Archive for the ‘Partnerships’ Category Sharing Your Garden Bounty with Neighbors in Need

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

What has 180,000 hands and is changing the world? The Extension Master Gardeners of the USA! That’s how we at think of you—thousands of hands working in the soil, sharing valuable knowledge with growers in every corner of America, and changing the world one garden at a time! is a national program, connecting gardeners with local food pantries so that excess garden bounty can be shared with those in need. Gardeners everywhere can use our site to find a pantry for those times when they just have too many greens or cucumbers (or any other extra veggies, fruits, herbs, or nuts).

Food Pantry volunteers, happy to receive donations of fresh food to share with their clients

Food Pantry volunteers, happy to receive donations of fresh food to share with their clients

We have nearly 7,000 food pantries registered on our site from every state. These are pantries that may not have the time or budget required to maintain a website or advertise their services online. For many pantries, their free profile on our site is the only web presence they have, and the only way that gardeners can find them when they have food to share.

We’ve got some exciting news! We’re celebrating our 5th birthday with a complete overhaul of our website. We will be adding new and exciting features to make it easier for gardeners and pantries to work together to eliminate hunger and malnutrition in America. We hope you’ll bookmark our page ( so you can see the new site when it’s up and let us know what you think.

If you’re growing food at home, helping in a community garden, or working with Plant-A-Row, we want our site to be another one of your gardening tools. Whenever someone asks us for gardening help, we send them your way and we hope that when you encounter someone whose gardening experiments yield too many tomatoes, you will send them our way so they can help feed a hungry family.


Harvest day at a community garden and this is just what was left over after the gardeners took their share! It all went straight to a pantry found on  Send photos of what you’re growing and sharing to

Harvest day at a community garden and this is just what was left over after the gardeners took their share! It all went straight to a pantry found on Send photos of what you’re growing and sharing to

Like us on Facebook and share our page with your gardening friends to help us spread the word. If you are already growing and sharing with a food pantry, share this blog with the pantry coordinator to encourage them to register on our site so that other gardeners can find them and donate their excess produce as well.

Thank you for teaching and leading by example. Thank you for keeping the knowledge of our national agricultural traditions alive in your communities. Thank you for changing the world.
Emily Fulmer is the Grower Outreach Coordinator at She is a back (and front!) yard vegetable gardener and she has recently added a small flock of Buff Orpington hens to her tiny urban farm. You can reach her at

Exhausted OSU EMGs After Day Four and Five

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

We are exhausted!  However, it’s the greatest exhaustion in the world, as any gardener knows after a hard day work.  On Tuesday we traveled up around 8,000 feet high to the vivero and weeded and filled soil bags for the tree seedlings.  After about two hours of work, the great Tandana Foundation staff provided us with a wonderful picnic lunch that included local fruits and juices.  After this, we traveled about 45 minutes to the Falcon Farms rose plantation.  This was a truly great experience for us and we were only the second group to tour the plantation.

Matias and Rachel with the Ohio State University EMGs kneeling pad

Matias and Rachel with the Ohio State University EMGs kneeling pad

Falcon Farms has 100 acres of greenhouse under plastic in order to grow cut roses for shipment to the US, Canada and Russia.  We toured a greenhouse in which the roses were planted in rows of 450 plants each.  An employee is responsible for 17,000 plants.  They are all on drip irrigation.  From the time a rose is cut, it take approximately one week to get to the consumer.  Post harvest treatment is top priority.  After a long stem is cut, it takes about 70-85 days before rose stem can be cut.  There were four bud stages identified for us.  The first is rice, when the bud is just forming.  The second is pea and the bud is beginning to swell.  The third is garbanzo and this is just before you see a slight bit of color.  The fourth is color line and is when you just see the sepals part and show a line of color.  The fifth and final stage, is when the rose is perfect and the stem is cut.

Freedom is the most popular variety of red rose they grow for Valentine’s Day.  Thirty percent of their total sales or 4 millions rose stems are exported for this day.  The next big sales day is Mother’s Day and the color is pink and hot pink.  During the summer, sales drop dramatically and our guide pointed out that the US and their home gardeners are their biggest competition.  He said this with a smile!

