To the editor:
Does the University of Maine’s Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Program help Maine?
Ask the hungry people who received over 250,000 pounds of food grown last year by master gardener volunteers whose work growing fruits and vegetables supported food pantries across the state. Ask the 1,500 schoolchildren who learned about growing their own food. Ask the people who benefit from over 80 community gardens and 86 school gardens that teach where healthy food comes from and how to grow their own food.
In a world of shifting demands for food, changing environments, and mounting pressures, the skills of citizens are being put to the test. In the Master Gardener Volunteer Program, participants explore methods for dealing with soil, composting challenges, pests, and the countless and evolving varieties of vegetables and fruits that may be grown successfully in Maine.
Master gardener volunteers also gain a greater understanding of integrated pest management, pesticide use, and pruning, and learn to identify the characteristics of high-performing, productive gardens.
What do the master gardener volunteers get out of volunteering? Well, there are lessons learned, laughter and friendships made that make the time and effort worthwhile. The joy of sharing gardening ideas or building a twig trellis with new friends while outside is hard to match among life’s simple pleasures, along with helping our communities thrive.
A powerful lesson is how effective, engaging, and exceptional the University of Maine’s extension professors are; the reach and talent of our educators and groundbreaking researchers at the university level are something we should all be proud of.
Notably, Drs. David Hanley and Mark Hutton are in demand for their expertise – around the world – in growing vegetables and small fruits. Dr. Renae Moran is renowned for her work with fruit trees. Professor Mark Hutchinson, another notable agricultural industry expert, supervises the Knox/Lincoln/Waldo counties Master Gardener Volunteer Program. The ever-capable and indefatigable Elizabeth Stanley manages and organizes the logistics, and is the heart and soul of the Knox/Lincoln/Waldo program by making the volunteers feel welcome and supported.
The Master Gardener Volunteer Program not only leverages the talent of our university professors, but also draws in the skills and knowledge of our government employees. Megan Patterson, of the Board of Pesticides Control, teams up with her colleagues at the Board of Pesticides Control to ensure the master gardener volunteers fully understand the implications of using pesticides in our community garden projects and our homes, as well as to explain the laws surrounding applications of pesticides.
The world has no shortage of problems, and a handful of people can and do make our communities a little better. We hope that you will consider becoming a master gardener volunteer or donating to this worthwhile program at goo.gl/khqYD0. To find out more about the program, visit the Maine Master Gardener Volunteers’ website at goo.gl/NMSW12.
With respect, deep appreciation, and gratitude, the Knox/Lincoln/Waldo Counties Master Gardener Volunteer Class of 2016-2017:
Claire Adams, Appleton
Bill Bausch, Damariscotta
Mary Davis, Belfast
Amy Fischer, Camden
Irene Gerny, Boothbay
Anne Goodale, Tenants Harbor
Jack Green, Union
Kent Harlow, Lincolnville
Karen Jordan, Spruce Head
Marianne McKinney, Belfast
Aimee Moffitt-Mercer, Monroe
Gail Presley, Rockland
Wendy Roberts, Cushing
Kim Sullivan, Newcastle-Damariscotta
Erika Taylor, Union
Christina Vincent, North Haven
Gabrielle Wicklow, Camden