Celebrating Food Day Oct. 24th, 2014

October 24th, 2014 by Connie Schultz

It’s Food Day! Visit a farmer’s market today or a community garden or go gleaning in a field for a local food pantry. Today it’s all about food - what we eat, how we grow it, prepare it, preserve it and eat it and how that relates to our overall health  – ours and our children’s.

 Food Day Focus on Children’s Diets

One of the important focuses of Food Day is children’s diets. Many of us volunteer at school gardens and know how important it is to teach children how to make healthy choices and for them to know where their food actually comes from – not from the store but from the dirt! On average, kids get over a quarter of their calories from snacks daily.  That wouldn’t be so bad if the snacks were more healthful, but cookies, cakes, chips, candy, and sugary drinks top the list of popular choices. You can check out an informative infographic to learn more about children’s diets in the US and to how it’s related to illnesses in their lives today.

The American Diet: Prescription for Ill Health

What adults are consuming is important too because they do the shopping and plan the meals for their families and set the stage for a life time of food habits. CSPI, the sponsor of Food Day, prepared a brief analysis of the average American adult diet and its relationship to their health. If you’re volunteering in a community garden teaching people to grow, harvest, cook and preserve food, you’re helping them attain a healthier happier life style. Master Gardeners are changing the world they live in by creating healthier futures for everyone.

Onion Flowering (photo submitted by Connie Schultz)

Onion Flowering (photo submitted by Connie Schultz)


To celebrate Food Day today, I thought it might be fun to take a quick food quiz. Just click on the link below and see how you do!


14 Questions that Could
Save Your Life and the Planet


Submitted by Connie Schultz, Master Gardener/Composter (’95 Cornell Extension) now volunteering in Johnston County, NC

Food Day Oct. 24th, Preparation Day!

October 23rd, 2014 by Connie Schultz

Getting ready for Food Day? Take the Food Literacy quiz to get ready!

Food Literacy •  noun •  füd ˈli-t(ə-)rə-sē
Understanding the story of one’s food, from farm to table and back to the soil; the knowledge and ability to make informed choices that support one’s health, community, and the environment.

8,000 Events Being Held Across the Country

Food Day was created to inspire people to change their diets for the better. This year over 8,000 events are being held across the country to support issues like health, nutrition, and sustainability:

  • National Geographic will host a Food Day Harvest Festival on Saturday, October 25.
  • In Massachusetts, Governor Deval Patrick is inviting consumers, farmers and ranchers, fishermen, social justice advocates, and other stakeholders to the State House on Food Day to learn more about a new Massachusetts Food Systems Plan. “Our communities are healthier when families have access to fresh fruits, vegetables, and other healthy, whole foods,” said Governor Patrick.
  • New York City is getting ready for its third annual Big Apple Crunch.  They’re hoping to break last year’s record of 1 million people taking part.  All the kids in NYC schools will get an apple on Food Day!

These are only a few of the thousands of events going on tomorrow. Hopefully, as an Extension Master Gardener, you’ll play an important part by helping someone learn to grow, harvest, prepare or preserve vegetables this week!

Arcimboldovertemnus by Giuseppe Arcimboldo,

Arcimboldovertemnus by Giuseppe Arcimboldo,
c. 1590-1591 (from Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository)


Submitted by Connie Schultz, Master Gardener/Composter (’95 Cornell Extension) now volunteering in Johnston County, NC


Almost Wordless Wednesday: Food Day October 24th!

October 22nd, 2014 by Connie Schultz

This Friday, October 24, we’re celebrating Food Day. Started by the Center for Science in the Public Interest in 2011, Food Day aims to inspire people to change their diets for the better and address issues like health, nutrition, and sustainability. As Extension Master Gardeners, if you volunteer in a community garden, a school garden or at a farmer’s market, you’re helping to promote access to healthy food and learning how to grow it yourself! Master Gardeners are an awesome force for good in helping people become more physically active, learn more about vegetables and how to preserve or prepare them, for helping to grow and donate food for the hungry and, in so many ways, providing access to wholesome food for everyone. Master Gardeners are helping to celebrate Food Day every day everywhere around the country!

