden Festival is free; however, donations to the Otsego Conservation District’s Friends of the Garden is encouraged.

This group maintains the garden and plans events throughout the year.

Details of the Art in the Garden Festival can be found here