Impact Reports

Benton-Franklin Master Gardener

Community Gardening and Plant a Row for the Hungry

2016

USDA indicates that food insecurity is a lack of “access to enough food for an active, healthy life,” with 1 in 7 Americans living in food insecure households. It is estimated that 16 million children in our country consistently face hunger or unhealthy diets that can impair their cognitive and physical development, as well as their academic achievement. This is not just a national problem; 12.6% of Benton County and 10.1% of Franklin County residents are food insecure.

USDA indicates that food insecurity is a lack of “access to enough food for an active, healthy life,” with 1 in 7 Americans living in food insecure households. It is estimated that 16 million children in our country consistently face hunger or unhealthy diets that can impair their cognitive and physical development, as well as their academic achievement. This is not just a national problem; 12.6% of Benton County and 10.1% of Franklin County residents are food insecure.

In 2011, Americorps volunteer Nathan Finch worked with the WSU Extension Benton-Franklin Master Gardeners to provide coordination, leadership, and technical assistance to local community gardening efforts and to promote the Plant-A-Row Program (PAR) that encourages home gardeners to donate produce to local food banks. When Finch left the area, Master Gardener Bill Dixon took over leadership of the Food Gardening Team.

Since assuming leadership, Dixon annually has contacted local nurseries and garden centers to get donations of garden seed often disposed of at the end of the gardening season. He also has contacted local high school Future Farmers of America clubs to ask for donations of transplants left over after their plant sales.

With the support of Marianne Ophardt, Benton County WSU Extension director and Benton-Franklin Master Gardener program director, the Food Gardening Team has focused its efforts on helping those families most in need. This has included working with garden sponsors to build gardens in the lowest-income and highest-population density neighborhoods in the two counties. The team works with local cities, schools, service groups, and churches that already have community gardens or want to establish new ones. Team members provide information on community garden construction, organization, and management, plus mentor community gardeners throughout the area to help teach people how to garden.

Benton-Franklin Master Gardeners continue to make a difference in their communities. Starting in 2015, they launched the “Food Garden Drive” that raised nearly $13,000 through grants and corporate and individual donations to support food gardens for low-income and disadvantaged persons. Additionally, they received a United Way grant through Second Harvest for up to $20,000 over the next two years for the “Build A Bed to Feed A Family” Program to help build new food gardens for low-income and disadvantaged families (up to 100) or individuals (up to 400). » More …

Farm to Fork Field Day Program

2016

Funding and Partners

Washington State University Extension programs have promoted healthy living through a variety of delivery methods for individuals and families for more than 100 years. Today, health issues continue to be significant to youth and families in our state. In Washington, 24% of youth ages 10-17 and 27% of adults are overweight or obese (Department of Health, 2013). There is a strong need for people to identify the health benefits of increasing fruit and vegetable consumption and recognize the bigger picture of food systems. Putting food on the table is not only an experience that begins at the grocery store, and it is important to understand that it grows locally and each person can be involved in its production and/or finding more of it locally. This is especially critical in urban settings where people are farther removed from the production of their own food. Teaching and showing youth where their food comes from and how it gets to their table can influence their desire to increase their local selection of produce for a healthy diet.

Agricultural literacy is an important way to encourage healthy eating behaviors through education about food systems. Pairing this with hands-on activities involving growing food increases the chances youth will make changes in their food choices.

Washington State University Extension programs have promoted healthy living through a variety of delivery methods for individuals and families for more than 100 years. Today, health issues continue to be significant to youth and families in our state. In Washington, 24% of youth ages 10-17 and 27% of adults are overweight or obese (Department of Health, 2013). There is a strong need for people to identify the health benefits of increasing fruit and vegetable consumption and recognize the bigger picture of food systems. Putting food on the table is not only an experience that begins at the grocery store. It is important to understand that it grows locally and each person can be involved in its production and/or finding more of it locally. This is especially critical in urban settings where people are farther removed from the production of their own food. Teaching and showing youth where their food comes from and how it gets to their table can influence their desire to increase their local selection of produce for a healthy diet.

Agricultural literacy is an important way to encourage healthy eating behaviors through education about food systems. Pairing this with hands-on activities involving growing food increases the chances youth will make changes in their food choices.

