2015 Search for Excellence Awards – Community Service — 3rd Place Winner

February 3rd, 2016 by Terri James

Florence Community Garden

pic 1When this project was first conceived (first quarter of 2013) we knew that this was not going to be a project Extension could tackle alone. With the Shoals Master Gardeners taking a leadership role, partnerships were developed with the Northwest Resource Conservation & Development Council, the city of Florence, the Florence Men’s Club and the Lauderdale County Commission. Planning meetings and conceptual design began January/ February time frame by pulling people together. The biggest obstacle was finding an area with a suitable water source.

Several areas throughout the city were consider potential garden sites but a ready available water source was the limiting factor in each case. After review of several areas we realized the area was right at our door step. The Community Garden’s location is along Veterans Dr. between S. Oak and S. Chestnut Street on property occupied by the Florence Lauderdale Coliseum and the Alabama Cooperative System. The property is owned by the City of Florence. The Gardens are located between the parking lot and Veterans Dr. This project was planned and designed to provide a highly viable facility where veterans, low income and or physically impaired citizens and those with no room or opportunity could have their own garden. We wanted a facility with open public access, adequate sunlight and availability of water. The Extension Office provided ready access water and we ran a drip irrigation system to each bed, on timers, so the gardeners didn’t have to carry water unless they wanted more than we allocated through the system. pic 2The Project Team immediately  choose the raised bed concept for ease of access for challenged individuals, children and predictability for success by having a consistent growing medium within each bed.

Our original plan and budget was to build fifty individual raised beds. We actually built fifty two beds and every one of them ended up with an “owner” who planted, tended, and harvested their crops with great personal satisfaction. Two of the beds were used by the Extension System for ‘Trapped crops” and “Pollinators” (butterfly and humming birds). Two other beds were by the 4-H Club, (Junior Master Gardeners). The Extension system conducted public forums for new gardeners to instruct them in the best practices and methods for them to succeed in growing. The meetings were held during the day and again in the evening to accommodate those working. Every gardener got a condensed lesson in pest management, horticulture practices, seed/plant selection and garden care.

Master Gardeners were available daily (through the Help-Line) and on weekends to provide advice and information to the new gardeners.  The raised bed garden is not a unique concept,however, we did provide a growing medium not previously employed. The Florence city government provided equipment  and transportation for us to move tons of “Cotton Gin Trash” from two separate gins in the county, to our garden location. The Shoals Master Gardeners team wheel-barrowed those same tons, into the fifty-two beds which were  4’ wide x 8’ long x 20” deep. This filling process continued over several work days. Cotton gin trash is the biomass by-product of the business of ginning cotton. This sustainable product, in it’s composted forms yields an inexpensive, micro nutrient rich planting medium.

pic 3The total summer production was over 2100 lbs. Also, there were several gardeners who produced fall gardens.

The project fostered six other Shoals Master Gardener Projects that were able to utilize the same raised-bed and gin trash concept at a nursing home, four schools and a community health clinc. In the near by city of Sheffield, there are plans to establish an entire city block of raised bed gardens in 2016. So, for 2015 we had a 85% retention rate from 2014 and quickly filled up from the waiting list with potential gardeners and the fruits of their labor are seen here. The waiting list continues to grow.

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2015 Search for Excellence Awards – Demonstration — 1st Place Winner

January 27th, 2016 by Terri James

Executive Residence of Tennessee Master Gardeners

When Crissy Haslam, the First Lady of Tennessee, decided to restore the grounds of the historic Governor’s Mansion, she raised the funds privately, and began a complete renovation.  Part of this project was to include a kitchen garden, and she asked a team of Master Gardeners to help. When she first met with us, she asked that the garden include heirlooms from 1929, when the house was built.  She wanted to provide fresh, local, organic vegetables for the Residence and its many guests to emphasize Tennessee products and healthy eating.  However, because of her commitment to children’s education, she wanted the MG’s to provide much more from this garden than vegetables.

