Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Hooked on a Bean

Edythe Falconer, Ottawa-Carleton

Did you grow a bean as part of a science project when you were in primary school? If so you may recall your wonderment at the magic of it all. Decades later do you still get shivers of satisfaction when something beautiful and/or edible pops up, spreads its leaves and energetically blooms?

Regardless of what activated our green thumbs Master Gardeners don’t want to enjoy the fruits of their labour in solitary splendour. We want to share. The modes of sharing are many and in our changing times we will need to invent or reinvent how we deliver horticultural education to present and future clients.

We have come to view ourselves as Ambassadors – each proud to expound upon what we do – proud to invite capable people to join our group and further augment our community potential. We commit to continuous learning through participation in comprehensive educational programs and we encourage the same attitude in our clients.

We bring our enthusiasm and know-how into senior residences, office complexes, schools, children’s gardens, community gardens and community development groups. At the same time we maintain classic modes of delivery enhanced with modern technology that has birthed an online helpline, Trowel Talk, What’s Growing On and The Edible Garden to mention but a few.

What frontiers are out there unexplored or partially imagined and waiting for us to provide perfect growing conditions as we expand our educational territory? Shall we accentuate the positive and continue to reach out to youth, retirees, hospitals, senior residences, condo dwellers, commercial workers, therapeutic institutions and combinations of seniors and youth in evermore creative ways? Shall we place additional emphasis on growing edibles and creating access to fresh food in parts of cities where access is difficult?

Nancy suggests that we be cognizant of how gardening can be used to positively affect the mental and physical health of individuals and communities and that we convey this wisdom to our clients.

Judith advocates hands-on demonstrations and workshops in community gardens bringing in local families on a monthly basis. Participants would meet real pests and see demonstrations of composting and fertilizing first hand.

Interest in growing things, especially those that are edible, tends to wax and wane according to perceived need during difficult times. For example Victory Gardens during WWII provided 44%+ of U.S. fruit and vegetable needs. However once the war was over, home gardeners, rather than embracing Victory Gardens as a way of life, “relapsed” and returned to relying on commercial sources.

Shall Master Gardeners be Keepers of the Flame – or perhaps Knights of the Green Thumb? I leave the last words to Rebecca, one of our especially eloquent Ottawa MGs:

“As in many other areas of scientific endeavour, the most exciting developments in horticulture appear to be at the intersections of traditional areas of study and via linking disparate areas to create a larger picture. Perhaps the most critical intersection humanity faces today is that between climate change, population growth and the depletion of fossil fuels. Each of these issues alone is complex. So imagine the difficulty of communicating how these three forces are combining to dramatically change our lives. Master Gardeners typically get questions on small issues – why was my tomato harvest so late this year? What’s eating my squash, or leaving nasty dead spots on its leaves? Our future educational role may increasingly be to help our clients understand the links between the small phenomena they see in their gardens and the larger issues that face humanity. Doing so in a non-threatening, non-scary way in the brief amount of time that clients are willing to stand at our advice tables may be the biggest challenge we face as Master Gardeners. But doing so effectively may also help to save the world!”

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