Food Day October 24th, 2014 (logo courtesy CSPI)

Food Day October 24th, 2014 (logo courtesy CSPI)

Submitted by Connie Schultz, Master Gardener/Composter (’95 Cornell Extension) now volunteering in Johnston County, NC


Wordless Wednesday – Korea Master Gardener International Conference

October 15th, 2014 by Terri James

Welcome Banner at the GARES (Gyeonggido Agricultural Research and Extension Services) Facility

Hello from South Korea! Well we are back but the memories are still fresh!

The South Korean Master Gardener Program hosted its first Korea master gardener international conference – a small group of Extension Master Gardeners and Coordinators from the United States attended this conference we were welcomed with open arms and had a wonderful experience – this is a Wordless Wednesday post (almost) with pictures from the conference!



A group of Korean Master Gardeners gave us a demonstration on how to make Kimchi and Bibimbap


Getting instructions on how to make Bibimbap

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The ingredients for Kimchi

Many participants spoke about their projects at workshops and in a poster session


Haru and Toshi Hikicha speaking at the Conference

We were able to visit many gardens maintained by Master Gardeners

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Master Gardener Demonstration Garden at GARES

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Master Gardener Demonstration Garden at GARES


The whole experience was amazing – we meet a fantastic group of people, saw great gardens, and made many new friends!

Terri James, Horticultural Extension Assistant-Urban Gardening
University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension

Search for Excellence Award First Place – Innovative Project (2013)

October 7th, 2014 by Terri James

2013 Search for Excellence: Innovative Programs Award Winner 1st Place, Douglas County Master Gardener Plant Training Program, Roseburg, OR USA

The challenges that lead us to the development of our Master Gardener Plant Clinic Training Program were two fold. The first was retention of students after their mandatory hours and keeping Veterans involved. The second was ensuring that office protocols and procedures were being followed on a consistent basis.
In making phone calls to students and veterans I found that they felt uncomfortable working in the Clinic. They didn’t feel that they were competent. We clearly needed to do a better job in our Clinic training.
At that time our training consisted of an orientation, two training sessions with whoever was working in the clinic and working in the Clinic for the remainder of their hours. There was no consistency in the training.

Advanced Diagnostics Class

Advanced Diagnostics Class

The most vital element of our new program is the Teaching Core. This group of 5 Veterans make the commitment to train the students from February through May, with two training sessions with their mentors. Next we developed a curriculum for them to follow. The students have a corresponding check list on file in the office. Both students and trainers refer to this list to see what has been covered. The students can also use the list to ask the trainer to repeat things that they are unsure of. Both trainers and students receive an updated copy of clinic Protocol and Procedures.

An important part of the skill set required is diagnostic. Our Agent, Steve Renquist, stepped up to the plate and instituted our Monthly Diagnostic classes. They are focused on the Clinic workers but all Master Gardners are welcome. In the classes we learn about plant, insect and disease identification. Steve updates us on the latest pest alerts and resources. This increased knowledge gives us the confidence that we are giving our clients the latest information.
With this program we have improved the quality of the work done in the Clinic and our volunteer calendar is usually booked two months out. We do an annual review with the trainees and mentors. The number one comment is that both now feel qualified to work in the Plant Clinic. We also follow-up with our Plant Clinic clients; one of the questions asked is “Do you feel the Master Gardners helped you resolve you issues?” In 2008 we had an 86% satisfaction rate / 2009 90%/ 2010 93% and in 2011 we were at 95%.

Our teaching core receiving certificates of appreciation

Our teaching core receiving certificates of appreciation

We have already shared our program with other chapters and have received very positive feedback on their results.

If you would like further information go to our site http://extension.oregonstate.edu/douglas/mg/search-excellence-2013

Submitted by: Judy Mercer, Douglas County Oregon Master Gardener

2015 SFE Awards Application

Almost Wordless Wednesday: September is National Mushroom Month!

