At the end of 2019, 31 Master Gardener Volunteers reported 1,455 hours of volunteer service for an estimated value of $34,923 (Independent Sector). They also reported 527 hours of continuing education and reached an estimated 36,192 individuals with various outreach projects.
The BCMGV do a wonderful job educating youth and community members in the county by being involved at the museum, fair, and in schools. I am fortunate to have such a great group of volunteers. They assist me with troubleshooting local horticulture issues and help keep community areas, such as the fairgrounds, looking beautiful.
Barron/Polk Agricultural Educator
Public Presence at the Barron County Fair
The Horticulture Building at the Barron County Fair is set up and staffed entirely by Barron County Master Gardener Volunteers (BCMGVs). It is the site for both Youth and Open Class entries in the vegetables, plants, and flowers categories. During the week of the Fair, 23 BCMGVs volunteered a total of 294 hours.
Among the many activities held in the Horticulture Building, BCMGVs help on Judging Day by taking in the entries, setting them out for display and help the judge, sometimes late into the night. In 2019, more than 60 youth (4-H members) entered plants, flowers, and vegetables; and over 100 people entered items in the Open Class category.
Along with the displays of entries, the Horticulture Building has a rest area set up by the Master Gardeners. This year’s theme was based on one of the major projects of the BCMGVs, the Pioneer Village Museum. Old garden tools were visible, as well as a history of the gardening project. An educational activity for children is always part of this area.
Throughout the entire fair, a BCMGV is always staffing the building, answering questions and talking about garden issues with visitors. This year, there were more than 2500 visitors to the building. It is the one event in Barron County where the Master Gardeners are the most visible to the greatest number of people.
In addition to the Barron County Fair, MGV’s maintain plantings at the fairgrounds helping to beautify the grounds throughout the summer for various activities held on the property.
Growing Vegetables for Those in Need
MGVs have been assisting with the Community Garden in Barron for four years. This endeavor is done in cooperation with the Growing Together WI Garden Wise project which provides fresh vegetables for the Barron Food Pantry and Senior Nutrition Program. This year, one MGV put in 54 hours and helped in all aspects of the garden, especially in planning, planting, weeding, and harvesting. We donated 210.5 lbs. of produce to the Barron Food Pantry and 196 lbs. to the Barron County Senior Nutrition Program.
Several MGVs continue to work with the residents of Benjamin’s House/Family Enrichment Center, a local shelter for homeless, and a center to train families in new techniques. Square foot gardens were designed to teach families the value of growing their own food. The children participated in the planting and watering of the gardens. Adults learned about placement of plants in the gardens and maintaining the garden over the growing season.
The Barron County Pioneer Village Museum uses the historical aspects of gardens to teach gardening practices. A different theme is featured every year. This year’s Heritage Garden theme was a “Norwegian Garden.” Information focused on the early immigrants’ dependence on root crops. Nine MGVs participated in garden work in some way during the summer. In addition to food education, the rain garden/prairie garden was very popular with its abundance of monarch caterpillars and is now a registered monarch waystation.
Teaching Children the Joy of Gardening
Several Master Gardener Projects in Barron County reach out to our younger population. The Barron County Fair, Family Enrichment Center and the Pioneer Village Museum. One of our favorites is the School Sunflower Project. The sunflower project reaches 3rd and 4th graders in over nine schools in the county reaching 620 children. In the spring, MGV’s hand out sunflower seeds to third graders with some basics on raising plants. Our volunteers revisit the schools in the fall to measure and “judge” the largest sunflower grown over the summer. Prizes (hanging birdfeeders) are handed out in each school district to the winning sunflower.