Extension Master Gardeners give to the Morton Giving Garden so that the garden can give to others

Extension Master Gardener working in a community garden
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How many people does it take to grow 2,500 pounds of vegetables in one season? In the case of the Morton Giving Garden it takes the whole community.

University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners (EMG) from Tazewell County created the Morton Giving Garden in 2010 to grow and donate fresh produce to local food pantries. The longevity and success of the garden is thanks to the collaboration with several local organizations.

The garden is located on land provided by the Morton Park District on Veterans Road, near Westwood Park. The park district also installed a water source near the garden for irrigation purposes.

“Support from the park district has been key,” explained EMG and project leader Pam Scott.

A wide variety of vegetables are grown in the garden, including cabbage, green beans, tomatoes, lettuce, and carrots. Recent crop additions include lemon cucumbers, pinto beans, and garlic, which has shown to be very popular,” Pam explained. “We have averaged over 2,500 pounds of produce donated per year over the last five years.”

The produce is donated to local food pantries, including We Care of Morton and Community Harvest out of Trinity Church in Morton. The garden has also recently been registered with the Tazewell County Health Department’s Grow a Row program, which connects garden surplus with food pantries in need.

“The Morton Giving Garden, which was awarded a State Master Gardener Teamwork award in 2013, is an excellent example of the many worthwhile projects our Extension Master Gardeners are leading in their communities,” commented Tara Heath, horticulture program coordinator. “It’s especially gratifying to see how partnering with local organizations and businesses can extend the reach further into the community.”

Support for the garden comes from many places. Ackerman Farms supplies straw for mulch and pallets for raised beds. To protect the crops from deer, Hohulin Fence donated chain-link fence.

Funding for wheel barrows and soaker hoses was provided by the Community Garden Network, a partnership of individual food donation gardens that collaborate and support each other in Peoria, Tazewell, and Woodford counties and surrounding areas.

Other EMGs who Join Pam at the Morton Giving Garden are Cathy Lane, Carol Cihla, Michelene Koch, Karen Shelley, Trudy Yazujian, Lynda Sharp-Lower, Donna Cothrell, and Paulette Hoyle. You can enjoy more photos from a recent harvest night at go.illinois.edu/MortonGarden.

 

MEET THE AUTHOR

In 2021, Tara Heath joined the University of Illinois Extension team as horticulture program coordinator for Fulton, Mason, Peoria, and Tazewell counties. She coordinates volunteer opportunities and horticulture programs for volunteers serving their communities through service projects and delivery of educational programming. She works closely with 150 Master Gardeners as they complete continuing education and work with our partners on projects such as demonstration and community gardens.

Tara received her Bachelor’s degree in agriculture with an emphasis in horticulture from Western Illinois University. She has over 20 years of experience in landscape management, having served as the Superintendent of Grounds at Western Illinois University. 

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