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Amidst the food, fun and heat, Master Gardeners talk with an averagEMGs at state fair 2013.jpge of 400 people per day during the Fair. They answer questions on everything from how to pollination troubles on squash to Japanese beetle management to powdery mildew on peonies. They try to identify oddities that people bring as pictures on their smart phones or (!!!) in their pockets. It's fun, fast-moving - and challenging!

"The visitor doesn't always tell you the whole story immediately", explained state director Julie Weisenhorn. "So part of being a Master Gardener is being a detective. It's satisfying when we are able to diagnose a problem and recommend one or more possible research-based solutions. Many times, it's simply a change in cultural care of a landscape that will help resolve the problem."

It's a team effort too. In 2013, about 150 Master Gardeners from 21 different counties signed up to staff four-hour shifts in the booth located in the wing of the Ag/Hort Building dedicated to the U's College of Food, Ag, and Natural Resource Science. By the end of their shift, they have gotten to know fellow volunteers and made some new friends. By the end of the Fair, they will have spoken with about 5000 people from Minnesota and surrounding states with some visitors from as far as northern Canada.

In addition to staffing the booth, 24 Master Gardeners also volunteered this year to present on gardening topics at The Dirt Stage. Some of the topics: night gardening, tomatoes, lazy gardening, bees, native plants. The Dirt is a free stage  in the Ag/Hort Building designed to spread education about topics for Minnesota gardens and landscapes. In addition to Master Gardeners, presenters includes the MSHS, ornamental plant societies, and the green industry.

And, after it's over, volunteers can rest assured they have helped a slew of home gardeners solve some of their pressing issues and have healthier landscapes too.

Visit Master Gardeners, August 22 - Sept. 2, 2013 - 9am - 9pm, in Agriculture / Horticulture Building located at Judson and Underwood near Gate 7. Master Gardeners present noon - 2pm daily at The Dirt Stage in the same building.

State Advisory Board Welcomes New Members

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 2013-2014 EMG SAB. 1.jpgThe University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardener State Advisory Board welcomed five new board members in June at its first quarterly meeting of the 2013-2014 program year. It was also the first meeting functioning under new operating guidelines that aligns board member representation with the five University of Minnesota Extension regions.

The Extension Master Gardener State Advisory Board provides input and advice to the state Master Gardener staff about program direction, strategies and governing policies. Board members act as ambassadors of the statewide program. In 2013-2014 board members intend to increase communications and connections with county/local Extension Master Gardener groups within each member's region.

The board is comprised of fourteen Extension Master Gardener volunteers and four staff representative. Pictured above (l to r): Bob Azman (Ramsey Co.), Julie Weisenhorn (State Director), Dave Knapp (Anoka Co.), Nancy Lizette Berlin (Goodhue Co.), Tom Voigt (Ramsey Co.), Barb Gasterland (Hennepin Co.), Coralee Fox (Crow Wing Co.), Kit Sitter (Lake Co.), Rick Ellis (Stearns Co.), Patty Citrowski (Chippewa/Yellow Medicine Co.), Diane Henry (Douglas Co.), Paul Wood (Dakota Co.), and Terry Straub (Hennepin County Master Gardener Coordinator).  Board members not pictured include: David Moen (State Program Manager), Susan Thurston-Hamerski (Landscape Arboretum liaison), and Dori Vikla (Rice Co.).


Master Gardeners "Grow a Row for the Hungry"

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Several counties promoted and participated in the national "Grow a Row for the Hungry" program. In Pine County, 'Grow A Row' was the theme for the Master Gardener booth at county fair. They handed out information about food shelves in the county, growing vegetables in containers, and how to become a Master Gardener. One Master Gardener alone contributed 1167 lbs. of produce to the local food shelf. Goodhue Master Gardeners got involved in the program for the second year. An average of about 200 lbs. of produce was donated weekly to the Red Wing Area Food Shelf, doubling the amount donated in 2008.

Several county Master Gardener programs collaborate with local corrections departments on projects that benefit the corrections system clients and the greater public. In Olmsted County, Master Gardeners teach Dodge, Fillmore, Olmsted (DFO) Community Corrections staff and community work service clients the basics of vegetable gardening. The participants learn to grow and harvest vegetables from a 1-acre garden they maintain. About 200 youth performing community service and about 50 adults on daily work release from jail are involved. Upon harvest, they prepare and sell the vegetables. Over 5000 pounds of vegetables are harvested. This project provides a constructive environment for youth to serve their community service hours. It also acquaints the participants with all aspects of gardening and experiences that illustrate the rewards from work.

Work continues with the Enabling Teaching Garden Project at Cherry View Elementary School in Dakota County. Using a Minnesota Master Gardener grant, Master Gardeners worked with a special needs Boy Scout and his troop to construct an enabling garden for horticultural therapy. The garden included a wheelchair accessible bed surrounded by a wheelchair accessible path. Special needs students and their helpers were given instruction and assisted in the planting of their sensory garden that includes highly textured, colored, and fragrant plants. Students and helpers maintained the garden during the school year and through the summer months. The garden has been especially meaningful to special needs students and their families. It also exposes all who visit the school to the benefits of horticultural therapy.

Goodhue County Master Gardeners were involved in creating a larger-scale city park designed with special needs in mind. In Faribault County, Master Gardeners have worked with a local nursing home and engaged both residents and youth in creating a raingarden at the facility in Winnebago. This year youth had the opportunity to work with the senior citizens on garden cleanup in the spring. Together they divided perennials and extra plants were sold to benefit the nursing home.

Junior Master Gardener pilot project

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Junior Master Gardener planting

The Master Gardener Program collaborated with Extension's 4-H program to pilot the Junior Master Gardener 4-H SET (Science, Engineering, and Technology) project in 2009. The pilot was generously funded by a grant from the Minnesota Nursery and Landscape Association (MNLA) Foundation.

There were six expectations of each site.

  1. engage at least 10 youth in a minimum of 8 learning sessions
  2. involve a local MNLA member sponsor
  3. incorporate a science experiment and a service project
  4. use technology to teach, communicate and report
  5. utilize JMG curriculum and have some type of teaching garden
  6. participate in evaluations

Six counties were selected to participate; two had multiple sites: Clearwater, Crow Wing, Olmsted (2), Sherburne, Stearns (2), and Winona. Seventy-two participants attended one of two trainings. Each site received JMG materials and a $125 grant for supplies.

All sites were successful. Data from the pilot evaluation shows that in total:

  • 125 youth enrolled in the project; 97 youth completed the entire project
  • 30 percent of youth participants were non-white/persons of color; 70 percent were white/Caucasian
  • 87 youth were new to the 4-H program

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