By Jessica Mathews /

A giant $15,000 check was presented to the Village of Pinckney by the Consumers Energy Foundation on Wednesday afternoon that will further a new community garden project.

The Consumers Energy Foundation’s 2021 “Put Your Town on the Map” competition rewarded ideas and provided funding for projects being developed in small towns throughout Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. There were more than 80 applicants that submitted and Pinckney received $15,000 as runner-up.

The Village’s “pitch” included enhancements to their current community garden that was implemented this spring which includes 16 raised beds and two wheelchair-accessible beds on a vacant lot downtown at 135 West Main Street. That’s where the check presentation was held yesterday and various Village officials and community members gathered on the warm and windy afternoon.

Village President Rebecca Foster told WHMI the whole process has been exciting and the idea was very grassroots and everything just sort of came together. She said it was almost an off-the-cuff idea that everyone has embraced and it has really took off for a first-year project, saying a big thank you is owed to the DDA, garden team, Consumers Energy and everyone who helped make it happen.

Foster noted that the DDA owns the property and gave the Village initial funding to get things started and then other companies donated top soil and compost. She says the Consumers award will help with fencing, adding more beds, and other improvements. There’s also a unique contraption that was crafted and hooks up to a nearby fire hydrant for a water supply.

Consumers Energy Manager of Stakeholder Relations for Major Projects Kathryn Burkholder told the crowd they had to postpone the program for a year, which was started to recognize rural communities and “show them some love.” Having lived in Pinckney for many years and teaching at Pinckney High School for 17 years, Burkholder said it very exciting to see the Village’s idea for a beautiful garden and space. There were more than 80 applicants that submitted and a panel looked for the best ideas from small towns and rural communities so when it was announced Pinckney was a winner, Burkholder said she was “jumping out of her virtual chair for joy.”

Roger Austin and his wife were at the event and got a plot and are ready to go. The senior couple lives in a condominium where gardening isn’t possible. Roger said they used to have a little plot at his daughter’s but there was too much shade. When planting season came around, he says they put in an application, paid the fees and got a plot. Roger said they’re really excited and enjoy gardening in the summertime. He says the community garden gets full sun and that’s perfect for the tomatoes he’s planning and they’re looking forward to a fun growing season.

There is currently a small waiting list for the garden plots but the two wheelchair-accessible beds were still up for grabs as of Wednesday. Applications are available through the Village.