Free Programs for Youth & Adults at the Garden

Starting this spring, we’ll have a variety of innovated programs available for youth and adults. Our Dig It! Youth Summer Series is open to children 7-11 years old and starts on June 23. For the gardening enthusiast, we’ll offer 5, one day sessions, focusing on a variety of topics. All OUTDOOR programs will take place at  U Dig It! Community Garden, 5810 E Bryant Rd, Ludington, MI 49431. All INDOOR classes will be at the United Methodist Church of Ludington.

YOUTH Program

Dig It! Youth Summer Series
Thursdays, 10am-12pm | June 23-August 11 | U Dig It Community Garden

Welcome to the Dig It! Youth Summer Series sponsored by U Dig It Community Garden (UDICG), AFFEW (A few Friends for  the Environment of the World), MSU Extension, Sable  Dunes Audubon Society, and Lakeshore Food Club. This is a  FREE interactive gardening experience focused on nutrition  and creative nature exploration, in addition to hands-on  planting and harvesting. Students will be designing journals to  record weekly sightings out at the garden. This effort will help  support healthy food access in Mason County. A portion of the  produce participants grow will be donated to the Lakeshore  Food Club, and some will go home to share with families. This  series runs for eight weeks. Participants are expected to  attend at least six of the sessions. 

If your child loves to create and get their hands dirty, this  program is a perfect fit! Space is limited. Register soon! We are  looking forward to meeting your child in the garden! 

Get signed up by calling the MSU Extension office at 231-845-3361 or email

ADULT Programs

Vermicomposting for Your Garden
Tuesday, May 17, 6:00-7 pm

Vermicomposting puts worms to work to help solve some of our planet’s most pressing problems. Composting worms rescue organic waste from landfills, safely sequester carbon, and regenerate the soil that forms the basis of our food system. Compared to conventional fertilizers, worm castings are safer for humans and the environment. Most importantly, worm castings offer practical benefits for farmers and growers, such as slow-release nutrients, disease resistance, and enhanced water retention. 

In this hands-on presentation, participants will learn about the benefits of using worm castings in home gardens and how to set up a basic home vermicomposting bin to turn kitchen scraps into plant food. Participants will have the opportunity to touch, smell, and purchase red wiggler worms and worm castings produced locally at Michigan Worm Works in Manistee. 

Michigan Worm Works started from humble beginnings in 2016. Founder Elana Warsen brought a bucket of composting worms into her laundry room to help reduce her family’s food waste. She started sharing worms and castings with family and friends, and soon discovered that there was an unmet demand for safe, natural products to regenerate soil. Today Michigan Worm Works is Manistee’s first and only commercial vermicomposting company.

This session is FREE. Registration is required. Get signed up by emailing Sara Bolan, UDICG Director.

Disease and Pest Management in the Garden
Saturday, June 18, 10:00 am-11:30 am

Take a walk through the garden with Farmer John (John Ferree) who has had nearly 20 years of experiences as an organic grower of vegetables and cut flowers in the Midwest. We will look at live pest issues and discuss how to best deal with pest and disease challenges using organic methods. John takes a whole system approach to pest and disease management that considers climate, season, soils, plant stress, and fertility.

This session is FREE. Registration is required. Please call the MSU Extension office at 231-845-3361.

Freezing and Blanching Workshop
Wednesday, June 22, 5:30 pm-8:00 pm

Wade Syers, MSU Extension Food Safety Educator, will be discussing what foods need to be blanched and why, what foods freeze well and those that don’t. Participants will engage in a freezer jam demonstration with samples to take home. This session is FREE. Space is limited to 12 and registration is required. 

For more information contact Wade Syers at 231-724-6361 or

Seed Saving Workshop
Wednesday, August 24, 6:30 pm-8:00 pm

Ann Gilchrist, local garden enthusiast, will be discussing the differences between GMO/bio-engineered, hybrid, organic and heirloom seeds. Participants will learn which garden vegetables are good candidates for seed saving and how to collect and store seeds for maximal germination. She will also be sharing information on collecting seeds from native plants and their germination requirements. This session is FREE. Registration is required. Please call the MSU Extension office at 231-845-3361.

