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Teaching Master Gardeners to care about hunger in America.

  • Subject: [cg] Teaching Master Gardeners to care about hunger in America.
  • From: Adam36055@aol.com
  • Date: Mon, 1 Dec 2003 10:07:48 EST


Like many of us, my belly has just stopped aching from all I stuffed into it over the Thanksgiving weekend gorge. Back to my long walks and yoghurt! However, for an increasing group of Americans, hunger remains a daily companion.

This was a weekend off for me from my local soup kitchen and pantry ( I volunteer several Sunday's during the year at my synagogue) because, bless them, there are always more volunteers around to ladle out food during Thanksgiving and the Holiday season. A few good volunteers trickle down from these holiday period efforts, usually those who are able to focus their eyes from themselves, i.e., "how good I am to be doing this!," to others, those who really see the mothers and children who grab the bags of food, collect the cans in the pantry, or say a blessing with their families at the long tables in church, mosque and synagogue basements as the steaming food is ladled out and plated.

Some newbies are brave enough to acknowlege the pain and privations of others or visualize themselves on the receiving end of the food donation bag.

It's the same with master gardeners who can be reached out to, like any volunteer, with charm, stealth, guile and tugging at the unclogged parts of their hearts.

Jim and friends - The large master gardener organizations will never really endorse giving their time to help teach poor people how to grow food....that's not their focus, really. However, small groups of people culled from these groups can be created. And yes they get a t-shirt.

Some t-shirt captions: "Master Gardener Hunger Fighter"  or "Master Gardener Community Builder" - both captions could appear in a large heart, or an inverted triangle similar to Superman's "S."

We're looking for the "Winter Soldiers", to get the master gardeners who for whatever reason still care about people as much as they love and nuture plants.

All the best to you all, especially the hunger fighters,

Adam Honigman
Clinton Community Garden 

Subj: [cg] Master Gardeners as a CG resource
Date: 11/30/03 10:00:11 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: jimcall@casagarden.com
To: community_garden@mallorn.com
Sent from the Internet

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
If you want to see who receives our harvest, please review...  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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