September 24th, 2014 by Connie Schultz

We’re celebrating mushrooms this month. If you’ve ever thought about growing mushrooms yourself here’s a link to a blog from Extension Forest Farming about growing your own!

Toadstool (a bolete in the genus Leccinum) 2014 (photo courtesy Jeff Boyea of the Asheville Mushroom Club).

Toadstool (a bolete in the genus Leccinum) 2014 (photo courtesy Jeff Boyea of the Asheville Mushroom Club).

Here’s a little toad sitting on a toadstool. That definitely requires a photograph! Thanks Asheville (NC) Mushroom Club for sharing with us!

Toadstool (a bolete in the genus Leccinum) 2014 (photo courtesy Jeff Boyea of the Asheville Mushroom Club).

Toadstool (a bolete in the genus Leccinum) 2014 (photo courtesy Jeff Boyea of the Asheville Mushroom Club).

Submitted by Connie Schultz, Master Gardener/Composter (’95 Cornell Extension) now volunteering in Johnston County, NC

Wordless Wednesday – Research Experience, Wasp Nests, Teamwork and Sprinklers Gone Wild

September 17th, 2014 by Terri James

Yesterday we got an update on the CenUSA biochar test sites in Minnesota today they are the Wordless Wednesday showing what has been happening in their gardens through pictures!


Bio char St. Paul campusBio char  St. Paul Campus plot_planting Bio char first Tomato Harvest Bio char cuke on scale Bio char  cuke harvest Ellen photo Bio char beans6 Bio char  basil harvest 2 Bio char  Basil Harvest 1 Arboretum plot2 Bio char  Arboretum plot Bio char 3rdBeanHarvest Bio Char - _MG_9771To read about the project click here

Research Experience, Wasp Nests, Teamwork and Sprinklers Gone Wild

September 16th, 2014 by Terri James

Three years on, Master Gardeners talk about the rewards and challenges of volunteering at Minnesota’s three CenUSA biochar test sites

It’s been a while since we offered an update on the CenUSA biochar demonstration gardens. As you may already know, there are four sites in Minnesota: at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, on the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul Campus, in Andover at the Extension regional center, and at the Brookston Community Center in the Fond du Lac tribal community (Cloquet).

Bio char  Arboretum plot3

U of MN Extension BioChar Project

Extension Master Gardeners have been helping support biochar research at each site since 2012 as part of the larger CenUSA Bioenergy project. Ken Moore at Iowa State University and staff are leading a team of eight institutions that are participating in the five-year, USDA-sponsored CenUSA project. The goal is to investigate the creation of a Midwestern sustainable biofuels and bioenergy products system. (To learn more, check out the 2012 CenUSA Bioenergy Overview YouTube video.)

For this post, we asked Extension Master Gardener Meleah Maynard to write about what it’s been like to volunteer at the metro sites for the past three seasons. In her next post, she’ll turn the spotlight on the Fond du Lac volunteers. Meleah talked with Lynne Hagen, project coordinator for the University of Minnesota Extension biochar demonstration gardens, and Master Gardener volunteers who are currently serving as leaders at each of the sites about their experiences—positive, negative and everything in between. Here’s what they had to say.

Trial and Error

Lynne had never heard of biochar when she went to the initial CenUSA Bioenergy Project meeting at Iowa State University. But once she saw the depth of the project, she remembers thinking that it seemed like an exciting research project to be involved with. “So I put my Extension hat on and I thought, ‘Okay, I’m in!’” Three years later, she feels even more passionate about the project, which focuses on helping to answer the question of whether biochar could be a good soil amendment for use in home gardens.

Lynne has also learned, through trial and error, what it takes to engage and motivate 50 frontline volunteers. And she does that while working closely with everyone to ensure the gardens’ success and the collection of the most accurate data possible “Our project is not hard science,” she told me. “It’s more observational, and instructions for planting, maintaining plants and collecting data can be subjective in terms of how things are interpreted. Kind of like judging an art show.”

