At the end of 2019, 16 Master Gardener Volunteers reported 724 hours of volunteer service for an estimated value of $17,378 (Independent Sector). They also reported 227 hours of continuing education and reached an estimated 930 individuals with various outreach projects.
Answering Garden Questions at the Polk County Fair
For over 7 years, the Polk County Master Gardener Volunteers have had an “Ask the Master Gardener” booth at the Polk County Fair. What started as a place for people to ask garden-related questions became, over time, an opportunity to actively interact with kids and families. A popular game they played this year with fair visitors was “Are You Smarter Than A Master Gardener”. It proved to be not only fun but allowed MGVs to engage participants on many gardening topics. Participants could win flower or vegetable seed packets. Being at the fair has become an enjoyable way to visit with the public and share about the Polk County Master Gardener Program. One MGV stated that “our group is small but we provide outreach and let them know about upcoming Master Gardener classes and other events. It opens the door to many conversations from gardeners as far away as the Twin Cities visiting our booth.” Though difficult to estimate just how many people visited the booth, it was manned 8 hours a day for the 4 days of the fair.
Maintaining Greenspace at Garfield Park Spillway Garden
The Garfield Park Spillway Garden has been an ongoing project for the Polk County MGVs for many years. Located in Garfield Park by the main public boat launch to Lake Wapo, it is estimated that an average of 50 or more people viewed the garden every week through the summer when they came to use the park, playground or launch. The garden consists of many perennials that support pollinators. This year a metal sculpture was added to the garden and next spring some colorful annuals will be added. MGVs received many compliments on how nice the garden looks and are proud to display a sign showing the garden is maintained by Polk County MGVs. The garden is an example of creative placemaking in a much-used location in the community.
Engaging Families in Gardening at Balsam Lake Public Library Children’s Garden
Polk County MGVs plan, plant and maintain the Balsam Lake Public Library Children’s Garden. Though called a children’s garden, MGVs offered garden classes at the garden this year that brought together moms, dads, grandparents and kids to learn about plants. The Balsam Lake Public Library garden consists of 1/3 bulbs, 1/3 annuals, and 1/3 a Zen Garden, which is made up of sand and stones (or as the kids call it, the sandbox). The Zen Garden works well, while planting with some of the kids, others can stay busy in the white sand! For 5 years, the garden has been a way to educate, demonstrate and engage youth in gardening, plus foster intergenerational activities. In 2019, MGVs hosted over 50 participants in the various classes offered.
Creating Corners for Respite through Community Church Gardens
Many MGVs volunteer to plant and maintain gardens at churches and cemeteries. Along with adding beauty, such gardens help create a place for people to sit, relax and reflect. Research supports the connection between being around flowers and feeling more positive, secure and relaxed. In Polk County, MGVs tended several gardens at churches. One such MGV has tended a large flower garden at the Georgetown Lutheran Church for over 10 years. The garden consists of perennial and annual flowers but every year the garden changes as a favorite flower or color of a parishioner who has recently passed away is added. The Church Council has commented on how spectacular the garden was this year and other feedback confirmed that the garden was much appreciated by community members who attended the church for various gatherings.