July/August 2019 - 10
from preschool and Head Start to high
school - about farming and gardening
through hands-on experience.
Collins manages more than 20 small
gardens and farms in southeast Michigan
and into Ohio and also runs Willow Run
Acres, a community-focused initiative to
provide farming instruction.
A typical in-classroom teaching
session includes Collins bringing
potatoes he's cultivated beforehand
and some soil to give to the kids, along
with instructions to take home and a
pamphlet with information on potatoes
and his Willow Run Acres program.
One such session occurred at Lincoln
Model Elementary School in May. Over
the course of two hours, a half dozen
classes were rotated in, with Collins
spending about 20 minutes with each
group of kids.
" The first thing we're going to do is
roll up our sleeves because we're going
to be working in dirt, " he told each
class before going into detail about how
potatoes grow below ground and how
the plants should be cared for.
It was the first time Collins had been
to Ypsilanti Lincoln's Model Elementary.
Principal Kerry Shelton, who grew up
on a farm herself, was thrilled with how
Collins interacted with the kids and
with how engaged and attentive they
were to the instruction.
" I'm impressed with how interactive
the kids can be in the process, and how
much language they're getting out of
it, " Shelton said. " They're learning
about roots, soil and what it takes to
make this potato grow. These kids are
so unfamiliar with farming, in general. "
Collins sees farming as " a lost science " in
the educational system. His ultimate goal
would be to have farming added to STEMfocused
(science, technology, engineering
and mathematics) curriculums.
" It's very important for kids to learn
about and hopefully develop a passion
for farming and gardening, " he said. " It
teaches sustainability. "
TURNING NEGATIVES INTO
As soon as Collins was old enough
to walk and talk, he was helping in the
family garden. His great-grandparents
began teaching him about growing as
young as 2 years old.
Planting and growing has been passed
down through generations in Collins'
family, stemming from his ancestors
being slaves in Virginia.
" My ancestors were part of the slave
trade, " he said. " They learned about
growing cotton and tobacco, and that's
where it all comes from. My family has
always farmed. "
Collins' passion for food grew into
a career, but a little further down the
consumer chain. As an adult, he became
He would likely still be a chef today
had it not been for a near-fatal car
accident and beating some 15 years ago.
Collins was sitting at a red light, when
he was rear-ended by a drunk driver.
" I was unconscious from the accident
and this woman who hit me pulled
me out of the car and began slamming
my head into the pavement, " he said.
" Apparently, she was so drunk, she
thought I was the one that ran into her. "
The incident caused multiple head
injuries that resulted in brain damage.
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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of July/August 2019
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