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Re: Master Gardeners as a CG resource

  • Subject: Re: [cg] Master Gardeners as a CG resource
  • From: "Cynthia Price" skyprice@iserv.net
  • Date: Mon, 01 Dec 2003 09:55:14 -0500

Title: Re: [cg] Master Gardeners as a CG resource
I don't know all that much about Master Gardeners, though I have observed in conjunction with putting on a Native Plant conference for the past 11 years that the interest of many seems to be more in pretty plants. However, I can say that in Grand Rapids (MI) the MG program recently taught a community gardening seminar which was very well-attended and resulted in starting a garden near the learning center where it was taught (with their continued help); that in some cases a Master Gardener is the main person carrying on the work of a given community garden; and that a Master Gardener devoted many hours to investigating the status of existing community gardens in the city (and finding new ones) for our Food Systems Council.

In another nearby town, a community garden in a low income neighborhood had a lot of trouble with the MG employee and the garden master has no kind words to say.

As with a lot of things, it seems to be a mixed bag, but I think the pendulum may be swinging toward more MG involvement with community gardens.

Cynthia price
Greater Grand Rapids Food Systems Council
From: "Jim Call" <jimcall@casagarden.com>
To: <community_garden@mallorn.com>
Subject: [cg] Master Gardeners as a CG resource
Date: Sun, Nov 30, 2003, 9:59 PM

I sent this posting a while back and forgot to include the listserv address so I apologize for the late response to Diane's posting.
This is the portion of Diane's posting I am addressing...
Almost all Extension MGs in MN are white, middle to upper middle class, and interested primarily in their own landscapes, with "the environment" coming in second. My experience of coordinating community projects for three years showed me that school projects and long term community projects just didn't excite many MGs, at least in Ramsey Cty., which includes St. Paul.
My posting sent Nov 18th. (plus a little more)
In reference to Diane's words about Master Gardeners being involved, we have the same problem here in Huntsville. Our MG association, which is the largest in Alabama is composed of the same type individuals as Diane has described. I have given no less than 6 presentations to MG groups across Alabama about the CASA Community Garden over the last 5 years, and not 1 shovel has been turned to start a CG. This past Oct, the Birmingham MG group came up and I spoke them on site. They were so impressed that some wanted to drive back up (100 miles) on Plant Day in the spring to see how we plant our CG.

I am not trying to be mean here, (just realistic), I have found that most of these folks Diane and I have described love to work in the gift shop at our local Botanical Garden (BG), do PH soil testing at the Plant Sale (BG), be involved with the Galaxy of Lights Show (BG), and so on. Most are not "community" volunteers. Most are interested in flowers, herbs, roses, ferns, daylilies (at the BG), their own landscapes and not vegetables. Most of our local membership do not care about doing a garden project with the homeless. Over 70 % of our MG association's budget and volunteerism are focused on our BG and not supporting the community. When faced with this startling fact, some say "well the BG serves the community and it is a non-profit". Yes, it is a non-profit and but you still have to pay to get in (not open freely to the community). Most of the BG membership are the same as Diane and I have described. Our BG Director's salary is $100,000.00 (more than our Mayor's salary).

MGers are great reference resources and good for short term committments. A few of our best volunteers are MGers, but these are only a handful. Most of our CG volunteers do not know anything about gardening. Zero. But they are great because they are there to help. You can't ask for anything more.

If you want to see who helps in our CG over the years, please review... http://www.casagarden.com/memories.htm <http://www.casagarden.com/memories.htm>
If you want to see who receives our harvest, please review... http://www.casagarden.com/mission.htm <http://www.casagarden.com/mission.htm>

Recently, our MG association sent out an email to its membership asking everyone to purchase an Angel for the Christmas tree at our public library. I responded saying I thought that was a good idea, but.... since we are Master Gardeners, why don't we purchase a living Christmas tree and plant it at the Veteran's home, Senior Center, or a playground, etc.? Lets brighten up someone's holidays for years to come by planting a tree. Why don't we for once "get our hands dirty"? Our MG Exec. Committee thought that was an excellent idea and will bring it up at the next meeting. Duh... Sometimes, I think MGers need to get back to the garden and away from the meeting rooms. Use your knowledge to help others less forturnate. As a MGer working as a volunteer in the local BG gift shop is not my idea of using your passion for gardening to help beautify your community or helping others in need.

For example, 2 MGers from another county came to our garden about 4 years ago. One was recording everything I said (I talk fast for a southerner) while the other was videotaping and shooting pictures of the garden. They went back and created a Powerpoint presentation and contacted their Mayor and a few council members. They gave them a great presentation and the Mayor was so excited, he gave them a list of possible city property sites to be used as a CG. When this proposal was brought up to their MG membership, they voted it down because "our association's mission is not to provide free labor". So it was dropped.

Make a difference,
Jim Call, CASA Community Garden Volunteer Dir.
1999 Alabama Master Gardener of the Year

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