Tomato Canning/ Food Preservation Workshop
September 8, 5:30 pm-8:30 pm
United Methodist Church,  5810 E. Bryant Road, Ludington

Join Wade Syers, MSU Extension Food Safety Educator, as he shares the steps to safe food preservation. Participants will engage in a hot water bath canning demonstration with samples to take home. This session is FREE. Space is limited and registration is required. 

Limited to 12 participants. View a flyer with more information on this program.

Follow the U Dig It Community Garden-Mason County Facebook page to get the latest updates.

For more information contact Wade Syers at 231-724-6361 or

Invasive Species Program

April – September | Second Tuesday | 10 am-Noon   *   Fourth Tuesday | 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm

Help treat and remove a variety of invasive plant species at Cartier Park. A discussion to identify these plants will take place before we begin. AFFEW partners with the City of Ludington, Mason-Lake Conservation District and North Country CISMA to eradicate these aggressive plants. Below is more information on some of the challenging invasive plants at Cartier Park.

Check the schedule on our Events and Activities page for dates we’ll be meeting. Meet at the Ludington Central Bark Park at the end of Rath Ave. Bring water, gloves and wear long pants, long sleeved shirt and closed toed shoes. Event will be held in fair weather, and sometimes wraps up early, depending on site conditions.

Unfortunately some of these invasive examples below can still be bought at nurseries. When considering plants for your property choose native species over invasive.  Once an invasive plant escapes into a natural area it can cause significant issues for native plants and wildlife. This includes altering soil chemistry in a way that gives future generations of invasive plants a competitive advantage. 

Learn more about invasive species and how to report them on North Country CISMA‘s website. View their High Priority Species  page for more information on identify invasive plant species in Michigan.

Native Species Alternatives

Welcome to U Dig It Community Garden!

The U Dig It Community Garden is a membership based organic garden that was established in 2011. We’re located behind the United Methodist Church of Ludington. Garden boxes are provided for personal use in a organic and sustainable environment. We depend on our members to volunteer by maintaining the garden boxes, grounds and equipment. Our journey with AFFEW began in January 2022!

In the fall of 2021 we began our expansion of the garden. By the spring of 2022 a dozen additional block beds were installed with the generous support of SRM Concrete  through their Giving Back program. We also received support from Lowe’s of Ludington and T & M Landscaping and Tree Removal as an in-kind sponsor who provided equipment and labor to complete the project. After a busy spring and with the help of our volunteers, UDICG now has 59 beds!

In addition to personal boxes, we work directly with our local food pantry Lakeshore Food Club. We provide healthy produce in support of food security for our community. In 2021 our members and Grow a Box Gardeners donated one third of the produce to Lakeshore Food Club!

This year with the help of Michigan State University Extension we will introduce the U Dig It! Gardening Series. This educational series is for our members and the community. In addition we’ll host the Dig It! Youth Summer Series for 7-11 year olds. This is an interactive program run by AFFEW and MSU that grows, tastes and donates produce to our community. They also learn and experience a variety of aspects about nature, birds and our environment.

Garden Bed Availability
Existing members are given the opportunity to retain their beds before it is opened up to the public. I you’re interested in being placed on the list for next years consideration, contact Sara Bolan, UDICG Director.

Our Mission
To educate its members and the general public in healthy eating by promoting sustainable practices through organic farming, composting and environmental education for children and adults. Through volunteerism and donations from our gardeners, one third of the produce is provided to support food security for our community.

When should I start my seeds?
It’s always a challenge to decide when it’s the right time to start seeds. Here’s a handy seed starting calculator that helps take the mystery out of when to plant! Download the Spring Seed Starting Calendar for Ludington.

Help support AFFEW and UDICG by becoming a member or making a tax deductible donation!

Enjoying a Plant-Based Diet

One of the most powerful steps you can take to improve your health, boost energy levels and reduce your impact on our environment, is to move to a plant-based diet. Many scientists praise the health benefits of transitioning towards a plant-based diet over meat and processed foods. Moving in this direction can help achieve better health and easier weight management while enjoying a variety of delicious meals. And living in Michigan, many resources for locally grown vegetables and fruits are available right here in our community.

The best part, you don’t have to completely change your diet to make a difference. Start off by making adjustments to some of your favorite recipes. Try adding rice, beans or other hearty vegetables in place of meat in a soup or casserole recipe. Substituting plant-based milk alternative in your recipes and for daily use is just one small way you can have an affect. As you become more accustomed to these changes, you’ll find plant-based meals can be just as delicious, healthier and have less impact on our planet.