They employ 350 people year round and hire an additional 150 for Valentine’s Day.  The biggest pest problems are thrips, spider mites and botrytis.  I asked if they used integrated pest management or IPM and he did not know this term.  However, after explaining that pruning, air circulation, sanitation, and the use of the appropriate pesticides, they obviously employ IPM tactics.  They are also very diligent about rotating fungicides in order to prevent resistance.  They compost all of their material and use it back in the beds.  Some of the rose varieties were eight feet tall; the life expectancy for these plants to perform is around twenty.  However, they replace them every five years for production.

Each EMG was given a bouquet of roses at the end of the tour - muchas gracias!

Each EMG was given a bouquet of roses at the end of the tour – muchas gracias!

Today, Wednesday, we drove up around 11,000 feet high and went to Padre Chupa for another minga (community workday) to plant potatoes.  Some of the group made vegetable prints with the 11 children that go to the school, while others made hanging planters out of pop bottles.  And others, such as myself, Denise Johnson, Mark McVay, Cathy Barr, Jackie Mills, and Judy Hrdy-Novak took on the task of planting potatoes.

Planting potatoes in Ecuador is nothing like planting them in Ohio.  The slopes are steep any workable land is used.  The soil on these hills is beyond belief!  The men started the process by preparing the ground.  The only tool they  have is a really large hoe.  This is used for everything from weeding to digging.  Mark helped the men prep the soil (yea Mark!).  The ladies then planted the potatoes, only after the entire bed was ready.  We took a shirt full of potatoes and worked our way down the hill and dropped a potato or two about a foot apart.    After we had 200 pounds of potatoes planted, the men came back and covered them up.  These will be harvested in September.

The view was incredible, the ride a little nerve-wracking for some at times.  Once you get off the main road, the dirt roads are pretty precarious in some areas.  We are so tired tonight so it’s early to bed tonight for most.  Friday I’ll wrap up our trip with the final post and tell you how you can participate in this gardening vacation in the fall.

Pamela J. Bennett, OSU Extension Master Gardener State Coordinator


Jackie planting potatoes on the terraced hillside

Jackie planting potatoes on the terraced hillside

Pam Bennett, Ohio State University EMG State Coordinator, and EMGs Mark McVay, Cathy Barr, Denise Johnson, and Judy Hrdy-Novak

Cathy is helping a student make a container garden

Cathy is helping a student make a container garden

Ohio State University EMGs Ecuadorian Update

Monday, February 24th, 2014

These past two days have been busy for the 16 Ohio State University EMGs.  Yesterday we loaded up the bus and went about an hour up the mountain to the vivero (tree nursery) to work.  We filled soil bags, weeded tree seedlings and prepared the for today’s planting.  In the afternoon we headed to Lake Quicocha (qui = guinea pig, shaped like a guinea pig) for a great lunch at the dock and then a boat ride around the lake.  Clouds and rain moved in and it got a little chilly.  All had fun no matter!  We went to a local restaurant in Otavalo and had the opportunity to try cui or guinea pig.  This is an expensive dish  or a treat and is not served that often, except for birthdays and celebrations.  Some liked it, some….not so much.

Today (Monday) was a pretty incredible experience for all.  We participated in a “minga” or community work day.   All families in the community are required to have at least one family member participating and helping with the work.  Community leaders planned this work day to focus on planting trees to help prevent erosion and for a windbreak.  As you can see from the photo, erosion is a huge problem in this area and the locals focus on reforestation in order to prevent the erosion and protect the water supply.  You can also see how steep some of the hills were where we were planting.  It was pretty crazy to watch the community members hang on the the steep hillsides and see how they easily plant trees under these challenging circumstances.  We were a little more careful!

EMGs and community members planting tree seedlings on the steep hillside

EMGs and community members planting tree seedlings on the steep hillside

Many hands make small work held true today.  We planted almost 500 tree seedlings (came from the vivero) in approximately 3 1/2 hours.  The soil in this region is a rich volcanic mix and is absolutely incredible.  Most of us EMGs couldn’t start working right away as we had to relish the feel and quality of the soil.  We kind of looked a little weird fondling the soil but if you have clay soil, you know how it is.  We planted on the hillside and then went further down the hill to the school grounds and finished up.  It was really great to walk down the hillside and experience the plants in this area.  We could recognize many of them since they are the annuals and tropical plants that we grow – except they are a lot bigger here.


