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Seeds of Hope: Captured by a Michigan Documentary Photographer in the Preschool Garden at the YWCA, Kalamazoo

As a Michigan-based documentary photographer, specializing in Documentary Photography in Michigan, my recent work with the Michigan Department of Education and the 10 Cents a Meal for Farms and Kids Program led me to the heartwarming preschool community garden at the YWCA in Kalamazoo. I spent a delightful morning with the amazing staff and students at the center, capturing their gardening efforts and the delicious food they prepare using locally sourced Michigan ingredients (stay tuned for a dedicated blog post later this summer!)

Several small potted plants with green leaves placed on a sunlit concrete surface in front of a colorful wooden fence with vertical planks painted in red, orange, yellow, green, turquoise, and blue

As I watched these young children plant green pepper seedlings, I couldn't help but reflect on how planting a garden is so much more than the physical act of placing a plant in the ground. It's a process that cultivates agency – a powerful antidote to the pervasive sense of helplessness we often feel in the face of overwhelming news headlines and global challenges.

A young boy with blonde hair takes a potted pepper plant from a teacher's hands to plant in a community garden
A teacher holds up a green pepper plant to a young boy who is helping plant a community garden
A woman in a gray 'Protect Voting Rights' t-shirt and a young girl in a pink dress smile at each other while holding a small potted plant labeled 'Bell Pepper' in an outdoor setting
Young boy holding a potted plant in front of a colorful fence in a garden


Planting a garden requires strategic thinking and planning. We must consider what to plant and where, taking into account factors such as sunlight, soil conditions, and the specific needs of each plant variety. This process engages our problem-solving skills and fosters a sense of agency as we make informed decisions that will shape the garden's future.

A young girl in a pink dress with a bow in her hair leans over a small potted plant, with an adult's hand gently supporting her
A young boy helps plant a seedling by holding a small plant with exposed roots while an adult tips it out of a pot into a garden bed.


Gardening teaches us to trust in the natural cycles of growth and renewal. We learn to have faith in the process, even when progress seems slow. As we water and tend to our plants, we develop a deep trust in their inherent ability to thrive, given the right conditions and care

A smiling young boy with curly dark hair holds up his dirt-covered hands, wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt in an outdoor setting
An adult and a child show their dirt-covered hands after gardening, standing on a concrete surface next to a garden bed with green plants.
A young child's hands covered in dirt with fingers spread out, surrounded by lush green foliage in a garden

Hard Work

The sight of dirty hands is a powerful reminder that achieving our desired results requires rolling up our sleeves and embracing the hard work and gritty effort involved. Gardening exemplifies this principle beautifully – the best results come from a willingness to immerse ourselves in the messy, hands-on labor.

An overhead view of a young boy with curly hair and an adult planting a small green seedling in a garden bed next to a concrete path and lush green plants
A smiling woman with long dark hair helps a young girl in a pink and white patterned shirt plant something in the soil of an outdoor garden area.
A teacher and student turn a potted plant upside down to get the plant out of the pot so they can plant it in the soil in the school garden
A young boy with curly hair helps plant a small green seedling in the soil, with an adult's hands assisting, in front of a wooden structure in a garden


Tending to a garden is often a collaborative effort, requiring teamwork and cooperation. By working together, we learn to share responsibilities, communicate effectively, and support one another's efforts. This sense of camaraderie and shared purpose strengthens our bonds - together we can achieve more.

A young boy with blonde hair smiles while holding a potted plant against a colorful fence in a preschool garden
A young boy is smiling at the camera while holding a potted green bell pepper plant
A smiling young girl in a pink dress holds a small potted plant labeled 'Bell Pepper,' standing next to a woman in a gray 'Protect Voting Rights' t-shirt

Confidence + Joy

Perhaps most importantly, gardening gives us a sense of confidence that we can create something beautiful that also sustains us. The simple act of getting our hands dirty, nurturing life, and witnessing the beauty of nature unfold before our eyes is a profoundly uplifting experience that brings pure joy.

A woman and a young child walk along a sidewalk next to a brick building, with wooden raised garden beds filled with plants lining the path
A smiling woman with long dark hair helps a young girl in a pink and white patterned shirt plant something in the soil of an outdoor garden area.

As we immerse ourselves in the tactile experience of nurturing life, getting our hands dirty, and reveling in the beauty that emerges from our labor of love, we are gently reminded of the profound impact even the simplest actions can have.

Join Me on My Michigan Documentary Photographer Journey

Follow along as I travel throughout Michigan, photographing the people, places and produce that make the state of Michigan an amazing place to live. I post new sessions and links on my business Facebook page. To stay up to date, follow me on Facebook.

Ready to tell your story? Let's chat.


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