This is a follow-up to my May article, Grow It Eat It Celebrates 15 Years of Teaching and Promoting Food Gardening! I visited a number of amazing Grow It Eat It (GIEI) projects and activities in 2023 that demonstrate its essential role in helping Maryland residents and communities become more food secure.
So far in 2023, University of Maryland Extension (UME) Master Gardener Volunteers from 18 counties and Baltimore City worked 7,544 hours on GIEI projects, educating 10,125 residents! Here are some snapshots from the growing season.
Teaching the Public
Master Gardener (MG) Volunteers and field faculty teach lots of classes and workshops each year. Carroll County has a popular series of in-person classes that are taught each spring.
Esther Iglich, UME Master Gardener, Carroll County, teaches students how to perform the “ribbon test” to estimate soil texture.
Teaching Master Gardeners
Robert Cook, UME Master Gardener, Baltimore City, leads a hands-on drip irrigation continuing education event at the Maryland State Fairgrounds.
Master Gardeners went into the MG Learning Garden to use what they learned to help re-install the drip system.
Deb Mayfield, UME Master Gardener, St. Mary’s Co., leads a learning tour of the GIEI container garden at their Fairgrounds.
The container garden is a popular stop during the county fair, demonstrating low-cost methods, like using repurposed containers for growing food in small spaces.
UME MGs and field faculty provided technical assistance to the new Farm Unity Community Garden at the Crofton Public Library. This is a communal garden with the harvest distributed to people in need of food. The garden was initiated by Jitendra Rathod (second from left).
Esther Mitchell, UME Master Gardener Coordinator, with MG Volunteers Linda Campbell, and Betty Gittings at the Prince George’s County Community Garden Summit. Master Gardeners have helped start five community gardens in the county!
GIEI demonstration plots and gardens allow for hands-on learning about new sustainable techniques. MG Volunteers in Montgomery County used “micro-mesh” insect netting to exclude insect pests, making insecticides (synthetic or organic) unnecessary.
Visitors and classes also learned how to use drip irrigation with a simple timer to water container plants automatically.
Signage at the Master Gardener Learning Garden at the State Fair helps new and experienced gardeners make informed decisions. MGs from Baltimore City and 12 counties had 3,617 direct educational contacts during the State Fair.
2023 is the Year of the Sweet Potato for GIEI. Master Gardener Volunteers demonstrated how to grow sweet potato plants on a trellis and in containers in the MG Learning Garden.
Home, school, and community gardens are essential parts of local food systems. Food gardeners collectively produce enormous amounts of produce, much of which is shared and donated. GIEI projects, classes, and demo gardens teach science-based information and practices, help connect gardeners to resources, and facilitate a shared, respectful learning environment.
I have no doubt that more great work will be happening in 2024!
By Jon Traunfeld, Extension Specialist, University of Maryland Extension, Home & Garden Information Center. Read more posts by Jon.