Check Out the Tollgate Camp Video!

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MSU Tollgate Farm Adapting to Meet Our Educational Mission Through Virtual Programming

How is MSU Tollgate Farm adapting to meet our mission through educational programming during these difficult times? In response to school closures and safety restrictions caused by the pandemic, we knew we needed to try to help teachers and families by providing students with an opportunity to still connect to and learn from the place called Tollgate Farm. Tollgate has recreated school and community programs in an interactive virtual format bringing the farm to students in new ways. One of these programs was a series called The Secret Life of Trees which met for five weekly 45 minute virtual interactive sessions filled with experiential learning and connection for area kindergarten students. We visited students from the arboretum, the forest, the orchard, and the great Dawn Redwood tree shown above.
Aligned with ELA, mathematics, and Next Generation Science Standards, this series and our Follow the Nutrient Cycle series, encourages students to explore the natural world to see and experience science phenomena happening right around them.

Area Novi kindergarten teachers provided input in the design stages of the original in-person kindergarten Trees program, and this fall these strong teaching teams allowed their students to visit us on their asynchronous days to explore the amazing world of trees. Farm is grateful to the Novi Educational Foundation for making it possible through a grant for 21 Novi kindergarten classes to take part in The Secret Life of Trees. Thank you, also, to the Novi Community School District and Emily Pohlonski, Science Coordinator for the Novi community schools, for helping to bring this opportunity to students. Educational Leader Jenny Speyer, Day Camp Coordinator Sara Mund, and Education Coordinator Ellen Koehler worked over the summer months to pivot the in-person educational farm visit to the fun, engaging online sessions accompanied by The Secret Life of Trees blog, follow-along journal pages, videos recorded on the farm, and plenty of hands-on activities for students. This deep extended learning would not have been possible without the help of staff member Carmen Hamilton and volunteers Dawn Snook, Kathy Begin, and Marilyn Schulte, who helped with broadcasting and monitoring groups of share, eager, and happily engaged students. Tollgate is so grateful for the opportunity to carry out the Tollgate education mission in these ways!

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Holiday Lights at the Farm: Thank you to our Volunteers for all your Help!

We are so thankful for all the wonderful volunteers we have at MSU Tollgate Farm. They go above and beyond to help us keep the Farm looking amazing. Here are some of the volunteers who came out to help with holiday decorations for Holiday Lights at the Farm. We appreciate all their help and their adherence to COVID-19 guidelines and staying 6 ft apart and wearing masks when in close contact.

Volunteer Angie Carter helping stretch and hang lights

Volunteer Kurt Westermann helping hang lighted globes on the Black Walnut Tree

Volunteer Dave Komraus organizing supplies for volunteers

Volunteer Candy Williams hanging lights on the boardwalks near the Farmhouse.

Volunteers Peg Palmer and Janine measure the Tollgate Nursery for lights.

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Meet our Staff and Volunteers November 2020

Curious about what our volunteers do at MSU Tollgate Farm? Every Monday we will feature a volunteer or staff member.

Gwen has been volunteering at Tollgate for about 7 years. She first came to an Earth day event cleaning the back gardens and heard about Tollgate’s camps. She volunteered to be a counselor/steward at camp and enjoyed this position as she felt that despite her age, her feedback was taken seriously by staff members. Gwen then joined the Tollgate 4-H Club to have a chance to be at the farm more often, and she was often the first on the farm in the mornings and the last out. Through 4-H, she raised a goat and a cow, and developed a passion for urban agriculture. She now majors in Environmental Science with a minor in Urban Sustainability, studying how to make cities more livable and make agriculture more local. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Gwen has also volunteered to help care for the Tollgate livestock. Gwen is positive that without Tollgate she wouldn’t be on her current education and career path, and she is super grateful for the experience she has gained volunteering at Tollgate. Thank you Gwen for all you do for the Farm!

Gwen Schaller is the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Production Assistant. Gwen joined the CSA crew for the summer of 2016 and returned in 2017 as the Field Manager. In 2018, she started her own farm on site as part of our Incubator Program. This year Root to Rise Farm produce was available at the Plymouth Farmers Market. In addition to running her own farm this summer, Gwen worked part time for the CSA before switching to full time after the departure of Will Jaquinde, our former Sustainable Agriculture Instructor. Gwen is the ultimate team player, always willing to pitch in and help out whenever needed. Thank you for all you do for the Farm Gwen!

Marilyn Alimpich has been a Tollgate garden volunteer since 2009, and became an Advanced Extension Master Gardener that same year. Over the years, Marilyn has strived to increase her horticultural knowledge by attending many seminars and by taking classes from Janet Macunovich’s Michigan School of Gardening. She is the Area Garden Leader for the Xeriscape at Tollgate, a garden that showcases plants that can survive and thrive in dry conditions. Working this garden has given Marilyn a new appreciation for the wide variety of plants that are adapted to low water inputs. She has also incorporated many water thrifty plants into her home gardens and recommended their use to many others. When volunteers could safely return to the farm this year, Marilyn was among the first to be back working hard on her garden area. Marilyn not only volunteers her time in the gardens, she also serves as Vice-President of the Tollgate Gardens Advisory Council, the group of volunteers who administer volunteering in the gardens. Marilyn is also a member of Tollgate’s new Special Projects Committee. Hard to believe that Marilyn has time for much else in her life, but she is also an avid sailor. She is always up for a day or week on the water. Marilyn is just one of many volunteers who make Tollgate’s horticultural gardens run smoothly. Thanks Marilyn for all that you do for the farm!

Learn more about the Xeriscape Garden here:…/gardens/the_xeriscape_garden

Jenny started at Tollgate in spring of 2018 as an educational program leader.  In her ever growing role at Tollgate, Jenny helps create and lead educational programs, produces the monthly newsletter, oversees our Facebook presence, coordinates these lovely Meet the Staff/Volunteer posts, and basically helps out where ever help is needed at the Farm! Jenny studied history at the University of Michigan and received her secondary teaching certificate in history and psychology.  After finishing her degree, she served in the Peace Corps teaching English in Kazakhstan from 2008-2010.  Jenny has also worked as a project manager at the University of Michigan School of Education on the Big History Project, the Rounds Project, the World History Initiative, and taught at the Detroit Institute of Technology at Cody High School in Detroit.  Working at Tollgate allows Jenny to teach kids about two of her biggest passions, agriculture and the environment.  She also loves working at Tollgate because of the chance to learn from and collaborate with our knowledgeable staff. We love having Jenny on our team because of her passion and enthusiasm, her willingness to help wherever needed, and the kind, fun energy she brings to the team. Thank you for all you do at Tollgate and going above and beyond in everything you do!

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Crispy Roasted Potatoes with Thyme

The best part about potatoes is the fact that you really don’t have to do much to them to make them delicious! This recipe requires just four simple ingredients and makes for a fun presentation.

Crispy Roasted Potatoes with Thyme

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Fall Kale Salad with Maple Tahini Dressing

At first bite, this simple to assemble fall salad became a favorite of the CSA crew. It utilizes some of the best late-season crops for a sweet and savory, filling salad that can be prepped ahead of time and makes a great lunch.

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