Matias and John working to get the fence tight on the lechero stakes

Matias and John working to get the fence tight on the lechero stakes


We also helped build a fence around the area to protect the trees, mostly from animals wandering and smashing them.  The fences were made from barbed wire stapled to stakes made from the lechero (Euphorbia latazi) tree.  This tree is in the Euphorbia family which means it hast the typical white sap and we had to be careful handling it.  It makes for a very durable and long lasting stake.  The stakes were cut from nearby lechero trees with machetes and “planted” in holes about two foot deep, then the barbed wire was attached.

The community lunch is prepared for the feast

The community lunch is prepared for the feast



One of the highlights of the day was the community lunch.  After a minga, it’s common to have a community lunch.  The women in the community prepare the food and bring it to the field.  They lay a cloth down and then sheets on top of the cloth.  All of the food is then poured out on the cloth in one big pile.  Then, it’s just like Americans – dig in!  It was a great experience and lots of fun.  The food included several different types of potatoes, a variety of beans (including fava beans), roasted corn,  rolls,  all topped with popcorn.  Many of us ate the local way with our hands and some used plates.

The other highlight of the day was our visit with the Yachak or healer.  He shared his traditions and knowledge on healing with us as well as specific details on medicinal plants.  We also toured his garden and learned about the many healing qualities of plant.  A Yachak generally focuses on healing the spiritual side and typically hands down his knowledge to a son or daughter to pass along the tradition.  One  of the most interesting things he said was, “we are born not knowing plants and it’s our responsibility to keep learning about them and teach others.”

Overall, we are all exhausted from planting seedlings at an altitude of 11,000 feet high.  Walking up and down the mountainside to get to and from the school was a little taxing and we were definitely affected by the altitude.  However, as all gardeners know, this is a GOOD exhausted.  Tomorrow we go back to the vivero and will visit a rose plantation and on Wednesday, we will plant potatoes and teach a school group.  More on our adventures on Wednesday.

Pam Bennett, Ohio State University Extension Master Gardener State Coordinator

I got caught with a mouthful of food!

I got caught with a mouthful of food!

Ohio Extension Master Gardeners Travel to Ecuador for Community Service

Saturday, February 22nd, 2014
OSU EMGs on their first day in Otavalo

OSU EMGs on their first day in Otavalo

Sixteen Extension Master Gardener (EMGs) volunteers left Ohio on Friday, February 21 and traveled to Otavalo Ecuador.  In partnership with the Tandana Foundation ( we will be working in the indigenous communities with the goal of assisting in reforestation projects.  We will be working in the vivero (tree nursery)  cleaning up, collecting and planting seedlings and more.  I am really excited this year as we will be participating in a “minga” which is a community project.  Everyone in the community is expected to participate with at least one family member.  If they don’t, ther e are penalties.  Our project will be a tree-planting effort.  After that, we will have a community lunch.  Last year was our first trip and it was so popular that we are back with more OSU EMGs.

The Tandana Foundation organizes volunteer vacations where you can help in the communities in the area of health care and gardening.  OSU EMGs were the pilot garden vacation and it was so successful that they are bringing two groups a year.  I would encourage any EMG who loves to travel, learn and give back to try this trip.  The next one is in November.

The Tandana Foundation organizes everything once you arrive.  They provide transportation, meals, and the community tours.  The staff is outstanding.   This year we have Shannon who hails originally from the San Fransisco area and is also working for the Traveling School (provides young women the opportunity to study abroad and do community service projects).  Rachel is from Schenectady NY and has had urban farming experience in teaching youth and Tyler is from Nashville TN and has a background in gardening and selling produce at his family’s farm stand.

Today was our first day and we had orientation and an opportunity to visit one of the largest outdoor markets in the world.  I love the market with all of the colors, the people, the interesting food and of course, the shopping and bargaining!  Share in our adventures for the next week by checking back on this blog.

Pam Bennett, EMG State Coordinator, OSU

An evening of music at La Posada Del Quinde

An evening of music at La Posada Del Quinde

Spices at the marketplace in Otavalo

Spices at the marketplace in Otavalo

Almost Wordless Wednesday: Salad Days for Kids at School Gardens with North Carolina Food Corps

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013


In honor of Food Day on Oct. 24th this week, Wordless Wednesday is about how NC Food Corps helps build better nutrition through school gardens. Master Gardeners are a vital part of this effort!