In an effort to connect youth to local food access and help them understand where their food comes from, 4-H and Food $ense have worked together to develop the WSU Clark County Extension’s Farm to Fork Field Days. This field trip experience gives youth the opportunity to visit the Heritage Farm and learn about local food access.

In 2014, the WSU Clark County Extension faculty, staff, and volunteers worked together to pilot the Farm to Fork Field Day program. The goal was to increase the awareness and knowledge of agriculture and the role it plays in the lives of young people in Clark County. Through Farm to Fork, area youth from schools and community groups came to the Heritage Farm to learn more about how their food grows and gets to their tables at home.

Since the pilot project, Farm to Fork has been promoted in school classrooms and community youth programs encouraging youth to participate in hands-on farm experiences. Groups participate in farm- and food-topic-related workshop stations. The topics of these stations include: planting, weeding, and harvesting produce, worm composting, water resources, bees and pollination, uses of animals and animal byproducts, food systems, and other farm-based activities. » More …

Benton-Franklin Master Gardener

Community Gardening and Plant a Row for the Hungry

2015

USDA indicates that food insecurity is a lack of “access to enough food for an active, healthy life,” with 1 in 7 Americans living in food insecure households. It is estimated that 16 million children in our country consistently face hunger or unhealthy diets that can impair their cognitive and physical development, as well as their academic achievement. This is not just a national problem; 12.6% of Benton County and 10.1% of Franklin County residents are food insecure.

USDA indicates that food insecurity is a lack of “access to enough food for an active, healthy life,” with 1 in 7 Americans living in food insecure households. It is estimated that 16 million children in our country consistently face hunger or unhealthy diets that can impair their cognitive and physical development, as well as their academic achievement. This is not just a national problem; 12.6% of Benton County and 10.1% of Franklin County residents are food insecure.

In 2011, Americorps volunteer Nathan Finch worked with the WSU Extension Benton-Franklin Master Gardeners to provide coordination, leadership, and technical assistance to local community gardening efforts and to promote the Plant-A-Row Program (PAR) that encourages home gardeners to donate produce to local food banks. When Finch left the area, Master Gardener Bill Dixon took on the leadership of the Master Gardener Community Gardens/PAR Team.

Since assuming leadership, Dixon annually has contacted local nurseries and garden centers to get donations of garden seed often disposed of at the end of the gardening season. He also has contacted local high school Future Farmers of America clubs to ask for donations of transplants leftover after their plant sales.

With the support of Marianne Ophardt, Benton County WSU Extension director and Benton-Franklin Master Gardener program director, the Community Gardening/PAR Team has focused its efforts on helping those families most in need. This has included working with garden sponsors to build gardens in the lowest-income and highest population density neighborhoods in the two counties. The team works with local cities, schools, service groups, and churches that already have community gardens or want to establish new ones. Team members provide information on community garden construction, organization, and management, plus mentor community gardeners throughout the area to help teach people how to garden.

In 2015 the Community Gardening/PAR Team has partnered with the Master Gardener Education Team to launch a food gardening education program targeting low-income families. In 2015 they taught 13 “Introduction to Food Gardening” classes, and 12 “Growing Food in Containers” classes where all participants were provided with free containers, potting mix, seeds, and transplants provided by local nurseries and our Master Gardeners. These classes taught by team members reached about 400 low-income families.

Our Benton-Franklin Master Gardeners are making a difference. They have continued to promote the PAR program, soliciting donations of garden seed and transplants to share with gardeners throughout the area who are willing to grow a little extra in their gardens and donate some of their produce to local people in need. Over the last three years, Master Gardeners have distributed more than 11,000 seed packets and 7,000 transplants to gardeners in the community, and it is estimated that more than 48,000 pounds of produce have been donated to local food banks. Master Gardeners also have donated 6,583 pounds of produce harvested from the vegetable garden in their Master Gardener Demonstration Garden.

The Master Gardener team has supported the burgeoning local interest in establishing community gardens. In 2013, team members helped the City of Kennewick organize and build its first in-park community garden at Jay Perry Park. Since then, the team of 60 Master Gardeners under Dixon’s leadership gave 2,340 hours of volunteer service to help establish 11 new community and food gardens and mentor 24 community gardens, teaching novice gardeners how to plant and care for their gardens.

