In 2022, University of Illinois Extension Master Gardeners (EMG) serving in Futon, Mason, Peoria, and Tazewell counties were challenged to dedicate a portion of their volunteer time and continuing education for addressing and learning more about food security and access. The direct impact they made within the year is very impressive and is expected to continue to grow.
EMGs recorded 1,513 hours of service in nine local food donation gardens, such as Morton Giving Garden and Garden of Hope. The gardens were encouraged to become members of the Community Garden Network which helps the gardens connect and share resources with each other and local food pantries.
Volunteers also participated in the Grow A Row program which is a partnership with Tazewell County Health Department. This program gives food donation gardens and people with home gardens a place to bring the produce they grow and donate it to the Food Pantry Network. The Food Pantry Network distributes the produce to food pantries or agencies where it can be most effectively utilized.
Extension Master Gardeners volunteered 120 hours of working in home gardens to grow, harvest, and donate produce. Grow A Row had a total of 23,279 pounds donated in 2022.
The number of gardens participating in this program increased from
4 gardens in 2021 to 26 gardens in 2022. The food donation garden that gave the most produce was St. Anne’s Garden of Hope. The EMG who volunteered the most hours in a food donation garden this season was Jane Mottram.
To equip the volunteers with information on producing vegetables Extension Horticulture Educator Nicole Flowers-Kimmerle provided resources in several different forms. The book studies in 2022 included five books providing information on different techniques and strategies to grow more productive vegetable gardens.
Continuing education for Master Gardeners included speakers from local agencies that work to address food insecurity. A program about Food Security issues was created for the EMGs’ Speakers Bureau. The Food Security program was given to a Rotary Club in Tazewell County and has been requested by other groups.
MEET THE AUTHOR
Nicole Flowers-Kimmerle is a Agriculture and Natural Resources (Horticulture) Educator for Fulton, Mason, Peoria and Tazewell counties. She completed a bachelor of science degree in crop science at the University of Illinois, and a master’s of science degree in agronomy with an emphasis in weed science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has also worked at Montana State University as a research associate where she worked on weed control in sugar beets and barley. She taught high school chemistry and other science classes where she was able to teach students in both the school garden and greenhouse. She works with both the Extension Master Gardeners and Extension Master Naturalists.
ABOUT EXTENSION SNAPSHOTS
Extension Snapshots are monthly impact reports that share the stories of our programs in Fulton, Mason, Peoria, and Tazewell counties. To have them delivered to you directly sign up using our E-blast registration.