Salad Days for NC Food Corps (photo courtesy NC Food Corps) Gaston County

Salad Days for NC Food Corps in Gaston County, North Carolina (photo courtesy NC Food Corps)

Master Gardeners and Food Day 2013!

Sunday, September 29th, 2013


Logo Food Day

Food Day Oct. 24, 2013

Food Day is a year-round nationwide celebration of and movement toward more healthy, affordable, and sustainable food culminating in a day of action on October 24 every year. Created by the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest and driven by a diverse coalition of food movement leaders and citizens, Food Day aims to bring us closer to a food system with “real food” that is produced with care for the environment, animals, and the women and men who grow, harvest, and serve it. Food Day 2012, the 2nd annual celebration, featured more than 3,200 events in all 50 states!

This year, Food wants to reach 4,500 events! And Master Gardeners will be a huge help in reaching our goal. Let’s Get Cooking with Kids is the theme of this year’s Food Day in an effort to teach our children about nutrition and decrease childhood obesity. Gardening with kids is an important part of teaching kids where our food comes from and that fresh, unprocessed foods are the best for us. Not only that, but instilling a love of gardening will get kids away from the TV and computer and outdoors getting activity!

Food Day isn’t just for kids either! Getting adults involved with Food Day and educating them about our food system is just as important. Here are some ways the Master Gardeners can get involved in Food Day this year:


Get Involved

  • ·         Start a school garden
  • ·         Teach a kids class on growing, harvesting, and identifying fruits and vegetables

    Food Day 2013

    Photo credit: Mihline Zahoran

  • ·         Take kids on a garden or farm tour
  • ·         Have a fresh veggie taste test
  • ·         Apple and/or pumpkin picking

You can do similar things for adults, along with:

  • ·         Hosting a gleaning day
  • ·         Teaching a class on composting
  • ·         Teaching a class on winter gardening

Register Your Event

Any classes or events that you already have planned that involve food for the month of October can be a Food Day event! Just register your event on the Food Day website:


Food Day 2013

Photo credit: © 2012 Philip Greenberg

Molly Geppert is a Food Day fellow at Center for Science in the Public Interest. She has had a love of gardening from a young age, when she would grow pumpkins and sunflowers on the side of her home in Colorado. Two of her family members are Master Gardeners in Maryland and Florida. 

Reducing Hunger, Improving Nutrition with Seed2Need Program

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

Seed2Need – Award winning collaborative project

Since 2008 Seed2Need is a collaborative effort between the Sandoval County Master Gardeners (New Mexico), property owners in the village of Corrales and other volunteer groups.

This outstanding project won the 1st place International Master Gardener 2011 Search for Excellence – Community Service Award, awarded in October, 2011 at the International Master Gardener conference in Charleston, West Virginia.

IMGC Award Winners

IMGC Award Winners

Seed2Need’s mission

The project’s mission is to reduce hunger and improve nutrition in New Mexico by growing fresh produce for food pantries in Sandoval and Bernalillo Counties. The Master Gardeners also glean fruit from local orchards and solicit produce donations from the vendors and customers at the Corrales Grower’s market. Because most food pantries pick up produce directly from the gardens, it is often in the hands of the families who need it within hours of harvest.  See more about the program and those involved in this YouTube video.

Seed2Need is a great learning opportunity, too!

Seed2Need provides many opportunities to apply what Master Gardeners learn in class including seed starting, soil testing, fertilizer calculations, insect identification and control, fruit tree pruning, use of row cover, mulching techniques, composting and t-tape irrigation.

For more information about Seed2Need, see the following resources, and photo gallery


Submitted by Sylvia Hacker,
Doña Ana Co. Master Gardeners (On Facebook)
Texas Master Naturalist
Las Cruces, New Mexico

Planting Day at the Fond du Lac Biochar Demonstration Garden

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

The CenUSA Bioenergy biochar demonstration gardens are now about to embark on year two of the CenUSA Bioenergy project.  This year, the University of Minnesota is adding the Fond du Lac Biochar Demonstration Garden in Brookston, MN to its list of biochar demonstration garden sites.