View the presentation by Dr. Bob Breakey on Plant-Based Health from AFFEW’s November 12, 2020 VIRTUAL Annual Meeting.

Dr. Bob Breakey’s Eight Keys to Health and Success

Eat for Health | Choose abundant vegetables, whole grains, fruits and all types of beans, along with some nuts and seeds (including 2 TBSP of ground flax seeds) daily. Minimize, and ideally eliminate, animal foods – meat, dairy and eggs — and minimize refined sugar, oils and other processed foods. Fill your pantry with health supporting foods and make a conscious choice to eat when you are hungry and to choose foods with both great taste and great nutritional value.

Drink Water | Water is our natural beverage and thirst quencher and makes up about 70% of our bodies. Beverages with caffeine, alcohol, sugar, fat and/or a host of artificial ingredients slow you down, interfere with sleep cycles, increase the risk for obesity and should be enjoyed only on occasion.

Avoid Cow’s Milk | Cow’s milk and its associated foods: Cheese, yogurt and ice cream, are derived from “nature’s perfect food for baby cows” and are a totally unnatural component of human nutrition. No other mammal drinks milk after infancy, and most of the world’s human population has “lactose intolerance” meaning they get diarrhea and bloating right away if they drink milk. Cow’s milk is more than half fat, high in saturated fat and cholesterol and most of the rest (70%) is sugar. Milk proteins contribute to allergy, autoimmune disease, chronic kidney disease, mucus production, acne, osteoporosis and the promotion of breast, colon and prostate cancers. Cow’s milk always contains bovine estrogen and is nearly always contaminated with antibiotics, growth stimulants, bovine leukemia virus, pus cells and environmental toxins. Many other non-dairy alternatives are now readily available (i.e. soy, rice, coconut, cashew, flax or almond “milks”, cheeses, yogurts and ice creams). Calcium needs are easily obtained by eating “beans and greens”.

Eat Fiber | Health supporting whole foods contain dietary fiber. Avoid white bread, white rice and white pasta that are just metabolized quickly to sugar once they hit your digestive system. Whole grains like oats, brown rice, and whole grain breads, pastas and cereals are much more slowly digested providing consistent energy for your cells and abundant additional nutrients. They also support healthy bowel bacteria that help with hormone balance, detoxification of several toxins, overall colon health and immune function. Eat a broad variety of whole plant foods for the greatest effect and lower your risk of diabetes, heart disease and several cancers. Think “fiber in every bite” with plenty of vegetables, fruits, beans and whole grains while avoiding animal and processed foods that are devoid of fiber.

Be Active | Walk, run, dance, swim, jump, cycle, skate, ski, lift or whatever else gets you moving. Play and make it fun! Make daily physical activity a regular part of your routine and aim for 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week (think an average of 30 minutes 5 days/ week). Choose activities you enjoy that help you stay with your plan. Use stairs instead of elevators, park further away when you drive, and whenever you get the chance, “take the scenic route” under your own power.

Your Environment Matters | Avoid poisons and contaminants in your body by not smoking anything. Also, avoid even second or third hand smoke or tobacco exposure of any kind. Avoid other “recreational drugs”—they are a “dead end”. Choose foods low on the food chain and eat organic when practical. Use a good solid carbon water filter for clean drinking water and limit the use of pesticides and other toxins in your home environment.

Sleep Well | Plan time for 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night and develop good sleep hygiene habits: Develop a “wind down routine” an hour before bedtime with relaxing activities (no TV or Internet), a regular rising time each day, avoid caffeine, nicotine & alcohol, use your bed for sleeping only, limit naps and control your sleeping environment. With a good restful night’s sleep, you will enjoy more energy, improved concentration and better overall health.

Make Time to Relax & Play! | Stress is a part of life, but you can manage and harness it for the good by finding balance, prioritizing your responsibilities, setting and writing down challenging but attainable goals and making time for whatever form of adventurous play and/or peaceful relaxation that will help you to optimize your enjoyment. Make time for laughter, love and being with friends, family and others who share these same goals!

Download more Lifestyle Medicine Resources from Dr. Bob Breakey on Plant Based Health.

Below are links to a variety of plant-based recipes and more information on this healthy lifestyle.