It would be hard to say which of these gardens is making the most impact on community hunger, but the new garden established in 2014 at the Benton-Franklin Juvenile Justice Center may be the most rewarding. For the first time in more than 10 years, the youth incarcerated there have been allowed outside the facility for an activity. The youth helped build the bed, select the crops, planted the garden, and harvested the produce. Master Gardeners mentored both the youth and staff. Participation in gardening was viewed as a reward, with only youth that were exhibiting good behavior allowed to participate in garden activities.

The youth worked with kitchen staff to decide what crops would be planted and how they would be used for meals. Tomatoes, peppers, and onions, for making fresh salsa, were the most highly desired. As a result, more fresh produce was introduced into the diets of the juvenile justice youth, they gained access to fresh air and physical activity, and they experienced greater self-esteem by growing their own produce and contributing extra to local food banks. Staff and youth felt that this garden was very successful and the Master Gardeners are helping them expand the garden in 2015.

A large part of this team’s success is due to the time, effort, and dedication of Bill Dixon who gave 877 hours of service to the Master Gardener program in 2013 and was recognized for his efforts as the Benton-Franklin Master Gardener of 2013.

  • 521 Master Gardeners trained from 2012-2014.
  • 30,893 Master Gardener hours logged from 2012-2014.
  • 48,167 pounds of produce grown in the Plant-a-Row program from 2012-2014.
  • 32 community gardens mentored from 2012-2015.
  • 24 new gardens developed from 2012-2015.
  • 332 raised beds built from 2012-2015.
  • $1,750 in grants received from 2012-2015.
  • $42,000 worth of in-kind donations of materials and services received from 2012-2015.

“They receive perhaps their first exposure to growing food and flowers and get a new skill – maybe how to use a shovel properly, how to test the soil and learn what soil needs, how to plant seeds according to their size. They get one-on-one time with the correctional officers, who use this time to mentor and model positive personal interactions in the freeing environment of sunshine and dirt.” Chris Dougherty, Benton-Franklin Master Gardener

“… One of the gardeners at Keewaydin Plaza told me that for him gardening was therapy. It gets him outside, and he gives everything he grows away. For me, it makes me feel good to see people taking advantage of the opportunity to grow their own food, even if they give it all away.” – Bill Keatts, Benton-Franklin Master Gardener Veteran

“The Jay Perry garden provides the opportunity to succeed at an effort that provides a visible return and to provide some elements of a healthy diet. Family life is also enhanced. The Jay Perry garden is an excellent example of families working together.” – Bernie Saffell, Benton-Franklin Master Gardener Veteran

For more information, please contact Marianne C. Ophardt, WSU Extension Benton County Director & Area Horticulture Specialist, 5600E West Canal Drive, Kennewick, WA 99336, call: 509-735-3551 or email: ophardtm@wsu.edu.

Biosolids and Compost

2014

Funding and Partners

Biosolids and compost users need information on the product’s proper use, safety, and benefits. Furthermore, biosolids and compost producers need up-to-date information on making and marketing their products, as well as appropriate uses and application rates.

Biosolids are the solids produced during municipal wastewater treatment. Composts are made from a variety of organic materials, including both urban and agriculture sources such as yard trimmings, biosolids, storm debris, food waste or manure, and food-processing residues. While these materials have traditionally been viewed as waste, they can play a valuable role as soil amendments in urban and agricultural settings. They provide nutrients and organic matter and they sequester carbon, thereby conserving resources, restoring soils, and combating climate change.

Biosolids are still viewed as harmful wastes by some citizens and policy makers, creating barriers to their widespread and effective use. Biosolids and compost users need information on the product’s proper use, safety, and benefits. Furthermore, biosolids and compost producers need up-to-date information on making and marketing their products, as well as appropriate uses and application rates. Regulators need scientifically based information to guide creation, interpretation, and implementation of biosolids and compost protocols.

WSU research and Extension scientists have developed a multi-faceted program to identify appropriate and safe uses of biosolids and composts in the Pacific Northwest. This program aims to document benefits and provide education to a wide range of audiences. These audiences include biosolids and compost producers, regulators, farmers, gardeners, and concerned citizens.

The program’s projects include both applied research and Extension education. The research projects identified appropriate application rates for biosolids and other organic amendments, documented long-term soil improvement in agricultural and urban settings, developed a potting mix product that is now sold commercially, and evaluated composting effects on contaminant fate.