CenUSA Biochar Demonstration Garden

CenUSA Bioenergy – Fond du Lac Biochar Demonstration Garden site

To be consistent across demonstration garden sites, we prepared biochar gardens in the same manner between all CenUSA Bioenergy biochar demonstration gardens in Minnesota and Iowa. Prior to planting, Josh (seen below) incorporated the biochar throughout the demonstration garden.

Credit goes to Josh who helped prepared the beds with biochar

Credit goes to Josh who helped prepare the garden by incorporating (rototilling) biochar into the soil

Biochar incorporated into Fondulac demonstration gardens

Biochar incorporated into Fond du Lac demonstration garden

UMN Extension’s Dawn Newman (in the white shirt) and volunteers at the Brookston Community Center helped carry plants and planting supplies from the car to gardens.

Volunteers carry plants and planting supplies from cars to garden

Volunteers carry plants and planting supplies from cars to garden

Julie Weisenhorn, UMN Director of the Master Gardener program, orchestrated the planting using a planting plan that has been used at all the other CenUSA Bioenergy biochar demonstration gardens.

Organizing the planting site

Julie Weisenhorn,Director of the UMN Master Gardener Program organizes resources at the Fond du Lac site


Julie explains the CenUSA Bioenergy biochar demonstration garden is  1000 sq ft and is divided into three plots of 300 sq ft each. Each plot has different amounts of biochar that have been added (or not added), as outlined here:

  • a Control (CTRL) plot with no biochar added;
  • a Treatment 1 (TRT1) plot amended with one-half pound of biochar per square foot (150 pounds), and a
  • Treatment 2 plot (TRT2) amended with one pound of biochar per square foot (300 pounds).
CenUSA biochar test plots

The test plot design for CenUSA Bioenergy biochar demonstration gardens

We used soil test recommendations from the UMN soil test report and applied a nitrogen fertilizer and murate of potash to all plots.  This fertilizer will provide the nitrogen and potassium needed to grow plants in the 1000 square foot Fond du Lac Demonstration Garden soils.

Soil test for biochar gardens

Soil test report for biochar gardens

Volunteers gathered to get ready to plant.

Getting ready to plant

Getting gloves and getting ready to plant

Volunteer get ready to dig in the really sandy soil!

Sandy soils at the Fondulac site

Sandy soils at the Fond du Lac site

Planting gets underway in gardens.

Planting gardens

Many hands make light work to plant gardens

We quickly realized our water set-up is not going to cut it all season long.

Watering plants  in newly planted biochar demonstration garden

Watering plants in the newly planted biochar demonstration garden made us realize we need new watering equipment!

Julie writes a list of garden supplies, which includes soaker hoses!

Writing a supplies list for the Fondulac Biochar Demonstration Gardens

Wrapping up the planting day, Julie writes a  new supplies list for the Fond du Lac Biochar Demonstration Gardens


That’s it for now.  In the next few weeks, we’ll have updates on other biochar demonstration garden sites and biochar information.  In the meantime, you may like to catch up on all  CenUSA Bioenergy biochar demonstration garden blog posts @ . Be sure to let us know if you have questions about this research. The blog comments are open for just this purpose.

-Karen Jeannette


“The CenUSA Bioenergy project is supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grant No. 2011-68005-30411 from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.”


Flower Philanthropy: Branching Out into the Wider Community

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

Much as we love growing and sharing blooms and blossoms, what I call Flower Philanthropy, there seem to be even bigger possibilities within the wider community.  While the project described in an earlier previous post, Sharing a Bounty of Beauty has delighted many, I’ve always dreamed of making a small area between our property and the high school next door into a park.

Work day with Master Gardeners

Work day with Master Gardeners

My Vision of a Green Town

Although Yarmouth Maine’s newest park is small – approximately .25 acres – it is highly visible, and offers an unusual array of features.  A grove of beech trees, impressive granite outcroppings, including one with a “river” of basalt running through it, and extensive perennial plantings offer a natural setting for a large colony of Jack-in-the-Pulpits, various ferns, and many other woodland wildflowers.  This six month old park-in-progress has garnered much community interest, support, and appreciation, and the idea behind it – the old blooming-where-you-are-planted notion – suggests many possibilities.

