OSU shares the joy 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.)
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People learn to use native plants, conserve water and grow organic produce

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 3,733 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 Washington County, Master Gardeners have started a demonstration garden at Jenkins Estate in cooperation with Tualatin Hills Parks and Recreation District. It contains educational garden vignettes that demonstrate important topics in sustainable gardening.

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 Corvallis, OSU students and community members learn to grow produce at OSU's organic farm run by the university's Organic Growers Club. The club has 300 members and sells vegetables to 400 customers. In addition, the club has funded more than 50 paid student internships since 2000.

Sources: Gail Langellotto, statewide coordinator for the Master Gardener program; OSU crop and soil science instructor James Cassidy; OSU Extension horticulturist Amy Jo Detweiler; OSU Extension horticulturist Weston Miller.

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