Extension education has included workshops, field days, webinars, worksheets, Master Gardener training, and publications for gardeners and farmers. A key Extension event is the week-long, hands-on Compost Facility Operators class held annually at WSU Puyallup. Other recent programs include presentations and workshops in Idaho, Oregon, and British Columbia, as well as on-going programs in Washington.

Biosolids production in Washington State exceeds 100,000 dry tons per year. More than 85% of the biosolids is land-applied as a source of plant nutrition and organic matter. The WSU research and Extension program in biosolids management has played an integral role in the success of land application in Washington, including developing research-based guidelines and tools for biosolids application rates and nutrient management.

An important success of this program is the Boulder Park project, where biosolids from King County and a number of smaller treatment plants is applied to dryland wheat in Douglas County. More than 50,000 acres spread among 100 landowners and farmers currently are in the program, although only a portion of that acreage receives biosolids in a given year. The average yield increases exceed 4 bushels per acre.

Another achievement is Tagro potting mix, a successful adaptation of biosolids for urban use. The prototype was developed at WSU Puyallup, and Tagro potting mix now represents 25% of the City of Tacoma biosolids stream. It is marketed commercially throughout Tacoma as a potting medium and garden soil amendment.

A 2012 survey of Northwest Biosolids Management Association members documented that university research and Extension programs completed research that was relevant to their needs, provided tools to interpret research for their customers and community leaders, provided information that helped with product and land application decisions, and helped solve problems in their programs.

A key impact of the compost Extension program is the training of more than 400 compost professionals through the hands-on Compost Facility Operators class. Alumni have gone on to build, manage, operate, and regulate compost facilities and teach others about composting and compost management. More than 80% of the respondents to the 2012 survey reported that the hands-on education from the workshop helped them do their jobs better and improve their product.

  • Biosolids are applied to more than 15,000 acres of land each year in Washington, including about 8,000 acres annually in the Boulder Park project.
  • Using a conservative average yield increase of 4 bushels per acre for biosolids, fertilized wheat, and a price of $6.50 per bushel, farmers using biosolids can earn an extra $26 per acre. This amounts to more than $200,000 annually for the Boulder Park project alone.
  • Agronomic biosolids applications documented in long-term research plots increased soil organic carbon from 0.9% to 1.7% in the topsoil, sequestering about 3 tons of carbon per acre of soil.

“Operations have become much more efficient and streamlined [since taking the compost facility operators class], and the quality of our end product has greatly increased as well. I also have a much better understanding of other people’s needs, within the composting industry, when we work in tandem on any given project together.”

Long term funding support has come from the Northwest Biosolids Management Association (NBMA) and King County. Other key partners include the Washington State Department of Ecology, the Washington State Department of Agriculture, the City of Tacoma, and the Washington Organic Recycling Council.

For more information, please contact Craig Cogger, WSU Puyallup Dept. of Crop and Soil Sciences
2606 W. Pioneer Ave., Puyallup WA 98371 | 253-445-4512 or cogger@wsu.edu.

For more information, please visit http://puyallup.wsu.edu/soils.

Master Gardener

2016

Vegetable gardening: food security, healthy choices, and community well-being

Recent USDA statistics show that 6.1% of Washington State households struggle with food security. Public education programs on fruit and vegetable gardening, led by Master Gardener volunteers, were developed in Washington State.

According to USDA statistics, 49 million people lived in food-insecure households in the United States in 2013. This means the quality, variety or the desirability of the foods eaten were less than typical. (USDA Economic Research Service). From 2010 to 2014 the USDA Economic Research Service reported an increase of 46,453 households in Washington State who participated on a monthly basis in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly the Food Stamp Program. This program is the nation’s largest domestic food and nutrition assistance program for low-income Americans. Despite the ongoing recovery to our economy from the Great Recession, 1 out of 7 Washington heads of household could not afford enough food for their household in 2015.

Statistics continue to show a need to supplement food banks with fresh and healthful produce, and many people are venturing into vegetable gardening for the first time to save money on groceries and increase the amount of fresh produce their families eat. This is evident through the documented increase in community gardens throughout the state and the increase in food gardening questions Master Gardener (MG) volunteers receive from the public.

Public education programs on fruit and vegetable gardening, led by Master Gardener volunteers, were developed in Washington. For instance, hundreds of workshops were geared toward the beginning food gardener. In addition, Master Gardeners received specialized training (known as continuing education) on the topic to educate the general public and community gardeners on current research-based gardening practices to increase the gardeners’ chances of successful harvests.