The Freshman class of Yarmouth High School are now the stewards of this park.

The Freshman class of Yarmouth High School are now the stewards of this park.

First, let me tell you about how Rock River Park went from dreaming to digging.  I went to our town’s head of Parks and Recreation and simply said, “I want to build a park.”  With town permission, I got to work last fall thinning trees and tackling the honeysuckle and wild roses, no small task.

A Community + Partnerships = A Town Park

Because the site is at the corner of the town’s high school driveway, I wanted to involve students from the high school.  Rock River Park is now officially under the stewardship of Yarmouth High School Spanish teacher Vicky Kahan’s freshman advisee group who have committed to this project for their four years of community service.

Generous financial support for the park has come through grants from the Cumberland County Master Gardener’s Seed Grant program and the Yarmouth Education Foundation.  Yarmouth Community Services have provided a red horse chestnut and bench for the park’s open area.

Developing this park led me to apply to the Master Gardener Program.  Alternate years, Maine’s Cooperative Extension Service MG program focuses on either ornamental horticulture or flower and vegetable gardening.  This is the year for horticulture, and I am really excited – and yes, overwhelmed! – about everything that I’ve learned.

Now, building a park may seem an ambitious project, but in each and every town there are possibilities for public gardening.  Maybe it is rejuvenating a forgotten or abandoned project such as a garden or walkway.  Or perhaps it is an urn of flowers in front of a town building or senior citizen center, flowers for the library, or even sponsoring a “Trees Please” plant exchange.  I’ll bet you have many, many more good ideas to share, any one of which could be a vibrant contribution to the community!

We know that this America IS beautiful, and I hope you’ll consider a Flower Philanthropy project in your town to brighten your corner of the country.  In the hustle and bustle of our busy everyday lives, we all need the sight and scent of beauty.

Mary Webber, Master Gardener, Yarmouth, Maine

Master Gardener Volunteer Annual Report: An Example from Rutgers

Monday, June 24th, 2013

From new clientele to long term volunteers, so many people comment time and again how Cooperative Extension (a nationwide, educational network which gives rise to programs like 4-H, Master Gardener),  seems to be one of the best kept secrets around. Often I’m asked:

“Why aren’t more people aware of this resource?” or “Why haven’t I heard of this great program before?”

One example that I publish every year to answer these questions is the Rutgers Master Gardener Annual Report here in NJ. Master Gardener volunteers accomplish tremendous projects and events all across the state of NJ, but just saying that isn’t good enough.

Pictures, descriptions, statistics, audiences served, and program highlights of all 18 county programs prove it by showcasing the impact and outreach and fun these trained volunteers impart on neighborhoods and communities on behalf of the counties and the land-grant University they serve. Here are a few examples:

Monmouth County Master Gardeners work with 4-H for Children's Insect Festival

Monmouth County Master Gardeners work with 4-H to put on Children’s Insect Festival.

Plant Clinic

Camden County Master Gardeners receive up to 50 plant samples from the public at their Saturday plant clinics.

Burlington IPM Team

Burlington County Master Gardeners collaborate with Rutgers faculty to learn and share Integrated Pest Management techniques with local farming communities.

Demo plot

Morris County Master Gardeners use their demonstration  garden to teach community groups about tomato growing and then donate produce to the local food pantries.

In addition, reports similar to this one connect each county program to the overall statewide University effort in expanding our outreach mission for the residents of NJ. In this way even the volunteers themselves see their local projects as part of a much larger effort as they also see what’s going on in ‘fellow programs’ across county boundaries.

What used to be published in print and mailed to Rutgers University administration and fellow Extension colleagues across the Northeast is now posted online at this site and at the Rutgers Master Gardener program homepage,

Gathering all 18 reports from across the state is no easy feat, but as you can see in the report, it is a story worth telling. Even if you’re not into gardening or horticulture, as many of our funders and decision makers may be, showing them the ‘return on their investment’ goes a long way in securing the future of the Master Gardener program and Cooperative Extension for years to come.

Does you Extension Master Gardener program have an annual report you’d like to share?

-Nicholas Polanin, Associate Professor, County Agent II
State Coordinator, Rutgers Master Gardener Program