  • How Not to Die | Michael Greger, MD
  • How Not to Diet | Michael Greger, MD
  • How to Survive a Pandemic | Michael Greger, MD 
  • Reversing Diabetes | Neal Barnard, MD
  • Forks Over Knives Plan | Alona Pulde and Matthew Lederman
  • Eat to Live | Joel Fuhrman, MD
  • The Pleasure Trap | Douglas Lisle, PhD
  • The Cheese Trap | Neal Barnard, MD
  • The Whole Heart Solution | Joel Kahan, MD
  • Whole | T. Colin Campbell, PhD
  • Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease | Caldwell Esselstyn, MD
  • The Starch Solution | John McDougall, MD
  • Empty Medicine Cabinet | Dustin Rudolph, PharmD
  • Proteinaholic | Garth Davis, MD
  • The End of Diabetes | Joel Fuhrman, MD
  • Fiber Fueled | Will Bulsiewicz, MD
  • Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life | Barbara, Kingsolver

Do you have a link to a favorite plant-based recipe or website you’d like to share? Fill out the form below and we’ll post it after review.

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    Virtual Annual Meeting & Presentation

    The AFFEW board held its annual meeting via zoom on November 11. Julia Chambers, AFFEW President gave the annual report and board elections were held. Julia Chambers, Cathy Horowski, and Dave Masten are were re-elected for a two year term. Chuck Klopinski was thanked for his year’s as treasurer and Marie Quillan was welcomed as the new treasurer for AFFEW.

    Thank you also to Art Hirsch who shared his presentation and knowledge on microplastics. The recorded presentation is below.

    Microplastics in the Great Lakes 

    Art Hirsch will discuss the sources, impacts, legislation and mitigation actions to address microplastics. Microplastics in the Great Lakes is an emerging water quality issue that has the potential of impacting human health and the aquatic environment. It has been estimated that microplastics are consumed by the US population at a rate of 5 grams per week; this is weight of a credit card. Microplastics are found in our food, water and even beer along the Great Lakes. Fish are ingesting microplastics that causes them to starve. Over 22 million pounds of plastic enter the Great Lakes every year and Lake Michigan is the #1 source.

    Art Hirsch is a former environmental consultant with over 30 years of experience. He lives in Boulder Colorado and spends his summers in Pentwater, Michigan. He is originally from North Muskegon, Michigan and he received his Bachelor of Science degree from Michigan State University and a Master of Science degree from the University of Colorado. His expertise is in the areas of water quality, stormwater management, sustainability and environmental impact assessments. He is a member of the Climate Reality Project founded by former Vice President Gore and the For the Love of Water organization located in Traverse City and the Great Lakes Plastic Pollution Solutions Coalition. He is currently working on the Enbridge Line 5 Shutdown, GHG reductions associated with transportation, oil and gas operations and microplastics.

    Native Plant Sale

    Second Saturday in June | Rotary Park, Ludington

    Help protect our species by gardening with native plants! AFFEW will offer a variety of native plants for sale the second Saturday in June. These important plant species provide nectar, pollen, and seeds and are hosts for for many insects, birds and animals. Native plants also require minimal maintenance and their deep root system absorb more water than a traditional lawn. With the continuous decline of the Monarch butterfly population you can make a difference by creating a habitat for these beautiful and important orange butterflies!

    Since its inception, AFFEW’s Native Plant Sale has helped introduced thousands of native plants to our community! In April we accept preorders for a variety of garden flats that include 38 native plant plugs and a layout for a 4’x10′ garden. The day of the sale we’ll have a LARGE selection of native plant species and shrubs available for you to make a habitat for these beneficial insects.

    Having problems with deer eating your plants? View the list of deer resistant native plants from the Lansing chapter of Wild Ones. We’ll have several of these plants available the day of the sale.

    Help Clean the Beach!

    Each summer AFFEW and our committed volunteers clean the south section of the beach by the breakwater at Stearns Park. This area gets a ton of activity throughout the summer especially during the Fourth of July Freedom Festival. We meet, weather permitting, on the 3rd Wednesday June thru August at 7 pm. We also participate in the International Beach Cleanup on the 3rd Saturday in September at 10 am. Bring a bucket and gloves. We’ll have supplies available if you don’t have your own. Stick around afterwards for green drinks (BYO/no glass) and lively conversation!

    Help support AFFEW by becoming a member or making a tax deductible donation!