Master Gardener volunteers taught in 162 community gardens and 61 schools. They worked with 22,458 youth in school gardens, Master Gardener demonstration gardens, and community gardens. Master Gardeners hosted 4,540 plant diagnostic clinics where they answered 10,048 vegetable gardening questions using research-based information. Vegetable gardens were installed, planted, and harvested under the leadership of Master Gardeners in low-income communities, juvenile justice centers, a shelter for homeless teens, and a housing project for adults with intellectual and other disabilities. Master Gardeners also offer leadership to Hilltop Urban Gardens (HUG), a gardening program in a low-income community in Tacoma that was created to develop systems for food sovereignty and create racial and economic justice.

Research shows that the more involved people are with growing their own food, the more likely they are to eat it. Studies show that community gardens foster increased community involvement and pride among residents, increased neighborhood safety, increased activity and sense of well-being, and less isolation among residents. Community gardens also help people save money, preserve green space, and contribute to the urban food system. Additionally, community gardens bridge ethnic, economic, and age differences. Youth who participate in vegetable gardening are more likely to increase their intake of fresh produce and possibly reduce their risk of developing chronic diseases later in life. Youth also are inclined to share their newfound knowledge with their parents, possibly having a positive influence on the family’s food choices.

In 2010, WSU Master Gardeners in Pierce County established vegetable gardens with incarcerated women at the Washington Corrections Center for Women. The program continues to grow in size and participation, and in 2015, 27 women grew 14,500 pounds of fresh produce, which were used in the cafeteria, under the guidance of Master Gardeners. A total of more than 56,500 pounds of produce have been used by the cafeteria since the program began, increasing the amount of fresh vegetables the women eat and reducing food costs for the center. This program teaches participants horticultural skills that can prepare them for jobs in the horticulture industry upon release from prison. In fact, two former project participants started work in the horticulture industry after their release. Beyond that, recent studies have shown a direct correlation between prison gardening programs and improved self-esteem, decreased effects of mental illness, reduced anxiety, increased patience, and a better understanding of delayed gratification (Sandel, 2004).

In Benton-Franklin County, WSU Master Gardeners work with youth offenders at the Juvenile Justice Center. The youth are rewarded for good behavior by being allowed to participate in the gardening program. Studies show the multiple benefits of nature and horticulture therapy, from stress relief to gaining a new identity and status, such as being referred to as a gardener as opposed to an offender (Sempik et al., 2005). These youth are treated with respect and learn how to interact with adult mentors, something they may normally be intimidated by, shy away from, or have little opportunity for. Through caring for the garden, the youth are given a sense of value because they see the results of their efforts in the form of healthy plants. They also feel a sense of belonging and learn the feeling of pride through giving back to their community by donating all of the produce grown to the local foodbank.

Master Gardeners’ involvement in community, youth, and school gardens continues to grow. Through teaching low-cost and sustainable gardening techniques, WSU Master Gardeners educate new and novice gardeners on how to save money, live healthier, and engage in their communities through food gardening, all of which improves the lives and well-being of Washington residents.

  • More than 53 tons of fresh produce donated to food banks from gardens with MG leadership.
  • 3,330 certified Master Gardener volunteers.
  • 505 new Master Gardener volunteers trained.
  • 223,865 MG volunteer hours reported.
  • 1,270 classes and hands-on demonstrations offered to the public by Master Gardener volunteers.
  • Taught 15,351 first-time vegetable gardeners.
  • Taught 3,420 residents to use Integrated Pest Management methods.
  • Taught 5,886 residents how to conserve water and protect water quality.
  • Taught 6,573 residents proper tree planting and maintenance practices.

One incarcerated woman who works in the vegetable gardens with Master Gardeners at Washington Corrections Center for Women stated:

“The gardens have given me a sense of normalcy. … I have learned techniques that I will use not only today, but for the many tomorrows, as well. I look forward to a program that has given me back my sense of self, respect, and integrity that I had lost along the way.”

For more information, contact Nicole Martini, WSU Extension State Master Gardener Program Leader | 2606 West Pioneer, Puyallup WA 98371 | 253-445-4516 or nmartini@wsu.edu.

For more information about the WSU Extension Master Gardener program, visit http://mastergardener.wsu.edu/.