Wednesday, January 4, 2012

2011 Year in Review

As we enter a new year, it's a good idea to reflect back on the achievements of the previous year.  Here is the Franklin County Master Gardener input to the Extension Board's Annual Report.

Consumer Horticulture – Master Gardener Program


The Franklin County Master Gardener Program is part of nation-wide volunteer effort to help Land Grant Universities fulfill their mission to bring research based knowledge of consumer horticulture to the general public. In exchange for extensive training, Master Gardeners are asked to provide throughout the first program year, 50 hours of volunteer time, selected among the following activities: covering the phone hot-line during the growing season (April 15-October 15), teaching workshops, manning information booths, assisting in research, establishing and maintaining demonstration gardens, fulfilling speaker requests, and helping with funding-raising and publicity efforts, like our Plant Sale, Tomato Taste Day, and Fall Garden Tour that help keep the program sustainable. In subsequent years, 20 hours of volunteer time, and 8 hours of continuing education are required to maintain Master Gardener status.


In 2011, the Franklin County program grew from 82 to 106 members, collectively providing greater than 5000 volunteer hours in support of Penn State Extension. Master Gardeners responded to 794 queries from the public at the hotline desk, conducted 26 separate workshops, educating more than 600 attendees, plus 22 more at the 16 week, season-long Victory Garden (vegetable growing) series, and 24 at the 6 week Landscape Design series. The Franklin County Master Gardener blog had over 24,000 page views for the year. We also staffed monthly information booths at the Farmer’s Markets in Chambersburg and Penn National, and participated in Renfrew’s Earth Day and the Apple Festival at Tayamenasachta. We also helped Extension Educators at the Farm Show Pesticide Education Booth, the Mid Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Growers convention, the Pennsylvania Garden Expo, and the Summer Garden Experience at the Extension Research farm in Lancaster county.

New Initiatives in 2011
  • Harvest 4-Health - Partnering with the 4-H program and Kids Learning After School (KLAS), Master Gardeners established a vegetable garden at Thaddeus Stevens Elementary School in Chambersburg as part of the state-wide Harvest 4-Health program. Harvest 4-Health is a Penn State Extension initiative to bring together multiple disciplines within Extension on a focused effort at the local level to teach the newest generation about growing their own, fresh, nutritious food by planning, planting, maintaining, and harvesting produce from their own vegetable gardens. KLAS is a year-round after school program for grades 1-6 (ages 6-12) consisting of 60 students usually broken into 3 groups of 20. School year runs mid September through mid May, with a summer term from mid June to the end of July. The cycle starts over again in mid September.  These 60 students have been the recipients of hands-on learning about what it takes to create a garden bed and grow your own vegetables, as well as a weekly curriculum in basic botany, soil science, pest and disease management, and healthy cooking and eating. In 2012, we hope to expand the success of this project to the Colbrook YMCA in Chambersburg.
  • Patrick Gass Garden - Through the generous support of the Alexander Stewart M.D. Foundation, Franklin County Master Gardeners broke ground on plans to establish an educational and historical demonstration garden on the Franklin Farm Campus memorializing the leading role of Patrick Gass, a Chambersburg native son, in the Lewis and Clarke Expedition of 1804-1806. The project will present a horticultural and historical experience that demonstrates the importance of flora and agriculture in the young and expanding Republic. It will offer an educational experience for youth groups, school groups, historic groups, tourists, and public visitors. Site prep took place this past summer and fall, and initial planting and signage for Phase I of the multi-year project will take place in the spring of 2012. 
  • MG Videos - in 2011, we began a collaborated effort with the Chambersburg Public Opinion to offer video "how to's" on gardening topics:  Fall Gardening, Putting Gardens to Bed, and Holiday Decorating
Fundraising Events
  • Spring Plant Sale – In 2011, we added a greenhouse vegetable and annual plant component to the annual May event, boosting revenues over $8,000, setting a record for our major fund raiser.  
  • An Autumn Stroll – Our annual fall garden tour took place in the Blue Ridge Summit and Waynesboro areas this past year, generating another $1,100. This year, the Garden Tour committee dedicated its funds to the Patrick Gass Garden effort. 
Public Relations Events
  • June Extension Open House – Penn State Extension of Franklin County sponsored its first Open House for the public with an all-day event on June 22, and Master Gardeners were there to help as volunteers in escorting groups of people around the Franklin Farm campus and show off our Demonstration Gardens. The campus Demonstration Gardens, designed and maintained by Franklin County Master Gardeners include: The Perennial Garden, The Herb Garden, the Pollinator Friendly Garden, and the Woodland, Meadow, and Native Habitat Demonstration Gardens. In 2012, we hope to refurbish the Herb garden, and newly establish both a drought tolerant garden and a bog garden. 
  • Tomato Day – The 11th annual Tomato Taste Day wherein we invite the public to judge two dozen different varieties of tomatoes and rate them for flavor and looks, took place on August 24th. 164 people participated in 2011, giving a pink grape variety, Sakura Honey, a hybrid from Johnny’s Selected Seeds, overall first place honors.
Many thanks to all the Master Gardeners who gave of their time and talents to make for a successful year.

Take a bow, folks!

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