The 94-acre farm is owned by the Bloomfield Hills School District. Since it is school property, no smoking or drinking is allowed on the premises. In addition, no herbicides, insecticides or pesticides are to be used on the communal vegetable or perennial gardens. The emphasis of the farm is educational activities for all age groups, group tours, and 4-H clubs. The property makeup includes a 100-year old red barn, a caretaker cottage, Barton Farm House, a log cabin moved to the site in 2009 and maintained by the Historical Society, 80 community garden plots (25’ by 25’), storage facilities for farming equipment, a horse barn with accommodations for riding equipment, a duck pen, chicken and turkey pen, birthing building, rabbit hutches, feeding corral for sheep, goats and llamas, horse corral for feeding, grazing pasture, large pond, a gazebo, a 5-acre corn maze, a large vegetable garden whose produce is sold via a farmers’ market atmosphere in the lower parking lot, staff and classroom building, perennial gardens and many farm animals. A new entrance to the farm was completed the summer of 2009 on Square Lake Road giving additional parking spots at the lower parking level while the upper parking lot still maintains designated parking spots.
The Bowers Farm gardens open in April and the date is usually tied in with the first of two Open Barn weekends which signals the start of a new season. The first Saturday in November ends the season and the gardens are closed the remainder of the year.
You can be a trainee or certified Master Gardener Volunteer to work at Bowers Farm – all are welcome. However, you must work under the direction of a Team Leader – on Wednesday (8:30 a.m. to noon) with Sally Bolle, Margaret Dolan, Nancy Schmid and Chris VanWagoner, or Saturday (8:30-11:30 a.m.) with Beth Brown. Rain cancels the work day and you will be notified via e-mail the morning of workday cancellations. Watch for announcements through the Oakland Gardener and e-mails from Team Leader Sally Bolle. Other means of communication are through MGSOC e-blasts from Sally Bolle, committee chair of communications. ALWAYS wear your name badge so that the volunteers and farm staff know who you are and that you are representing MGSOC. Each person is required to keep track of his/her own hours on a log under the bridge, time you arrive until the time you leave. Time is recorded in half-hour increments, nothing under .5 hours. Dress appropriately for the weather - in layers. Wear work boots, gloves, hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, insect repellent, snacks and water, and bring your own tools. Although we have a new watering system this year, some weekday volunteers are needed to water the gardens when rain is not in the forecast.
There are over 30 perennial gardens and several Plant A Row (PAR) gardens. Bowers Farm will be moving toward more sustainable “Smart Gardening” practices this year by as we integrate more native plants. These plants and gardens require less water and feed insects, birds, and butterflies. We started work on a Monarch butterfly/pollinator garden late last fall which will be sanctioned by MonarchWatch.org and will complete that project early this year. A wide variety of trees, shrubs and perennial plants makes for a restful setting. Two benches for contemplation and winding wood chip paths around the gardens give a peaceful serenity. The emphasis on heritage plants helps to convey the historical nature of the site. All gardens have a posted sign naming that particular garden such as Hardy, Herb, Sensory, Rain, Shade, Hummingbird, Drought, Butterfly/Bird, Time/Thyme, Rose and Companion etc. All vegetables harvested from the PAR gardens are donated to a local food bank for distribution to the needy. Vegetables grown include several varieties of squash, zucchini, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, eggplant and beets.
Garden maintenance includes keeping the perennials from weeds, trimming foliage as needed, maintaining shrubs’ shape, deadheading to keep the gardens looking fresh, mulching paths with wood chips to keep the weeds down, mulching the gardens with compost, replacing dead, dying or diseased plants/shrubs, identifying all items in each garden with name tags, staking plants to maintain path clearance, adding native plants wherever possible, dividing and transplanting when and where appropriate. PAR gardens require more diligence since spring preparation is required as well as planting, weeding, watering, harvesting, delivery and then putting the gardens to rest for winter. Crops must be rotated and yields calculated at season’s end. Fall means spring bulb planting and preparing all the gardens for winter.
Watering the gardens is time consuming. The gardens are not irrigated so must be hand watered. The red handled pump located at the base of the gazebo is available for obtaining water. To operate, lift the handle to start and pull down to stop the water. The curled hose next to the pump can reach the gardens. The nozzle adjusted for fine spray is required. A water spigot and hose is located at top of the hill by the greenhouse. A third spigot and hose is located near the restrooms to water the cottage garden.
Wheelbarrows can be found in the “wheelbarrow corral.” Go up and across the ramp, past the horse corral and barn and then turn right. The restrooms will be on your left, continue straight toward the storage barn. The corral is just to the left. Please return your wheelbarrow back to the corral when finished and either turn it upside down or on its side so rain water does not accumulate in it.
Our debris is dumped into the manure spreader located adjacent to the wheelbarrow corral and then spread on the pasture land.
The purpose of the Bowers Farm Garden Team is to support, reflect, and enhance the educational mission of the farm by maintaining our designated garden areas, assist at Open Barn activities as needed, and promote the Master Gardener program.
Look beyond the obvious weeding, watering and pruning. There are opportunities available for anyone, anytime no matter what your schedule or physical condition. Please join us as your availability permits; we have lots of fun, make new friends, and learn from each other.
Please direct any questions to Sally Bolle, Committee Chair, Bowers Farm at:
MGSOC By-Laws downloadable/printable .PDF