‘Master Gardeners’ till the soil to feed the hungry

More than tending pretty plants, you’ll be amazed to learn how much produce these dedicated urban farmers have grown – to feed those in need …

Master Gardners Robin Case, Chris Modderman, Aaron Burnett, Darlene Myers, Jeff Tilton, Joyce Hemmerling, Jean Edmison, Cathy Gibson, Louise Kasper, Velda Altig and Dorothy Drews were all on hand at the annual event.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Again this year, the Multnomah County Master Gardeners held a plant sale to support their organization’s educational and outreach programs.

At the Learning Gardens, on S.E. 60th Avenue across from Lane Elementary School, where they maintain a plot, the sale was in full swing when the event’s organizer, Multnomah County Master Gardener Joyce Hemmerling, welcomed us to their event not long ago.

“In addition to our big plant sale,” Hemmerling said, “We’re also giving gardening talks and giving people a tour of the garden. Raising money is important. But more than that, events like these are fun. We’ve met a lot of good people today.”

Jean Edmison, Jeff Tilton, Velda Altig and Dorothy Drews are packaging of some of their fresh-picked vegetables to be given to the elderly and hungry

Bumper crops feed less fortunate
The volunteer farmers started harvesting in June, Edmison continued, “We have donated to Portland Impact – and the Brentwood-Darlington Community Center distributes our produce their needy clients. We also donate to Loaves & Fishes. If it is a big enough harvest, they cook it for their meals. It is too small to make for a meal, they put it out for their clients, who can cook it for themselves.”

During their season, the Master Gardeners grew large crops of beans, peas, squash, the three sisters – squash, corn, beans – and a great crop of tomatoes. “It’s been a very good exhibition of what tomatoes can do, if you just let them go and grow. Most tomato plants can be really very prolific,” Edmison smiled.

In all, the Master Gardeners group has donated a half-ton – that’s 1,000 pounds – of fresh produce this season.

More than just selling plants, the Master Gardners say they love talking with visitors about growing greenery.

Grow your green-thumb skills
Master Gardeners, trained through the Oregon State Extension Services, learn how to care for plants properly. They learn about soils, composting, plant diseases, ecological landscaping, and more. As part of the program, participants commit to 66 hours of volunteer gardening education when they take the course.

“Our Master Gardeners meet at the Learning Garden every Monday and Wednesday morning, from nine until noon,” Hemmerling said. “We love for people to come out and join us – we meet year around.”

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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