OSU shares the benefits of gardening

A student at the OSU Learning Gardens learns about growing food.
Student Saneda Gross picks a carrot at the Learning Gardens during a lesson on where food comes from. (Photo by Tiffany Woods.)

People learn to use native plants and conserve water

The OSU Extension Service is reconnecting people with their food and landscapes. One way it does this is through its Master Gardener program, which offers courses on home horticulture in 28 of Oregon's 36 counties as well as online. Graduates, known as Master Gardeners, are then expected to share their new knowledge with others by volunteering to answer questions via hotlines or teach at Extension offices, farmers markets, workshops and community gardens.

In 2013, there were more than 3,800 active Master Gardeners in Oregon who had nearly 221,900 interactions with the public. Their more than 206,800 hours of volunteer service were the equivalent of 101 full-time staff, or $4.4 million. Master Gardeners also gave food banks nearly 103,000 pounds of fresh produce harvested from community and demonstration gardens that they manage.

In Baker County, Master Gardeners offered a yearlong training in 2013 to 30 inmates at the Powder River Corrections Institute. Eight graduated and a third of those are now out of prison and working in the nursery or landscape business. That same year, Master Gardeners in Wasco county taught incarcerated youth to grow vegetables and flowers in a greenhouse.

In Clackamas County, Extension helps teach former juvenile offenders how to garden through the Green Corps-Fresh Start program. Teens grow fresh fruits and vegetables, share them with their families and food banks, and sell some of their produce at the Oregon City Farmers Market and use the money to pay restitution. In the process, they learn business and time management skills.

In Portland, OSU Extension provides technical support to dozens of community gardens. It also helps manage the Learning Gardens Laboratory, where it runs a program that teaches students where their food comes from and how to eat healthily.

In Deschutes County, Extension teaches the public to design landscapes that conserve water in Oregon's high desert. One of its horticulturists co-wrote a 36-page booklet on the subject. Eight mayors in central Oregon funded the publication of 30,000 copies.

And in 27 counties across Oregon, young people have worked side-by-side with Extension staff to transform more than 130 plots of land into school gardens. Students get exercise; learn teamwork and gardening and vocational skills; practice writing by keeping planting journals; and use real-world math by counting seeds, measuring plots and determining soil depth for planting. They also learn about botany and entomology, and geography and history when they study the origins of fruits and vegetables and the planting customs in different cultures.

Sources: Gail Langellotto, statewide coordinator for the Master Gardener program; 2013 Annual Report of the OSU Master Gardener Program; OSU Extension horticulturist Amy Jo Detweiler; OSU Extension horticulturist Weston Miller; OSU's School and Youth Gardens 2013 Report

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