The garden & its results

Our planting goal was to create a productive and sustainable three-season garden with our approximately 3000 square feet of never-before planted beds. We chose Tennessee heirlooms, plants adapted to our southern climate, things children could relate to and vegetables the chef wanted to serve at the Governor’s table.

We used only an organic product (spinosad, a BT product) for insect control; no other pesticides are used.  In Tennessee, we can have three growing seasons and in 2014, we harvested 2,600 pounds of vegetables.

Educational goals and results

The First Lady wanted us to provide a hands-on learning experience for children.  Our goals were to teach children where their food comes from, to encourage gardening, and to encourage healthy eating.  Over 500 children visited the garden this past year.  We have a hands-on garden activity for each group, decided by what is going on in the garden. In season, they have planted seeds, set out cabbage and herb plants, thinned carrots, pulled radishes, and have even shelled field peas.  The visits end with the chef serving them a healthy snack made with the vegetables from the garden.

Teacher’s Workshop

Many visiting teachers and chaperones spoke of wanting vegetable gardens at their own schools, so we decided to help. With the First Lady’s approval, we planned our first Saturday workshop for teachers & school advisors who wanted to start a garden for their own school.  We limited this first workshop to 44 attendees.  Some of the sessions were Garden Planning, Grant Writing and Resources (Tennessee Farm Bureau, who has grant money available had a representative on-site with applications), School Curriculum in a Garden, and several other topics.  We finished with lunch, which, of course, featured vegetables from the garden.

This year, with the new greenhouse finished, we have even more options for working with the children at all times of the year, and we think we can handle even more teachers at this year’s workshop.

2015 Search for Excellence Awards – Demonstration — 2nd Place Winner

January 20th, 2016 by Terri James

Sweet Taters

Ssotry tellersMGs were invited to participate in a joint venture with the South Cobb County Arts Alliance, Friends of the Mable House, and Cobb County Department of Recreation and Cultural Affairs to create a sweet educational garden project at the Mable House in Mableton: (“sweet” as in sweet potatoes, specifically Beauregards. Doesn’t that just put some South in your mouth?).
On October 18,2014, the Arts Alliance will be hosting its annual Storytelling Festival at the Mable House, located in Mableton in Southwest Cobb County, Georgia . One of the events will be story telling about how to grow sweet potatoes. The Robert Mable family, original owners of the Mable House, grew sweet potatoes commercially during the mid-1800s, storing them in an outbuilding built specifically for that purpose. You can see the building during tours of the Mable House.

During the Story Telling Festival, children participate in activities that replicate those conducted by farming families during the period, including growing and harvesting sweet potatoes and corn shucking. To obtain sweet potatoes, the original plan was to purchase them from local growers, but this changed to using a plot behind the Mable House to grow the vegetables with the help of MGVOCC.

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On May 22nd, several MGs (including Linda Hlozansky, JoAnne Newman, Lisa Jobe, Donna Peppers, and Lallie Hayes) and Friends of the Mable House ( David McDaniel, Nancy Thomas, and Eleanor Wade), installed a sweet potato patch behind the Mable House, planting about 100 Beauregards. This variety was developed at Louisiana State University in 1987. It matures in 90 days, so it would be just in time for the Storytelling Festival.
Participating children learned how the sweet potatoes were grown and saw sweet potatoes that had been rooted and were growing in a glass. They got their own “Mable House Sweet Potato Kit” to take home, using the potatoes grown at the Mable House over the summer.

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This cooperative project demonstrates how Cobb MGs stay involved in serving and educating their community, not only with ongoing projects, but when a special opportunity to serve presents itself.

by Lallie Hayes

2015 Search for Excellence Awards – Youth — 1st Place Winner

January 13th, 2016 by Terri James

“The Misadventures of Peter Rabbit in Farmer McGregor’s Vegetable Garden”

Farmer McGregor and Peter RabbitEntering its sixth year, “The Misadventures of Peter Rabbit in Farmer McGregor’s Vegetable Garden,” an interactive and educational puppet show, presented by the Sussex County Master Gardeners, Delaware Cooperative Extension, has reached more than 9,000 children, primarily in the five- to eight-year-old age groups. Older children and adults also indicate they have learned something.