By that she means Master Gardeners must do their best to record their observations of the three plots at each site: the control plot with no biochar added, treatment plot 1 with ½ pound of biochar per square foot added and treatment plot 2 with 1 pound of biochar per square foot added. How much did the biochar appear to improve soil structure? Did the vegetables and flowers in the biochar plots do better or worse than those in the control plot? What impact could the weather be having on the data? What differences can be seen between the sites with silt loam soil and those with sandy soil?

Working Out the Details

Data collection processes have been continually streamlined throughout the project, and things are running more and more smoothly over time. Sandra Shill, who co-leads the Arboretum site with Mary Burchette, remembers the first year was especially difficult because everyone was trying to understand how to do everything and do it in the same ways. “Measuring plants sounds simple, but measurements have to be taken in specific ways so there were a lot of nuances to work out,” Sandra says.

For example, she recalls her husband, who went with her to tend to the plot one day, wondering aloud whether she was really supposed to stretch the prickly cucumber vines out straight when taking measurements. She was. But were volunteers supposed to flatten plant leaves out completely when measuring leaf width? Yes. Thankfully, it’s much easier to determine the color of leaves (one of several indicators of plant health) thanks to a color guide that was introduced last season.

Challenges and Rewards

Sandra says she got involved with the biochar project because she grew up in Iowa and “things that make use of crops always attract my attention.” The possibility of using switch grass, corn stalks and leaves and other charred biomass as a soil amendment intrigued her. And like her co-leader, she’s enjoying the research aspect of the project, especially one that could potentially make a difference.

“It’s been rewarding to be involved in every stage of the project,” says Mary, who signed on because she’s always enjoyed science. “In the largest sense, every aspect of this project could have a positive impact on the environment and that’s been extremely rewarding.” That’s not to say that there haven’t been challenges. Scheduling and coordinating volunteers is no easy job, and it’s hard to keep people motivated to continue weeding and picking insect pests off plants once the season starts winding down in August.

And yes, a volunteer once stepped in an anthill and got ants all over her feet and was hopping around until another quick-thinking volunteer turned the hose on her shoes. But, really, the Arboretum site is largely ideal—except for watering. Unlike other sites that have easy access to sprinklers, volunteers have to use a brass key to hook up to a nearby water source to get their sprinklers going. “If you don’t do it right, you get totally soaked,” Mary says, laughing.

U of MN BioChar Project - First Tomato Harvest

U of MN BioChar Project – First Tomato Harvest

Over at the St. Paul campus site, watering couldn’t be easier because the demonstration garden is equipped with programmable irrigation, says site leader Carol Skalko. Better still, because they’re on campus, they were fortunate the first year because University of Minnesota Extension Plant Pathologist Michelle Grabowski had a research plot right next to the test plot. “It was great because we could ask her questions about plant diseases whenever we needed to,” Carol recalls.

One of the things Carol likes best about being a Master Gardener volunteer is the social interaction with others who share her love of gardening. So she’s especially glad that scheduling has often worked out so that volunteers could work together as a group. “There’s a real sense of community at our site and that’s been significant for me,” she says, adding that everyone has particularly enjoyed getting to know Master Gardeners from other counties.

Like other site leaders, she appreciates how things have gotten easier and more understandable over time. But she continues to worry about making mistakes that could throw off the data: Like this year, when the lettuce crop was considered a failure because it didn’t germinate. “We ignored it because we thought it wasn’t being counted, but it turned out they did want us to collect data on that and I misunderstood,” Carol says.

