Master Gardeners - Group hopes garden idea takes root

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Clayton County Master Gardeners Lorna Moser, left, and Margaret Stone show some of the produce the group is donating to the Clayton County Food Shelf.

By Pam Reinig

Register Editor

The newly revitalized Clayton County Master Gardeners group wants to plant an idea in the minds of other gardeners: If your vegetable patch has produced more produce than you can consume, consider donating your surplus to the Clayton County Food Shelf.

Located in St. Olaf, the food shelf accepts all fresh produce and orchard harvests to supplement the canned and frozen items they are able to provide to clients.

“Produce that has never been cooled or refrigerated works best for us,” said food shelf manager Utoni Ruff, adding that she has limited cooling space. She also prefers to receive donations earlier in the week so she can get it to families before the center closes for the weekend.

To assist Ruff’s efforts, the Master Gardeners’ group is tending a vegetable plot dedicated exclusively to the food shelf. Their work has another purpose: It’s fulfills the internship portion of their study.

According to Holly Loan, a Clayton County Extension outreach coordinator who oversees the program, Master Gardener candidates must complete 40 hours of coursework, pass a test and do 40 hours of volunteer work to earn their designation. Those who recently finished the class and now work in the garden are: Nancy Bowdish, Katherine Brown, Becky Fuelling, John Gnagy, Lorna Moser, Susan Ruhser, and Margaret Stone. Lavonne Auguston and Chuck Morine, who are re-activating their Master Gardener status, work with them. 

With Loan’s assistance, the Clayton County Master Gardeners were awarded a $2,900 grant from a program designed to help groups like theirs bring fresh produce to low-income families. The money was used to purchase fencing, tools and seeds. Marshall Hahn, a pastor who lives within walking distance of the food shelf, provided garden space. The group started working on the garden in May and is now reaping the first fruits—or more accurately—the first vegetables of their efforts. They will keep the garden going until the first frost. Though some members might be involved next year, they hope other groups will become part of the effort.

The Master Gardeners’ work to provide fresh produce to the food shelf is actually a two-part effort. The first part is raising vegetables themselves, and the second part is encouraging other gardeners to donate their surplus vegetables. Individuals can stop by the food shelf any weekday with their donations. Gnagy also encourages area churches to take on the project.

“Perhaps someone in a congregation could act as coordinator to collect the produce and transport it to the Food Shelf,” he said. 

Clayton County Master Gardeners will be taking tomatoes, potatoes, onions, carrots and beans to the food shelf. Other kinds of produce are also accepted. 

For more information contact Ruff (563-783-7794). For information on Master Gardeners, contact Loan (563-245-1451).



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