Sussex County is Delaware’s most rural, agricultural county. Even though our children are surrounded by farms, most kids know little about where their food comes from. “Are those vegetables real?” is a question we regularly hear from kids. Many children have never held a raw potato, do not know that potatoes grow under the ground, and often do not realize that French fries are potatoes. Additionally, Sussex County has an increasingly multicultural, diverse population, and there are a large variety of ways vegetables are prepared in their homes.

Inspired, but very loosely based on the Beatrix Potter version, this typically 30-minute presentation focuses on bits of botany, agriculture, food culture, nutrition, entomology, and Integrated Pest Management (IPM). However, it is quite different from the book we all know. When Peter is tricked by Ripley Rat (he’s not a Beatrix Potter character) and loses his money to Ripley, he faces a moral dilemma until he is convinced by Ripley it is okay to help himself to Farmer McGregor’s vegetables.

The interactive show then focuses on Farmer McGregor, a look-alike Master Gardener, talking with the children about how vegetables are grown and the parts of the vegetable plants we eat. The children learn the “fruits of the vine” (tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers), the leafy vegetables (cabbage, lettuce, greens), the roots, tubers, and bulbs (carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions), the seeds (corn, beans, peas), and the flowers (broccoli and cauliflower).

Peter interacts with the children about the nutritional benefits and how the vegetables are prepared (cooked and raw, plain and seasoned, whole and shredded, alone or with other foods). Peter Rabbit Georgetown Farmer and Foodie Festival

 

A busy bee talks about gathering nectar and pollen for the hive, and both the bee and a beautiful butterfly talk about the importance of pollination. A ladybug beetle and a Japanese beetle talk about whether they are “good” or “bad” bugs in the garden, and a large predator, a praying mantis, dispatches a Japanese beetle.

 

When Farmer McGregor returns to find his vegetables gone, the audience admits that Peter stole his vegetables. McGregor threatens to make bunny burgers out of Peter, and a chase scene erupts which the children thoroughly enjoy. The show concludes with Peter admitting his transgression to Farmer McGregor and wishing to work to pay him back. They jointly open an organic vegetable farm stand. Even Ripley Rat is convinced that vegetables are better than candy and “all’s well that ends well.”

sticker

Everyone gets a sticker emblazoned with Peter’s picture and “I love vegetables”

The Peter Rabbit players perform in the Peter Rabbit garden in the Sussex County Demonstration Garden, at libraries, schools, 4-H clubs and other youth groups, daycare centers, farmers markets, churches, garden clubs, community festivals, and anywhere else there are children who love a good story and willingly eat their vegetables.

 

The props are lightweight and portable for “on the road” shows. The backdrop features a photo of the painted fence behind the Peter Rabbit garden in our Demonstration Garden. It’s supported by a simply-made PVC pipe structure for both inside and outside performances. At times, a long table laden with vegetables invites the children to “Please Touch the Vegetables” or in smaller venues, children sit in a circle and the vegetables are passed around. In between shows at festivals, Farmer McGregor, Peter Rabbit, and other puppeteers roam the grounds handing out tickets (produced by a simple Word document) with the show times listed to encourage the children to attend.

 

Costs are minimal with volunteer time and effort. Also included with the script is basic budget information: $100.00 will buy enough puppets to start. $200.00 will buy a menagerie. A backdrop is not necessary, but the cost is around $170.00. Peter Rabbit Georgetown Farmer and Foodie FestivalTo build the PVC pipe support is around $50.00. Stickers could be printed on a home computer or thousands can be ordered for a few hundred dollars. Fresh vegetables and gas money for each performance are minimal.

 

Part of the fun is to ad-lib. All you really need are a few Master Gardeners who enjoy children.

 

 

For More Information: Contact Tammy Schirmer at (302) 856-2585, extension 544 or tammys@udel.edu
Cooperative Extension  programs and policies are consistent with federal and state laws and regulations on non-discrimination regarding race, sex, religion, age, color, creed, national or ethnic origin; physical, mental or sensory disability; marital status, sexual orientation, or status as a Vietnam-era or disabled veteran. Evidence of noncompliance may be reported through your local Cooperative Extension Office.