Everybody Wins

Jeff Stahmann, who co-leads the Andover site with Dave Knapp, is a scientist and engineer who develops medical devices like pacemakers. It was the research aspect of the biochar project that drew him in. While most Master Gardeners are taking knowledge from University-based research and applying it, he likes that in this case, Master Gardeners are providing data for researchers to us. “It would be great if Master Gardeners could get involved in some way with more University-based research projects like this because everybody wins,” he says.
At the same time, as a scientist, he is keenly aware of the “enormous number of variables” that need to be considered when interpreting the data from a project like this: the quality of seeds, the sizes of seedlings, variable weather and different types of soil, to name a few. “It’s a very dynamic environment in which to work for all of us,” as he aptly puts it. And his words sound all the more charitable when you consider what volunteers have faced at the Andover site.
Situated on the Anoka sand plain, the Andover site is by all accounts the most challenging of the three metro-area sites—and not just because of the sandy soil. Unlike the other two metro demonstration gardens, which were established in areas with silt loam soil, this plot had to be carved out of an area of woods filled with underbrush and poison ivy, the latter of which continues to pop up in areas where the volunteers work occasionally. “And then there was the time that wasps got into our supply cabinet and built a nest that we had to get out of there,” Dave says, before adding that gophers have been a problem in past years too.
Even so, he thinks the positives of working on the biochar project always balance out the tough parts. Harvesting the crops is one of the processes Dave likes most because until you actually weigh the kale, Swiss chard, potatoes and other crops, you’ve only got a visual assessment of which crops did better than others in the different plots.
It’s nice too that volunteers get to take home herbs and vegetables once the data has been collected. “For me,” Dave says, “whether what we observe turns out to be of major or minor significance, having the chance to participate in the discovery process has been really rewarding for me.”
Note: CenUSA Bioenergy is supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grant no. 2011-68005-30411 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.


September is National Mushroom Month!

September 10th, 2014 by Connie Schultz

September is National Mushroom Month and we’re starting it with a TED talk by mycologist Paul Stamets who lists 6 ways the mycelium fungus can help save the universe: cleaning polluted soil, making insecticides, treating smallpox and even flu viruses.

Almost Wordless Wednesday: 2014 National Honey Bee Day

August 19th, 2014 by Connie Schultz

Theme: Sustainable Gardening Begins with Honey Bees

Last Saturday was National Honey Bee Day. I know we already had Pollinator Week and Moth Week but this day is solely for honey bees – and aren’t we glad because honey bees are the ONLY insects that make honey. So next time you stir honey into your tea – thank a little bee.

Bee laden with pollen (photo courtesy Honey Bee Haven)

Bee laden with pollen (photo courtesy Honey Bee Haven)

Bees are hard workers that have to visit 4.5 million flowers to collect enough nectar to make 16 oz. of honey. They travel 112,000 miles to do this. It truly is amazing! But bees need help. There aren’t as many flowers as there used to be.


Plant flowers for bees (photo from Pinterest, photo credit not known)

Plant flowers for bees (photo from Pinterest, photo credit not known)

Bees are such amazing creatures. What can you do to help draw attention to their plight? Get involved! Here’s a short list. Visit these organizations that support honey bees and other pollinators.

National Honey Bee Day:






Long live the Queen Bee! (photo courtesy Center for Honey Bee Research)

Long live the Queen Bee! (photo courtesy Center for Honey Bee Research)


For more information, you can also visit the EPA site to read the most recent update on the Colony Collapse Disorder. If I’ve over looked any group, please contact me below and let me know.  Connie Schultz, Master Gardener/Composter (Cornell Extension ’95) now volunteering in Johnston County, NC)

 UPDATE 8/25/2014

Dear Readers, I need to make a correction to my post as I’ve just learned that I may have spoken (or quoted) incorrectly when I said that honey bees are the ONLY insect to make honey. I had an interesting conversation with Amie Newsome, one of my county agents, who was telling me that bumble bees also make a “honey” – not quite the same in all resects as the honey bees.) In the bumble bee life cycle the workers die in the fall and only the queen survives by hibernating through the winter – so they don’t need to store honey to eat over the cold months. She will start a new underground colony again in the spring. The bumble bees collect nectar to feed their new hatchling bumble bees – but only a few ounces or enough for a few days. Bumble bee colonies are also smaller than bee hives with only 50 to 400 bumble bees per colony while honey bees may have as many as 40,000 so they have correspondingly larger stores of honey. For more information on the differences between honey bees and bumble bees, here’s a fun site for kids called BioKids from the University of Michigan and another site which focuses on bumble bees called Bumble Bee Conservation Trust.