Promote home gardening
As late as the 1950s, most West Virginians raised a garden. By the year 2000, after processed foods saturated the market, only about a third of West Virginians raised a garden, and gardens were smaller, according to the American Gardening Association.
Now the number is rising again. “People are starting to understand how harmful processed food can be to your health,” said Mira Danilovich, who directs West Virginia University’s Master Gardener program. “They can save money,and they’re finding out what a great stress-reliever gardening is.”
“If you want to get people gardening, one of the best things you can do is build up your local supply of master gardeners,” Danilovich said. Master Gardeners agree to give volunteer time to promote gardening in their community. Your local extension agent agent can arrange a training program, she said.
West Virginia’s Master Gardener program is free. In Greenbrier County, more than 70 people were certified master gardeners by the end of 2013. Statewide, there are about 2,000. In 2011, master gardeners contributed 40,000 volunteer hours, Danilovich said. “You’re talking about a half million dollars in volunteer labor.” In WV, a volunteer hour is valued at $17.57.
* Putnam County’s master gardeners helped build and operate elementary school greenhouses. In Greenbrier, they gave free public gardening workshops.
* Monongalia master gardeners give pruning and medicinal herb workshops. Kanawha master gardeners build raised beds for seniors.
Dozens of public schools have started school gardens, often using the Junior Master Gardener program. Through Tucker County High School’s greenhouse program, students supply the school cafeteria with greens and sell plants to the public.“Students are going home and bugging their parents to garden,” said Tucker County High School agriculture teacher Terry Houser. “Our real goal is to get the community gardening again,” Houser said.
What can your community do to get people gardening again?
- Offer community workshops. Work through WVU Extension and/or other interested organizations. Recruit from your master gardeners (See below). Extension offers gardening workshops ranging from pruning to Testing the Ph of your soil.
- Schedule the Master Gardener program of the American Horticultural Society. West Virginia University Extension offers it in most counties. If your community doesn’t offer it yet, talk with your Extension agent. http://mastergardeners.ext.wvu.edu
- Build up your supply of Master Gardeners. They must volunteer in their community yearly to keep up their certification. So the more you have trained, the more volunteers you may have. Master gardeners can help set up community gardens, help with school gardening projects, teach community gardening courses, etc. You can ask them to help with any of the projects listed below.
- Ask your local Extension agent for the list of master gardeners in your area. If there are none, ask your agent to schedule a class.
- Get the kids interested:
- Start a horticulture program in the public schools. Here’s a link to the Try This page full of information and examples.
- Schedule Junior Master Gardener classes if you don’t already have them: http://www.jmgkids.us. In West Virginia, they are coordinated through West Virginia State University, which also coordinates the SCRATCH program. http://pinterest.com/preciouslillian/wv-junior-master-gardener-programs/
- Create community gardens or more community gardens. Here’s the Try This community gardens page.
- Build raised beds: offer “how-to” workshops. They’re more accessible to seniors and people in wheelchairs, and they’re great for community gardens. http://www.popularmechanics.com/home/how-to-plans/lawn-garden/4308264#slide-1
- Small-space workshops:
- Square Foot Gardening: http://squarefootgardening.org
- Container gardening: Type “container gardening” into a search engine. Here’s WVU Extension page: http://anr.ext.wvu.edu/lawn_garden/herbs/container_gardening
- Straw bale gardening: http://strawbalegardens.com/
- Bag gardening: Here is one commercial source, to help you see the possibilities. But you can also make your own.
- Schedule workshops in various neighborhoods, even in an actual garden >
- Schedule cooking classes and preserving food classes that help people turn their gardens into a yearlong supply of healthy food.
- Learn about the health benefits of gardening. Here’s a strong list of research assembled by Huntington Gardens people: http://www.huntingtoncommunitygardens.com/36.html
Here are good ideas and resources:
- Check out the National Gardening Association Web site: http://www.garden.org
- Check out the resources and ideas of the American Community Garden Association. They apply to home gardening too: http://www.communitygarden.org/
- Lots of ideas here: http://www.gardening.cornell.edu/homegardening/
- Here’s a informative page on money you can save by growing and preserving your own food: http://www.everythingmom.com/leisure/preserve-your-own-food-save-money-and-eat-local-all-year-long.html
- Appalachian groups working to promote agriculture: a fine list of resources: https://sites.google.com/site/morgancountywvagriculture/Home/groups-in-appalachia-working-to-strengthen-agriculture
- How to build a high tunnel greenhouse. http://anr.ext.wvu.edu/commercial_horticulture/high_tunnels