Posts Tagged ‘communitygardens’

2017 Community Service 3rd Place – The Barn’s CommUnity Garden, Lehigh/Northampton Counties, PA

Sunday, May 28th, 2017

You might think that a garden program about community gardening would be about how, when and why you should plant particular crops. But, this program involves using gardening as a means to build bridges in our community for the well-being

whole groupof our community. When one contemplates the homeless, our veterans, and food insufficiency in the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania, it is life changing when those who are able become positive social change agents. My name is Dr. Robert Yoder and I have sought to be socially conscious of my neighbor far and wide serving as a short term missionary dentist in Honduras for six years, building homes on the Gulf coast post Katrina and  in a variety of short term mission trips but I felt this subtle tug that I should be doing more locally. I thought perhaps as a Penn State Master Gardener, I could weave my skill set and invite others to join me in community gardening. So seven years ago, I began to recruit volunteers and found the Christian community “The Barn”, currently worshipping at Swain School, willing to rise to the challenge.

The initiative began with a simple wonderment: “Could we create a community garden that intentionally brought people together to grow food for the hungry in our community?” Even better, “Could recipients of the food grown, participate in the very garden that benefitted them?” We began with 2 plots graciously donated by Lower Macungie Township. Three additional Master Gardeners and 40 volunteers of all experience levels signed up to help and learn. Immediately, friendships developed, fun ensued, and the satisfaction of walking alongside our neighbor, revealed we were onto something bigger than ourselves. The produce from the first year was modest in pounds (around 500 lbs.), but the community that was being built, both in the garden and reaching into center city Allentown was beyond description.

Fast forward six years and we now have 7 garden plots with active material and monetary support from our major donor, Home Depot, and  additional financial support from Tractor Supply, Emmaus Borough, The Muslim Assoc. of the Lehigh Valley, Wal-Mart, The Barn Community, Lower Macungie Township planting with the kidsand the Master Gardeners of the Lehigh Valley. In addition, we now have broader community involvement  including 7 worshipping communities and over 175 volunteers. Leadership is provided by 11 Master gardeners assigned to each of the gardens.

The 2016  initiative  included involving our veterans who too often have lost meaning in life and we find some aiml s and  homeless. Also consider, in 2012 the Department of Veterans Affairs conducted a study which discovered for 10 years running, there was an average of 18-22 veteran suicides per day in the United States. Can we use the community garden to give them a way of engaging community that offers new purpose? Additionally, we were broadening efforts of interfaith cooperation by involving Muslims, Christians and Jews, all working together in the garden to show the world a better way forward. To that end, we now have the Jewish temples Beth El and Kenneseth Israel, the Christian churches “The Barn” and “Life Church” of Nazareth along with two Muslim worshipping communities at “Muslim Assoc. of the Lehigh Valley” and  a young vital Muslim community in Alburtis all working together, building community and growing vegetables.

Last year we raised almost 4500 lbs. of fresh produce which now benefits two Lehigh Conference of Church’s social outreach ministries: DayBreak and the Soup Kitchen at 8twith tthe participantsh and Walnut Street. We hope with continued growth to make a greater impact.

Looking ahead , 2017 has more new initiatives including new involvement of a Sikh community to broaden our community building. Second, we are trying to incorporate the youth of each of these worshipping communities in three exciting ways. In Spring, in a round table sharing format, we plan to have a youth program including a potluck meal of foods of each community’s ethnic background, seedling starting, a time of sharing their favorite religious foods and holidays in their traditions. This in an effort to teach tolerance and appreciation  of the other at a young age. In Summer, we will have a week of youth involvement in direct garden care. Adult mentors will work side by side with the youth to teach gardening skills.  In Fall, in correlation with the Jewish holiday Sukkot, we will initiate a gleaning project at “The Seed Farm” with kids working side by side with folks from the center city, the very people all the garden goods go to help with the food insecurity of the Lehigh Valley.

Logistically, a typical growing season would begin with willing volunteers raising seedlings like tomatoes, peppers and broccoli starting in late February. This group of seedling growers includes folks from the center city to the suburbs. It gives the wonder of spring early to families with young children and the homeless that find shelter at DayBreak. They maintain and grow the seedlings to maturity, then help in the transplanting in one of the seven community gardens when winter finally gives up its grip in mid-May.

Weekly teams of volunteers then tend, harvest, laugh, test out a sugar pea or two and take pictures of the produce being grown. All through the process a more important thing is happening: community is being knit into a beautiful tapestry. We are working side by side to make a positive difference in our community. You know you have struck a beautiful chord when in one hand you have the day’s harvest and in the other you are hugging a new found friend who comes from a completely different life situation than you do. Imagine a Jewish woman with kids working side by side with a Muslim woman’s kids. We have indeed grown CommUnity and the forecast for this year’s growing season is one full of love and care for neighbor. We are showing the world a better way forward.

