Gardening with Diverse Audiences 2012

[from the 2012 accomplishment report]

As the United States becomes increasingly diverse, educators are expanding beyond the traditional white, middle aged, middle class audience to implement programming that will include new and growing populations. There are numerous differences among individuals including level of education, socioeconomic background, ethnicity, and religion. Cooperative Extension has a non-discriminatory policy that states that educational programs are available to everyone, so Master Gardener Volunteers (MGVs) work with people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities in a variety of cultures.

The focus of MGV projects may be on youth gardening, interacting with senior citizens in community settings or nursing homes, therapeutic horticulture projects, making gardening accessible to clients with disabilities, or including ethnic groups, the incarcerated, or low-income populations in gardening or horticulture activities and events.

MGVs participate in many youth gardening projects — all with the expectation that exposure to gardening at an early age will generate the interest for a lifetime of gardening, enhance an appreciation for the natural world, and increase environmental awareness. Wood Co. MGVs offered A Fun Day at the Zoo in conjunction with three local garden clubs at the Wisconsin Rapids Zoo. Geared to the 4 to 9 age group, several activities were offered that were designed to help children see that wildlife, gardening and healthy foods can be fun. Columbia Co. MGA’s “micro-farm” project introduced gardening to students of diverse backgrounds, allowing many to taste the greens grown for the fi rst time. Walworth Co. MGVs expanded their Little Green Thumb program for K-12 students to include more youth leaders and a greater diversity of crops.

Riverside school gardens

Fond du Lac Co. MGVs taught students about growing vegetables and the benefi ts of eating them, then had the students plant seeds that they watched germinate and grow in the classroom. The plants eventually went into the garden maintained by the Boys and Girls Club over the summer, and in the fall the students popped the corn, decorated with the Indian corn, and harvested the pumpkins.

As part of a grant to a school district in Elroy, a Juneau Co. MGV taught elementary school students about seed germination and vegetables, with each child receiving samples to see and taste. Vilas Co. MGVs worked with their local school district to support two class projects producing a spiral herb garden using permaculture practices, and a Three Sisters Garden using very old heirloom varieties of indigenous beans, corn, and squash seeds. Fond du Lac Co. MGVS renovated beds and helped students at Chegwin Elementary School plant vegetables in them. Thyme Shares MGVs focused on soils with 200+ second graders from the Marquette Co. schools, looking at recycling kitchen and yard waste, benefi cial critters necessary to break down debris, and how compost happens. Waushara Co. MGVs partnered with the Wautoma Library to present a summer program for school aged kids to introduce them to nature. After reading a book, the children learned about moths, planted seeds, and took home a seedling. Thyme Shares MGVs educated students and teachers of Forest Lane School in Montello as they broke ground on a new community garden. South Central WI (Green Co.) MGVs helped create raised vegetable garden beds at the New Glarus School to encourage youth to eat more healthy foods and supervised students in planting seeds. Door Co. MGVs teaches students about growing vegetables in their demonstration garden The Garden Door through a hands-on program that was designed to meet science and social studies requirements in the third and fourth grade Wisconsin curriculum.

MGVs also worked with the other end of the age spectrum, with projects at nursing homes and health care centers and through senior programs. Waupaca Co. MGVs helped residents of the Weyauwega Health Care Center plant and enjoy flowers and vegetables in raised beds. At Edgewater Haven, a county owned nursing home in Wood Co., MGVs helped to maintain an accessible, raised garden with flowers and sensory plants in the courtyard that provides a place for therapeutic activities. MGVs of the South Central Wisconsin MGA (Green Co.) maintain multiple gardens at the Pleasant View Nursing Home Complex in Monroe for resident and visitor enjoyment. The community garden in Montello that Thyme Shares MGVs helped develop was accessible to the nursing home residents across the street and provided produce to them and the local food bank.

Lowell senior center project

Wood Co. MGVs assisted with a project at this Senior Center in Wisconsin Rapids, growing strawberries and tomatoes in raised beds and other vegetables in containers. A bulletin board inside the center displays educational materials on growing, harvesting, storing and using the produce that is grown. Seniors are encouraged to go outside and pick the produce themselves. A produce table inside the center allows for sharing of extra produce and soon seniors added to it with items from their own gardens. Seniors have joined in with the caretaking process, sharing their own garden experiences and memories with the volunteers.

Clark Co. MGVs created a social opportunity for two senior citizens clubs through informal presentations and demonstrations on container gardening. Seniors were delighted to take home a petunia in bloom and chat about their own gardens and favorite plants at a potluck meal.

In the Northland Pines Community Garden in Vilas Co., MGVs assisted multi-generational plot holders from diverse economic and cultural backgrounds to grow and donate produce and herbs to the local food pantry. In Crawford Co., a MGV facilitated the Moms Like Me program sponsored by the Prairie du Chien Memorial Hospital to teach eight young mothers and their children about planting, watering, weeding, mulching a garden as well as harvesting and preserving produce.