2015 Search for Excellence Awards – Youth — 2nd Place Winner

January 6th, 2016 by Terri James

“Garden Candy” A Kindergarten Tomato Planting Project

The Kindergarten Tomato Planting Project has evolved since 2011 when our local hospital (Fisher-Titus Medical Center) invited the Huron County Ohio Master Gardener volunteers to help kindergarteners plant a vegetable to grow at home. garden candy 1This project culminated the hospital’s year long lessons presented in their program called “Game On: The Ultimate Wellness Challenge.” This wellness challenge was designed to help alleviate our county’s major health concerns of obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. As Master Gardeners, we used this opportunity to help the children discover that healthy eating can be delicious and that growing their own vegetable can be fun. The vegetable we chose was a sweet, cherry tomato (Basket Boy) which is just the right size for a child to pick and eat. This program started in a small way with just one school. Each year the project grew so that in 2014 we met with a total of 625 students in 23 different classrooms. Those who replicate this program can expect to see smiles, smudges, and the delighted grins of children. The children enjoyed participating in a hands-on planting experience and could look forward to snatching a piece of “Garden Candy” during the summer.

garden candy 2The Master Gardeners conducted a thirty minute program with each kindergarten class. During those thirty minutes, we taught the life cycle of a tomato plant, gave directions and instructions for taking care of a tomato plant, and helped students at different stations plant, water, and package the tomato seedling to take home. Those waiting to plant were engaged by listening to the book Oh, No Monster Tomato by Jim Helmore and Karen Hall and singing an original Master Gardener tomato song. To conclude the program, the students recited the solemn pledge: “I promise…to take care of my tomato plant… to give it water…plenty of sunshine…and to check on it every day. “ We know the impact of this project will be ongoing throughout the students’ lives, and we did indeed help them “GROW!” garden candy 3

2015 Search for Excellence Awards – Workshop — 2nd Place Winner

December 30th, 2015 by Terri James

East Austin Garden Fair

What is the East Austin Garden Fair?

The East Austin Garden Fair is a free annual community outreach event designed to engage the whole family in learning about horticulture in a fun, festive and relaxed setting. Educational offerings are geared toward low-income residents of traditionally minority, under-resourced East Austin, with an emphasis on creative, low-cost “do-it-yourself” solutions, interactive learning, managing limited resources and making positive health choices. Master Gardeners offer University-based information to fairgoers on a diverse variety of horticulture topics, while partner organizations provide information on closely-related community services, programs and projects.

Travis County Master Gardener Sue Nazar gives a demonstration on backyard beekeeping at the 2013 East Austin Garden Fair. (File photo courtesy of Texas AgriLife Extension - Horticulture - Travis County

Travis County Master Gardener Sue Nazar gives a demonstration on backyard beekeeping at the 2013 East Austin Garden Fair.
(File photo courtesy of Texas AgriLife Extension – Horticulture – Travis County

What can fairgoers see, do and learn at the East Austin Garden Fair?

Fairgoers can visit booths to get information, ask questions and share ideas, participate in hands-on demonstrations on building a rain barrel, raised bed or compost bin, and learn about waterwise irrigation methods and gardening in containers and straw bales. Kids can build a bird or bug house, make a herb sachet, recycled seed pot or seed ball, play seed identification games, and learn about good bugs and bad bugs. Booths on backyard chickens and beekeeping are a big hit with all ages. During the fair, interpreters circulate through the crowd to accommodate hearing-impaired and Spanish-speaking attendees. After completing an exit survey, attendees may choose a free vegetable seedling to take home, to encourage continued interest in horticulture and healthful eating.

 

Booth topics include:

  • Healthy eating, cooking, canning and preserving
  • Drought, rainwater collection, firewise landscaping and irrigation
  • Composting, recycling coffee grounds and vermiculture
  • Attracting birds, bees and butterflies
  • Backyard chickens and beekeeping
  • Community gardens, food forests and farmers markets
  • Food banks and temporary assistance for needy families
  • Growing fruit, herbs and vegetables
  • Growing native and adapted plants

Who plans the fair and how is it put together?