                                                                                                out in the garden workingthe producegiving instructions

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

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

Three Trends Tipping Towards Community Gardening

Friday, July 29th, 2011

In my previous post on community gardens in North Carolina, I shared the new initiative we have here, Nourishing North Carolina, whose goal is to start a least one community garden in each of North Carolina’s 100 counties. As I quoted in that blog post:

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

That’s also part of the concept behind teaching people to grow vegetables. Community gardens are enjoying a resurgence of popularity now as a way to get people reconnected to where their food comes from, and off the couch and outside by teaching them how to raise some of their own food.

square foot raised bed

Square foot raised bed

Community Gardens Enjoy New Popularity

In his book The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell explains how a combination of factors can work together to cause a product or concept to “tip” into new popularity. Some of the factors “tipping” community gardens into a new wave of interest are:

1) The obesity rate in America has doubled since 1980, from 15% to 30%, while childhood obesity rates have more than tripled. These rising rates of obesity have serious health consequences because obesity is a contributing factor to more than 30 diseases. The primary remedy for being overweight is to eat a more healthy diet and exercise more. Doesn’t that sound like gardening? And growing your own food helps meet both those needs. The new Eat Smart, Move More program in North Carolina promotes more healthy lifestyles through “increased opportunities for healthy eating and physical activity wherever people live, learn, earn, play and pray.” Gardening is one of those!

2) The energy crisis is another factor which has promoted the new interest in “Eat Local, Eat Fresh, & Eat in Season” and the Slow Food movements as well as the increasing importance of developing Sustainable Food Systems. All these factors raise the public’s awareness of what we eat, where it came from, how far it’s traveled, and how it’s been handled, marketed or modified.

3) Today’s economic crisis has left many Americans out of work. Currently some 43.6 million people are receiving food stamps today. So “food security” becomes another issue facing people out of work, with people on the food stamp program ranging from as high as 21.9% of the population in Washington DC to as low as 6.4% in Wyoming. My state, North Carolina, comes in at 16.1% of our population, a number that has risen 2.6% from last year. This can be a time of great stress for families who are challenged to keep food on the table.

You Can Help

pumpkin blossom

Pumpkin Blossom

All these factors contribute to the growing popularity of community gardens today. By teaching people to garden – a totally new experience for many people in today’s increasingly sedentary world – Master Gardeners can be an important part of the solution to many of the challenges we face today – teaching people to garden today, so they can eat tomorrow. “Give a man a squash and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to garden and you feed him for a lifetime.”


by Connie Schultz, Extension Master Gardener (’95), Johnson County, North Carolina

Study on Urban Soil Lead in Chicago Community Gardens

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

Have you ever wondered if the soil is safe in urban garden plots? A study at the University of Illinois titled “Testing and educating on urban soil lead: A Case of Chicago Community Gardens” in the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems and Community Development (January 2011) may give you some insight on this topic.

The study goals were to learn how much lead is present in participating gardens in the study; to determine if lead levels vary in different types of garden areas and to inform participants and urban gardeners about soil quality and how to deal with urban gardening issues such as lead, soil fertility and soil pH.

Ten gardens participated in the study and soil cores were taken from raised and non-raised beds used to grow food and also in areas such a playgrounds and pathways. Then the researchers grew lettuce on the soils and tested the crops for quantity of lead.

Lead levels in most gardens were not a concern. Most of the garden plots contained excessive fertility with raised beds containing more phosphorus and potassium than non raised garden spaces. The lack of soil testing among the 10 gardens in the study is likely a contributing factor to the over fertilization of the gardens. Use of raised beds significantly reduced lead levels and therefore less potential risk of lead ingestions from plant uptake. Higher lead levels in soil from adjacent areas supported the notion that areas with bare soil adjacent to gardens may be an equal or greater source of risk. None of the lettuce shoots in this study exceeded the World Health Organization recommendations.

Additionally, a training program about urban garden safety with live and online options was created and evaluated by questionnaires given to Master Gardeners. Both live-trained and online trained groups’ quiz scores improved significantly after the trainings, demonstrating that education about urban soil management can be effective.

By Monica David, University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener Coordinator

Master Gardeners Involved in Nourishing North Carolina through Community Garden Partnerships

Thursday, July 7th, 2011
Nourishing North Carolina sign, Charlotte, NC

Nourishing North Carolina kick-off event 6/2011, Charlotte, NC (source:Nourishing North Carolina)

You’ve heard the old proverb “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” That’s part of the concept behind teaching people to grow vegetables through community gardens.

In my state of North Carolina, Blue Cross/Blue Shield and the North Carolina Recreation & Park Association recently formed a partnership called Nourishing North Carolina (NNC). With the goal of establishing community gardens in each of North Carolina’s 100 counties by the end of 2013, the partnership’s intent is to establish new gardens where counties already have existing community gardens. either by enhancing or supporting them.