MGVs also educate others about how gardening provides psychological and physiological benefits and also participate in therapeutic horticulture projects. A Bluff Country MGV (La Crosse Co.) gave a presentation about Health and Healing Gardens to the Holistic Nurses Association of Rochester, MN and to Learning in Retirement at UW-La Crosse. Washington Co. MGVs purchased a raised garden bed and showed people gardening is possible even with physical challenges. Southeast Wisconsin MGA’s (Milwaukee and Waukesha Cos.) Lifelong Gardening Committee presented six programs on therapeutic horticulture to garden clubs, employee groups and attendees of community health and wellness fairs. Between these and booths at various events, the committee was able to reach over 51,000 people with the message that gardeners with physical challenges can continue to garden and reduce the incidence of injuries by adapting their gardens, tools, plant selection and their gardening techniques. Barron Co. MGVs planned, planted and maintained the Marshfield Clinic Healing Garden, a nearly 1,500 ft2 rooftop garden accessible to patients receiving cancer treatment.

Therapeutic horticulture and community gardens

An Eau Claire Area MGV set up a therapeutic horticulture plan using the enabling gardens at Phoenix Park Community Gardens in Eau Claire with the goals of decreasing isolation, increasing happiness, increasing independence and communication through gardening for residents of a retirement apartment complex. The seniors ventured out into the garden away from the raised beds as their confidence grew over the summer, but limitations accessing the main garden were apparent. When asked, each woman stated the same sentiment, “I thought I’d given up gardening forever. I look forward to this all week long.” The results of this project were shared with MGVs statewide in an online training session.

Dodge Co. MGVs have worked with assisted living facilities for adults with emotional and mental challenges in Horicon and Waupun for the past fi ve years on a therapeutic horticulture program. MGVs give gardening instructions and provide appropriate supervision and support to the residents, some of whom are quite capable but others need constant reassurance. Glacial Gardeners (Florence Co.) lead therapeutic horticulture projects at a senior living facility using items from nature to create crafts such as cards and bookmarks.

Bluff Country MGVs partnered with the La Crosse YWCA to provide garden programs for children with special needs, as well as local nursing home residents, in their Adaptive Garden. Range MGVs (Iron Co.) assisted adults with disabilities to plant seasonal containers that were maintained by the clients of a care facility in Hurley, WI. The Eau Claire MGA helped maintain a garden at an assisted living facility for adults with mental illness.

The North Country MGA (Burnett, Sawyer and Washburn Cos.) helped overcome technical obstacles in a vocational training project offered by a local development organization which provides support services to adults with disabilities. MGVs solved some growing issues with their basil growing project at their Hayward site, taught them how to pick and harvest leaves for sale to local restaurants, and how to propagate new plants to allow the clients to have a fulfilling experience in a program that teaches vocational goals and daily living skills.

The incarcerated are another population MGVs are engaging to try to change lives. When Crawford Co. Restorative Justice asked for assistance in teaching a gardening class for prisoners, two Crawford Co. MGVs helped develop the curriculum and taught some of the classes, with 4-10 men attending each time, at the correctional institution in Prairie du Chien. In Dunn Co. a MGV supervised inmates in the local jail garden, providing an opportunity for them to be outside and grow produce to used in the jail kitchen or donate to a local food pantry. In Eau Claire MGVs taught gardening to inmates at the county jail, with crops donated to the local food pantry. Wolf River MGVs assisted inmates with planting, maintaining and harvesting a vegetable garden at the Shawano Co. Huber Center.

Food insecurity is a significant issue for many Wisconsin families, especially those in low-income areas. Several MGAs work in community gardens to raise food and to offer instruction to help youth and adults learn about growing their own vegetables. Volunteers are often amazed at how enthusiasm grows for trying new vegetables when the kids raised the veggies themselves! Eau Claire Area MGVs help maintain three youth gardens for low income families. One project involves children who get to plant and help maintain 8 raised beds on donated land with their harvest is then donated to a community kitchen where meals are prepared and served to those in need. Dunn Co. MGVs worked with 2nd and 3rd graders in a garden program at River Heights, the most diverse school in Menomonie (Dunn Co.) with a large number of kids on subsidized food programs. The kids chose the seeds to grow, the plants were kept in the high school greenhouse, then were transplanted into the garden, ultimately producing food for the students or food pantry. Waushara Co. MGVs installed and planted two raised square foot vegetable gardens at the new Habitat for Humanity home in Coloma and taught the new homeowner about this intensive gardening method. Sauk Co. MGVs worked with the Head Start program teaching parents and children the benefits of growing your own vegetables in hands-on workshops. St. Croix Valley (Piece and St. Croix Cos.) MGVs participated in the Be Well Committee for Greenfield School Garden Project, with older students helping younger students to plant gardens and harvest produce that was donated to the Baldwin Food Shelf or was served for elementary school lunches.

Catlin Green Community Garden

Lake Superior MGVs began a new project in the Catlin Green Community Garden, a garden for low income housing residents of different backgrounds, including Hmong, Native Americans, veterans, and youth in Superior (Douglas Co.). They showed different techniques including various mulching materials and organic weed control applied in the fall in demonstration plots. Twice monthly garden classes taught the residents how to grow vegetables for food and allowed them to share their success stories and tips, creating a mechanism for trust and sharing. Nutrition and food safety information was provided by the Douglas Co. UW-Extension Nutrition Educator through the Healthy Douglas Co. Coalition.

MGVs through the state work in various programs with gardeners of all backgrounds and levels of gardening expertise, languages, cultures, and differing abilities. These are just a few examples of the many ways MGVs throughout Wisconsin are working with diverse audiences, improving the lives of these citizens. For more examples of how MGVs are making a difference in their communities, please read the individual association pages in the full WIMGA 2012 Accomplishment Report.