The fair is a wholly-owned project of the Travis County Master Gardeners Association under the direction of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension’s Horticulture Agent for Travis County and her assistant. Master Gardeners utilize three online tools (Volunteer Management System, SignUp Genius, Yahoo! Groups listserv) and two in-person meetings to plan and execute the fair each spring. A total of 89 Master Gardeners participated in 2013 and 2014, by developing a booth or demonstration that matched their area of expertise, or in a support capacity.

4-H Capital Youth Gardening Specialist Meredith O’Reilly (green shirt) and Travis County Master Gardener Ally Stresing (blue shirt) discuss backyard chickens with fairgoers at the 2014 East Austin Garden Fair. (File photo courtesy of Texas AgriLife Extension - Horticulture - Travis County/Caroline Homer)

4-H Capital Youth Gardening Specialist Meredith O’Reilly (green shirt) and Travis County Master Gardener Ally Stresing (blue shirt) discuss backyard chickens with fairgoers at the 2014 East Austin Garden Fair. (File photo courtesy of Texas AgriLife Extension – Horticulture – Travis County/Caroline Homer)

An outreach event of this size and scope would not be possible without ongoing input and support from our community partners. These organizations have experience, interest and expertise in community outreach, environmental issues, food and nutrition, gardening, health promotion, home improvement, and sustainability. In 2013 and 2014, we partnered with food banks and food assistance programs, community gardening programs and garden clubs, farmers markets, composting advocates, local health organizations, grocers and retailers. We also partnered with local AmeriCorps, Texas 4-H, and Master Wellness volunteers, in addition to two City of Austin departments: Watershed Protection, and Parks and Recreation. Our partners helped us promote the East Austin Garden Fair through email, radio, community newsletters, flyers and posters.

Funding for this free event comes from Master Gardener association dues, book sales and admission fees from a biennial garden tour. TCMGA budgeted $500 per year for supplies, signs, water and snacks, and came in under budget both years. Annually, Travis County AgriLife Extension covered printing costs of $300 and $125 for food to feed hungry volunteers. All other expenses were covered through donations from partner organizations.

How does the East Austin Garden Fair impact the community?

In 2013 and 2014 combined, Master Gardeners offered over 50 educational booths, activities and interactive demonstrations to over 900 fairgoers. A little over half of those who attended the fair were people of color. Most fairgoers reported they learned something new (95%), found the information understandable (95%), and expected to use what they learned to improve their health (93%).

Master Gardeners installed a raised-bed vegetable garden and a butterfly garden for community use and future fair demonstrations at East Austin’s Parque Zaragosa Recreation Center, the site for the 2013 and 2014 fairs.  Master Gardeners cultivated over 500 herb and vegetable seedlings each year to distribute to fairgoers, and gave away a rain barrel both years.

Exit surveys from fairgoers guide the planning committee’s focus the following year to ensure our outreach remains timely, relevant and specific to the East Austin community.

For more information, visit the Central Texas Horticulture website.

2015 Search for Excellence Awards – Workshop — 3rd Place Winner

December 23rd, 2015 by Terri James

Seed to Supper

Seed to Supper is a joint program of the Oregon Food Bank and the Oregon State University Extension Service Master Gardener Program.

Hunger and food security are issues that all communities face. Buying seeds and starts to grow can increase a family’s access to nutritious food. But unfortunately, many people lack the skills or confidence to plant and tend a garden.

Seed to Supper is a comprehensive, 5-week beginning gardening course that gives novice, adult gardeners the tools they need to successfully grow a portion of their own food on a limited budget.

A 96-page workbook was written as a resource for participants to use during and after the class. It contains researched-based information in the areas of

  • Garden site and soil development
  • Garden planning
  • Garden planting
  • Maintaining the garden
  • Harvesting and using your bounty

Because classes are often taught during the cool months prior to the gardening season, in locations that do not have access to a garden, five PowerPoints have been developed to help assisting in the teaching of the material. They follow the five chapters of the workbook and provide a visually stimulating method for teaching outside the actual garden.

The PowerPoints also provide a method to insure quality control from class to class, as different volunteers serve in the roles as garden educators.

While the workbook and PowerPoints provide for a consistent program, Seed to Supper has been designed to be flexible. In their role as gardening educators, teams of Master Gardeners modify the curriculum to meet the needs of their individual audiences. They have changed the number of days taught, added hands-on activities, brought tools as visual aids and grown starts to help people get their gardens started.

After the 2013 pilot year the Seed to Supper program was edited to a more accessible reading level and translated into Spanish to help us engage a more diverse audience.

The programs adaptability and popularity can be seen in the fact that it has spread from the tri-county Portland area where it started in 2013 to being taught in 15 counties this year.

For more information on the Seed to Supper program you can go to the program’s website hosted by the Oregon Food Bank.

 

Submitted by Lynn Cox, Washington County Oregon Master Gardener

2015 Search for Excellence Awards – Special Needs — 1st Place Winner

December 16th, 2015 by Terri James
2 Camp Woodchuck at Demo Garden

2 Camp Woodchuck at Demo Garden

Accessible Gardening for Life

Master Gardeners from Sedgwick County in Wichita, Ks have been busy working  with people of all ages and “abilities” teaching them the many benefits of gardening.  Several Master Gardeners built wheelchair height garden beds making gardening more accessible for many.  Some of these beds are on site and are being used in our demo. garden by clients from various agencies.  Some of the special raised beds have been donated to various groups to use at their facilities.   Another master gardener drew up the design plans for these accessible beds and a pamphlet was published so the public could build their own.

What started with a Workshop for Activity Directors entitled Accessible Gardening for Life has led to new opportunities for us to work with a variety of groups and skill levels.  Several times during the spring and summer we work directly with clients from Assisted Living Facilities and Day Programs helping them select, plant and grow flowers and vegetables.  At one of the facilities, we will have a “Tasting Party” with the clients,  sampling the vegetables they have grown.

Master Gardeners are involved in a Community Garden working with developmental and intellectual “differently-abled” adults.  Time in the garden is “hand on learning” for the clients.  We work together teaching them to water, weed, plant and grow a variety of vegetables and flowers.

2015 Search for Excellence Awards – Special Needs — 3rd Place Winner

December 9th, 2015 by Terri James

TWICE ON TUESDAY PROGRAM

set up areaThe Sumter County Master Gardeners offer many events and volunteer services to the residents of Sumter County Florida.  One of the most successful is our “Twice on Tuesday” talks offered to the residents of the very active retirement community of The Villages, Florida.  These talks are given at two of the larger recreation centers on the fourth Tuesday of every month.  The topics of the talk’s center on the most asked questions from our plant clinics, held throughout the community.  T on T presentationThe retired residents, of the Villages come from all around the world and are not familiar with the growing conditions here in Central Florida.

Recognizing the need in the community for answers, Master Gardeners of Sumter County developed a program that would provide an opportunity for the busy retirees to gain answers to their many questions.  This program was developed to educate the residents to Florida Friendly Landscaping practices, with topics such as Turf Talk, Palms, Plant this-Not That, Vegetable Gardening in Central Florida, Irrigation, Compost and Mulch presented once a month.T on T audience

2015 Search for Excellence Awards – Special Needs — 3rd Place Winner (tie)

December 2nd, 2015 by Terri James

Project GROW Garden

The Project GROW garden began in 2006 as a small native soil plot within the razor wire confines of the multi county juvenile detention center.  “We do a wide range of counseling and intervention with our residents” said Natalie Landon, COYC Superintendent.  “We hoped getting the kids in the garden with positive Master Gardener role models would complement their rehabilitation efforts.  We had no idea how good this would be for our kids” she said.

Since its’ beginning nine years ago, the garden has been expanded to 2000 square feet including six, 4’ x 12’ handicap accessible raised beds.  “We began with typical produce like lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers so these could be used by the kitchen staff for meals at the center” said Al Burnard, Union County MGV who coordinates the garden project. “But with our increased capacity, the garden now produces nearly 30 varieties of vegetables and fruits for use in house or for donation.”

The springtime garden, June 2015

The springtime garden, June 2015

The residents are involved with nearly every aspect of gardening from planting to harvest and routine garden care.  Many have never stepped foot in a garden and have no idea what vegetables look like or how they grow.  To help bridge this knowledge gap, Burnard developed the Master Gardener Minute, a series of 40 vegetable gardening topics providing basic “how to” gardening information.

Each topic is covered in a one-page format consisting of a photo about the topic and five to six brief bullet points.  The bullet points serve as talking points, enabling the MGV’s to fill in the concepts associated with each topic.  “It only takes a few minutes at the start of each work session to offer a quick, informal overview of a particular gardening subject which really helps the kids learn basic gardening practices” Burnard said.  “We’ve also found the kids are very comfortable asking questions when we encourage learning.”

Beginning the work session with the Master Gardener Minute to learn a bit about gardening.

Beginning the work session with the Master Gardener Minute to learn a bit about gardening.

“Another aspect of the garden that has been valuable to the kids is planting and harvesting vegetables to support our area food pantries” said Betsy Hauck, COYC Program Manager.  “We’ve always donated a portion of our harvest.  The awakening moment for us was when so many of the kids appreciated helping others in need.  Many of their families have needed assistance from their food pantry and so they realized the importance of what they were doing.”

 

“We wanted to make sure the kids knew much of the harvest would go to the food pantries so we became affiliated with the Garden Writers Association’s Plant a Row for the Hungry (PAR) network and added signs and row markers throughout the garden.  We also met with the pantries and asked what we could grow for them” said Landon.  “Their feedback led us to plant asparagus, green beans and strawberries – fresh produce they rarely receive” Landon said.  Since 2013, over 1 ton of fresh produce has been donated to the Marysville and Salvation Army food pantries from the Project GROW garden.

Sharing our harvest with others with over 2000 lbs. donated to food pantries since 2013

Sharing our harvest with others with over 2000 lbs. donated to food pantries since 2013

“It’s always a treat to see the kids trying veggies fresh from the garden and discovering how delightfully good they can be” said Burnard.  “We added a sink and rinsing table in the garden so the kids can sample right there.   We’ll see the feeding frenzy develop when one of the kids samples something they’ve never had before and then tell the others they’ve got to try it too” said Burnard.  “It’s not hard to encourage them to sample strawberries but it’s a hoot to see them get excited about fresh sugar snap peas or sweet peppers” Burnard said.

Enjoying watermelon fresh from the garden!

Enjoying watermelon fresh from the garden!

“While we don’t do a formal assessment of what they’ve learned, we know they are picking up a lot about gardening based upon their questions and the discoveries they’ve made in the garden” said Hauck.  “The kids are always amazed at how fast what they’ve planted germinates and develops, how good it tastes or generally how plants grow.  We’ve had kids who had no idea carrots grew in the ground or that green beans came from something other than a can” Hauck said.  “We also weigh every harvest so the kids see how much they can grow in a backyard garden.”

“Friends and neighbors often ask about our garden at COYC” said Burnard.  “We offered an open house to the public that was attended by nearly 60 people.  The residents served as tour guides, talking about their gardening experience and answering questions.  They really surprised us at how much they had learned in a short period of time.  Needless to say, our visitors were impressed with the garden and especially with the kids” Burnard said.

Project GROW Garden Open House, July 2014

Project GROW Garden Open House, July 2014

“The kids really look forward to being in the garden and are always asking when the Master Gardeners will be back” Landon said.  “Spending time in the garden with good people who don’t judge them has had so many positive benefits.  We just don’t see the flare ups like we did before we started the garden program.  They’ve got a positive outlet.  I just couldn’t imagine us not having this garden for them” Landon said.

 

Written by:  Al Burnard, Union County, Ohio Master Gardener Volunteer