The Franklin County Master Gardener Program is part of a 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.
During the 2012 year, 80 Master Gardeners dedicated 5,904 volunteer hours to the gardening community of Franklin County. This included teaching 56 workshops and classes on topics ranging from seed starting to Japanese landscaping, and growing vegetables and fruit in the home landscapes.
9 new Master Gardeners completed their 3 months of training and are now working on their 50 hours of volunteer time during 2013 to obtain their Master Gardener certification badge.
From April through mid-October, Master Gardeners maintained the Garden Hotline and answered 959 questions on insect and weed identification, disease prevention in the home landscape, interpreting soil sample results, and general “how to” advice on growing vegetable and ornamental plants.
35 presentations were given by Master Gardeners to local groups and organizations and 15 displays were setup for county events.
Franklin County Master Gardeners again supported Penn State Extension at various regional events during the year - at the Farm Show in January, helping Penn State Extension’s Pesticide Education Team run their booth, at the Mid Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Growers Conference in Hershey in February, the Pennsylvania Nurseryman’s Garden Expo in March, and the Summer Garden Experience in Landisville in July.
The Franklin County Master Gardener Blog recorded 44,271 page views for the year, for an average of 3,689 per month. In addition, our Facebook Page recorded 63 likes and 18,056 visits for the year.
Highlights of 2012
- Harvest 4-Health – in 2012, we expanded our efforts with the Penn State 4-H Harvest 4-Health program and Kids Learning After School (KLAS), adding Ben Chambers Elementary School to the Thaddeus Stevens Elementary School effort. Additional Harvest 4-Health partners we helped with plants and growing advice, included the St. Thomas Elementary School, New Franklin Elementary School, and the Coldbrook YMCA. 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.
- Patrick Gass Garden – Phase I of the Patrick Gass Garden was installed during the 2012 season. The Patrick Gass Garden will 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. Watch this year as permanent signage goes up, and plans for Area 2 get underway.
- Victory Garden 2012 - We documented a whole season's worth of pictures (thanks to MG Georgia Townsend) and educational material for our blog.
- Establishment of a Drought Tolerant Demonstration Garden – Master Gardener Donna Berard and her team used their extensive knowledge of Xeriscaping to create a drought tolerant garden alongside the fence surrounding the Victory Garden.
- Refurbishment of the Herb Demonstration Garden – the oldest demonstration garden on the grounds was given a total facelift this past year, installing new raised beds, and preparing for new plantings in 2013.
- Spring Plant Sale – In 2012, our combined greenhouse vegetable and annual plant sale generated $10,296.85 in gross revenues.
- An Autumn Stroll – Our annual fall garden tour took place in the Penn National/Fayetteville areas this past year, generating another $1,780.00 in gross receipts.
- June Extension Open House – Penn State Extension of Franklin County sponsored its second Open House for the public with an afternoon event on June 20th and Master Gardeners were there to help as volunteers showing off our Demonstration Gardens - Gass Garden, Herb Garden, Perennial Garden, Drought Tolerant Garden, Pollinator Garden, and the Woodland, Meadow, and Native Habitat Garden (Wildlife Area). In 2013, we expect to finish the refurbishment of the Herb Garden, add a Bog Garden to the Wildlife Area, possibly add a Shade Garden there also, and continue the efforts on the Gass Garden.
- Tomato Day – The 12th annual Tomato Taste Day wherein we invite the public to judge two dozen or more different varieties of tomatoes and rate them for flavor and looks, took place on August 22nd. 145 people participated in 2012, giving a red cherry variety Sakura, from Sataka Seeds top honors. Because we had a late start growing our tomato patch here on the Franklin County campus, most of the varieties for the August 22nd event came from the Southeast Agricultural Research and Extension Centerr in Landisville. When the local crop came in, we sponsored a Mini Tomato Day on September 11, 2012, where Blush, a recent introduction developed by Baia Nicchia Farm was the runaway winner.