North Carolina Plans to Increase Access to Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

The Nourishing NC project plans to increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables and encourage families to get outside and garden! Funds have been awarded to approx 33 counties this year, so where there isn’t an existing community garden now, there may be one soon! The North Carolina Community Garden Partners, a volunteer organization, has also joined this venture to provide support, mentorship, information, education and more to new gardens and new gardeners. To learn more about community garden opportunities in North Carolina, check out the North Carolina Community Garden Partners on Facebook.

Master Gardeners are needed throughout the United States to partner with community gardens everywhere; to help plan and plant these gardens and to mentor new gardeners. They need the technical expertise and encouragement that Master Gardeners have to offer! To learn more about community gardening visit the American Community Gardening Association or to help the hungry, visit America’s Grow a Row.

The old proverb “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” is about gaining new skills that lead to a greater sense of self-reliance – the ability to feed your family even in hard times. Master Gardeners can be an important part of that lifeline to greater independence and security for many families – and perhaps a lifetime of enjoyment as well.

by Connie Schultz, Extension Master Gardener (’95), Johnson County, North Carolina

Maine Newspaper Reports on Penobscot County Master Gardener Projects

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

A reporter from the Maine Edge weekly newspaper wrote about the University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s Master Gardener program. Learn how Penobscot County Master Gardeners view the program plus details on an upcoming peony garden tour, a demonstration garden (including link to a virtual tour), growing extra produce to donate to local food pantries and more.

Video on Starting a School Garden from University of Maryland Extension

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

Are you or someone you know starting the year planning to initiate or become involved with a school garden? If so, this video from University of Maryland Extension provides insight and helpful considerations for getting a school garden started from scratch.

  Chrissa Carlson, the Garden and Nutrition Educator at Baltimore's Hampstead Hill Academy shares her school garden knowledge and experience with UME's Jon Traunfeld. She says school gardens can offer opportunities for environmental education, family and community learning, and be implemented into in-school curriculum.  

Start small. Start with a plan. Carlson advises to start small, both in the scope of the garden and how it will be used with various learning objectives. Carlson's key advice is to start with a grand vision (one the kids can be guided to help create), then to begin to take a small piece of that vision and gradually start building support (instructional goals, money, and maintenance resources) until you can ultimately achieve your school garden community's  grand vision..

See more advice from UME's Jon Trunfeld's interview with Carlson in this video:

Starting a School Garden Video, Part 1:

Image of Starting a School Garden YouTube Video


This video, in addition to an earlier blog post by Cornell Extension, Creating and Sustaining School Gardens, are just a few examples of resources available from your land grant universities and local Cooperative Extension service which work toward supporting sustainable school and community gardens.  

Next look for Part 2 of Starting a School Garden from the University of Maryland's Home and Garden Information YouTube channel:, which will cover "kids and curriculum" and garden design.

Last, but not least. We'd like to know:

  • Are you involved in with a school garden? What's the best piece of advice you have received or that you have to offer for teachers, volunteers, or community members interested in becoming involved with their local school gardens?

Creating & Sustaining School Gardens

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Our Top 5 Guide to Getting Started with Cornell Garden-Based Learning Web Resources:

1.  Evaluation Toolkit
Surprised that we begin with evaluation?  Sustaining a school garden means sharing successes and planning for program improvement.  Incorporating evaluation along the way—even from the very beginning stages—makes measuring desired outcomes and effectively planning for the future of your program possible.  Our evaluation toolkit offers up some quick and easy ways to reflect on the impacts of your work. We suggest taking your time to click through the links; knowing the tools that are available will make it easier when you need them.

2.  Meeting the Needs of Children and Youth through Garden-Based Learning Experiences
We are growing much more than plants in our school gardens.  See our resources for incorporating principals of youth development into all aspects of your program—from planning, designing, planting, maintaining, harvesting, and beyond!  Set yourself apart: many programs neglect children and youth voices.  Your program will be more sustainable if you include their perspectives from the beginning.

3.  Grow Your Program:  Benefits of Garden-Based Learning
Need to make the case for your garden?  Find research that supports your work.  In this same section, you’ll find a powerpoint ready to show to your administrators and colleagues, to help convince them of the value of the garden in bringing the curriculum (and the children and educators) alive.

4.  Grow Your Program:  Planning and Organizing
Here we have resources for building an inclusive vision and broad interest base.  Cultivating a community-based sense of stewardship for the garden means collaboration between diverse partners—youth, school staff, volunteers, parents, teachers, local businesses and agencies, to name just a few.

5.  Projects:  Units and in-depth projects
After you have taken the time to prepare, educate your colleagues, and lay a solid foundation, then the activities can begin.  Find projects that are inspiring and adaptable to a variety of garden settings and age groups only after you have established the above components.  We urge you to take time to walk through the myriad projects and activities, all based on sound, positive youth development principles.

For more, please visit: