GTPulse: Traverse City’s Online Community for Plant Lovers

A local Facebook group is a place for people to share plants, knowledge and friendship.

It all began when Andy McQuillen created an Instagram account for a recurring vegan potluck.

He and his fiance Becky Polzin were living in Ypsilanti when Andy created @YpsiVeganPotluck.  The page took off and became a way for him to meet, create and connect a network of locals who became friends. 

He and Becky were also members of a plant exchange Facebook group, and his success with the potluck page sparked inspiration to create a tandem Instagram account for the plant exchange too. It was a place for people to ask questions, share plants, seeds, knowledge, and enjoy a sense of neighborly friendship.

“It was all localized. There were a lot of friends there, and it was the way we got our first money tree. People shared seeds and a little bit of their harvest. So we created a parallel page on Instagram to promote that and it got pretty popular.”

They moved up to Traverse City four months ago by a random opportunity. Andy and Becky were visiting a friend of Andy’s who lives in TC. The friend is a mariner and was due to be gone a year, temporarily leaving behind a vacant home.

“We’ve been wanting to move up north for a while now. A buddy of ours had been about to ship out asked if we’d come out and visit before he did. We were like, ‘What’s happening with your house while you’re out on the boat?’”

Normally, the house was Airbnb’d for his time away. Instead, Andy and Becky rented out the house in his absence. 

Andy wanted to create the same plant magic in their new community and created TC Plant Exchange, a Facebook group reminiscent of the one in Ypsi, with the intention to connect plant lovers all over the TC area. In just four months’ time, it’s hit almost 1000 members.

“It’s actually been really fun. When we created the page, we knew no one here. Now, I was talking with a buddy at work one day and said, ‘We don’t know a lot of people around here but I created this Traverse City plant page.’ and he goes, ‘You made that? My wife is on it every day bringing  home more plants that we don’t need!’ Yesterday, Becky’s sister-in-law had a friend asking if she knew the guy who made the plant page. So we have all these indirect friends we’re just waiting to meet.”

The plant exchange started in October and grew to 300 members within a day. Andy didn’t have friends yet so he garnered attention for the group through other local Facebook pages.

“I just joined as many other local pages as I could find and posted about that group there, asking people to join if they were interested.”

The group’s goals are to be a place that connects people with plants and helpful information about them. Folks can post photos of something that may look off about their plant and receive helpful information back from other members. Others offer up clippings in trade for other clippings. Also, it’s a place where people can show off their precious plant babies. The group’s rules are simple – no spam or promotions, and to be kind and courteous.

One of the first big swaps wasn’t really a swap at all. Andy gave away a large bucketful of spider plants.

“Becky’s mom has some sort of mystical green thumb and insane lighting in their house. She has a spider plant that, if left alone, would probably take over the whole house. So, I brought 50 cuttings from that thing and put them out in the bucket and people gobbled them up.”

Most of the plant exchanges have had a similar contactless, porch pick up format with regard to COVID safety. Members, however, look forward to the future when they will be able to meet in person and discuss their shared plant interests. From the looks of it, there may just be a future porch pot planting party (say that five times fast) and prosecco and propagation parties to look forward to.

“I recommend to everyone to make one of these pages. It is just such a great outlet for people. Even people who can’t do exchanges right now, they get to see other’s collections and get involved in something that’s apolitical. Most everything we talk about now funnels into politics, this is a place where we get to make friends and talk about plants instead.”

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Categories: GTPulse